Special Reports

Mosques show the way in relief work in Chennai

Chennai: "While the entire nation is debating the "nonsense" called "intolerance", there is humanity at its best in Chennai. I can tell this for sure because I stay in Qatar and my family (wife and two kids) are in Chennai. With all the floods and problems, I am getting the message from them, "We are safe". In the wake of calamity, Chennai is "One"," reads a Facebook post by Biju Vargheese, an expatriate from Chennai.

Muslim youth clean a flood-hit temple in Chennai

"It has only one religion, "Humanity"; it has only one enemy, "Water"; there is only one aim "Help". And they did it in style. When they were offering help, they didn't ask whether you are a "Hindu" or a "Christian" or a "Muslim". They didn't ask whether you are "rich" or "poor". They didn't ask whether you are a "Tamilian", "Malayalee", "Telugu", "Kannadiga" or "North Indian"," the FB post further reads.

These lines sum up the post-flood relief work being done by the citizens of Chennai in unison.

The mosques in Chennai, which are more than 500 in number, too have opened their doors and have emerged as critical shelters particularly for poor flood victims, irrespective of their religious beliefs.

Mosques like Triplicane Labbai Jamaath Masjid, Dharma Kidangu Mosque, Hafiz Ahmad Khan Mosque, Bahram Jung Mosque, Casa Verona's Mosque, Makkah Masjid, Masjid Mamoor, Masjido Anwari, Thousand Lights Mosque and Triplicane Big Mosque are welcoming the victims by offering them food and shelter; while many of them from neighbouring places come to fetch water as well.

The doors of the mosques have been opened for the flood victims and the verandas of these mosques bear a scene which is first of its kind in Chennai - and perhaps whole country - where people from various localities, irrespective of their faiths or castes, are huddling together in this time of grief.

"This calamity has definitely brought the communal harmony of Tamil Nadu to light. The flood has united everyone here," says Faizur Rahman of the Chennai-based Islamic Forum for the Promotion of Moderate Thought.

In most of these mosques, the imams, clerics and other employees are emulative hosts by giving their rooms to the victims. Mosques have also opened their doors for victims to use toilets as well as water tanks otherwise used for performing ablutions before prayers.

IUML, SDPI, Tamil Muslim Munnetta Kazhakam, Thableegh Jama'at and Tamil Nadu Jamma'at-e Islami have asked the mosque committees to actively participate in the relief activities and make the mosques available for the victims to the maximum.

M.H. Jawahirullah, Ramanathapuram MLA and Manithaney Makkal Katchi leader, shares an experience he had at Makkom Nagar in Chennai during relief activities. "Our volunteers saved a Hindu family from its residence, which was under water, and took the family members to the hospital. He folded his hands and told us "forgive me" after thanking our volunteers. We wondered as to why should a person apologize to us for saving him. "The residents in my area were not allowing any Muslim to our locality, now, I regret this," he told Jawahirullah who said, "It's a privilege for us to serve our non-Muslim brethren in these times of distress. It's the time to get rid of the compulsions of the caste, religion, colour and creed. We welcome our Muslim and non-Muslim brothers to the mosques. They flock to the mosques as they have no place to go," said IUML Tamil Nadu state committee secretary Aboobacker.

Besides shelter, these mosques are also providing them food, water, mats and clothes. Triplicane Mosque tops the list with providing food for more than 3000 people a day while other mosques do their bit by feeding more than 1000 per day.

Water bottles, biscuit packets, bread and packed foods are distributed in most of the mosques.

"Actually, we don't yet know from where these food items, water bottles and clothes have come. Many benevolent people have come forward," said Mohammed Arshad who has been actively working for the victims for five days. "Among the beneficiaries, there are some familiar faces and but many strangers as well," he added.

Muslim organisations have exhorted the committees in other states to extend maximum financial assistance for the relief activities being carried in Tamil Nadu. A delegation of Hyderabad-based Sahayata Trust is already on the way with medicines, drinking water, food kits and blankets. Several other organisations from across the country are collecting money for relief or are already on the way.

Jawahirullah adds that talking about money is irrelevant at this point. "The residents are unable to go out and get money from banks. Most of the banks or their ATMs have not been functioning. We are instead focusing on distributing food and medicines," he said.

Led by former MP Abdul Rahman, IUML has fielded more than 500 volunteers from various age groups to strengthen the relief activities in mosques in Chennai while more than 3000 volunteers of Manithaney Makkal Katchi are working in the flood-hit areas.

Several other local Muslim organisations are also working in their own respective areas, while individuals gathered to help in whatever ways they could.

Temples, churches and other organisations too came forward to help. There are also reports of several Muslim families being sheltered in temples.

Meanwhile, Muslim organisations have received appreciations from Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalitha as well. Among the heart-warming stories to have emerged from the Chennai floods is a cleaning drive undertaken by a Muslim organisation.

Around 50 members of Jammaat-e Islami Hind have been quietly cleaning mosques as well as temples in the flood-hit areas of the city. In the last two days, they meticulously cleaned two temples in Kotturpuram and Saidapet. "We find Hindus are unable to worship at temples in some areas because they have been severely affected owing to floods. So, we cleaned the mosques and temples and the streets badly damaged in the two areas. In the coming week, we will do similar work in other areas of the city," said Peer Mohammed, postgraduate in engineering, of Jammaat-e Islami Hind. "Throughout the process, people there helped us and were very happy that the cleaning was done," he added. (Excerpted from reports in TwoCircles.net and The Hindu)

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 December 2015 on page no. 13

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