IQRA! Newspaper in the Eye of the Storm
By Amatullah Abdullah and Corey Habbas
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September’s tragic natural disaster which left the city of New Orleans devastated, IQRA! Newspaper with the determination of its founder-editor Sister Cara-Karema Harpole, and some help from technology in the form of the Internet – emerged from the eye of the storm intact.
As the people of New Orleans evacuated the flooded city, Cara took what she could carry with her – a computer and a few copies of IQRA! – and sought refuge, first in Baton Rouge in a Muslim village of Louisiana State University students, and later, within a local Muslim community in Houston, Texas, where she continued to work on the paper.
Whilst IQRA! Newspaper had previously been the only newspaper serving the Muslim community in New Orleans, the paper has now taken on a new role for Muslims nationwide, uplifting the spirits of the local community and encouraging its readers, as well as providing a means by which Muslims can reconnect with their family and friends after the tragedy. “Even though our Muslim community has left the city of New Orleans and is now scattered throughout the nation, IQRA! Newspaper’s role is more important than ever before,” says Sister Cara. “I hope that IQRA! Newspaper gives us hope in spite of the storm.”
Sister Cara was not deterred by the level 5 hurricane. Rather she looks at the tragedy as being an opportunity from Allah (SWT) to start in a new direction and to help those in need. “This is a precious moment for Muslims as we prepare ourselves for the holy month of Ramadan. Our religion calls us to action and compassion. I hope we heed these words of the Qu’ran,” she says, quoting the words of Allah in Surah Az-Zumar (39: 10), wherein He Says:
“Say (O Muhammad), “O My slaves who believe, be pious of your Lord and keep your duty to Him. There is a reward for those who are righteous, and the land of Allah is spacious. Those who are patient will indeed receive their full reward unconditionally.”
Three days after her arrival in Houston, Sister Cara was hired as a Katrina Relief Coordinator for the Islamic Society of Greater Houston. Her role is to assist in formulating a transitional strategy and an implementation plan for survivors.
“I felt compelled to act to help our devastated community, even though in reality, I was also a victim of Hurricane Katrina.” She says she has witnessed countless selfless acts of giving since the tragedy began, adding that the interfaith cooperation between Christian and Muslim faith organizations has also been very encouraging.
“I am so touched by God’s people heeding the call of charity and compassion. I only wish that this spirit doesn’t die after the emergency work has ended,” she says. “I hope Hurricane Katrina’s powerful blow can be a catalyst for change, sparking new attitudes in this nation.”
When Sister Cara isn’t working for the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, she puts her remaining energy into releasing new editions of IQRA! Newspaper, actively working with volunteers and contributors from all over the world, including countries like India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Britain, South Africa, and the United States. Under her leadership volunteers gather in our main cyber community to brainstorm and develop strategies for future editions. They also submit articles, photographs and graphics for each issue.
Sister Cara established IQRA! Newspaper in 2003, as part of her activities with the Muslim Student Association at the University of New Orleans. The paper soon expanded beyond the Association and began to serve the entire Muslim community in New Orleans. The goal of the newspaper is to serve all Muslims, she says, irrespective of race, culture and nationality, adding that unity is a concept firmly rooted in the Qur’an and Sunnah, and exemplified in the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) last speech, wherein he said:
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood.”
IQRA! Newspaper does not concentrate on Muslims alone. It also focuses on da’wah, Islamic education and addressing misinformation conveyed by the mainstream media. “Under the shade of the Qur’an and Sunnah, IQRA! is intended to help the human race,” says Sister Cara.
“While the media often vilifies Muslims, I am happy that Cara is there to present a positive view of them. Sister Cara is no doubt committed to the development of Islamic media,” says Juan Galvan of the LADO Group. “She’s a great friend of the Latino Muslim community. She is known for working regularly with the Latino Muslims of New Orleans.”
Readers respond positively to the newspaper, praising its quality, content and professionalism. “I have learned so much about Islam in a welcoming environment,” says one reader.
Cara has also established satellite groups online to proliferate IQRA! Newspaper. Circulation stretches from Georgia to California and Louisiana.
IQRA! Newspaper is also beginning to take root in the North East Muslim community. Sister Wendy Tobin from Boston says, “Those that know of it think it is really wonderful. It gives the message of Islam in a special way that touches those of us who are Muslim as well as those who are non-Muslim. I would recommend it to anyone.”
“I hope it will expand its circulation throughout the world,” says Salman Latif, another reader.
Praise be to God for the advancement in the technology. Many IQRA! Newspaper operations are channeled through the internet via e-groups and e-mails on remote servers situated far away from the hurricane’s devastation, a fact that has served as a blessing for Sister Cara and others.
However, Hurricane Katrina meant that the newspaper sustained a loss in funds, equipment and supplies, and in order to fully recover, IQRA! must procure additional resources in order to sustain its present level of activity and outreach.
Sister Cara says that the newspaper would be extremely grateful for donations which would help to rebuild its operations. To make donations to IQRA! Newspaper, please visit their website at
The IQRA! Newspaper team has never given up trust in Allah under any circumstances, says Sister Cara, adding that Iman (faith) makes one persevere through anything; be it adversity or joy, as both are blessings and tests from Allah (SWT). “Nothing can stop a work done in the cause of Allah (SWT). IQRA! Newspaper has proved to be an example of that! Alhamdulillah! (All praises are due to Allah),” she says. “IQRA Newspaper is standing firm in faith even in the midst of adversity!”
“And never would Allah make your faith of no effect. For Allah is to all people Most surely full of kindness, Most Merciful.” (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:143)