An alliance of Muslim groups in the United States has launched an online fundraiser to help rebuild African-American churches that were damaged in the recent spate of fires across the South.
Ever since the shooting on June 17 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, that left nine black parishioners dead, at least eight churches have suffered fire damage.
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The fires took place within just 10 days of one another, three of which are being investigated as possible arson cases.
“To many, it is clear that these are attacks on black culture, black religion and black lives,” the coalition wrote on the campaign’s LaunchGood page.
“It’s Ramadan, and we are experiencing firsthand the beauty and sanctity of our mosques during this holy month. All houses of worship are sanctuaries, a place where all should feel safe,” it added.
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The coalition so far has raised $23,000 in just five days. The organisations involved in rehabilitating the churches consist of Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative and the Arab American Association of New York as well as digital startup Ummah Wide.
The groups said that after the campaign ends on July 18, they will hand over the money to the pastors of the burned churches.
In its statement on the campaign’s LaunchGood page, the coalition wrote that American Muslims are also vulnerable to intimidation, however not to the same extent as African-Americans.
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“The American Muslim community cannot claim to have experienced anything close to the systematic and institutionalised racism and racist violence that has been visited upon African-Americans,” organiser Imam Zaid Shakir wrote on the campaign’s website.
However, Muslims can understand the “climate of racially inspired hate and bigotry that is being reignited in this country,” he wrote, saying the American Muslim community should stand in solidarity with African-Americans.
Three churches – suspected of being arson attacks are currently being investigated, including Mount Zion AME Church, God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon and Hill Seventh Day Adventist. Authorities however have not classified these fires as hate crimes.
This article originally appeared in Al Jazeera America.