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ING News & Information, 11/13/07
In this edition:
- In the News: Religious Pluralism, C. Welton Gaddy
- “Power of One: How One Person Can Affect Change,” and Speakers’ Bureau Training in Quad Cities (Iowa & Illinois), 11/9 – 11/10/07
- “Islam, a Religion of Moderation,” American Mothers Association, Tracy, 11/10/07
- “Orientation on Islam and Muslims,” Temple Emanu-El, San Francisco, 11/07/07
In the News:
In a recent Newsweek article on religious pluralism, C. Welton Gaddy, leader of the Interfaith Alliance, a nonpartisan educational organization, writes on the importance of pluralism in our nation: “We live in the most religiously pluralistic nation in the world, and that is our strength. The challenge is to learn not just to find that small area of common ground, common belief, common values, but to learn to live with each other in the breadth of our identity, affirming our diversity, respecting our differences.”
In the editorial, he emphasized that aspect of the constitution, which has been at the center of ING’s work, and the guiding principle for its outreach, the First Amendment. He writes, “When I read the First Amendment, I see a brilliant formula for facilitating that kind of life together. No religion is established as official, no specific religion is favored over any other religion, and religion is not favored over nonreligious beliefs. Yet everyone is free to enjoy the religion they choose or free to choose no religion.”
The article describes an important project he has been involved in during the past two summers, a week-long camp for high school students from many religious traditions called Leadership Education Advancing Democracy and Diversity or LEADD. The goal of the camp is “to teach the students about our nation’s historic commitment to religious freedom and how to counter the threats to that vision today.” This goal of promoting religious freedom and pluralism that was envisioned by the founding fathers has never been more critical for our society today, as segments of the population react to America’s growing diversity with fear and resentment. To read the entire article, see: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/c_welton_gaddy/2007/10/embracing_our_differences_in_a.html
“Power of One…,” and Speakers’ Bureau Training in Quad Cities, 11/9 – 11/10/07
Beginning Friday, November 9th, ING’s President, Maha ElGenaidi delivered a motivational presentation titled, “The Power of One: How One Individual Can Change Perceptions of Islam and Muslims” to an audience of over 100 people from three local mosques at the Islamic Center of Quad Cities in Moline, Illinois. The Family Night program outlined guidelines and tips for individuals to impact his/her environment by changing perceptions of Islam and improving the security of Muslims in the region through outreach in all acts of life, including their children’s schools, the workplace, law enforcement, the media and as an individual in public places. The seminar, which lasted over two hours emphasized the importance of education, and how serving as a good role model is the most effective way to create understanding and harmony in our communities. The presentation was as much a dialogue as audience members shared their views and experiences on the topic of outreach.
The following day, the program continued with an all-day training for a new speakers’ bureau. The seminar included demonstrations of school presentations; a review of First Amendment Center guidelines for speaking about religion in the public square and select answers to frequently asked questions about Islam and Muslims. About thirty people attended from the local mosques. Their interest and commitment to education and outreach was truly inspiring and should serve as an example to all regional and local communities.
“Islam, a Religion of Moderation,” American Mothers Association, Tracy, 11/10/07
ING veteran speaker Ameena Jandali delivered a brief presentation on the importance of teaching moderation to our children at a luncheon event organized by the American Mothers Association in Tracy on Saturday, November 10th. The talk accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation addressed the Quranic methodology and message of moderation, pluralism, and tolerance which should be inspired in Muslim children at a young age. Ameena reflected on the many Quranic verses that emphasize the point that diversity among people is part of God’s plan according to Islamic teachings, and that all humans are descendants of two parents, Adam and Eve. The talk also highlighted how Islam is a religion of moderation, termed in the Qur’an as “the middle community,” giving numerous examples of how moderation is encouraged in all walks of life, from eating, drinking and spending money, to acts of worship, which can all become extreme if not balanced with the other demands of one’s life. The talk was followed by a Q & A session where participants shared their views and questions on the topic. Attendees were greatly appreciative of the topic, especially at a time when Islam is portrayed as an extremist religion.
“Orientation on Islam and Muslims,” Temple Emanu-El, San Francisco, 11/07/07
An ING speaker addressed an evening class at Temple Emanu-El in San Francisco on Wednesday, November 7th. The class is part of a series on different faith traditions. The participants were eager to learn as much as possible about the faith, and made use of every minute of the two hour presentation, plying the speaker with question after question on topics relating to women, violence, prayer, and other acts of worship. They were often struck by the similarities with their own faith traditions, and were gratified to receive a different representation of Islam than that which they had been exposed to in the media and in other venues.
Providing a balanced view on an entire population that has been greatly vilified and demonized in recent years is critical to presenting an accurate portrait of 1.5 billion people. As the speaker commented, “the media tends to focus only on the negative, giving those with little exposure to Muslims the worst picture of the entire population.” Having a face to face conversation with a real live Muslim is the best way to clarify that distorted picture. As the organizer commented,
‘People are still raving about the presentation last night. It covered so much and was very understandable, but most of all interesting. I know we asked a great many questions, mostly because there is so much in the news and so much we don’t know, and I have to commend you for not being defensive at all.’
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