About ING

About ING

Islamic Networks Group (ING) is a non-profit organization with affiliates and partners around the country that are pursuing peace and countering all forms of bigotry through education and interfaith engagement while working within the framework of the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom and pluralism. Founded in 1993, ING reaches millions of individuals and hundreds of groups a year at the grassroots level by building relationships, understanding, and peaceful communities of all types and backgrounds through programs that include:

  1. Thousands of presentations, training seminars, workshops, and panel discussions annually in schools, colleges and universities, law enforcement agencies, corporations, healthcare facilities, and community organizations as part of cultural diversity curricula and programs, through a nationwide network of affiliates and partners.
  2. Social media campaigns that promote cultural awareness and best practices for bringing diverse Americans together to get to know and learn from one another.
  3. Online curriculum on topics related to cultural awareness and building bridges available to educators and community organizations.

Click the sections below to learn more about ING’s work and history.

Vision, Mission, and Principles

Vision

Islamic Networks Group (ING) envisions a world in which people of diverse backgrounds are understood and respected and their contributions valued, and in which American Muslim communities play a vital role in promoting values of inclusion and coexistence.

Mission

In pursuit of this vision, ING’s mission is the pursuit of peace by countering all forms of bigotry through education and interfaith engagement while working within the framework of the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom and pluralism. Founded in 1993, ING reaches millions of individuals and hundreds of groups a year at the grassroots level by building relationships, understanding, and peaceful communities of all types and backgrounds through programs that include:

  1. Thousands of presentations, training seminars, workshops, and panel discussions annually in schools, colleges and universities, law enforcement agencies, corporations, healthcare facilities, and community organizations as part of cultural diversity curricula and programs, through a nationwide network of affiliates and partners.
  2. Social media campaigns that promote cultural awareness and best practices for bringing diverse Americans together to get to know and learn from one another.
  3. Online curriculum on topics related to cultural awareness and building bridges available to educators and community organizations.

Principles

ING programs are based on the following principles:

  • We believe in adhering to the highest standard of professionalism in the operation of our organization, striving for full accountability and transparency.
  • We believe that a deeper understanding of different religions and cultures contributes to peace and harmony in the world.
  • We believe that diversity of cultures, ethnicities, and ideologies contributes to personal enrichment and social strength.
  • We interact with people based on the belief that they are good, decent, and honest human beings, and we respect their diverse beliefs and practices.
  • We emphasize face-to-face interaction with our audiences as an effective way to overcome stereotypes and prejudice and build bridges of understanding and friendship.
  • We strive to build long-term, honest, and intimate relationships with individuals and institutions by meeting their needs and expectations, valuing their feedback, and delivering top quality products and services, based on scholarship.
  • We hold ourselves to the highest standards of behavior and character, including good manners, kindness, sincerity, integrity, authenticity, generosity, and a dedication to continuous learning and growth.
  • We subscribe to the principles expressed in the religion clauses of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; our products and services are therefore academic, informative, objective, neutral, but never devotional in nature.

Statement of Need

ING’s goal of challenging stereotypes, preventing prejudice, and promoting understanding through education has been important since its inception in 1993. In a post-9/11 world, however, this work has become critical to combating rising anti-Muslim sentiment and Islamophobia which have reached unprecedented levels in recent years and have become common fare in the media, government, and the public square.

Recent polls and surveys illustrate the increasing level of Islamophobia. According to a 2017 Pew poll rating “warmth” or “coldness” Americans felt toward various religious groups on a scale from 1 to 100, Muslims were rated most negatively of all religious groups, with an average rating of 48, two points below atheists’ rating of 50. According to a 2015 YouGov poll, only 21% of Americans have a favorable view of Islam, while 55% have an unfavorable view and the rest are not sure (25%).

According to a 2014 Zogby Associates poll, the percentage of Americans viewing Muslims favorably declined from 35% in 2010 to 27% in 2014 with Arabs and Muslims having the highest unfavorable and lowest favorable ratings of any group. A previous poll shows a clear correlation between ignorance about Islam or not having a Muslim friend and negative attitudes towards the faith and its adherents. The authors of the report point out that, “What really seems to impact one’s perception of a group much more than knowing an individual is having a positive opinion of that group’s distinguishing characteristic, which in this case is their faith.”

According to a 2016 Pew Research Center survey, most Americans (59%) agree that there is a lot of discrimination against Muslims in the United States today. About three-quarters of Americans (76%) also said discrimination against Muslims in the U.S. was increasing. These anti-Muslim attitudes often result in real life consequences; these include: violence and hate crimes against Muslims, vandalism and burning of mosques, and hate incidents towards Muslim homes and schools. In 2015 these incidents reached 9/11 levels, with the FBI reporting 257 incidents of anti-Muslim hate crimes, a 67% increase from the previous year.

Given the current level of Islamophobia in the United States , ING’s educational programs about Islam and Muslims and its promotion of interreligious tolerance has never been more important.

ING's Inception and Early History

ING was founded in 1993 to address the growing misconceptions about Islam and Muslims in the media and general public that increased as a result of political events and issues during and after the first Gulf War.

The organization was founded by Maha Elgenaidi, an American Muslim of Egyptian origin who migrated to the U.S. with her parents at a young age. Before founding ING, Maha worked in the corporate world in marketing and business management. She was inspired to establish this organization to counter the growing prejudice and vilification of Islam and Muslims that she noted had increased in the early 90’s. She herself had recently become better acquainted with her faith and felt the importance of providing that education to others through two means: religious literacy programs and American Muslim civic engagement.

ING initially focused on interacting with the media to help provide a Muslim perspective that was generally missing from most local and national news. ING established relationships with managing editors and news directors throughout the San Francisco Bay Area and helped them generate over fifty stories and news segments a year. The focus of the stories for the first time centered not on foreign or international news but on local American Muslims in the context of family and community.

In the fall of 1993 ING initiated the Islamic Speakers Bureau program to enable a better understanding of Islam and Muslims in a proactive rather than reactive manner. Its purpose was and continues to be to supplement existing education about Islamic history and Muslim culture that is taught in middle and high schools in the context of social studies and world history. The program utilizes interactive presentations provided free of charge by trained speakers to middle and high school classes. From the inception of the program these presentations have been received enthusiastically by teachers and students alike as they provide a human face and an authentic resource on a topic that was often unfamiliar, misrepresented, or confined to academic knowledge.

Requests for ING presentations in schools increased in subsequent years. At the same time other institutions expressed a similar need for education about Islam and Muslims. Beginning in 1995, ING began providing law enforcement agencies with cultural diversity trainings about the American Muslim community. In the following years, additional institutions such as corporations, health care providers, social workers, and faith organizations also expressed their interest in this topic, especially after the tragic events of 9/11. Today, ING speakers deliver 500-700 presentations annually in the San Francisco Bay Area to a total audience of over 20,000 people.

As ING expanded its work into various venues, it documented its model for replication across the country. Building on its years of experience in educational outreach, ING systematized its programs and strategies in a series of start-up kits and in 1999 began providing training to interested groups in other cities and states. Today, there are ten active ING affiliates in the United States that provide educational outreach programs in their local areas.

Beginning in 2007, ING broadened its scope to include teaching about other religions through the newly created Interfaith Speakers Bureau, which was modeled after the successful Islamic Speakers Bureau program. In the first full year of the program, ING speakers participated in interfaith panels in 180 classrooms in high schools, colleges, and universities in the San Francisco Bay Area. The focus and hope behind this program is that by educating the public about the world’s major religions, ING will encourage an understanding and appreciation of our commonalities as well as our differences.

Reflecting on the value of its work, ING founder Maha Elgenaidi comments: “While there are numerous avenues one can take towards creating positive change in society, at ING we believe that education and interfaith engagement are two of the most effective means for promoting long term change, because education and dialogue address the underlying beliefs that lead to bias and discrimination. Negative perceptions impact students’ rights in schools, workers’ rights in corporations, every aspect of the legal justice system, political access, quality of healthcare delivery, national security policies, and foreign policy, as well as our culture and ideals as Americans. By addressing people’s misperceptions about Islam, for example, and how Islamic values are in fact resonant with American values, ING is not only preventing negative behavior from occurring, but also building positive relationships among all Americans while reinforcing America’s promise and ideals of fairness and pluralism.”

To learn more about ING’s work, see our Programs page.

Organizational Highlights

ING operates five programs that promote intercultural understanding and mutual respect. The Islamic Speakers Bureau program consists of speakers from the Islamic faith who supplement existing curriculum and cultural diversity programming in public institutions, including academic institutions, law enforcement agencies, healthcare facilities, and corporations. The Interfaith Speakers Bureau program consists of speakers from the Islamic, Jewish, Christian, Buddhist and Hindu traditions who speak together on panels to further the practice of religious pluralism, while increasing religious and cultural literacy and mutual respect. The Affiliate program initiates regional Islamic and Interfaith Speakers Bureaus all across the country. The INGYouth program equips Muslim youth with religious literacy and with self-confidence in their identity as American Muslims, training them to present their faith to the peers and to respond effectively to challenging questions; thus, it also serves to prevent and to defuse bullying. Know Your Neighbor-Multifaith Encounters, our newest program, brings people of different religious and cultural backgrounds together for mutual learning and the development of new relationships between individuals and communities.

Privacy Policy

Our Commitment to Privacy

Your privacy is important to us. To better protect your privacy we provide this notice explaining our online information practices and the choices you can make about the way your information is collected and used. To make this notice easy to find, we make it available on our homepage and at every point where personally identifiable information may be requested

The Information We Collect

This notice applies to all information collected or submitted on the website. On some pages, you can donate or register to receive materials. The types of personal information collected on these pages include name, address, email address, phone number, and credit card number.

The Way We Use Information

We use the information you provide about yourself for internal purposes only. We do not share this information with outside parties except to the extent necessary to complete the stated transaction. We use email addresses to subscribe individuals to our mailing list to receive news or updates about ING. Information submitted on our website will not be used for this purpose unless you fill out the registration form. These email addresses are not used for any other purpose and are not shared with outside parties. We do not share the personally identifiable information provided to us online in ways unrelated to the ones described above without providing you an opportunity to opt out or otherwise prohibit such unrelated uses.

Our Commitment To Data Security

To prevent unauthorized access, maintain data accuracy, and ensure the correct use of information, we have put in place appropriate physical, electronic, and managerial procedures to safeguard and secure the information we collect online. Data transmitted on our website is encrypted using SSL prior to transmission.

How To Contact Us

Should you have other questions or concerns about these privacy policies, please send us an email at [email protected] or call us at 408-296-7312.

ING and the First Amendment Center

ING policies relating to teaching about religion in school adhere to the principles derived from the doctrine of separation of church and state by following the guidelines provided by the First Amendment Center. The First Amendment Center is an organization that informs educators how to teach about religion in schools in a manner consistent with the religious clauses of the First Amendment.  ING has adopted and integrated these policies in its content and speakers training.

The following are answers to common question relating to ING’s policies when teaching about religion in public schools.

1. Why does ING teach about world religions and in particular about Islam and Muslims?

ING upholds the belief that understanding world religions is critical in understanding world history. This is in line with California Public Schools History-Social Science Framework #14, 2005, under guidelines for implementing content standards adopted by the California State Board of Education, which state: When studying world history, students must become familiar with the basic ideas of the major religions and the ethical traditions of each time and place. Students are expected to learn about the role of religion in the founding of this country.

ING’s goal in teaching about Islam and Muslims is to supplement California State Board of Education content standards for history and social studies in 6th through 12th grades as it relates to studies of Islamic civilizations in the Middle Ages; nation building in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia; the Atlantic Slave Trade; American immigration policies; and the fundamental values and principles of civil society and the historical role of religion and religious diversity.

In contemporary social studies the study of Muslims post-9/11 is important for reasons similar to those for studying the Holocaust, ie. in order to counter a growing Islamophobia that, like anti-Semitism and other forms of racism, has demonized all Muslims. ING believes that a better understanding of Muslims and their faith will result in a more peaceful, tolerant, and harmonious society and will reduce extremism and violence worldwide.

2. How does ING teach about world religions, and in particular Islam?

ING teaches about world religions, including Islam, in the context of religious pluralism and in accordance with First Amendment Center guidelines. The ING Speakers Bureau programs base its guiding principles upon the First Amendment Center publication, A Teacher’s Guide to Religion in the Public Schools. This guide is based upon the principles outlined in Religious Liberty, Public Education, and the Future of American Democracy, a document produced by a group of educational and religious organizations. Principle IV of this document states:

Public Schools may not inculcate nor inhibit religion. They must be places where religion and religious conviction are treated with fairness and respect. Public schools uphold the First Amendment when they protect the religious liberty rights of students of all faiths or none. Schools demonstrate fairness when they ensure that the curriculum includes study about religion, where appropriate, as an important part of a complete education.

This principle supports ING’s mandate to provide academic presentations on Islam and the Muslim world to complement social studies and world history curriculum in schools. To this end, ING trains, tests and observes volunteer speakers on their knowledge of the content they present and their understanding of their role in the classroom. As part of their education, ING speakers are trained to uphold the ideals and principles of the First Amendment and pledge to:

* Provide an academic view of Islam’s place and impact on world history as one of the major religions studied.
* Honor the trust of the host organization and provide education about religion within the contexts of world history and social sciences.
* Provide accurate and balanced information relating to Islam and Muslims.

Adherence to these guidelines has ensured nearly 25 years of successful partnerships between ING and public and private academic institutions.

As expressed by Dr. Charles Haynes, Senior Scholar at the First Amendment Center, What is most impressive about ING is the careful First Amendment Center [separation of church and state] training given to every speaker, especially those who give presentations in public schools.

3. What are the First Amendment Center guidelines that ING follows when teaching about religion?

ING’s guidelines are adopted from the principles of the First Amendment Center. They include the following guidelines, which are emphasized in ING’s training and certification of speakers and listed in ING’s training manual: When delivering ING presentations or when representing the organization in any capacity, ING speakers and panelists shall adhere to the following First Amendment Center policies and guidelines for speaking about religion in the public square.

ING policies for speaking about religion in the public square are as follows:

1. The role of speakers and panelists in the classroom is to serve and support the teacher(s) in his or her effort(s) to teach the curriculum relating to world religions. Speakers and panelists shall follow ING-designed content that was created to supplement the required curriculum, based on specific state social studies standards.

2. In venues other than schools, presentations are tailored to fit the needs of the audience. Speakers and panelists shall follow pre-designed content that was created to supplement a particular program, whether for religious literacy or for cultural diversity or cultural competency education.

3. Presentations and panel discussions are academic (objective and neutral), not devotional (calling people to your religion). An ING speaker and panelist shall present subjects relating to his or her religion as he or she would any other religion. A useful strategy to achieve this standard is to preface most statements, especially those concerning theology, with “according to (the particular religion)’s teachings…” or “(practitioners of a particular faith) believe ….”

4. ING presentations inform the audience about religion and never attempt to impose belief in any religion or influence the audience to accept any particular religion.

5. ING speakers or panelists shall strive for audience awareness of the religion they are representing and never press the audience to accept their religion.

6. In relating their religion to other religions, ING speakers and panelists shall neither promote nor denigrate any other religious belief.

Speakers and panelists associated with ING adhere to the aforementioned policies.

4. Why is the First Amendment so important?

Because it is central to the dual principles of separation of church and state as well as the protection of religious freedom that were envisioned by the founding fathers, who saw this new nation as a beacon of light in the dark history of religious intolerance and persecution. At ING we believe that these guidelines and principles are essential to any conversation about religion in this country and continue to be critical in promoting interreligious discourse and understanding.

5. What is the First Amendment Center?

The First Amendment Center was founded on the principles enshrined in the religion clauses of the First Amendment and works to preserve and protect these freedoms by clarifying and educating the public on this subject. The Center serves as a forum for the study and exploration of issues relating to freedoms of expression, including freedom of speech, freedom of the press and religion, and the right to assemble and to petition the government. Through its Religious Freedom programs, the Center helps schools and communities throughout the nation address issues concerning religion and values in public education.

For more information on this topic, please refer to “Finding Common Ground: A Guide to Religious Liberty in Public Schools, 2007 Revision” by Charles C. Haynes and Oliver Thomas. This publication can be downloaded from the First Amendment Center website.

ING and the Environment

Environmentally-Friendly Policies

Adopted by ING and the Board of Trustees on January 8, 2007

ING has initiated a variety of actions to make our workplace, publications, and activities as environmentally friendly and socially sound as possible. Additionally, all our employees and volunteer speakers have pledged to be more environmentally conscious in their homes and communities. The following are specific actions that we are currently implementing to ensure a more environmentally responsible workplace.

Paper Products and Publications

When designing our products and marketing and communication materials, ING:

  • Works with outside printing companies and vendors that are committed to using environmentally-friendly products and processes.
  • Uses paper with the highest possible post-consumer waste content (we aim for 30-50 percent) and that is always process chlorine free (PCF). Roughly half of the time, we exceed this standard and use 100 percent recycled paper.
  • Uses lighter weight paper. (For example, 60# uses 14 percent fewer paper resources than a 70# sheet).
  • Uses uncoated paper whenever possible, minimizing the use of varnishes and facilitating recycling.
  • Avoids heavy inking of paper. Where possible, we use inks with high vegetable oil content and reduced toxicity.
  • Targets mailings and design materials to use paper as efficiently as possible to achieve desired returns.
  • Avoids excessive packaging and environmentally questionable materials.
  • Offers all recent publications electronically on our website.

In the office, ING:

  • Uses paper with recycled content for letterhead, business cards, envelopes, notepads, and printer paper, as well as for all shipping materials.
  • Provides bins for recycling office paper.
  • Separates paper that is used on only one side for reuse. (Paper used on both sides is collected weekly for municipal recycling.)
  • Reuses large envelopes, file folders, and boxes.

IT and Office Equipment

  • All computers, printers, fax machines, and copiers in use are shut down at the end of the day.
  • Future purchases of office equipment will be Energy Star certified for energy efficiency, with “power-down” modes and other energy saving features.
  • All printer toner cartridges are returned to the manufacturer for recycling,
  • All electronics, including computers, monitors, printer, phones, CD’s and batteries are recycled.

Heating and AC Use in Office

  • The office thermostat is set at 68° in the winter and 76° in the summer.
  • The thermostat is turned off when there are no employees working in the office.

Catering and Kitchen

  • Compostable or disposable paper plates, bowls, or cups are used for our meetings hosted within or outside our office. When planning events, reusable utensils and crockery are used whenever possible.
  • Organic and locally produced foods are used at events whenever possible.
  • Staff brings in ceramic mugs for their use and paper cups are only used for guests.
  • All plastic, glass, and aluminum cans are recycled.
  • Cloth towels are provided for drying dishes and surfaces in an effort to prevent excess paper use.

Pest Management

Numerous live plants are housed in the office to improve the general environment and to boost air quality. ING minimizes the spraying of toxic chemicals. Pest management activities include:

  • Seeking to maintain good office hygiene, preventing pest outbreaks by eliminating anything that might attract or harbor pests.
  • Using organic pest control for office plants and spaces when necessary. A soap-water solution or a soap-chili pepper-water solution is used against most insects, including gnats, red mites, and aphids. Several applications over one week are usually sufficient.
  • A more powerful chemical is used only in the event that the office is so infested that stronger pest control methods are required. We aim to use the least toxic chemical available, informing staff members in advance and spraying only when the office is vacant and the exhaust system is on.

Commuting

  • Currently, 67 percent of staff telecommute or work full-time off-site.
  • ING encourages speakers to present in organizations that are in their local communities to minimize long distance driving.
  • ING encourages its staff and volunteers to carpool to events and off-site meetings.

Employees and Speakers Pledge

ING employees and speakers pledge to adopt at least 10 and as many of the following steps as they can to do their part for the environment. They also pledge to learn more about the issue of global warming and educate friends and family members:

1. Keep my car in good condition – Get the engine tuned up regularly, change the oil, and keep my tires inflated properly; proper maintenance can increase a car’s fuel efficiency by 10 percent and reduce emissions

2. Cut driving miles – Cut driving by just five miles each day to contribute to keeping tons of carbon dioxide from entering the air. Avoid unnecessary driving.

3. Carpool – Carpool whenever possible.

4. Leave the car at home – For short distances, ride a bike or walk whenever possible.

5. Encourage streets for bikes and pedestrians – Encourage officials in my community to increase features such as bike lanes and pedestrian malls, and push for traffic-calming techniques like speed bumps, raised crosswalks and extended and widened sidewalks.

6. Buy energy-efficient products – When buying new appliances or electronics, shop for the highest energy-efficiency rating. Look for a yellow and black Energy Guide label on the product. The most energy-efficient models carry the Energy Star label, which identifies products that use 20-40 percent less energy than standard new products. According to the EPA, the typical American household can save about $400 per year in energy bills with products that carry the Energy Star.

7. Switch to compact fluorescent bulbs – Change the three bulbs used most in the house to compact fluorescents. Each compact fluorescent bulb will keep half a ton of carbon dioxide out of the air over its lifetime and can save $30 per year in electricity costs.

8. Set heating and cooling temperatures correctly – Check thermostats in my home to make sure they are set at a level that doesn’t waste energy. In the winter, set my thermostat at 68° in the daytime and 55° at night. In the summer, keep it at 76°. Set the water heater to between 120° and 140°. In my refrigerator, set the temperature at about 37°and adjust the freezer to operate at about 3°.

9. Use my appliances more efficiently -Resist the urge to open the oven door to peek, as each opening can reduce the oven temperature 25°. Preheat oven only as much as needed, and avoid placing foil on racks. Clear the lint filter in the dryer after each load, and dry only full loads. Try to hang clothing outside in the sun and air dry as much as possible, as it is the most energy-efficient method of all. Unplug chargers or appliances that are not in use. Turn off computers and other equipment at night.

10. Turn off the lights – Turn off lights and other electrical appliances such as televisions and radios when I’m not using them. Use dimmers where I can.

11. Check my utility’s energy-efficiency incentives – Check with the utility company to find out if it offers free home energy audits, cash rebates for using energy-efficient lighting and appliances, and lower electric rates for households meeting certain energy-efficiency criteria.

12. Weatherize my home or apartment – Drafty homes and apartments allow energy dollars to leak away. Seal and caulk around windows and doors. Make sure my home has adequate insulation.

13. Let the sun shine in – The cheapest and most energy-efficient light and heat source is often right outside the window. On bright days, open blinds, drapes, and shutters to let the sun light my home for free.

14. Recycle materials – Make an effort to participate fully in my town’s or my building’s recycling program. Reuse or recycle bags.

15. Buy recycled products – Look on the label for the products or packaging with the greatest percentage of post-consumer recycled content, which ensures that the materials have been used before. I will try to buy paper products that have more than 50 percent post-consumer content.

16. Use durable goods – Bring my own cloth bags to local stores. Use a cloth dishrag instead of paper towels at home, and reusable food containers instead of aluminum foil and plastic wrap.

17. Install a low-flow showerhead – Showers account for 32 percent of home water use. A family of four using low-flow showerheads can save about 20,000 gallons of water per year.

18. Repair leaks – Fix those leaking and dripping faucets as soon as possible. A dripping faucet can waste up to 20 gallons of water per day. A leaking toilet can waste up to 200 gallons every day.

19. Use water wisely in everyday activities – In the kitchen, run the dishwasher only when it’s full. Wash dishes by hand in a sink or dishpan containing water, rather than running the tap continuously. Run the clothes washer only when full as well. Take a shorter shower (turn off the showerhead while soaping). Sweep sidewalks and driveways instead of hosing them down — washing a sidewalk or driveway with a hose uses about 50 gallons of water every 5 minutes.

20. Ask for organic produce – At local supermarkets and greengrocers ask for organic food. Purchase organic fruits and vegetables at my local farmer’s markets.