Muslim groups have raised more than $500,000 for the heroes killed while defending two women who were being harassed by an Islamophobic passenger on a train in Portland last week.
Ricky Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche were fatally stabbed, and Micah Fletcher was critically wounded by a man who was shouting bigoted slurs at teenagers who appeared to be Muslim.
The attacker, Jeremy Christian, a 35-year-old convicted felon, is linked to white nationalist groups.
Muslim Education Trust (MET) and CelebrateMercy launched the crowdfunding campaign, dubbed “Muslims Unite for Portland Heroes” on Saturday with a target of $60,000 – but with donations pouring in at a rate of $1,000 every five minutes, the goal was met within hours.
The fundraiser aimed to cover the funeral expenses of the late victims and any outstanding medical bills for Fletcher. The extra funds will be used to support the families of Best and Namkai-Meche.
“Mr Best – one of the victims – left behind a wife and four children,” reads the crowdfunding webpage. “His family will definitely need significant help since all of his kids are still teenagers or younger – still needing to go through college.”
By Wednesday afternoon, the number of donors exceeded 10,000 people.
Rania Ayoub, director of public relations at MET, which is based in Portland, said the city is coming together and public officials have expressed solidarity with Muslim Americans and the victims.
“The Muslim community is supportive; as you can see within three or four days we were able to raise over $500,000, which is very, very good,” Ayoub told Middle East Eye in a phone interview.
She said when the campaign was first launched, the organizers were not sure what to expect.
“It’s wonderful to see people come together that way,” Ayoub said.
Thank you Muslim Americans for raising big $ for Portland heroes.
By group accountability logic all white people should denounce the attack https://t.co/JRu5SJYEqa
— Lisa Bloom (@LisaBloom) May 31, 2017
President Donald Trump, who is blamed by critics for stoking hatred and Islamophobia through his rhetoric and policies that have included attempts to ban citizens from several Muslim-majority countries, denounced the attack in a tweet on Monday.
The violent attacks in Portland on Friday are unacceptable. The victims were standing up to hate and intolerance. Our prayers are w/ them.
— President Trump (@POTUS) May 29, 2017
Ayoub said the tragedy has sparked much-needed debates about anti-Muslim bias in the US.
“We’re definitely already seeing that law enforcement, community-based organizations and faith-based organizations are coming together and starting the conversation about the need for more healing in the community, especially here in Portland, and the need for more education, the need for more sensitivity training,” she said.
The Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) donated $10,000 to the campaign.
MPAC President Salam Al-Marayati described the three victims as individuals who “bear witness to the truth” for protecting vulnerable people.
“That’s a high priority in [our] religion, and therefore it deserved our support for those families whose members made the ultimate sacrifice,” he told MEE.
Marayati added that the incident showed the ugliness of bigotry in the United States, but also highlighted the courage of those willing to stand up for others.
He also said he appreciates Trump’s condemnation of the crime, but called for including white supremacist violence as a part of the government’s strategy to combat extremism.
“Our government, whether it’s Trump or whoever comes after Trump, is going to have to start examining and putting policies and programs to deal with the rise of white nationalist violence in our country,” Marayati said.
He added that white nationalists’ crimes do not target Muslims only, but are a threat to all Americans perceived as “the other”.
“This is an American problem; it’s not just a problem for Muslims,” he said.
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