By Hanna Rahman –
The fatal shooting of nine black churchgoers on June 17, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, and the fires at eight black churches in six different southern states that followed soon after, has left family and friends mourning, and the nation grappling with the reality of continued deep-rooted racism. As sign of solidarity, three Muslim nonprofit organizations raised funds to help rebuild the churches.
Respond With Love was a call to action for Muslim Americans to donate to the cost of rebuilding the churches. The online campaign took place during the holy month of Ramadan. The campaign started on July 2 with the hopes of raising $100,000; and in a short two weeks, raised a total of $100,470.
Faatimah Knight, a religious editor at Sapelo Square: An Online Resource on African American Islam, started Respond With Love. The project was launched by three Muslim nonprofits, Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative (ARC), Ummah Wide, and Arab American Association of New York (AAANY).
Dylann Roof has been charged with nine counts of murder in the shooting of the nine parishioners, including a pastor, during the June 17 prayer meeting. Subsequently, in the span of 10 days, the eight churches were burned to the ground. Officials said three were set by arsonists and the others are pending investigation. However, speculation that these were racially motivated acts of terrorism has been largely accepted.
The Respond With Love website states, “…to many it is clear that these are attacks on Black culture, Black religion, and Black lives…we want for others what we want for ourselves; the right to worship without intimidation, the right to safety, and the right to property.”
And so, the Respond With Love campaign was born, to counter racism with an effective message of unity; and to show that the Muslim community as a whole is not separate from the black community. The campaign site states, “We must always keep in mind that the Muslim Community and the black community are not different communities. We are profoundly integrated in many ways, in our overlapping identities and in our relationship to this great and complicated country. We are connected to Black churches through our extended families, our friends and teachers, and our intertwined histories and convergent present.”
Among the partners of the campaign, Ummah Wide is a digital media startup focused on stories and cultures that transcend the global borders and boundaries of the Muslim and human community. Linda Sarsour, executive director of AAANY, not only provides a voice to New York’s Muslims, but is also deeply involved with the Black Lives Matter movement. She has helped organize a march from New York to Washington to honor black men killed by police.
The Respond With Love campaign was featured on Yahoo, BuzzFeed, the Huffington Post, and many more news outlets. It had more than 2,000 supporters from across the globe. The pivotal message was to show that Muslims stand together with the black community. The site stated, “We want to let our African American brothers and sisters know that we stand in solidarity with them in this dark hour.”