Op-Ed: Local Interfaith Initiative Aims to Dispel Prejudice

You may have heard the term “interfaith” in recent years. Maybe your house of worship engaged with another of a different tradition for a potluck dinner, or maybe your neighbor belongs to a local interfaith council you occasionally hear about.

But as the political, religious and cultural tensions in this nation appear higher than ever, the term “interfaith” likely appears more and more on your radar.

For us at San Jose-based nonprofit Islamic Networks Group, interfaith means working together across lines of religious difference for personal enrichment and the greater good. Interfaith work encourages individuals to engage in dialogue and discussion as a means to remind our nation’s citizens of how many values we hold in common despite the differences that often divide us.

While the term “interfaith” is not new, the Know Your Neighbor: Multifaith Encounters program is. This program was originally launched at the White House in 2015 to focus on civil rights policy. Now with nearly 90 national partners, it launched its first grassroots campaign in June of this year, aimed at empowering individuals to engage their communities for the well-being of every person.

At this critical juncture in our history, Know Your Neighbor advocates a simple model for effecting social change: working at the grassroots level in our neighborhoods, workplaces, schools, houses of worship and civic organizations to model the civility and respect we want to see upheld by everyone.

We offer easy-to-use yet impactful tools and resources for reaching out to build mutual understanding and respect among all of our fellow Americans. Studies show that all you need to dispel stereotyping and prejudice is a 10-minute non-confrontational encounter with a person from a different background.

And as the divisive language of hate groups mushrooms in our nation in the wake of Charlottesville, we need to recognize and combat the detrimental impact of dangerous, exclusionary rhetoric on our nation’s school-age youth. While incidents of bullying are not unique to the current generation, the current escalation of hateful language and actions against religious and ethnic minorities is unprecedented.

Our first major social media mobilization, which focused on sharing stories of welcoming and faith identity, garnered over 3 million views in July. Fresh from that success, our second mobilization was launched Sept. 7 and will run through Sept. 15. The Know Your Neighbor Back-to-School Campaign shares best practices to help educators, students and parents counter hate and bigotry at school and create more inclusive classrooms and schools.

We invite you to participate in this campaign by sharing your best practices, favorite resources or concerns for countering bias and bigotry to create more inclusive classrooms and schools.

Working together across lines of difference and making an honest effort to engage each other in the project of building a stronger America, we hope we all come to know our neighbor. Please join us.

Islamic Networks Group (ING) is a San Jose-based nonprofit organization with affiliates around the country that are pursuing peace, and countering all forms of bigotry, through education and interfaith engagement while working within the framework of the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom and pluralism.

27 Comments

  1. > Studies show that all you need to dispel stereotyping and prejudice is a 10-minute non-confrontational encounter with a person from a different background.

    PLEASE! PLEASE! PLEASE!

    Show me how to have a “10-minute non-confrontational encounter with a [progressive]”.

    So far, my “non-confrontational” encounters never seem to reach the one minute mark, by which time I have been informed that Donald Trump is a RACIST pig who hates women and grabs them by the pussy, and that anyone who voted for Trump, likes Trump, or plays any card game involving trump cards is an evil, awful, horrible, stupid, ignorant, and uninformed clod who should be kicked out of school, fired from his or her job, silenced, and thrown into a FEMA camp.

    • Perhaps it is your hyperbole that sets other people off…. Someone else may be talking about you, the Trump supporter, who “is an evil, awful, horrible, stupid, ignorant, and uninformed clod who should be kicked out of school, fired from his or her job, silenced, and thrown into a FEMA camp”…. Remember that words and delivery style have impact.

  2. “And as the divisive language of hate groups mushrooms in our nation in the wake of Charlottesville…”

    Kate,

    If seeing the world through the eyes of your faith can produce such a simple-minded, blatantly politicized observation like that, then I have no choice but to conclude that your faith is corrupt and its followers are hopelessly blind.

  3. > Islamic Networks Group (ING) is a San Jose-based nonprofit organization with affiliates around the country that are pursuing peace, and countering all forms of bigotry, through education and interfaith engagement while working within the framework of the First Amendment’s protection of religious freedom and pluralism.

    https://www.centerforsecuritypolicy.org/2015/06/23/nationwide-poll-of-us-muslims-shows-thousands-support-shariah-jihad/

    More than half (51%) of U.S. Muslims polled also believe either that they should have the choice of American or shariah courts, or that they should have their own tribunals to apply shariah. Only 39% of those polled said that Muslims in the U.S. should be subject to American courts.

    . . .

    Even more troubling, is the fact that nearly a quarter of the Muslims polled believed that, “It is legitimate to use violence to punish those who give offense to Islam by, for example, portraying the prophet Mohammed.”

    . . .

    Nearly one-fifth of Muslim respondents said that the use of violence in the United States is justified in order to make shariah the law of the land in this country.

    https://www.voanews.com/a/american-muslim-voters-presidential-election/3549727.html

    The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released the results of a nationwide survey Thursday that found that 72 percent of American Muslim voters plan to cast their votes for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, compared to 4 percent for Republican rival Donald Trump.

    • I’m sorry that you feel that liberals can’t have non-confrontational conversations, and I planned on responding to that with tips and ideas until your next comment came off as rather confrontational itself. ING works hard to answer questions people have about the topics you mentioned–Sharia law, ISIS, etc.–and I hope you’ll take the time to browse through some of our answers to frequently asked questions on these subjects: http://www.ing.org/faqs

      While people have strong feelings against politicians, they also have them against adherents of religious traditions. The crazy part is that we spend so much of our lives talking about people that we don’t even know. I hope you’ll take the time to get to know more about Muslims and look through our resources. I’m not Muslim. I’m actually a Christian from the Bible Belt who grew up with plenty of misconceptions about Islam, several of which you’ve cited above. After studying, traveling and getting to know Muslims I now work for a Muslim organization. I don’t expect you to change your mind that dramatically, but I hope you’ll give it a chance. I think we’ll be much better off as a nation if we actually get to know one another and stop getting swept up in the media, which we are ALL guilty of, liberal or conservative, myself included.

      • > I’m actually a Christian from the Bible Belt who grew up with plenty of misconceptions about Islam, several of which you’ve cited above.

        Please identify, in a non-confrontational way, the “several” misconceptions about Islam which I cited.

        For extra credit, you may also explain why your characterization of my knowledge of Islam as “misconceptions” ISN’T confrontational.

        • “For extra credit, you may also explain why your characterization of my knowledge of Islam as “misconceptions” ISN’T confrontational.”
          Glad to see we agree that you were confrontational, so no need to apply for the extra credit.
          First and foremost, Center for Security Policy is not a trusted source of information on Islam, at all. The FBI said a Center for Security Policy report is based on “outdated information” and “overstated” any threat Muslim observances pose to America. They’re not trusted academically and I can’t see a single staff member of theirs with a background on Islam. Here’s a few links on them:
          http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35037943
          https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/center-for-security-policy/
          https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/center-security-policy
          All of the sources you mentioned above (besides the one from CAIR which I feel no need/desire to debunk as it relates to voting and seems irrelevant) are from this organization which uses internet surveys to find information–which is the least credible way to conduct a study. Literally anyone can fill out those surveys, including myself, and I’m not Muslim.
          And questions surrounding Sharia law are incredibly complicated in that it is often misconstrued by non-Muslims and requires a good amount of reading to understad. Again I’ll site ING information on Sharia law here: https://ing.org/a-closer-look-at-sharia-in-the-united-states/ There are plenty of wonderful citations on this report as well.
          Most Muslims believe in Sharia law, but first we have to understand what that means.
          Some people falsely equate Sharia with criminal or huddud laws, which are centuries-old specific punishments for major crimes such as killing, adultery, or theft. Huddud laws are only a tiny part of Sharia and can only be applied by an Islamic state; it is questionable if any of the nations claiming to be “Islamic states” actually fit that description morally or structurally, so these laws are generally not applicable in a modern context, let alone in the U.S. Unfortunately, the misapplication of these laws by the Taliban or other contemporary groups or governments generally contradict both the letter and spirit of Sharia and have given it a bad name.
          The term Sharia comes from an Arabic word meaning “path to the water,” which reflects the concept that Sharia is divine guidance drawn mainly from the Qur’an and Sunnah (teachings and guidance of Prophet Muhammad) for the purpose of helping humanity draw close to God and live in kindness and justice with His Creation. The term Sharia is used by Muslims to refer to the values, code of conduct, and religious commandments or sacred laws which provide them with guidance in various aspects of life.
          While Sharia is often translated as “Islamic law,” a more accurate term for “Islamic law” in Arabic is fiqh which refers to the human endeavor to interpret and apply Sharia.
          But most Muslims follow Sharia in the same way that people of other faiths follow their sacred laws and traditions. The religion clauses of the First Amendment of the Constitution allow complete freedom of belief and freedom of religious practice, so long as adherents respect other people’s rights. America Muslims are merely trying to follow Sharia in their personal life just as practicing Jews try to follow Jewish law (halakha). There is no evidence of American Muslims individually or as a group trying to force Sharia on others. Muslims are obligated to adhere to the law of the land, and the observance of any laws that run contrary to the Constitution such as polygamy would be prevented even if someone tried to implement them.

      • Not only can many liberals not have non confrontational conversations, they shut down all conversation by their picketing and other “protests”, many of them violent. In the birthplace of the free speech movement in the 1960’s, any attempt by a non liberal to speak on campus is shut down by the liberal mobs and the spineless UC administration that cowers before them, and is thus complicit in their denial of free speech to all with whom they disagree.

    • As a long time San Jose resident who is a 25 year member of a local Christian Church (First Congregation Church of San Jose) and as someone who has attended Friday dinner and services at two local mosques (Muslim Community Association and South Bay Islamic Association) and who has worked in high tech with Muslim co-workers, I can say that there is nothing to fear from the Muslim-Americans I have met and know. The fear so many Americans have of Muslims in American reminds me of the fear so many Americans had of Japanese-Americans after Pearl Harbor. FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover secretly wrote a 6 page letter to President Roosevelt recommending that the US NOT incarcerate (internment) Japanese-Americans because FBI secret surveillance of them for several years had found nothing illegal or suspicious. I applaud CAIR for working to bring people together to learn about and from each other. SanJoseOutsidetheBubble, please always check the source of your information, and try attending a CAIR interfaith encounter where you can meet people and learn about them as people and neighbors. By the way, I remember as a young child growing up in Wisconsin in the early 50s how the older members of my extended family were very distrustful of Catholics. Fortunately, the next generations of our family no longer not share that fear of Catholics.

      • > SanJoseOutsidetheBubble, please always check the source of your information,

        Will do!

        And you check yours, too.

  4. “For extra credit, you may also explain why your characterization of my knowledge of Islam as “misconceptions” ISN’T confrontational.”

    Glad to see we agree that you were confrontational, so no need to apply for the extra credit.

    First and foremost, Center for Security Policy is not a trusted source of information on Islam, at all. The FBI said a Center for Security Policy report is based on “outdated information” and “overstated” any threat Muslim observances pose to America. They’re not trusted academically and I can’t see a single staff member of theirs with a background on Islam. Here’s a few links on them:

    http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-35037943
    https://mediabiasfactcheck.com/center-for-security-policy/
    https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/extremist-files/group/center-security-policy

    All of the sources you mentioned above (besides the one from CAIR which I feel no need/desire to debunk as it relates to voting and seems irrelevant) are from this organization which uses internet surveys to find information–which is the least credible way to conduct a study. Literally anyone can fill out those surveys, including myself, and I’m not Muslim.

    And questions surrounding Sharia law are incredibly complicated in that it is often misconstrued by non-Muslims and requires a good amount of reading to understad. Again I’ll site ING information on Sharia law here: https://ing.org/a-closer-look-at-sharia-in-the-united-states/ There are plenty of wonderful citations on this report as well.

    Most Muslims believe in Sharia law, but first we have to understand what that means.

    Some people falsely equate Sharia with criminal or huddud laws, which are centuries-old specific punishments for major crimes such as killing, adultery, or theft. Huddud laws are only a tiny part of Sharia and can only be applied by an Islamic state; it is questionable if any of the nations claiming to be “Islamic states” actually fit that description morally or structurally, so these laws are generally not applicable in a modern context, let alone in the U.S. Unfortunately, the misapplication of these laws by the Taliban or other contemporary groups or governments generally contradict both the letter and spirit of Sharia and have given it a bad name.

    The term Sharia comes from an Arabic word meaning “path to the water,” which reflects the concept that Sharia is divine guidance drawn mainly from the Qur’an and Sunnah (teachings and guidance of Prophet Muhammad) for the purpose of helping humanity draw close to God and live in kindness and justice with His Creation. The term Sharia is used by Muslims to refer to the values, code of conduct, and religious commandments or sacred laws which provide them with guidance in various aspects of life.

    While Sharia is often translated as “Islamic law,” a more accurate term for “Islamic law” in Arabic is fiqh which refers to the human endeavor to interpret and apply Sharia.

    But most Muslims follow Sharia in the same way that people of other faiths follow their sacred laws and traditions. The religion clauses of the First Amendment of the Constitution allow complete freedom of belief and freedom of religious practice, so long as adherents respect other people’s rights. America Muslims are merely trying to follow Sharia in their personal life just as practicing Jews try to follow Jewish law (halakha). There is no evidence of American Muslims individually or as a group trying to force Sharia on others. Muslims are obligated to adhere to the law of the land, and the observance of any laws that run contrary to the Constitution such as polygamy would be prevented even if someone tried to implement them.

    • Lots of words, Kate.

      You went to word school, didn’t you.

      You should have gone to thinking school:

      > Glad to see we agree that you were confrontational, so no need to apply for the extra credit.

      Clearly, I wasn’t agreeing with your proposition.

      Again, you should have gone to thinking school.

    • > Glad to see we agree that you were confrontational, so no need to apply for the extra credit.

      And by the way, Kate, FALSELY claiming my agreement to your point is taking away my voice.

      Taking away my voice IS confrontational AND demeaning.

      Taking away another person’s voice and substituting YOUR voice is a form of “supremacism”.

      How do you know I’m not black? Even though President Obama was at least fifty percent white, the “one drop of blood” racial theory allowed Obama and progressives to define him as “black”. But if Obama had one drop of “white” blood, he could just as well been defined as “white”.

      So, your taking away my voice and substituting YOUR voice is an act of SUPREMACISM, and under the circumstances, you had no way of knowing that it wasn’t WHITE SUPREMACISM.

    • “The FBI said a Center for Security Policy report is based on “outdated information” and “overstated” any threat Muslim observances pose to America.”

      As was proven on 9-11-2001, relying on the FBI for assessments of Muslim threats is like relying on Hillary Clinton to provide adequate embassy security.

  5. Kate,

    There is no place in Government or reasonable debate for Religious interjection. Our forefathers saw the danger in injecting religion into politics, whether the intention was good or not. Based on the history of both Christianity and Muslim religions, it is safe to say that leaders and zealots of BOTH of these religions have been guilty of murder, genocide, crusades of death to non-believers and people who wish to remain secular. One may even come to the conclusion that more humans have been killed for the sake of religion than any other cause. Who are you to say that Islam is a “Religion of Peace” when both Christianity AND Islam have blood on their hands? we can filter out the really good parts, but in doing that, aren’t we ignoring history?

  6. It would be easier for me to Know My Neighbor if they could speak English. I’m a friendly guy, I say hi to everyone I meet in the ‘hood, but many people just give me a blank look of incomprehension. I suppose I could try to learn every Asian language, but wouldn’t it make more sense for immigrants to all learn English?

  7. “Studies show that all you need to dispel stereotyping and prejudice is a 10-minute non-confrontational encounter with a person from a different background”. Unable to find any – please provide citations. I did find the claim echoed in the Huffington Post and similar publications, but no citations. The “studies” don’t appear supported when considering the interactions of many. Note the subjective qualifier, “non-confrontational”. What’s the objective definition of “non-confrontational”? Seems suspiciously like an axiomatic claim. Reminds me of an American Buddhist nun from New Jersey who now resides in San Francisco. “People here think we’re having an argument, when I think we’re having a friendly discussion.” As an ex-Chicagoan, I can relate.

    I wish the group success, but the long term impacts of such initiatives are not encouraging in changing attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors. Particularly when confronted by Muslim violence in the US, Europe, and the Middle East. BTW, how successful are comparable Christian or Jewish Network groups in Palestine, Egypt, or ISSIS strongholds?

    • Thank you for your response– the article I’m referring to actually relates to the LGBT community and how ten minute conversations can create more empathy. The article also helps discuss what non confrontational conversation entails although I agree that’s not an easy thing to define, and certainly relate to the American Buddhist you cited.

      https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/04/no-wait-short-conversations-really-can-reduce-prejudice/477105/

      • Wow Kate,
        I was never afraid of someone from the LGBT community flying a plane into the World Trade Center, blowing up a school bus full of kids, or cutting my head off and placing it in my dead ass. But I’m glad you pointed that out.

        You get “Extra Credit” for that and a cookie.

      • > The article also helps discuss what non confrontational conversation entails

        Kate:

        I can report having “short, non-confrontational conversations” with some of my gay inlaws.

        I can further report that nothing changed.

        What do you suppose they’re doing wrong?

  8. Quit poisoning the minds of our children with your religious nonsense. There are no gods & I defy you deity devotees to prove me wrong. Not only is religion in & of itself divisive,it’s adherents amongst the most judgmental & least tolerant people to be found on our planet,it’s also been responsible for an inordinate amount of strife on earth for tens of centuries. Tell your children the truth. You live & you die & that they should try to be good people & good stewards of our planet while they’re here. You’re not going to look down at us from Heaven when you die & you’re certainly not going to burn in Hell either. If your children decide to embrace faith when they’re old enough to understand the ramifications,then they’re old enough to know what they’re getting involved in. Religion is the refuge of imbeciles,optimists & paranoids,don’t burden your naïve & unsuspecting children with that sort of baggage. It could do irreparable harm & potentially ruin their lives permanently. Is it any wonder that Millennials are abandoning organized religion & the church,mosques,temples & synagogues in droves ? “Pray for us if you must,prey on us at your own peril” – Herb Waxman

      • 1 Peter 5:2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care,watching over them-not because you must,but because you are willing,as God wants you to be;not pursuing dishonest gain,but eager to serve; That’s what the Bible says,but charlatans stealing in the name of the Lord have been fleecing their flocks since long before Joseph’s rubber broke. Quit giving these prosthelytizing con men your money,it only encourages their abhorrent behavior ! Money grubbing millionaire televangelists are the worst,but every penny given to the church helps perpetuate the teaching of mythology as fact. Sane & rational people need to challenge the beliefs of religious crackpots at every opportunity & the best place to start is discontinuing the tax exempt status of religious organizations. I’m not in favor of religious persecution,you can believe any kind of nonsense that makes you happy. However while the Constitution guarantees freedom of religion,it doesn’t say anything about subsidizing the church by making them tax exempt. It’s time for those stealing in the name of the Lord to get real jobs & pay their fair share of taxes. In fact it’s long overdue. I’m sure that they could always sell used cars or time shares to the gullible masses. After all those who put their faith in God do believe the most preposterous things imaginable. “Lifelong atheist,not afraid to burn in hell” – Ron Reagan

        • Wouldn’t the iron wall of separation between church and state preclude the state’s demanding money from churches? Or maybe break down that iron wall altogether. Could be that churches would accept being taxed in exchange for returning religion classes to the public schools.

          • Our underfunded public schools have enough difficulty educating our children without interjecting lies about the existence of god. The better compromise would be adding Christianity,Islam,Judaism & all the other presently popular religions to the mythology curriculum. I personally believe that in the big scheme of things in our planets history that religion is nothing more than a dangerous passing fad. As for the separation between church & state most people would be a lot happier if there was less faith fomented foppery being foisted upon us by our legislators. Pre-marital sex,birth control & abortion should be nobodies business other than those intimately involved & church indoctrinated moral crusaders should mind there own damn business & go to hell (if in fact there were such a place). Pray for us if you must,prey on us & you’re going to run out of cheeks to turn pretty fast. It is said that only those without sin should cast the first stone,but I don’t subscribe to that bible based stupidity & I’ve got lots of stones. APATHEISTS UNITE !!!

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