By Latheef Farook –
Muslim Civil society was in full swing helping flood victims:Many criticised mainstream media’s failure to highlight sufferings of Muslim victims
It is a welcome sign that Muslim civil society went into action in full swing to help the victims of torrential rains, widespread floods, landslides and gale force winds wreaked havoc since 14 May 2016. Hundreds of thousands were turned overnight into homeless and penniless destitute.
While wheeler dealer Muslim politicians disappeared from the scene, enterprising Muslim individuals, institutions and organisations, companies and many others rushed to the affected areas in their drive to rise to the occasion to rescue those floating in water to safer areas. In doing so they too floated with the victims in the flood water. Some carried the elderly ones in their shoulders and walked in the rising flood water to safe places.
It was prompt and spontaneous Muslim civil society response.
They treated all alike and helped all affected families without any discrimination which touched the hearts and admiration of many non-Muslims. This is a humanitarian disaster and national tragedy affected all alike in different areas. They were in the scene long before even politicians came with their television crews.
One volunteer who was helping victims from the very first hours said “ hours after the tragedy Muslim volunteers went into action on their own to ensure that the victims were first recused and then fed and clothed as they all left their homes high and dry to save their lives from rising flood water. One elderly lady said that it so happened and the house went under flood water so fast that she could not even find time to collect her valuable documents including birth and marriage certificates, deeds and the like.
One after the other almost all organisations gathered their volunteers, equipped themselves with cloth, food, water and other essentials and went to the affected areas.
First to enter the affected areas were All Ceylon Tawhid Jamaath, All Ceylon Jamaathe Islami and All Ceylon Young Men’s Muslim Association, YMMA. Jamaathe Islami also opened a health centre providing emergency health care service.
Meanwhile National Shoora Council, NSC, umbrella body of 18 national Muslim organisations, appealed to all Muslim organisations and individuals to do their best to alleviate the sufferings of ever increasing number of victims.
Later National Shoora Council, All Ceylon Jamiathul Ulema, Colombo District Masjid Federation, Muslim Council of Sri Lanka and other organisations jointly formed a Relief Coordinating Committee, RCC, to ensure relief works were undertaken in an organised manner and reach the needy in time.
The RCC which deals with all relief related activities have formed different committees and entrusted different tasks such as fund collection, distribution and the like to ensure relief work continues smooth. As a result there is no duplication of work and each committee concentrate only on responsibilities entrusted to it.
The RCC is also planning to set up counselling centres all over to help people traumatised by the flood and the loss of their belongings not knowing what to do and how to start their lives.
Meanwhile on Friday 19 May 2016 the weekly sermons in all mosques at noon time prayer were confined to helping the victims. They also explained the importance of charity in Islam and the need to generously help all affected people alike. They also emphasised the need to exercise caution in distributing aids to ensure that these aids do not fall into the hands of frauds.
The preachers also explained to donors of the facilities they had arranged to collect and deliver to the proper people.
In fact almost every one stood up to the occasion. For example Zahira College Group 2009 together with retail outlet Factory Outlet began collecting clothes for men, women and children for immediate delivery. Meanwhile individuals, businessmen and others alike were busy collecting food, clothe and water besides arranging accommodation.
In the affected hilly areas in and around Aranayake, Mawanella and several other areas both Sinhalese and Muslims worked together like one family. In several places Buddhist monks were seen coordinating with the volunteers and distributing food to all. The disaster in fact brought the two communities together.
However the major rescue efforts were undertaken by the armed forces whose yeomen. service won the hearts and praise of all alike.
Meanwhile many criticised the mainstream media for not highlighting the sufferings of Muslim flood victims. They said the overall coverage in general ignored the plight of Muslim victims especially in areas which went completely underwater. Their criticism was levelled more at electronic than print media.