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Message from ING President Maha Elgenaidi
Dear friends ,
It’s too easy to forget why I do this work when I am sitting behind a desk. That’s why I love the opportunities to go and speak for ING. Last Saturday, I experienced one of those moments that remind me why this organization exists: not only to increase understanding of Islam & Muslims, but also to build a community where we live out what all our faiths command: to love our neighbors. Sometimes that means having each other’s back.
I was on an ING interfaith panel at the Faith Formation Conference, a massive gathering of Catholics involved in religious education. After our panel presentation, a series of friendly but concerned questions was directed to me, the Muslim speaker, finally coming to the perennial one: “Why don’t we hear Muslims speaking out against terrorism?”
Before I could say a word, our Jewish panelist, Karen Stiller, the Peninsula director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC), stepped in and asked me if she could take this question. I nodded. She took the mic: “When an act of terrorism happens, ING as well as other Muslim organizations publically condemn it… Furthermore, we have each others’ back—they speak out against anti-Semitism and we speak out against Islamophobia. People don’t know about it because it’s not what sells newspapers—conflict does.”
I was so appreciative of her remarks and was about to speak myself, when Henry Millstein, a Catholic on ING staff, took the mic instead, saying that he too had something to say: “If you google ‘fatwas against terrorism,’ you’ll come up with thousands of items. The problem is not that Muslim leaders and organizations are not speaking out against the abuse of Islam to justify terrorism, but that hardly anyone seems to be listening… We need to press the media to pay attention to Muslim voices.”
I didn’t need to say a word at that point. I saw the audience nodding in agreement. What an impact it made to have speakers of other faiths address this question! I am grateful for these friends in the interfaith community who brought home to me in a matter of minutes why I do this work and why it matters in the communities where our Affiliates are joining us in this task.