ING "Interfaith Speakers Bureau" Panels

ING News & Information, 6/05/08

In this Edition:

  • Latest News on ING Blog
  • ING Hosts Interfaith Panels at Bay Area High Schools, 5/28 & 29
  • “Islam & Contemporary Issues,” Albany Rotary Club, 6/03/08
  • “Islam & Contemporary Issues,” Fellowship Forum, 6/04/08
  • Thank You for Your Support!

“Darool-Uloom Deoband issues fatwa [religious ruling] against terrorism” by Rhys Blakely
The Times, June 2, 2008

“An ultra-conservative Islamic seminary that has inspired extremist groups including the Taleban has issued a fatwa against terrorism, in what is believed to be the first edict of its kind. The Darool-Uloom Deoband, a 150 year-old India-based institution that holds influence over thousands of smaller Islamic schools across the subcontinent, many of which have attracted British students in recent years, issued the fatwa at an outdoor peace conference attended by thousands of clerics and students in Delhi. The organization, which condemned terrorism as the “most inhuman crime” has a reputation as one of the global centers of Islamic theological debate. Its base in the northern Indian town of Deoband has become synonymous with dogmatic and violent fundamentalism. ‘The religion of Islam has come to wipe out all kinds of terrorism and to spread the message of global peace’ the Darul-Uloom grand mufti Habibur Rehman said in the fatwa’”.

Events of Interest:

ING Hosts Interfaith Panels at Bay Area High Schools, 5/28 & 29

On May 28 and 29, ING hosted its first series of Interfaith Speakers Bureau panels. Two were held at Lowell High School in San Francisco and the third was held at Oakland High School in Oakland.

The ING Interfaith panels in San Francisco were two of four events held as part of the Lowell High School Ideas Festival on Comparative Religions. The first panel on “Religious Perspectives on Contemporary Issues” included five speakers and was attended by over 100 students. The panelists represented four faiths, including Buddhism, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, with participants Venerable Jian Hu (Buddhist), Margaret Jones (Christian), Ken Maki (Jewish), and Maha ElGenaidi (Muslim), respectively speaking about their faiths. Judith Fleenor rounded out the panel as the moderator who introduced the panel and directed the flow of numerous questions. This two-hour panel began with an introduction by each panelist and a brief overview of their respective faith. Then they fielded questions from students and teachers for over an hour that ranged between theological perspectives on contemporary issues and practical matters such as living the faith in the San Francisco Bay Area. Students were surprised to learn about the many commonalities and shared values among the four panelists and felt enriched by the experience of speaking with authentic practitioners of those faiths. Some of the teachers continued the conversation about the role of religion in public life with their students the following day.

The second panel at Lowell High School focused on Jewish and Muslim relations and was represented by panelists Maha ElGenaidi and Dick Heiman. Again, each speaker began with an introduction and overview of their faiths, before addressing the topic of “Jewish-Muslims Relations in the U.S. in the Shadow of the M.E. Conflict.” They began by addressing Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Maha and Dick defined these terms and discussed their history and the potential consequences of such attitudes. During the half hour long Q & A session, students asked questions about the two religions in general as well as more complex issues that reflected many of the stereotypes and misconceptions many Americans have towards Muslims & Jews.

At Oakland High School, ING hosted a Jewish-Muslim panel for approximately 60 senior leadership students and 10th graders. Panelists Ken Maki and Maha ElGenaidi each introduced themselves and provided an overview of Judaism and Islam. The dialogue between the two speakers quickly led to questions by the high school audience for over 30 minutes. While some students were not familiar with Islamophobia, others noted that the media tends to portray Islam and Muslims negatively whenever there is coverage about the religion or its practitioners. Other questions focused on practical issues such as how each of the panelists practices their faith and how they maintain their friendship and good relations in light of the conflict in the Middle East. Maha and Ken both stated that their faiths teach and practice peaceful co-existence among people of different religions, a belief which has been practiced for centuries and continues to be practiced today in numerous countries.

To learn more about the newly formed ING Interfaith Speakers Bureau or if you would like to join or volunteer your services for the group, please contact Grace Fong, ING Programs Director at [email protected].

“Islam & Contemporary Issues,” Albany Rotary Club, 6/03/08

An ING speaker delivered an overview on Islam and Muslims for the Albany Rotary Club on Tuesday, June 3rd, at a local restaurant in Albany. Following the luncheon, the speaker gave a brief overview on what it means to be a Muslim, before addressing questions from the audience which focused on some of the most common issues relating to contemporary issues such as extremism and its roots. The speaker provided Islam’s view of moderation and pluralism, before explaining some of the historical reasons for the development of extremism among some segments of the Muslim population, and the political and economic roots of some of these movements. Afterwards, audience members expressed their appreciation for this much needed alternative view of Muslims that is rarely provided in the mainstream media.

“Islam & Contemporary Issues,” to the Fellowship Forum, 6/04/08

An ING speaker addressed a group of about 50 retired professionals at the Fellowship Forum in Palo Alto on Wednesday, June 4th. The audience was composed of highly accomplished retirees from many walks of life, including former professors, engineers, police chiefs, and even a dean from Stanford University. The speaker provided an overview on what it means to be a Muslim before addressing questions from the floor, which covered a wide range of topics, including the differences between Shias and Sunnis, the concept of sin in Islam, extremism and fundamentalism, and women and modesty. For many of the audience members, this was their first opportunity to actually meet a Muslim who was able to effectively describe the faith and address many of the questions that had long been on their mind. The group was very appreciative of the services provided by ING and is interested in expanding the conversation next year to an interfaith dialogue.

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