Stories from the Field: ING in School

Countering Islamophobia and Educating Against Bigotry

In our last note, we announced the launch of a free webinar series to address some of the pressing issues facing American Muslim students in the wake of the San Bernardino and Paris attacks, and rising anti-Muslim sentiment. You can register here for the first webinar on Saturday, January 9th, 2016.

Amid reports of stereotyping, bullying, discrimination, and fear, ING seeks to shine a light on stories of positive engagement and interfaith cooperation by sharing and amplifying voices of hope, respect, and collaboration, via our social media profiles on Facebook and Twitter. Our Speakers continue to be busier than ever – read on to hear one Speaker’s reflection on why this work is so important.


“To my surprise, he smiled…”

As a new ING Speaker, I have already had the privilege of visiting a number of schools throughout the Bay Area to deliver presentations about Islam and American Muslims. It’s an honor to be invited into a classroom on behalf of ING, and I always enjoy connecting with the students and their teachers.

I wasn’t nervous about the presentation. I’d been reading the materials all morning, and when I arrived everyone made me feel very welcome. I looked around the classroom, which had posters of influential Americans on one wall and students’ work proudly displayed on another and smiled to myself. I set out the visual aids I had brought and began.

When I was finished, I invited students’ questions. As I folded up the prayer rugs and the copies of the Qur’an, a student raised his hand and confidently asked me, “How can Muslims legitimately discredit Daesh and leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi when they consistently justify their action on Qur’anic verses?” He went on to quote various Hadith and books, including Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Infidel.

I was surprised by the sophistication of the question but, determined not to appear flustered, I focused on what I’d learnt in ING’s Speaker Training: pause, deconstruct the question, and respond with a smile. I reminded the class of the countless individuals and communities around the world who have unequivocally spoken out against the perverse and offensive interpretation of Islam which Daesh promotes; I invited students to reflect on how extremist interpretations exist in all traditions and communities; and I encouraged them always to interrogate the sources of the information they read, remembering that some attempt to paint all members of a community – whether American Muslims or any other minority group – as being all the same.

To my surprise, he smiled with satisfaction. It seemed as if he had been waiting to hear someone debunk these misconceptions. I was proud to visit their classroom that day, thankful to their teacher for inviting us – and grateful that this student had an opportunity to ask his question and hear my response.

On any given day, ING Speakers are presenting in three locations around the country, engaging people in face-to-face education and encounter, through over 1,000 presentations and panel discussions each year.

With your help, we can continue to expand our reach through making our online curriculum more accessible, building our presence in regional and national media, and supporting a growing number of Affiliates. Please, consider making a tax-deductible donation today to support ING’s work.

Thank you,
– ING Speaker


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