Sometimes, we as Muslims, feel that the American society doesn’t really get us. We feel that our voice isn’t being heard, our practices aren’t being respected, and our faith isn’t being acknowledged. Islamic Networks Group (ING) is a non-profit organization whose mission is to counter prejudice and discrimination against American Muslims by teaching about their traditions and contributions in the context of America’s history and cultural diversity, while building relations between American Muslims and other groups. (Website) ING educates schools, churches, and companies about Islam and what are Islam’s views on various topics. This non-profit organization also trains individuals of various workforces on how to handle Muslims’ way of dealing with various issues in health care, court system, and even the educational system. ING’s belief in educating and community involvement has allowed it to be an important asset in re-shaping the image of American Muslims in America.
On July 9th, 2012, Duaa Elzeney, the executive director for the organization, told us how there are over 20 branches all across United States being established and affiliates are raising awareness on Muslim issues in an American setting. Islamic Networks Group has helped change perceptions of Muslims in America through building interfaith understanding as well as mutual respect.
Duaa explained to us how important ING’s work really is for American Muslims. She presented the class a PowerPoint of the American Muslim body in America and how other Americans perceive them. Duaa gave us data on how much Islamophobia has risen after Obama became president versus right after 9/11. Mr. Gingrich stated that Islamic law was "a mortal threat to the survival of freedom in the United States and in the world as we know it". The numbers and statements such as these are concerning, and motivating. Such numbers give the American Muslims to really get involved in their community and share their thoughts on being Muslim, American and a human being.
ING’s impact in the Bay area, and soon U.S. in general is clear. Many teachers in the Bay area request ING to come speak about Islam and Muslims. These speakers never preach, just teach. The speakers’ impact on changing the perceptions of American Muslims is clear. Studies have shown that educating about Islam and having Muslim peers help decrease the negative stereotypes of American Muslims. ING’s data has shown that 75% of the high school students that they did a presentation on Muslims at now accept Islam as a peaceful religion. Aside from going to schools to teach, not preach, about Islam, ING holds seminars of various types; including health professionals, education administrators, HR and corporate managers, media professionals and law enforcement leaders. In the law enforcement seminar, police chiefs, sheriffs other command-level personnel and senior administrators are provided with important information and resources. This seminar helps increase awareness, enhance cultural competency skills and most importantly, build positive and long-lasting relationships with the American Muslim communities.
Islamic Networks Group’s mission of fighting intolerance of all backgrounds in America through education and collaboration gives me hope that statements people like Mr Gingrich will not view Islam as an evil religion, will not see Muslims as terrorists and will not be scared of the practices done by Muslims.