Following one of the worst environmental catastrophes the United States has ever seen, a Muslim service group called “Who Is Hussain?” has donated 30,000 bottles of water to the city of Flint, Mich.
The ongoing water crisis first began in April 2014, when the city switched the source of its water supply from Lake Huron (which was then treated at the Detroit Water and Sewage Department) to the Flint River in an effort to combat the city’s financial crisis. However, the city neglected to take proper precautions prior to switching its water supply; the river’s highly corrosive elements began eating away at the pipes, causing severe iron and lead contamination.
For over a year now, the citizens of Flint have been reporting that the water coming out of their faucets has been brown. Despite filing multiple complaints, CNN reported that the people of Flint were told not to worry.
Then-mayor Dayne Walling went as far as drinking the water on local television in an effort to assuage the city’s doubts, but the truth finally came out when Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician in Flint’s Hurley Medical Center, began seeing a sudden spike in the number of children coming in with symptoms of lead poisoning and raised the alarm.
Even after Hanna-Attisha alerted city officials and a team of researchers from Virginia Tech confirmed the toxic levels of lead in the water, the state refused to acknowledge that there was a problem.
The governor’s office and the state’s Department of Environmental Quality are now facing a class-action lawsuit by some of the families of Flint for neglecting to treat the Flint River with the proper anti-corrosive agent — which would’ve cost as little as $100 a day and avoided 90 percent of the current problems, according to experts — despite knowing full well that the river would need to be treated before being useful since 2011.
When Gov. Rick Snyder finally ordered that the water supply be shifted back to Lake Huron in October 2015, it was too late, as the river water had already irreversibly damaged the entire pipeline.
Snyder waited three more months, before finally declaring a state of emergency on Jan. 5. On Jan. 16, President Barack Obama went a step further, and declared Flint the site of a full federal state of emergency. As a result, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will be coordinating with the residents of Flint to buy up to $5 million worth of water filters and water filter cartridges, as well as just plain fresh water.
Even with the help of FEMA, the aid efforts may not be enough. It is estimated that more than 8,500 children drank the water and have thus been exposed to lead since April 2014.
When members of the nearby Muslim community began hearing of the problems facing their neighboring city, they decided to step up. The Michigan chapter of a Shia Islamic charity group “Who is Hussain?” — based out of Dearborn, a city that is roughly an hour away from Flint, and home to the largest Muslim population in the United States — began mobilizing the Muslim community to aid their fellow Michigan residents in Flint.
A representative for the service organization’s Michigan chapter, Dr. Aziza Askari, said in a statement to the Washington Times that the organization helped out simply because it felt the need to do what was right. “We saw what needed to be done and we decided to do it,” she said. “We reached out to schools, neighbors, friends, mosques, anyone and everyone to help us by donating a case of water, or money towards a case.”
The group started a nationwide collection of water bottles — and even took the campaign online to raise as much money for fresh water as possible.
“Who is Hussain?” was started by a small Shia group in London in 2012 in an effort to tell the story of Hussain ibn Ali (AS), Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grandson.
Today, the group not only informs people of Hussain’s story, but also strives to live out his principles through service; the organization’s site states that it conducts all kinds of community service projects, such as blood donation drives, feeding the homeless and raising money for the education of impoverished children, among other things.
“Prophet Muhammad taught us ‘your neighbor comes before your own household,” Detroit-based filmmaker and “Who is Hussain?” volunteer Mohammad Almawla told the Washington Times. “As a resident of Detroit, this is not only a Flint problem. This is a Michigan problem and I feel obligated to help to the best of my ability.”
Snyder apologized to the residents of Flint in the Jan. 19 State of the State Address. “I’m sorry and I will fix it,” he said. “Government failed you at the federal, state and local level.” In spite of this admission, the his words will likely mean little to Flint residents themselves — 40 percent of whom live below the poverty line, all of whom already lived without a local grocery store — and all of whom are now in dire need of fresh water as well.
by Sumaia Masoom