Torrance residents from Pakistan are
raising funds -- and prayers -- to support relatives, friends and
former countrymen in South Asia.
Torrance resident Shahid Khan feels helpless.
A good friend in Pakistan was killed when his home collapsed
after Saturday's 7.6-magnitude earthquake. Khan's mother-in-law now
sleeps in a tent outside her damaged home.
His countrymen are cold and hungry, but Khan is fighting the
instinct to go home. Instead, he has joined the ranks of South Bay
residents lending support -- monetary and spiritual -- to earthquake
victims halfway around the world.
"I am kind of holding out here," Khan said. "I can't be much of a
practical use there. Maybe if I can be here and work in the
community and get some people to send them money ..."
The 49-year-old father of two plans to donate money to the
Islamic Center of South Bay in Lomita, where he comes to worship,
pray and break his daily fast during Ramadan, which began last
His affected family and friends have a special place in his
prayers, especially during this time of the year, traditionally
reserved by Muslims for reflection, contemplation and renewal.
"I still can't believe it," he said. "This is kind of shocking
every time. ... I pray for the souls of the people gone and for the
people suffering, for God to give them patience and guidance."
At least twice a day, Khan visits the center -- just one of
several South Bay mosques collecting money for victims. Ultimately,
the donations will be given to several national organizations.
The earthquake's timing -- affecting a largely Muslim part of the
world during the monthlong observance -- will likely increase
support for victims, said Mohammed Abdul Aleem, who runs http://www.islamicity.com/, a
Culver City-based Muslim community Web site.
Tenets of Islam require members to donate to charity -- or
"zakah" -- year-round, but worshipers are expected to increase their
giving this time of year, he said.
And with the devastation along the Pakistan-India border, it's
likely the contributions could increase even more this month, Aleem
For some, though, helping has nothing to do with religion.
While Muslim by birth, Palos Verdes Estates resident Tony Ashai
does not practice the faith and shies away from organized
But the Kashmir native has big plans in the works. He's
organizing a black-tie gala benefit for earthquake relief next
month. Nothing is final, but he hopes to find a local hotel or
banquet hall, charge $250 a person for dinner and entertainment, and
raise $500,000 for victims.
"Money is what will trickle down to these people," he said.
"Anything else won't get to the right place."
Ashai has lived in the United States for 23 years and has a
successful architectural firm in Torrance. But he still feels deeply
connected to the country and the suffering endured by people
His parents in Kashmir are fine, but he has not been able to
contact many of his friends. The death toll is estimated at 35,000,
and Ashai said he wouldn't be surprised if it hit 100,000. He said
most of the towns are remote and inaccessible.
"It's really bad, a major catastrophe," the 42-year-old said.
"They're all wiped out completely. They're just finding them
In the meantime, South Bay residents with family and friends
affected by the earthquake are doing what they can to get by.
Ashai watches Pakistani television networks at home, staying
informed and looking for updates.
Khan makes his way to the Islamic Center, where he prays,
searching for some clarity.
"There are so many other things that have happened -- Katrina,
the tsunami," he said.
"I don't know what all this has come to, if it is kind of a
message from God or what."
But Muslims do not believe God punishes humans through natural
disasters, said Aleem, from the Culver City-based Web site.
"After the prophet Muhammed, all natural calamities used by God
for punishment were stopped," he said. "They happen because of a
natural cycle that is out there."
The earthquake might not be punishment, but it could be a test,
"This is a test for humanity," he said. "Our test is that we
would have given charity during this month whether it happened or
not, but how much more would we give?"