ILLINOIS – Muslim students at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville organized donations of food and clothing over the past week for Syrian refugees trapped in Middle East refugee camps during freezing winter weather.
“With in-kind (donations), the most important wish list is food and winter clothing,” said Ramsha Durrani, 19, Arabic Club president and Muslim Student Association (MSA) vice president, Belleville News-Democrat reported on Sunday, January 8.
Durrani was talking about MSA efforts at SIUE to help collect and organize donations of clothing and food in November for the Helping Hand for Relief and Development, which is sending supplies to Syrian refugees in Jordan, Macedonia, Lebanon and Kosovo.
Helping Hand is a global humanitarian organization headquartered in Michigan that responds to emergency and disaster situations around the world.
It also works on long-term relief and development programs. The collection and sorting took place in St. Louis.
The efforts by MSA students were a success after they managed to collect 40,000 pounds of food and clothing.
The items are now packed in a shipping container in Lebanon and will be distributed to about 10,000 people, said Nadia Zeeshan, director of in-kind efforts for Helping Hand.
The SIUE students got one of their professors to join in the effort, after Dr. Elaine Abusharbain, an associate professor in biology, provided his truck to load the donated items.
“They said they needed help because they had big loads (of donated food, clothing and baby items). And as we were driving to St. Louis, more donations came in.”
Students confirmed that the effort was mainly driven by Islamic manners of helping the needy.
“We never knew it was going to be in the news,” said MSA President Zia Hasan Ansari, 28. The native of India is studying for a master’s degree in electrical engineering.
For Muslims, “If you’re going to be doing something for somebody, showing off” is not a faithful act, said Ramsha, who is Pakistani-American.
They added that similar efforts come as a trial to overcome stereotypes.
“It’s the whole terrorist issue,” Ramsha said. “The word ‘Islam’ itself means ‘Peace.’”
“There is a fine line between Muslim and not a Muslim,” Zia said, tracing his finger on a tabletop in a straight line.
“You have to be a human first, and be a peaceful Muslim.”