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Benefit Nets $284,000 for Muslim Clinic

Success of the Buena Park event will keep the South-Central L.A. medical facility open another year. More than 1,000 attended.

November 20, 2000|TERESA WATANABE | TIMES RELIGION WRITER

In a milestone for Muslim philanthropy, a Buena Park fund-raiser to save the only free medical clinic in South-Central Los Angeles netted more than $284,000, ensuring the facility's survival for another year, community leaders said Sunday.

The emergency appeal Saturday night brought out an overflow crowd of more than 1,000 people, whose contributions will give the University Muslim Medical Assn. clinic on Florence Avenue a respite from closure while organizers seek grants and other funding sources.

At least half the people attending were Orange County Muslims, said clinic director Yasser Aman. Their contributions included a $16,000 pledge from an Orange County doctor who asked that his name not be divulged.

"A lot of Muslims like to do things anonymously," said clinic director Yasser Aman. "It's between them and God."

Muslims came from mosques in Gar

den Grove, Anaheim and Mission Viejo, he said, as well as outside the county.

The clinic, started in 1996 by a few Muslim medical students, has served 14,000 patients and set a national model for Islamic social activism as the first Muslim health care project for the poor.

The community response to the clinic's plight was seen as a measure of whether Muslims would extend their charity beyond causes overseas to the needy at home.

On Sunday, leaders said the fund-raiser's success would put the community on the road to more Islamic philanthropy in America.

Islamic Relief in Burbank pledged $15,000 to the clinic and vowed to begin broadening its focus from Muslims abroad to support more charitable projects here.

"It's the start of some really positive Muslim influence in America," said Sheik Hamza Yusuf of the Zaytuna Institute in Hayward.

Yusuf, an American convert and Islamic educator who commands a near-rock star status among younger Muslims, made a rare exception to his rule against appearing at fund-raisers to give an address.

"A lot of immigrant Muslims come here and benefit greatly from society. . . . " Yusuf said. "This is the first time I've seen a really good example of the children of immigrants and immigrants really wanting to put something back into the community where it's needed the most."

The fund-raiser's success also bridged the sometimes tense gap between Muslims of immigrant and African American backgrounds.

Najee Ali of Project Islamic HOPE, a leading African American Muslim and one of the most outspoken advocates of more Islamic charity into the inner cities, said Sunday that the community response had ended his concerns.

"No longer can any African American Muslim leader say that immigrants don't care about the part of the city we live in," Ali said.

As word of the clinic's plight spread, Muslims and non-Muslims alike began offering help.

One non-Muslim family drove across town to drop off a $1,000 check.

The fund-raiser drew nearly 300 more people than expected, causing organizers to scramble for extra chairs and 40 takeout pizzas.

According to the clinic's director Aman, many said they had been burned out by the community's constant fund-raising appeals but leaped to support the clinic as a way to take Islamic charitable ideals into the lives of the needy in this country.

"A lot of Muslims talk about unity, but now we're beginning to realize it," Aman said. "It's a pretty cool metamorphosis."

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MORE HELPING HANDS

The Indian Medical Assn. is proposing a free medical clinic at Santa Ana's Sikh Center. B3

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