Islamic Philanthropy Helps to Stop Plans for Closing Local Free Clinic in Los Angeles

November 20, 2000

Source: Los Angeles Times

On November 20, 2000, the Los Angeles Times reported that "In a milestone for Muslim philanthropy, an emergency appeal to save the only free medical clinic in South-Central Los Angeles netted more than $ 284,000, ensuring the facility's survival for another year, community leaders said Sunday. A fund-raiser Saturday night brought out an overflow crowd of more than 1,000 people, whose contributions will give the University Muslim Medical Assn. clinic on Florence Avenue a respite from closure while organizers seek grants and other funding sources. The clinic, started in 1996 by a few Muslim medical students, has served 14,000 patients and set a national model for Islamic social activism as the first Muslim health care project for the poor. The community response to the clinic's plight was seen as a measure of whether Muslims would extend their charity beyond causes overseas to the needy at home. On Sunday, leaders said the fund-raiser's success would put the community on the road to more Islamic philanthropy in America. Islamic Relief in Burbank pledged $ 15,000 to the clinic and vowed to begin broadening its focus from Muslims abroad to support more charitable projects here...Yusuf, an American convert and Islamic educator who commands a near-rock star status among younger Muslims, made a rare exception to his rule against appearing at fund-raisers to give an address. 'A lot of immigrant Muslims come here and benefit greatly from society...' Yusuf said. 'This is the first time I've seen a really good example of the children of immigrants and immigrants really wanting to put something back into the community where it's needed the most.' The fund-raiser's success also bridged the sometimes tense gap between Muslims of immigrant and African American backgrounds. Najee Ali of Project Islamic HOPE, a leading African American Muslim and one of the most outspoken advocates of more Islamic charity into the inner cities, said Sunday that the community response to the clinic's plight had ended his concerns...As word of the clinic's plight spread, Muslims and non-Muslims alike began calling Saturday with offers of help, said Yasser Aman, the clinic's 25-year-old director. One non-Muslim family drove across town to drop off a $ 1,000 check. The evening fund-raiser in Buena Park drew nearly 300 more people than expected, causing organizers to scramble for extra chairs and 40 takeout pizzas. According to Aman, many said they had been burned out by the community's constant fund-raising appeals but leaped to support the clinic as a way to take Islamic charitable ideals into the lives of the needy in this country. 'A lot of Muslims talk about unity, but now we're beginning to realize it,' Aman said. 'It's a pretty cool metamorphosis.'"