Executive SummaryCopyright © 2013 ING. All rights reserved.
As an organization committed to interfaith and intercultural harmony and respect, we are happy to present to you this analysis of ING's impact in changing perceptions and attitudes about Muslims and their faith and about other religious groups. We aim to provide documented evidence that our approach succeeds in dispelling Islamophobia and other prejudices still prevalent in the United States.
Since its inception in 1993, Islamic Networks Group (ING) has worked to promote understanding about American Muslims and their faith while addressing prevalent stereotypes and misconceptions and building relationships between American Muslims and other groups. ING provides education to diverse audiences utilizing trained speakers in both the Islamic Speakers Bureau (ISB) and the Interfaith Speakers Bureau (IFSB).
The ISB provides individual speakers on various aspects of Islam to schools, colleges, community organizations, and other venues. The IFSB provides panels of speakers to venues of the same sort, each panelist representing one of five major world religions: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism. Recently, the IFSB has begun organizing interfaith service projects, bringing people of diverse cultures and religions together for service as well as conversation.
ING also offers cultural diversity seminars to various professional groups, educating them on best practices in dealing with Muslim communities, employees, patients, and students.
ING has undertaken two initiatives to extend its reach beyond the San Francisco Bay area: providing online curriculum materials to educators in schools and postsecondary institutions and encouraging and supporting the development of affiliate organizations around the country on the model of ING that use its materials and procedures. There are now 23 ING affiliates in 21 states.
ING itself between September 1, 2009, and August 31, 2012, reached a total face-to-face audience of around 55,000 in 1,571 classes or other audience groups.
Over the three year period 2009-2012, ING administered surveys and evaluations of its educational outreach programs to measure its success in fulfilling its mission. Audience evaluations from presentations by the Islamic Speakers Bureau, the Interfaith Speakers Bureau, and cultural diversity
trainings document an increased understanding and more accurate picture of American Muslims and their faith as well as improved readiness for positive interfaith relationships.
The change in attitudes documented by surveys before and after ISB presentations demonstrates ING's effectiveness in making Muslims and their faith a better understood and accepted part of the American religious and cultural landscape. While only 18% of student respondents report a "high" level of knowledge of Islam before an ING presentation, after a presentation that figure increases dramatically to 60%. Responses to questions on six common stereotypes about Islam and Muslims show that this increased knowledge leads to changed attitudes. For instance, the percentage of respondents who see Islam as promoting peace increases from 56% to 80%. Similarly, the percentage recognizing that Muslims have long been part of America rises from 33% to 55%, while the number of respondents seeing Muslims as "Americans like myself" increases from 47% to 66%. On the other hand, the percentage believing that Muslims "see women as inferior" decreases from 23% to 5%. (See pp. 11-16.)
Audience evaluations also demonstrate the effectiveness of ING's Interfaith Speakers Bureau. Over the past three academic years, well over 90% of audience respondents rate interfaith panel presentations "Excellent" or "Good," with a majority (53%) rating them "Excellent." Only 4% rated them "Fair," and only one respondent in the three-year period rated a presentation "Poor." Open-ended audience comments also show the positive impact of ING's interfaith presentations. (See pp. 17-19.)
Educators and other requesters also show satisfaction with the relevancy of ING content, both Islamic and interfaith. Over 98% of respondents to surveys of requesters rate content "Excellent" or "Good," with a strong majority (68%) rating it "Excellent." ING speakers likewise receive better than 90% ratings of "Excellent" or "Good" on all criteria, again with a strong majority (73%) rating them "Excellent." Requester comments also register not only satisfaction with presentations but also striking evidence of their impact on audiences. (See pp. 21-29.)
ING cultural diversity training for educators, healthcare professionals, law enforcement officers, and corporate executives equips leaders in these fields with the knowledge they need to serve and work with Muslim populations effectively. Surveys of trainees show that, on a scale of 1 to 4, with 4 being the highest rating, ING seminars, trainers, and materials are all consistently ranked at 3.75 and above. (See pp. 29-31.)
At a time when Islamophobia is a major threat to the harmony and cohesiveness of American society, the work of ING has never been so important. Enabling American Muslims to speak for themselves and define who they are rather than allowing others to define them is a powerful tool towards challenging dangerous stereotypes and hate. We hope that together we can continue to educate Americans about Muslims and their faith, while promoting religious literacy, understanding, and mutual respect and building relationships among people of diverse cultures and religions.
Dr. Henry Millstein
Programs Manager and Analyst
Founder and Trustee
July 22, 2013