The mass shooting incident at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, which left eleven people dead and six people wounded on Saturday, has lead to a flurry of Muslim-driven initiatives expressing solidarity and providing support.
A statement by the Islamic Center of Pittburgh extended their “deepest sympathies and condolences to the victims, their families, and all of our Jewish brothers and sisters” on behalf of the Pittsburgh Muslim Community. The statement goes on to condemned the hate crime “unequivocally”, and “denounce all forms of hatred and bigotry”, remarking that since “The Pittsburgh community is our family; what happens to one of us, is felt by us all.” It concludes “As the Quran and Prophet Muhammad (Peace be Upon Him) teach us, we will respond to evil with good”, explaining that the Muslim community is raising funds for the victims and their families, for funeral expenses and medical bills. The campaign has been organised by CelebrateMercy and MPower Change, two Muslim-American non-profit organisations.
Tarek El-Messidi, the founding director of Celebrate Mercy and a well-known Muslim Activist, who created the campaign said of it, “Putting our religious differences or even your political differences aside, the core of all of us is that we have a shared humanity. ” El-Messidi has previously created a similar LaunchGood fundraiser, when hundreds of Jewish headstones were vandalised in St.Louis and Philadelphia, raising $136,000. A feeling of comradeship was also evoked, when El-Messidi highlighted that both Muslim and Jewish communities have been feeing “so threatened over the past couple of years” with the bigoted rhetoric, racial profiling and ’otherising’ of different minority communities.
Initially, this fundraising campaign aimed to raise $25,000. However, since this was achieved in six hours, new milestones were set, with the final goal being $150,000. More than $200,000 was raised overall. Any leftover proceeds beyond the needs of the victim’s families will be spent on projects “that help foster Muslim-Jewish collaboration, dialogue, and solidarity”. A separate campaign was set up by a 29 year old Iranian Immigrant, and has raised more than $1 million. Members of the Muslim community have also offered other kinds of support. Wasi Mohamed, executive director of the Pittsburgh Islamic Centre, said in a vigil for the victims and the Jewish community, “We just want to know what you need … If it’s people outside your next service protecting you, let us know. We’ll be there.”
The twitter hashtag #Muslims4Pittsburgh shows Muslims extending their condolences and solidarity, and Jewish and non-Muslims expressing their gratitude for this support. There were again suggestions of a relationship of support beyond this particular event, with many tweets highlighting that Jewish/Muslim solidarity did not begin with the Pittsburgh incident, but has been a recurring theme in the Trump era; the Jewish opposition to the US Muslim Travel Ban frequently used as an example. There are also efforts to extend the effect of this beyond solidarity around adverse events. Omar Suleiman, a well know Imam in Texas, has said he is beginning a letter writing campaign for Muslims to write to Jews, to promote dialogue between the two communities.