Hundreds of Muslim-Americans have raised more than $150,000 for the families of the victims killed in the San Bernardino shooting, hoping to respond to “evil with good.”
Donations have been pouring in to an online fundraising page called “Muslims United for San Bernardino,” organizers said. The LaunchGood page was created Dec. 3 to ease the financial burden on grieving families after a married Muslim couple gunned down 14 people and injured 21 others in California last week.
“It’s literally been collecting over $1,000 per hour since it became a national campaign,” Tarek El-Messidi, the fundraiser’s director, told TIME on Wednesday. El-Messidi is also the founder of CelebrateMercy, a nonprofit that teaches about Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam.
“This is exactly what we need,” he added. “This channels all of our frustration, all of our anxiety, all of our fear into a constructive act of kindness.”
El-Messidi, 35, said many Muslims felt helpless after the deadly Paris attacks in November and again as the California shooting unfolded. El-Messidi braced himself for the anti-Muslim backlash that he knew would follow.
“When Paris happened, I said, ‘God, what if this happens on American soil?’ And then it happened,” he said. “The first thought in every Muslim’s head was, ‘God, please don’t let this be a Muslim.’”
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump sparked outrage this week when he called for a ban on Muslims entering the U.S. until officials “can figure out what the hell is going on.” While some world leaders condemned the real estate mogul for the idea, the proposed ban had support from some of Trump’s followers.
“I felt like this is the perfect storm,” El-Messidi. “With all the anti-Muslim rhetoric in this election year, and with the Paris attacks, and then this California one, Muslims are just being punched left and right. Your every day Muslim feels like a punching bag.”
The fundraising page had collected more than $152,000 as of Wednesday afternoon., with nearly all donations coming from American Muslims, El-Messidi said.
“We’re tired of being grouped together with extremists and people who commit these monstrous acts,” said El-Messidi, a former logistics manager in Tennessee.
“We wanted to show that American-Muslims are active contributors to society and that we want to build what the extremists are trying to destroy,” he added.
The donation page exceeded its $140,000 goal Wednesday, thanks to a $15,000 gift from Meraj Mohiuddin, a 38-year-old trauma anesthesiologist in Phoenix, Arizona.
“I saw that they hadn’t met their goal yet. This is too important,” said Mohiuddin. “It’s really all about helping your neighbors here. What we can do as Muslims is be that much more graceful and better versions of ourselves.”