Over the past several weeks, a handful of predominantly black churches across the South have burned down. Some were ruled arson, others accidents — but they still recalled racist attacks against black churches throughout American history.
The church fires followed the mass shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., igniting concern over the possibility of a wave of hate crimes.
Three Muslim charities have since launched a “Respond with Love” crowdfunding campaign to damaged black churches rebuild and “stand united against hate.” The Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative, Arab American Association of New York and Ummah Wide have raised nearly $45,000 since starting the fundraiser last week.
“It’s Ramadan and we are experiencing firsthand the beauty and sanctity of our mosques during this holy month. ALL houses of worship are sanctuaries — a place where all should feel safe, a place we can seek refuge when the world is too much to bear,” campaign organizers said in a statement. “We want for others what we want for ourselves: the right to worship without intimidation, the right to safety and the right to property,” the statement also said.
At least six predominantly black churches caught fire during the two weeks after 21-year-old Dylann Roof allegedly killed nine people during a Bible study meeting last month at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Authorities have not, however, classified any of the fires as hate crimes. Two fires were ruled accidents and three others were ruled arson. One fire’s cause had not been determined.
“It doesn’t matter to us how or why these churches burned down, we want to help our black sisters and brothers get back in to their houses of worship as soon as they can,” Linda Sarsour, executive director of Arab American Association of New York, told Huffington Post in an e-mail. “Ramadan is a time of giving and what better cause to give to than one that rebuilds houses of worship where God’s name is constantly called, remembered and loved.”
The fundraiser will stay open until July 18 in an effort to meet its $50,000 goal, according to the Web site. Organizers said they have contacts with church leaders to make sure the funds make it to the churches that “need it most.”
“The American Muslim community cannot claim to have experienced anything close to the systematic and institutionalized racism and racist violence that has been visited upon African Americans. Unless, of course, we are talking about the African American Muslim community,” Islamic scholar Imam Zaid Shakir said in a statement on the fundraising Web site. “As a whole, however, we understand the climate of racially inspired hate and bigotry that is being reignited in this country.
“We want to let our African American brothers and sisters know that we stand in solidarity with them during this dark hour.”