A coalition of Muslim groups has launched an online fundraiser to help rebuild predominantly African-American churches damaged in a recent spate of fires across the South.
At least eight churches have suffered fire damage since a shooting on June 17 at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, left nine black parishioners dead.
The church burnings took place within just 10 days of one another, and three are being investigated as possible arson cases.
“To many, it is clear that these are attacks on black culture, black religion and black lives,” the coalition wrote on the campaign’s LaunchGood page.
“It’s Ramadan, and we are experiencing firsthand the beauty and sanctity of our mosques during this holy month. All houses of worship are sanctuaries, a place where all should feel safe,” it added.
The coalition — which consists of U.S. organizations Muslim Anti-Racism Collaborative and the Arab American Association of New York as well as digital startup Ummah Wide — has so far raised over $23,000 in five days. After the campaign ends on July 18, the money will be given to pastors of the burned churches that need it most, the groups said.
Like black communities in the United States, the coalition wrote, American Muslims are also vulnerable to intimidation, though not to the same extent as African-Americans.
“The American Muslim community cannot claim to have experienced anything close to the systematic and institutionalized racism and racist violence that has been visited upon African-Americans,” organizer Imam Zaid Shakir wrote on the campaign’s website.
However, Muslims can understand the “climate of racially inspired hate and bigotry that is being reignited in this country,” he wrote, saying the American Muslim community should stand in solidarity with African-Americans.
Just 65 miles north of the church where professed white supremacist Dylann Roof allegedly killed nine people, investigators took samples from the charred rubble of Mount Zion AME Church. Authorities said last week they were assessing whether accelerant was used to fuel the blaze at the church, which the Ku Klux Klan burned to the ground two decades ago.
Two other church burnings — God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia, and College Hill Seventh Day Adventist in Knoxville, Tennessee — were also suspected arson attacks and are being investigated.
Authorities have not classified any of the fires as hate crimes. Al Jazeera