A piece by Jay Solomon in this morning's Wall Street Journal recounts how a group of Muslims in southern India is providing a wonderful illustration of the universality of the Great Commandment and Summary of the Law. Despite the sometimes-violent religious differences between India's majority Hindus and minority Muslims, this group of Muslims has been energetically mobilizing to provide tsunami disaster relief to Hindus in neighboring villages:
The village of Parangipettai is perched on a small hill above the Bay of Bengal and thus was spared the wrath of the Dec. 26 tsunami. Its religious facilities have benefited greatly from all the money expatriated Indian Muslim workers in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf have sent home. Parangipettai's shrouded women, bearded young men, and the regular calls to Islamic prayer make the place feel far removed from the majority-Hindu villages that dot Cuddalore district, of which Parangipettai is a part. Cuddalore was badly hit by the tsunami as it struck India's southern coast.
Soon after the tsunami, however, the United Islamic Jamaath's 500 members assumed a key role in uniting Cuddalore's grass-roots relief effort, according to Hindu villagers and local politicians.
Syed Mcaryacar had been riding his motorcycle on the beach when the tsunami charged ashore. Seeing the wall of water approaching, he yelled at nearby fishermen and their families to seek higher ground. He quickly returned to Parangipettai to mobilize the members of his mosque.
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One of the camps, based in a building with the Arabic name Mahmoodhia Shadi Mahal, currently houses hundreds of predominantly Hindu survivors of the tsunami. Saturday night, men, women and children slept on mats lining the assembly room's floor and waited for news of missing loved ones. They wore clothing provided by the United Islamic Jamaath.
"These men have acted like gods," says K. Anjamma, an elderly villager. "They have helped to save so many lives," she says.
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With the crisis continuing, Mr. Yunoos and his charity workers vow to increase their aid efforts. Warehouses belonging to the mosque are accumulating more donated shoes, shirts and pants. And the kitchen at the Islamic center has stocked large reserves of biscuits, cooking oil and spices to be disbursed to towns and villages in Cuddalore. Appeals by Mr. Yunoos for more donations are being made locally and to Islamic communities elsewhere in Asia and the Middle East.
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Armies of men from Mr. Yunoos's mosque complex, meanwhile, continue to fan out to nearby villages to provide food, clothing and soap to tsunami survivors. In the village of Samiyarpettai, roughly 100 members of the United Islamic Jamaath arrived in town on trucks this past weekend, their mouths covered with masks to protect them from feared epidemics. They served up hot bowls of a local Indian favorite, vegetable biryani, to thankful locals and they patrolled the beach.
Refugees in Samiyarpettai's main Hindu temple weren't surprised that aid was coming from the nearby Islamic community. Standing in front of a statue of Durga, the Indian goddess of protection, someone said, "We're all fishermen here. Religion comes second."