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Selma Cook

 

IF is a charitable organization based in the UK that was launched in January, 2009. It supports communities, children, and the environment. Is ‘IF’ an abbreviation? Rizwan Khaliq, the chief executive officer of IF provided the answer, he said, “Whenever you have an idea or want to achieve something, you usually ask questions like ‘wouldn’t it be great ‘if’ … such and such could happen’? IF represents a vision; a marvelous vision. IF recognizes that there are limitations but we seek to inspire people and our aim is to go beyond those limitations and come together to help others. It’s all about charity work.”

 gaza 100

Gaza 100 Run

IF’s first project was the Gaza 100 Run held in May, 2009. Khaliq observed, “We were all aware of the catastrophic situation that took place in Gaza and how people in the UK were demonstrating, staging embassy protests and so on, but true to the spirit of IF, we wanted to do something potent but a little bit different.” IF preferred not to get involved in anything that would ultimately be misreported and which would, therefore, act as a disincentive for the human spirit. So they organized the Gaza 100 world record run.  “100 meters! 100 pounds! 100% for the children of Gaza,” said Khaliq proudly.

 

The Guinness Book of Records was there and an absolute new category was made for a world record: The most people running a hundred meters in a twelve hour period. Over 1,675 people were running. Khaliq commented, “To run one hundred meters it usually takes between 15 to 20 seconds. An old lady on crutches took 25 seconds! So, we had 25 seconds worth of runners who were running continually for 12 hours. That’s an accomplishment in itself.”  

 

Humanitarian Problem Rather than Muslim Problem

People all over the UK took notice of this event and it received wide acknowledgement. However, Khaliq added, “We were not focusing on Gaza as a Muslim problem but as a humanitarian problem. Many non-Muslims took part. There were women and men, young and old, and white and black. By all standards, it was a universal event and everyone was welcome. There were participants from all faith communities, all colors, all age groups, and religions. The event went beyond color, creed and community and for this reason we consider it a real success!”

 gaza run

London is now a world record holder. The final tally of people who took part in the run was 1,675. Will IF do this again next year? Khaliq commented, “Maybe we will do it again next year but this year there was a particular back drop with the very vivid Gaza problem. People were far more motivated because it was a current issue. If we do it again, it may well be for another cause. We are not sure.”

 

Successful Fundraising

Over 70,000 British pounds were raised and although IF partnered with Save the Children, they managed the project themselves. Khaliq commented, “We are very proud and very humble because we were able to do this event and have a huge response from the Muslim community and the general public.”  Celebrities who took part in the run included, Tre Azam, and Ghazal Asif from BBC1’s hit show, The Apprentice, comedian Jeff Mirza, boxer Anthony Small, and Baroness Pola Uddin. Many schools also attended as well as an organization called, Jews for Justice. Also, many elderly people took part.

 

Around the World in Ten Iftars

gaza 100IF’s second project was Around the World in Ten Iftars. The idea was to have ten countries involved, ten iftars around the world, feeding 10,000 people during the last ten days of Ramadan. IF partnered with organizations like Muslim Hands which provided iftar for people in Bosnia, Islamic Relief which provided iftars for people in Iraq and Pakistan, Intepal provided for people in Palestine, Islamic Help provided iftar for people in Sudan, Muslim Aid provided for people in Somalia and Bangladesh,   Human Appeal International provided for Afghanistan, and Muslim Charity provided for people in Kashmir. London’s homeless people were serviced by IF. They contacted 12 to 15 homeless shelters in Tower Hamlet, East London which has the largest conglomeration of homeless people in London. On September 11, IF invited homeless people in East London to share iftar with the Muslims. “It was fantastic,” commented Khaliq.

 

A Touching Story

A number of homeless people said that they could not believe that someone was doing this for them. Khaliq recounts a touching story, “One homeless man came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder. He knew I was with the organizers because I had been on stage. When I come off stage he approached and asked if there was anymore food. There had been huge queues and the food had run out very quickly. I told him the food was finished but realizing he was homeless I asked him if he had eaten. He said he had eaten that day but before that he hadn’t eaten for four days. I thought to myself that this person is making a request and I should help. I went to my wife who was just about to start eating her meal and asked her if she would mind giving her food to this man. She responded immediately and gladly gave it to him. A short time later the man went on stage and said some wonderful words thanking IF for the event and for doing something for people like him and for helping homeless people to be noticed. After all that he came to me again and asked how to say goodbye in Islam. He asked if he should say ‘salam alaikum or alaikum salam’. He wanted to reach out and understand more. If that isn’t dawah then I don’t know what is!”

 

IF not only fed some homeless people in East London, but it also had nasheed artists to entertain them. There were also speeches from politicians, heads of key organizations, senior directors of homeless shelters, and George Galloway gave a talk as well.

 

Khaliq commented that he had been touched by the atmosphere at the event. He said, “You grow up with people giving you ideas about what dawah really is and often you are given the idea that we should adopt a superior position and so on, but this event showed me a very practical demonstration of dawah.” Khaliq saw the Gaza 100 Run in the same way. “People came together on a humanitarian issue – not necessarily a religious issue. There was no need to have a debate and prove someone wrong or have your guard up as people do when arguing about religion. The people at the events did not view others with suspicion. People were happy to give. When we broke the record everyone was ecstatic. No charity had attempted anything like that before.”


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