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Countering Islamophobia and anti-Muslim bigotry
We needn’t tell you how much the bigoted comments of a presidential candidate are actually reflected in worsening public sentiments about Islam, the impact the rhetoric has had on increasing hate crimes and bullying of Muslim children, or how fearful Muslims feel about their safety. That’s because the news is covering it 24/7. The question is: what are we going to do about it, and what have we been doing that we need to amplify and expand?
What we’ve always done at ING and its Affiliates:
Interfaith engagement and education
In these last few weeks of the year, we bring you stories from the field which hopefully inspire you to invest in interreligious, grassroots community engagement and education about Islam and Muslims.
Stories from the field – Church presentation
I’ve been an ING Speaker for years, and I love it. It’s such a privilege to have the opportunity to educate people about Islam and American Muslims – and it’s a responsibility too, especially since for many Americans I might be the first Muslim they meet. As I pulled into the church parking lot a few minutes before my presentation, I was excited about meeting the hundred or so people who had come for an event honoring Nostra Aetate, the landmark document of fifty years ago which opened the Catholic Church to interreligious dialogue in fundamentally different ways. When I finished the first part of the presentation and invited questions, two hands shot up. The first bluntly asked me whether I, “like most of you Muslims, want to make the rest of us follow your so-called shariah law,” adding that, “Muslims never speak out about ISIS.” The second questioner, quoting selectively – and not entirely correctly – from the Qur’an, asked how I could possibly follow a religion “which is profoundly oppressive to women and just against women’s rights on every level.” Most of the audience looked surprised and uncomfortable at such aggressive and hostile questions, but I kept my cool. The most important thing, I thought to myself, is to keep this audience in mind and actually engage with these questions. So what did I do? Calmly and cheerfully, I deconstructed these questions, inviting the questioners to reflect on the assumptions they were making, and kindly but firmly offering a different perspective.
As soon as the session ended, many in the audience jumped up to thank me personally with a kind word, a handshake, or a hug. A few told me, shyly, that this is the first time they’d actually spoken with and met a Muslim. The person who had asked that first confrontational question hung back and motioned me over. “Thank you,” he said, “this experience of meeting you, and the way you actually engaged with my questions, has changed my views about you and your community”. Even the second questioner thanked me, and expressed her surprise – and appreciation – to learn that Islam and feminism are very much compatible.
Education is important. In the current climate, it is probably the most important way for our community to respond to the negativity and stereotyping with which we’re faced. ING’s process of training, certifying, and supporting Speakers is unparalleled – and as a Speaker, I am so grateful to ING for their work educating people about Islam and American Muslims. Please join me in supporting this important work, and donate now.
– ING Speaker
Join us this Saturday, December 12th:
Islamic Speakers Bureau Training at the ING Office
Join us! The Islamic Speakers Bureau is one of ING’s core programs, with our speakers delivering hundreds of presentations to thousands of individuals each year. We want to be able to fulfill the growing number of requests coming into our office – and so we need more speakers to join our bureau. This Saturday, December 12th, from 9:30 AM until 2:30 PM we are offering training for those interested in learning more about what it takes to join the Islamic Speakers Bureau and become a certified speaker. Please join us for this highly informative and engaging training, and RSVP here. Following training, speakers receive ongoing support and mentoring to develop both their Islamic literacy and their presentation skills.