They helped because this is home.
They helped because fellow human beings were hurting.
They helped because they, too, have been helped.
And the way they helped was by doing what loads of Nebraskans did — collecting toilet paper and paper towels, Campbell's soup and Pop Tarts, pillows and bedding and garbage bags and hand sanitizer and cases upon cases of water.
And then Friday, members of the Nebraska Islamic Foundation packed it all up and drove to the Salvation Army so it could be taken to the flood victims who need it most.
“This is what we like to see in the world,” Ali Alhaidari says. “This is part of our religion. This is our duty.”
The man from Iraq came to Lincoln in 1993 after two years in a refugee camp in Saudi Arabia.
His future wife was on the same plane bound for the shelter of America, all of the passengers escaping from the deadly regime of Saddam Hussein.
They have five children now. Their oldest will graduate from UNL next month.
“We believe this is a good city to live in and raise kids in,” Alhaidari says. “We have a good relationship with the community.”
The schools are good, he says.
The police are good.
“We have to be part of the place, it is one of the things in our faith.”
Alhaidari and his fellow Muslims worship at a mosque in Havelock. Sometimes as many as 500 people gather for services and community events.
They have felt animosity in their time here — anonymous letters, a man who came to the door to tell them their religion was one of hate.
But mostly they have felt acceptance.
They felt compassion last month after 50 fellow Muslims were massacred during morning prayers in mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Neighbors and strangers sent notes of sympathy to the mosque.
To our friends, they wrote. To our neighbors.
I am so sorry ...
I am so saddened ...
I want you to know that here you are welcomed ...
I want you to know you belong here ...
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Churches reached out, too.
“In America, you have been given the same freedoms of worship, assembly and speech that we have,” one letter began. "We are happy to promote justice for all neighbors. We will also be remembering you in prayer before the Heavenly Father."
A collection of pastors signed the letter.
The message was this: We are all in this together.
It’s the message of true Islam, too, Alhaidari says.
“In any group or any community, you will find bad people and you will find good people. But for us, it doesn’t matter what religion. We stand together for the benefit of the people, of the country, of the city.”
He talks about Iraq. The decades of war in a beautiful, rich and civilized country and the decision to leave.
“If we stayed, we had no chance to stay alive.”
His brother came here first and he followed. He and his family have traveled to other states and cities in their time here, but they never have wanted to be anywhere else but Lincoln, Nebraska.
“I like peaceful place over mountains.”
A lot of us like peaceful over mountains. And a lot of us in peaceful Lincoln are happy that Alhaidari and his fellow Muslims are members of this community.
Alhaidari is 48. He’s been here more than half his life.
All of his children were born here.
“This is my home. We have to stand together. We have to support each other.”
After the massacre in New Zealand, many of those who reached out to the foundation and its members did so without leaving contact information, Alhaidari said.
“We would like to thank them and show appreciation, that means a lot to us.”
The flood drive was one way to show their thankfulness.
UNL researcher Maitham Al-Sammak organized the worshipers. Shams Al-Badry created flyers. Arabic stores became collection sites. People came to the mosque with cash.
They filled two trucks and delivered a letter, written in English and Arabic with a bold-lettered message across the bottom: We are with you ... Nebraska Strong.
They came together because that is what their religion teaches, Alhaidari says.
“When it comes to the people in need, in our faith we believe there is two people, your brother in faith or your equal in humanity.”
In either case, you look out for each other.
It's that love your neighbor thing.
“We believe to help ourselves, our neighbor, our town, our state,” he said. “From circle to circle to circle.”