Islamic Center hosts benefit dinner for Haitian earthquake relief

Monday, February 22, 2010
Members of the Islamic Center in Cape Girardeau prepare carry-outs of biryani, tandori chicken, kabobs, tabola salad, hummus and pita chips Sunday during the center's Haiti benefit dinner. (Laura Simon)

The Muslim community of Cape Girardeau welcomed nearly 400 diners Sunday at the Islamic Center, where volunteers cooked and served Middle Eastern cuisine for a cause.

Because charity is one of the five Pillars of Islam, the Islamic Center hosted the event, Hearts for Haiti, as a benefit for the victims of the earthquake that hit the Caribbean country in January, killing more than 200,000 people.

"We found out from our friends who are working in Haiti right now that the biggest problem is hunger. They're really, really suffering," said Ahmad Sheikh, an area physician and co-organizer of the benefit dinner. "We thought it would be a good idea to talk about this over food."

Sheikh said the event raised $5,000, which will be forwarded to Helping Hand USA for relief efforts in Haiti.

The Islamic Center community isn't unaccustomed to helping individuals, families or countries in need. It also organized a benefit dinner after a tsunami devastated Indonesia in 2004.

For organizers, benefit dinners such as these serve as a reminder of how fortunate Americans are, but that there are other places in the world where people don't have the opportunity to dine together and experience new cuisine.

"We work very closely with people who are doing relief efforts in Haiti and all over the world," Sheikh said. "Wherever there's a catastrophe, we try to create awareness and work with it. A lot of people, they like to try different cuisines, so, here you don't have to go to India or Pakistan to taste it."

Main dishes featured at the event include hummus, chicken tikka, kebabs, chick pea masala and, for dessert, baklava.

"I'm so glad there's a turnout for the Islamic community," said Ruth Ann Orr, a guest at the benefit. "I've been here before, too, and the food is wonderful."

Paul Mingus and Tina McRaven, also diners at Hearts for Haiti, were invited to the event by their friends at the Islamic Center.

"It's for a good cause, and it's an opportunity to try different food," McRaven said.

Nearly 20 people volunteered to cook and serve food at the event. The proceeds from the $10 admission price was set to go to the Haitian Relief Fund. In addition to the time donated, all of the food was also given by the Muslim community.

Angie Tygett, a volunteer who helped mostly in the kitchen, said she was thrilled to see the mosque hosting an event to support Haiti.

"It's wonderful," she said. "I just think we all need to be more global," she said.

ehevern@semissourian.com

388-3635

Pertinent Address:

298 N. West End Blvd., Cape Girardeau, MO

Map of pertinent addresses

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