Muslim Students Association, Islamic Relief USA host fundraiser banquet for Rohingya refugees

Keynote speaker Saad Tasleem emphasized the importance of hope and giving

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Saad Tasleem addressed attendees on the importance of donation and giving to others, even when living comfortable lives. 

Veena Ramesh | Cavalier Daily

The Muslim Students Association and nonprofit organization Islamic Relief USA hosted a fundraiser banquet Saturday night where proceeds went to aid Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar. Saad Tasleem, the keynote speaker at the event, discussed the importance of donation — highlighting his own faith of Islam.

“My goal for tonight is for everyone in the room to give something,” Tasleem said. “My goal is for everyone to become closer to Allah.” 

The Rohingya people represent the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar, the majority of whom live in the Rakhine state. They represent one of several ethnic minorities in Myanmar’s population. However, due to the government of Myanmar refusing to officially recognize the Rohingya, ongoing violence against the Rohingya has persisted — forcing hundreds of thousands to flee to neighboring countries, especially Bangladesh. 

Donations at the event were made through Islamic Relief USA, which in turn will provide Rohingya refugees in camps in Bangladesh with water, food, supplies and some medical assistance. All ticket proceeds went towards helping Rohingya refugees, though individual contributions could be made towards any specific country, like Yemen and Syria.

Mahnoor Khurshid, a third-year College student and the vice president of MSA, introduced Tasleem to a room filled with around 100 people, including students from the University. Tasleem is an instructor at the AlMaghrib Institute of Islamic studies in Houston. After studying at the Islamic University of Madinah in Saudi Arabia, Tasleem graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from the Faculty of Islamic Law, University of Madinah. 

“We often think there is nothing we can do … As Muslims, one of the main parts of our identity is hope,” Tasleem said. “That’s why we live our lives with hope. It is part of our faith to have hope.” 

Tasleem emphasized the importance of donation and giving to others, even when living comfortable lives. 

“Every single human being is tested either with difficulty and calamity or with ease and comfort,” Tasleem said. “It is easy to forget that we are tested with our ease.” 

According to Khurshid, the idea for the event began when another student asked if MSA was doing anything to help the Rohingya refugees when ethnic violence in Myanmar gained significant media coverage.

“We came across IRUSA, a very reputable charity organization, and began planning from there,” Khurshid said.

In 2017, after a group of Rohingya militants attacked several police posts, Buddhist mobs responded by burning Rohingya villages in Burma and attacking civilians. During the month after the violence broke out, 6,700 Rohingya Muslims were killed according to Medecins Sans Frontieres.

The de-facto civilian leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, said the security force operations ended Sept. 5. However, the Humans Rights Watch found that military offensives continued after that date. The United Nations has called the situation in Rakhine a “textbook example of ethnic cleansing” and the “world’s fastest growing refugee crisis.” 

“I am hoping that we are even able to help a couple of families get food or houses or even form a life in Bangladesh because right now, they do not have any rights,” Khurshid said. “They are just living in refugee camps.” 

At the banquet, a representative from the Islamic Relief USA organization also spoke about his own experiences visiting a refugee camp in Bangladesh. He urged the audience to donate to the cause. Fourth-year Engineering student Sadiyah Faruk was among those who donated.

“When I came to the event, I was planning on donating,” Faruk said. “I have known what was happening to the Rohingya Muslims for a while, but I had not really done anything. Islamic Relief was an organization that I really like, so when I heard they were having an event, I wanted to go.” 

By the end of the event, MSA collected almost $15,000 through donations and proceeds from people who attended the fundraiser banquet.

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