WASHINGTON — Shocked by scenes of destruction in the wake of superstorm Sandy, leading Muslim women from the diplomatic circle in the United States have stood up to offer help, raising funds for the victims.
“I saw the TV before and during the hurricane and it is so devastated,” Rosa Rai Djalal, the wife of the Indonesian ambassador to the United States, told Voice of America.
“I feel a sense of deja vu because, you know, Indonesia was hit by a huge earthquake in 2004 and at that time all the international community helped us and I right away called my friends [and said] ‘Let us do something to help them’.”
Djalal, the president of the Muslim Women’s Association in Washington, rallied fellow ambassadors’ spouses and diplomats.
Arranging a fundraising event at the Indonesian ambassador’s residence, guests paid $50 to attend the lunchtime benefit whose proceeds went to the American Red Cross.
“I think the title of this event says it all, ‘Solidarity for Victims of Hurricane Sandy’. Because, you know, it does not have a face. We are all together,” she said.
“We are all unified in a cause that is affecting everybody.”
Millions of Americans in the Northeast were ravaged by deadly hurricane Sandy earlier this month.
The storm, the biggest to hit the country in generations, left a wide swath of destruction and killed at least 80 people.
The hurricane also killed at least 69 people in the Caribbean, including at least 54 in Haiti and 11 in Cuba.
Disaster modeling company Eqecat estimated Sandy caused up to $20 billion in insured losses and $50 billion in economic losses, double its previous forecast.
At the high end of the range, Sandy ranked as the fourth costliest US catastrophe, according to the Insurance Information Institute, behind Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the 9/11 attacks and Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
The fundraising event showed Muslim sympathy for their fellow Americans in the time of hardships.
“Muslim people really care about our friends and the American people,” Fatima Aujali, whose father is the Libyan Ambassador to the United States, said.
“This is just us trying to do something to help them out.”
The fundraising event also highlighted the different Islamic cultures for the benefit of US hurricane victims.
Guests bid on donated items as they explored the cultures of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Iraq, Indonesia, Libya, Tunisia, Turkey, Jordan and the Palestinian territories.
“I have not been exposed to many Muslim countries, and this is a very good opportunity to see them and meet them and talk about it,” Aujali said.
The combination of diversity and unity appealed to US Deputy Chief of Protocol Natalie Jones.
“So many women and so many countries came together in such little time to unite around victims of Hurricane Sandy, and they did this through the power of food and their cultures and traditions,” she said.
Jones praised the event as “culinary diplomacy” in action.
The event is not the first by Muslims to help American victims of Sandy hurricane.
Several Muslim groups were quick to dispatch volunteers and lure donations to help those affected by the storm.
Islamic Relief USA has deployed its Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) to help residents of New Jersey ravaged by the storm.
The Zakat Foundation of America, a leading Islamic charity, has also appealed for donations to help residents affected by the massive storm.
The United States has an estimated Muslim minority between six to seven million.
This is not the first time Islamic Relief provides emergency assistance in the country.
In 2010, dozens of Islamic Relief USA volunteers and staff members joined hands to help respond to devastating tornadoes which leveled whole neighborhoods in Alabama and left hundreds dead.
In 2005, the Muslim agency dispatched emergency response teams to areas affected by Hurricane Katrina, one of the deadliest natural disasters in US history.
The agency volunteers distributed food, cleaning kits, tents, sleeping bags, clothes and hygiene kits to affected residents of Mississippi and Louisiana states.