Disaster Response and the Death of the Ummah

This has been a difficult year.  First the Asian Tsunami, then Hurricane Katrina, and now the Pakistan/Kashmir Earthquake.

The Tsunami killed at least 150,000 and left about 500,000 homeless.  After the Tsunami the Muslim world donated a total of $204 million in aid.

Kuwait $100 m, Qatar $25m, Saudi Arabia $30 m, Turkey $29m, UAE $20m     source

  America offered $15 million and was chastized for being stingy so this $204 million seemed reasonable at the time.

Hurricane Katrina left 1,000 dead and about 20,000 homeless.  After Hurricane Katrina we published an article “Aid Offered By Muslims Around the World” which documented over $1 billion in cash donations, and many other offers of help.

Kuwait - $500 million; Saudi Refining Inc. - $5 million; Saudi Arabia - $255 million;  United Arab Emirates - $100 million; Qatar - $100 million; Iran has offered 20 million barrels of crude oil; United Arab Emirates is sending aid; Bangladesh - $1 million; Pakistan - doctors and other aid. Libya $100 million, Egypt $30 million, Algeria $30 million, Tunisia $10 million, Jordan $5 million, Syria $5 million, Morocco $5 million, Bahrain $5 million, Lebanon $2 million, Pakistan $1 million, Azerbaijan $500,000 - source

  Before the earthquake in Pakistan and Kashmir this seemed to show a generosity for Muslims to be proud of.

The final numbers are not in yet for the Pakistan/Kashmir earthquake but initial estimates are of at least 40,000 dead and millions homeless.

After the earthquake I have diligently searched the web for information about donations made by Muslim countries to help fellow Muslims.  I have found that to date Muslim countries have donated $210 million.

Kuwait $100 million, United Arab Emirates $100 million, American Muslims have pledged $10 million. 10-16 Just In Saudi Arabia Pledged $133 million today

After the quake relief efforts were hampered by weather conditions and a very difficult terrain.  The Pakistan government did not have the resources to deal with an emergency of such magnitude, and President Musharraf showed poor judgement in initially turning down an offer of helicopters and aid from India.  The response by the military has been seen as disorganized and slow.  This may change the Pakistani citizens’ perceptions of their government just as the earthquake in Turkey in 1999 brought changes because of the military’s slow response.  There will certainly be long term consequences to the Pakistani governments’ perceived shortcomings in the response.

There will, even more certainly be long term consequences to the poor response by the Americans and other western countries.  Because of the remoteness and harshness of the terrain, helicopters were needed quickly to drop supplies and rescue workers.  There was an American base nearby in Afghanistan with thousands of helicopters still America only sent 8 helicopters and offered $50 million in aid.  The American response was certainly minimal.

No final numbers are in yet for the Earthquake, but at least 40,000 are dead and between 2 and 5 million homeless in an area where winter is setting in quickly.

However, the response of the Muslim world is what I find shocking and impossible to comprehend.  Where are Saudi Arabia, Dubai, Qatar, Turkey, Iran, and all the other Muslim countries that are in a position to help.

When the world’s only remaining superpower (and one of the richest nations on earth) has a catastrophe everyone lines up to help — even those who are branded by the U.S. as part of the “axis of evil”.

When a poor Muslim country has a catastrophe of a magnitude not witnessed in recent memory it is a different story.

Tsunami   -  150,000 dead -  500,000 homeless   -  $204 million in Muslim aid
Katrina   -    1,000 dead -    20,000 homeless   -  $1 billion in Muslim aid
Quake     -    40,000+ dead -  millions homeless   -  $210 million in Muslim aid

Looking at the facts it would seem that any earlier pride in the fact that Muslims came generously to the aid of disaster victims was an illusion.  I am forced to conclude that the motivations and intentions behind the generosity to the Katrina victims was not generosity, compassion, and love for fellow human beings in crisis.

President Bush in his recent “war on terror” speech raised the specter of radical Islamists establishing Ǔa radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia whose goal is “to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, to assault the American people and to blackmail our government into isolation.Ԕ And whose ultimate goal is to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world.Ӕ

Pretty terrifying stuff!  Good enough for the cover blurb of an adventure novel, and only needing a graphic of a menacing army of dark skinned, turban wearing, sword wielding, hook nosed Muslims to complete the image.

The trouble is, that it is the stuff of fantasy.  The fact that Muslims can’t even cooperate well enough to give more than a feeble response to devastating events such as the Tsunami or the India/Pakistan quake (don’t even think about the shameful lack of response to the Iranian quake in 2003) shows just how ridiculous is the fear of the return of the Caliphate or a Muslim Empire uniting Muslims across national, ethnic, and sectarian lines.  The fractured nation states of the Muslim world are so tied up in their own national identities that they are incapable of uniting even for a humanitarian crisis.

This earthquake came right at the beginning of Ramadan, the month of fasting, of testing ourselves, of remembering the poor and helpless.  During Ramadan Muslims are usually the most aware of the needy and more generous than at any other time. 

If this was a test we have failed.  There will certainly be long term consequences for this failure of the Ummah.

If we are not witnessing the death of the Ummah, we are at the very least witnessing the death of its’ soul!

NOTE: We have added a collection of articles on the Earthquake including information on where to send aid.

by courtesy &  2005 The American Muslim

Published originally at The American Muslim : republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact.”

Sheila Musaji is the editor of The American Muslim