Isle Muslims gather in prayer for support of devastated region
The Friday prayer service at the Manoa mosque focused on the 2.5 million people left homeless by the Oct. 8 earthquake in northern Pakistan. For many local residents, the prayer is personal.
"I called immediately. Our families are fine," said A. Karim Khan of Pearl City. One of about 300 island Muslims with Pakistani roots, Khan was relieved to determine that his brothers and sisters and his wife's parents are safe. "Old buildings from the 18th and 19th century went down," said Khan, a Leeward Community College history professor, who is from Peshawar.
"Natural disaster knows no boundaries," said Lt. Col. Bader Uzzaman of the Pakistan army, who joined more than 200 local Muslims at the weekly service.
"There has to be collective response. That's the challenge the world is facing in the recent events, the tsunami in Asia, the hurricanes in North America. Human beings are the same and their needs are the same wherever disaster strikes." Uzzaman is here to attend a course at the Asia Pacific Center for Security Studies, where representatives of several nations address regional and global security issues from terrorism to natural disaster.
"The military has been involved in a big way" in rescue and relief efforts in the "difficult to access" mountainous region of Kashmir, said Uzzaman. "We're grateful for the help" as other countries have responded. He is watching television coverage from his homeland. His family is safe in Lahore.
As people left the service, they put currency in the hands of Hakim Ouansafi. He said non-Muslims as well as members have contributed to the relief fund of the Muslim Association of Hawaii. The goal is to match the $65,000 collected at the mosque for Hurricane Katrina victims in Mississippi and Louisiana. The money will go to agencies with U.S. government backing, he said. Information is found on the Islamic Center Web site: www.iio.org.
Salman Azwar, a native of Lahore, 200 miles south of the epicenter, said, "We were very worried about aunts and uncles. After four days, we heard they all survived. The news is not so good about some of our good friends who have lost their homes. Many people are devastated. There is no system of insurance like there is here." Azwar, a University of San Francisco information systems professor, said Pakistani students there are selling green wrist bands in a fund-raiser for UNICEF.
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"Ramadan is the month of generosity," said Imam Ismail El-Shikh, religious leader of local Muslims who are midway in the month of prayer and fasting. "Our first duty is to make prayers, then to do whatever we can to help."
People who built in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains set up the scenario for disaster, said geology professor Nasir Gazdar, who takes an academic as well as personal interest. "It's like here, where the awareness of a tsunami zone fades from people's memories. To build a multi-story building in the tectonic zone, that is a no-no," said Gazdar. Born in Karachi, he has written books on the geology of Pakistan and now teaches geology of the Hawaiian islands at Kapiolani Community College.
Modern building material -- granite slabs -- became a killer in the quake, Gazdar said, where the low adobe buildings of the past would have crumbled with less devastating effect. "The older people knew, the foothills are very vulnerable. It's like the old Hawaiians who knew to protect the watershed."
Gazdar, who is from Karachi, said, "It's a great tragedy. But civilization has been in that region for 3,000 years and it will continue."
According to Muslim belief, a person killed in a tragedy like the earthquake "is admitted into paradise because of the suffering prior to death," Ouansafi said.
Muslims do not interpret natural disasters as the work of God. "Allah is much greater than that," Ouansafi said. "We do not know why these things happen. It is only for Him to know the purpose.
"Perhaps we can see some purpose in the way it raises mercy in our hearts. Disasters bring people together, responding as human beings to others in need. Hopefully, we continue to act with mercy toward each other."