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Muslim-Run Fundraiser Raised Close To $200,000 For San Bernardino Victims

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A vigil held at the San Manuel Stadium in San Bernardino (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty)
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A fundraising page set up by a group of Muslim Americans has raised nearly $200,000 for the victims of the San Bernardino shootings. Faisal Qazi, a neurologist who is also a Muslim, worked with some friends to set up fundraising efforts for the victims of the San Bernardino shootings and their families through the fundraising page, Muslims United for San Bernardino Families. The campaign is hosted on LauchGood, a crowdsourcing platform founded in 2013 by Muslims to "show the world of all the great things Muslims are capable of," according to Mashable. LaunchGood campaigns have also raised money for black churches that had been set on fire by arsonists.

Qazi told KTLA that after the news broke that the shooters were extremists, he was concerned at how their efforts would be taken by the public. "We weren't sure what kind of backlash would come to our charitable work," he said.

He also volunteers by offering free health care and job training via a non-profit called MiNDS. While this is a faith-based non-profit that aims to help Muslims American avoid poverty, he says the work does not involve spreading religion. "It's a community services charter," he told KTLA. Qazi said that many of his patients' families went to Inland Regional Center, where the shootings occurred, for services. MiNDS has partnered with Islamic nonprofit Celebrate Mercy on the fundraising efforts, according to BuzzFeed.

Qazi's group initially set out to only raise $20,000, but a number of religious scholars soon chimed in, hoping that they could do more.

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"I know that religious scholars have worked so hard…educating on anti-extremism," Qazi said. "I think they were shocked, because it's a huge setback to all their efforts." So, they set their sights on raising $140,000. Now, they're at nearly $200,000, making it LauchGood's highest earning campaign to-date.

People of other faiths are also invited to join in the fundraising efforts if they wish. The page states that all money raised will help with the immediate and short-term needs of families affected by the tragedy. Funds will be distributed by the MiNDS Network.

The page reads:

We wish to respond to evil with good, as our faith instructs us, and send a powerful message of compassion through action. Our Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, said: "Have mercy to those on earth, and the One in the Heavens (God) will have mercy upon you." And the Quran teaches to "Repel evil by that which is better" (41:34). 

Celebrate Mercy co-founder Tarek El-Messidi told BuzzFeed, "The united American Muslims campaign aims to reclaim our faith from extremists by responding to evil with good, by rebuilding what they destroy. We know that no amount of money will bring back the loved ones of the victims' families, but we hope that it at least alleviates some financial burdens in the wake of this tragedy."

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Qazi said some backlash has come in the form of nasty Internet comments, and said it's exhausting to constantly have to defend Islam and Muslims against scrutiny and negativity. However, he said he is empowered and inspired by his work and his faith.