Muslim Experiences During Hurricane Harvey: The Importance of Faith-based Organizations in Disaster Relief

Omar Jaber, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Natural disasters inherently have devastating consequences, as they destroy property indiscriminately, disrupt lives and force people from their homes. For Muslims, one of the most diverse communities in Houston, the experience of Hurricane Harvey was no different. Certainly, Muslims in the United States have a unique perspective of their own, one which is often missing in research literature. The aim of this project is to illuminate how Hurricane Harvey impacted the Muslim community of Houston through qualitative analysis using an oral history approach. This project also aims to reinforce the importance of faith based organizations in disaster relief by highlighting the efforts of mosques in their response to Hurricane Harvey. Implementing disaster relief has always been a challenge for state and local governments. It is during these disasters that Faith Based Organizations (FBOs) can have a significant impact on resources, response, and recovery. Identifying the needs of a community, communicating instructions, and delivering and receiving relief are all difficult challenges for local, state, and national governments, especially in the aftermath of a disaster. Like many FBOs, mosques can play a significant role in the success of governments to achieve their goals in disaster relief. FBOs have resources, as well as the understanding and trust of the community they serve that are valuable in delivering aid and it is important that FBOs are recognized as vital partners in relief efforts during natural disasters. Muslims in Houston have a unique experience that is often left out of many research discussions. With the current climate of hostility towards Muslims evidenced by government policies like the Executive Order targeting immigrants from Muslim countries, they carry yet another lens with which to view this natural disaster – that of being Muslim and American. Their religion requires Muslims to restrict diets, perform rituals and practice behavior that may be unfamiliar to many other Americans, and so they may often feel unaccommodated and even unwelcome. This sentiment can be exacerbated amidst the chaos of a natural disaster, when such differences can be pushed to the forefront as families are forced from the privacy of their homes into the public arenas of shelters during a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey. It is during these disastrous times that FBOs can provide critical insight for state and local governments to ensure the safety of their communities.

Subject Area

Clergy|Public health

Recommended Citation

Jaber, Omar, "Muslim Experiences During Hurricane Harvey: The Importance of Faith-based Organizations in Disaster Relief" (2018). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI10837858.