Blessed Rebuilding and Solidarity

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Six of the fires, Grio screenshot

Since the Charleston shootings, at least eight southern churches with mostly African-American congregations have burned - a wave of anti-black terrorism that's been met with a confounding silence from mainstream media. But several Muslim groups, citing "our intertwined histories and convergent present," have noticed, and acted: Arguing "all houses of worship are sanctuaries," they have been fundraising to rebuild churches and "help our sisters and brothers in faith."

Dubbed "Respond With Love," the fundraising campaign was begun during the holy month of Ramadan by Faatimah Knight, a 23-year-old theology student from Brooklyn; she was quickly joined by a network of Muslim organizations, including Ummah Wide, Muslim ARC and the Arab American Association of New York. They reached their initial goal of $10,000 within days, and have now garnered almost $90,000 toward a subsequent goal of $100,000, with three days left in the campaign. Decrying the baffling silence of much of the country's media that itself speaks volumes, they've been joined by a # WhoIsBurningBlackChurches Twitter campaign to raise awareness.

Seeking to express both religious and racial solidarity, organizers want to help communities of faith rebuild as well as highlight the need for racial justice. They cite the historical context of the current wave of attacks on black churches as the longtime symbol of and gathering place for black America, dating from  the 19th century burning of Charleston's Emanuel AME through the fatal 1964 burning of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama to the July 1 burning of the Mount Zion AME Church in Greeleyville, S.C., burned to the ground by the KKK 20 years ago. "To many it is clear that these are attacks on Black culture, Black religion and Black lives," says the campaign website. "As Muslims we know the importance of protecting the vulnerable and respecting people who call on God in their various tongues. We want for others what we want for ourselves: the right to worship without intimidation, the right to safety, and the right to property...We must always keep in mind that the Muslim community and the black community are not different communities."

At least three of the recent fires have been ruled arson; the rest are under investigation. Meanwhile, the Muslim groups are asking people to donate, "ask questions about who is responsible for these church burnings," petition the President to re-convene the National Church Arson Task Force, organize a teach-in, training or fundraiser to support rebuilding, hold a solidarity event with African-American churches using the Muslim ARC #BlackLivesMatter toolkit, "and of course, pray. Pray hard."
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Praying outside Mount Zion, Getty Image

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