Site Search:



Friday, October 14, 2005
A far away disaster stirs South Bay to compassion
Torrance residents from Pakistan are raising funds -- and prayers -- to support relatives, friends and former countrymen in South Asia.

Daily Breeze

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 week.

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, 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 said.

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 religion.

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 there.

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 now."

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, Aleem said.

"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?"

More Headlines
• Forum addresses Harbor Area cargo yard concerns, fears
• Torrance spares man's favorite pigeon for now
• El Segundo has its own orders for 'McMansions'
• Pricing San Pedro land
• Carson gathering offers at-risk boys a different view
Most Emailed
• Quarterback is 15, 5-9, 140 lbs., female and a starter
• Political outsider is planning to challenge Schwarzenegger with a recall
• Carson megamall meeting zeros in on toxic dump
• L.A. County libraries set porn limits on computer users
• Northrop Grumman, Boeing reveal Apollo look-alike

Home    Local News    Business    Sports    Today    RAVE!    Columnists    Opinion    Weather
Subscriber services | Archives | Site index | RSS feeds
Advertise | Contact us | Privacy Policy
Back to top

©2005 Copley Press, Inc. Content may not be reproduced or redistributed without permission.