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Following up on our first note that addressed the roots of Islamophobia, an extended version of which was published in Duke University’s online news, we again turn our attention to how ING is responding and for whom.
We first addressed bullying prevention of children in schools. We then addressed the need for cultural competency for law enforcement and other service providers. Today we address hate crimes against Muslims.
Can we prevent hate crimes & discrimination through proactive remedies like education, interreligious engagement, and community service?
We believe we can at ING!
Islamic values are American values—and so are the values of all other religions. That’s one of ING’s key messages, and it’s of crucial importance as we confront a rising tide of extremist narratives, charges of Islam’s incompatibility with the West, and hate crimes and bigotry.
Hate crimes against Muslims (or people perceived to be Muslims) continue to occur at a rate five times higher than before September 11, 2001, according to FBI reports. The February murder of three young people in Chapel Hill, NC, and the vandalism of a home in Cedar Rapids, IA, are only the latest in a long stream of attacks.
And Muslims aren’t the only victims of hate crimes. Hate crimes against Jews accounted for roughly 60 percent of religious hate crimes last year. The recent murder of nine people at a Charleston church and the subsequent burning of 8 black churches in various states is a reminder that racism is still alive and well. Not to mention religiously-based hate crimes against Hindus, Sikhs, and even against Protestants and Catholics.
No one is safe until everyone is safe. The embrace of religious pluralism for all is a precondition for the acceptance of each one in the American fabric.
What is the root cause of hate crimes and other expressions of bigotry? Take a look at this graphic:
It tells us that cultural values shape beliefs, beliefs shape attitudes, and attitudes shape behavior. Changing behavior, therefore, requires going deep to changing beliefs.
Cultural values are deeply ingrained in us as we grow up. They are normally not subject to change. Nor, in our case, would we want to change them. American cultural values affirm ideals such as democracy, pluralism, gender equality, equality of all people, freedom of expression and conscience—all values that ING upholds.
Though misguided beliefs are basic to all forms of prejudice, besides racism, Islamophobia has a specific root cause: the widely-held belief that Muslim values are contrary to American values, that for example, it is inherently anti-democratic, intolerant towards other religions, and teaches oppression toward women.
Americans who hold these erroneous beliefs will naturally form negative, or worse, hostile attitudes toward Muslims that not only lead to hate crimes but also discrimination in the workplace or prejudicial treatment in the delivery of services such as healthcare.
The key, therefore, to changing attitudes and behavior toward Muslims is to correct wrong beliefs, and to show for example that Muslim values in fact resonate with American values—and that is exactly what ING does throughout its work in both content and practice.
Our presentations, training seminars, and online materials show that Muslims’ long traditions of thought and practice throughout history support the values of democracy, freedom, and pluralism that Americans—including American Muslims—hold dear. ING’s face-to-face interaction with other Americans puts a human—and American—face on Muslims.
That is also what ING does with people of other faiths through its Interfaith Speakers Bureau (IFSB), which sends panels of Muslims, Jews, Christians, Hindus, and Buddhists together to schools, colleges, community centers, and other venues to introduce their traditions and practices and to discuss a contemporary topic. What works for Muslims works for other groups also: education and personal encounter break down prejudice.
ING founded the IFSB nearly a decade ago based on the belief that Islamic literacy happens best in the context of religious literacy and that the more people understand their own faith and themselves, the more they can understand the faith of others and live in harmony with them. So IFSB panels not only increase religious literacy but also model interfaith cooperation and friendship; the sight of five people with different religious convictions and practices coming together in friendship is often the salient impression they leave with their audiences, an effective counter to the belief of many Americans that religious difference inevitably leads to hostility.
This interreligious and intercultural harmony is exactly what ING seeks to model and foster. We welcome your support and participation is this endeavor, so vital to all of us in this new millennium.