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COLUMN

MITMSA Active in Global Relief

Guest Column Numan Waheed

In his letter to the editor on September 12 [“Muslim Inaction on Chechnya”], Costin Alamariu ’02 criticized the Muslims at MIT for inaction on Chechnya. Alamariu’s portrayal is ill-researched and inaccurate. We at MIT Muslim Students’ Association (MITMSA) have long been involved in raising not only awareness, but also funds for various humanitarian causes, including the plight of the Chechens.

True, we did not deposit money into the bank account which Alamariu had suggested. We never transfer money to unverified accounts, nor do we send money to political organizations; that would violate MIT’s policies. We strictly focus on humanitarian relief. Alamariu admits that the bank account which he had advertised back in the spring no longer exists -- despite the continued crisis in Chechnya. Does this not vividly confirm the wisdom in steering clear of unknown entities? Indeed, we take the money donated into our care very seriously; any funds that we raise are further routed only through non-profit outlets that we consider reliable and legal.

The well-publicized Chechnya Fundraising event we hosted last November -- attended by many Boston-area citizens -- netted about $60,000 in pledges for relief efforts. Moreover, every week we collect donations at our Friday prayers for humanitarian causes -- not only for Chechnya, but also for other areas in need, such as Bosnia, Kosova, Bangladesh, Turkey, and Sierra Leone. Perhaps what led Alamariu to charge MITMSA with inaction is that, normally, we are loath to announce our fundraising successes. In Islam, we are warned, “O you who believe! Do not render in vain your charity by reminders of your generosity or by injury, like him who spends his wealth to be seen of men ...” (Holy Qur’an, 2:264).

Last December, several of our members participated in the city-wide demonstration for Chechnya; Boston’s efforts were singularly noted in the national press. We have conducted petition and letter-writing campaigns directed at President Clinton and members of Congress. And, as always, we Muslims continue to pray for the Chechens and all other victims of natural or man-made disasters around the globe.

We at MITMSA take our local responsibilities seriously, but never have we ignored the suffering that exists globally. We held two week-long campus-wide awareness campaigns in the last year alone on the genocide in Kosova and on the dire effects of the UN sanctions on the children of Iraq; we hosted two fundraisers, for Chechnya and Bosnia, in the recent past; we conducted a very successful campus-wide clothes drive for U.S.-based Kosovar refugees in 1999; and we collected emergency relief for floods in Bangladesh, famine in Africa, and earthquakes in Turkey.

Islam demands support for justice and human rights; it is a religious duty we have tried to fulfill earnestly. As long as the Chechen genocide persists, we intend to continue our efforts. We do not shy away from critiques that are directed at us; rather, we use them as opportunities to invite the MIT community to share with us their ideas on what more can be done. In the past, we have co-sponsored events in collaboration with other MIT and Boston-area humanitarian organizations.

Our officers and members are ready to work with anyone sharing our concerns. We welcome you to contact us at msa-ec@mit.edu.

Numan Waheed G is President of the MIT Muslim Students' Association (MITMSA).