This is to communicate our appreciation for the hugely important work currently being performed by The Salam Network in support of religious and cultural education within the greater Louisville Community.
We are Chairpersons of the Adult Religious Exploration (ARE) Committee for our church. The central purpose of our committee is to support and inform the adults in our community by developing and offering inclusive and meaningful educational and religious exploration experiences. Our Committee’s hopes and dreams are to expand our reach to more community members beyond our congregation. We support a growing community of lifelong learners who will live within a world of diverse cultures, respect those cultures, and know that we are each lovable beings of infinite worth.
Living in a predominantly Christian nation, it is essential that members of the Louisville community become more knowledgeable and sophisticated as it concerns the culture, thinking, and interests of others in the world, including members of the Muslim faith. The misinformation that exists regarding that faith is a hindrance to us all. Twice a year the ARE Committee offers weekly classes of up to eight weeks in length. During our Fall 2019 Open Campus program, the Salam Network collaborated with two of our members to develop and present an 8-week class focused on the "Contributions of Islam to World Civilization." The class was diverse in scope, engaging, well organized, and well presented. It was an ambitious undertaking; it involved a relatively large number of facilitators who shared a huge amount of information. The subject matter was important and highly relevant to today's events. The feedback we received regarding the class has been consistently very positive.
Nurturing interfaith relations and connecting with members outside our congregation are important goals for us. We so appreciate the participation of members of the Salaam Network in our educational program, and we so value their interfaith work in the greater Louisville community. The Salam Network is composed of compassionate communicators and bridge builders. The leadership they provide within interfaith relations and the knowledge/understanding they impart to others regarding the Muslim faith makes our entire community safer, closer, and healthier. Our greater community is clearly better positioned for the future because the Salaam Network is a part of who we are.
We firmly support recognizing the Network’s efforts and accomplishments and providing support to their goals and activities.
Alan Godsave & Marilyn Snyder
Co-Chairpersons, ARE Committee
Thomas Jefferson UU Church
We are and 18 year old non profit organization that has had the pleasure to work with the well qualified scholars and teachers associated with The Salaam Network (TSN) in our common goal of assisting the community to dispel fears by providing educational opportunities and knowledge about various religious and cultural groups. I believe that over the past three years TSN has brought tremendous opportunities for much healing of wounds caused by misinformation and lack of quality programs open to the community at large.
The Salaam Network programs have provided respectful opportunities for those seeking to understand Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Indigenous and other belief systems to do so without fear. In doing so, TSN has brought people together from many paths to honor differences and celebrate the many similarities.
The Highly Enlightening Salaam Network Series: LGBTQ People in God’s Promise was a bold and responsible effort to dispel with painful, incorrect theological arguments that have been cast against the LGBTQ communities which caused considerable harm. This Series has provided the opportunity for attendees to heal wounds, ask questions, and be invited into the community with a new view of their place as equals.
The Salaam Network offers quality programs and does so with much integrity.
Rev. Cynthia Jo (C. J.) Wright, CTR, CTSS, CCISM
Rainbow Spiritual Education Center, Inc.
To Whom It May Concern,
I am writing in support of The Salaam Network (TSN) for the 2020 Atlantic Renewals Award. As the Promotions and Rental Coordinator of Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church (TJ), I’ve seen the growing interest in our community for more education about Islam and its connection and commonalities with the other great religions of the world.
In my duties to manage hosting non-profits at our church venue, I was first introduced to The Salaam Network (TSN) as the leaders of TSN and TJ’s Social Justice Committee met to plan interfaith programs hosted by our church. Amazing activities were created including:
• “LGBTQ People in God’s Promise” presented by distinguished scholars from the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths.
• Subsequent programs included meetings with upper class students from Centre College and their professor on the class topic “Islam and Gender” for a conversation with Dr. Riffat Hassan, founder of Islamic feminist theology and also founder of TSN.
• TJ currently hosts a safe space for the teaching of a group of young Muslim women by Dr. Riffat Hassan about Qur’anic teachings relating to their fundamental human rights and a chance for them to discuss their issues openly without fear of reprisal.
• TJ and TSN are currently joining in the exploration to add Islam to the 4th UU Source of Inspiration that guides our worship and discourse. It currently invites Jews and Christians to bring cherished teachings from their own traditions into Unitarian Universalist worship and discourse. Islam deserves its place alongside these other great teachings.
I believe in the mission of TSN, to provide free educational opportunities that highlight the common values amongst the three Abrahamic religions, as a way to promote peace, justice, and understanding. They hold a prominent place on our website to demonstrate our unity with their mission. TSN can benefit from paid staff to be able to disseminate their message to the broader community. Despite their current financial limitation, much progress has been made especially by the founder and Director of TSN, Riffat Hassan. TSN deserves to receive more financial support and recognition to continue their outstanding work.
Ellen Sisti Wade, Promotions Chair, Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church
December 26, 2019
I am the pastor of St. Andrew United Church of Christ and I am writing to tell you that my congregation and I began a wonderful relationship with The Salaam Network a couple of years ago. We are most impressed with the way that they are serving our local community through engaging and educational programs. I believe they are finding many creative solutions to addressing the fear and misunderstandings that exist in our society between the different religions, especially the discrimination that is prevalent against the Muslim community.
Louisville is a city with many diverse people from different religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. It also has many religious institutions (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and others) but there is much need for bridge-building amongst them. The Salaam Network (TSN) is a group of interfaith educators, artists, peacemakers and justice activists who are committed to building a knowledge-based foundation for promoting understanding, amity and wholeness in our city. Since its founding in 2016, the Salaam Network has made a large number of presentations especially on the three Abrahamic traditions at religious as well as educational venues. Many of those presentations were at my church, St. Andrew United Church of Christ. I experienced so much joy when I was able to see Christians, Jews and Muslims gathered together in our church’s sanctuary for learning, discussion and later to share a meal. As a result of the educational programs at our church, one of the local Islamic centers invited my congregation and me to a meal during Ramadan and many of us did in fact attend.
The presentations by The Salaam Network have been made by highly-credentialed scholars who have endeavored to demonstrate that the values that lie at the core of our religious faiths -love, mercy, compassion, justice - can enable us to overcome divisiveness, bigotry and discrimination in our community. They are a small organization with very limited financial resources but they have been making a significant contribution to Louisville.
Educating the community about the “Other” (those who are seen as different, or even as enemies), as well as about issues relating to vulnerable groups such as Women and LGBTQ, is critically important at this time in our history. I would like to see the Salaam Network receive the grant so that they can expand their work and make what they are doing available to many more people through multi-media dissemination.
Thank you for your consideration.
Rev. Lori Miller-Price
I am writing to commend the work of the Salaam Network which increases education and awareness of the Islamic religion. I work as a librarian serving a population so diverse as to include over 136 languages in our public school system.
One of our largest populations is the Islamic ummah. This diverse population includes families of many backgrounds – professionals, the working poor, those from urban areas to those from rural camps. As neighborhoods rapidly begin to change and schools and work places have seen an increase in the Muslim population many questions arise. Most people growing up in Kentucky haven’t had much exposure to Islam nor had an experience learning about Islamic civilizations and contributions from math, science to the arts. We pride ourselves in being a city of “ Compassion” as part of the Karen Armstrong initiative and this past year we were deemed a “ Welcoming City” .
Salaam Network stepped in to educate a general public in both religious institutions and in our public library system about a range of topics from an interfaith panel entitled Women in Four Traditions : Journey Towards Wholeness to a month long series addressing terrorism. For many born in KY there is a large gap in our world history. Many of us were taught of stagnant times during the Middle Ages, never learning of the flourishing civilizations of nations and communities outside of Europe. Supplementing this “mis-education” is not only a benefit to KY born non –Muslims but to Muslim children and youth as well. Ensuring that young Muslims truly learn the theological foundation to their religion as well as historical accomplishments in philosophy and the sciences. Growing young immigrants confronted with the complexities of identity and adolescences are behooved to be privy to mixed audiences taking pride in the accomplishments of a diverse and rich history.
Through the Salaam Network , Dr. Hassan has gathered a core group of presenters with years of knowledge and life experience between them. They have then matched their area of expertise to any given audience. The library was invited to table events that were hosted outside of our institutions. Through this partnership we were able to network and connect with community leaders of many different backgrounds. Not only were the presentations informative but these relationships created and nurtured have been a true asset to our city.
We appreciate the opportunity to have partnered with the Salaam Network and look forward to their continued growth and service to interfaith dialog and community building in a time when civil discourse and education about one another is truly vital to the growth of our democracy.
December 10, 2019
I discovered The Salaam Network (TSN) in May 2017 at a presentation at St. Andrew United Church of Christ. This interfaith panel was on “Inheriting Abraham: One Ancestral Family: Three Faiths: An exploration of the legacy of Abrahamic tradition in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.” TSN promotes understanding of the true teachings of the three Abrahamic religions whose basic tenets are Love and Compassion. From its presentations I have also learned about pervasive myths and misunderstandings, religion versus culture and mis-taught history.
Due to TSN’s programs, commonalities and accord between the three great monotheistic religions are now so apparent to me. I find it astounding that this is not common knowledge. It seems that our modern society only looks for differences to turn into divisions. Since 2017, I have attended every TSN presentation that I could. I have been especially impressed by the presentations on women’s rights and LGBTQ issues.
I was greatly inspired by the education I was receiving from TSN’s presentations, and most impressed by the presenters’ depth of knowledge and the wide range of topics they covered. I am very appreciative of the opportunity to be educated in these subjects about which I am so intensely desirous to learn.
I would like to say a few words about what TSN’s presentations have meant to me in a personal context. I am a gay man. Religion has always been a very important part of my life, but from early childhood my religion did not seem to fit me or rather, I did not fit. I had a strong faith in God but was told that I may not be loved by God as I am. I tried desperately to change, and prayed for God to change me into what He intended me to be. Now, decades later, I realize that I was simply not taught correctly. Also, as a child I could not understand racism and the apparent oppression of women that seemed common in the religious culture into which I was born. Fortunately, in my early life I simply did not allow the negative attitudes around me to shape my own thinking.
From TSN’s presentations I have learnt that serving those who are disadvantaged or marginalized in our community is of utmost importance in the three Abrahamic traditions. Since my retirement, I have been able volunteer quite a bit, mostly at my church soup kitchen, free community health fair, and housing repairs for those in need in our neighborhoods and poverty-stricken Appalachia. Currently, I am involved heavily with the Homeless Coalition of Southern Indiana. Giving of my time to help others has been more fulfilling than any other activity of my life, and I feel that it brings me closer to God.
The founder of TSN, Riffat Hassan, is one of the bravest women I have ever met. She has survived a long life of the struggle of being a Muslim feminist. I use the word “survived,” recognizing the dangers she must have encountered taking on the important work of challenging the misconceptions of religion that have pervaded centuries of patriarchal culture in which Islam developed.
Armed with knowledge I feel that I am now better prepared, enabled to speak with confidence against prejudice and bigotry which are the result primarily of ignorance.
TSN comes on the scene at a time in which its healing message is so greatly needed. Our nation is in a troubled period replete with division and misunderstanding with leads to discrimination, bigotry, and sadly - in some cases - to violence.
TSN is a network of peacemakers. By its very nature it is diverse and inclusive. TSN has the courage to tackle current issues that cripple our society. My life is much richer now as a result of taking advantage of these wonderful opportunities offered by TSN.
If only this type of educational programs existed nationwide. My hope is that TSN will grow in recognition and reach a broader audience, and hopefully, one day grow into the nationwide movement that our country so seriously needs to help with the healing of our nation and the spreading of peace and understanding amongst our citizens.
To whom it may concern,
This letter, on behalf of Guiding Light Islamic
Center, is to express our highest esteem held for The
Salaam Network in Louisville, KY. We have had the
great pleasure and privilege in hosting events together
with TSN including, but not limited to, dialogues about
Christian-Islamic interactions in late antiquity and
medieval Andalucia with Professors Brad Bowman
and Greg Hutcheson from the University of Louisville.
Our collaboration has helped enrich the local
community's sensibilities for cooperation between
multiple faith congregations in both an educational
and social sense.
Board Member at Guiding Light Islamic Center
Interfaith dialogue is a critical component of civic and stability, both national and international. As a professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Louisville, I strongly believe the interfaith discourse promoted by The Salaam Network (TSN) is an excellent way to advance mutual understanding in the city that has become my home. Over the course of several years collaborating with this organization, I have witnessed the positive and meaningful relationships forged between various religious groups across Louisville. Here I would like to extend my gratitude towards Dr. Hassan who has been tirelessly educating the Louisville community over several decades, first as a professor and now as a public speaker on the "religious other" for TSN. Under her rigorous leadership, TSN has brought together academics, advocates, organizers, and other members of the public by providing a stable forum for scholarly and thought-provoking presentations aimed at ending monopoly on truths, disrupting hegemonic interpretations of God, and pushing back against forced assimilation into dominant religious movements. I have been honored to collaborate with the network as a core member who has delivered several talks--well attended by a variety of people--on the subject of Women’s rights in Islam. Based on my personal experience, it is clear that the Salaam Network has greatly advanced an authentic interfaith dialogue at the religious as well as at the civic level.
Associate Professor of Islamic Studies
University of Louisville
The work that The Salaam Network does has never been more important than it is now as the United States, along with much of the rest of the world, shifts toward right-wing extremism, nationalism, and demagoguery. Putting people together that wouldn’t normally interface with one another for the express purpose of listening to and learning about each other goes a long way toward dispelling prejudices and opening hearts and minds to those who are different from us. Building and fostering a broad grassroots community among people from all different faiths and backgrounds may very well be the most effective resource we have against the ignorance, fear, and hatred that are driving so many dangerous trends around the world.
When it comes to educating people about and exposing them to Muslims and Islamic thought and culture, TSN is serving a need to that has not been filled elsewhere in the community. Between the Muslim ban and the decades of negative imagery and stereotyping, the fear of “the other” and its accompanying discrimination has been especially harsh on this group.
Finally, I’d add that TSN has done much of the requisite hard work that is at the foundation of any successful movement for change: we’ve already built a formidable and diverse network of thoughtful people. As such, TSN is well-positioned to leverage its existing network for further community action.
I write to strongly endorse The Salaam Network in Louisville, Kentucky for the Atlantic Renewal Award. This nonprofit organization has worked to counter the destructive power of Islamophobia through interfaith discussions and education programs throughout our city.
While its first programs focused on educating people about Islam and the sources of Islamophobia, its founder, Dr. Riffat Hassan, soon recognized that we could have a broader impact by adding interfaith programs centered on the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Programs on Islamophobia included presentations by scholars of Islam as well as Muslim university students who had experienced harassment because they are Muslims. Interfaith presentations held at numerous churches, educational venues, and community centers covered basic beliefs, history, culture, the position of women, and art. Audiences especially responded to examples of interfaith cooperation in earlier history as providing grounding for present-day interactions.
Because I have participated in interfaith discussions both here and overseas (including Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh, sponsored by the U.S. State Department), I recognize their value in changing understandings and removing prejudices. Breaking through polarizations and pre-judgments is challenging but necessary to reduce harassment and violence toward people seen as “other”.
Louisville calls itself a city of compassion; yet it, like other cities, has experienced acts of hatred against Muslim and Jewish places of worship. The Salaam Network plays a crucial role in countering this hatred and furthering understanding and compassion among Louisville’s diverse population.
I encourage your support of this creative endeavor as the Salaam Network works to broaden its impact through multi-media programs. These will be available to many more groups in Louisville. Given the many demands on scholars’ time, scheduling programs is often difficult. Using diverse media, the presentations can be made once and then disseminated widely.
I hope that you will find The Salaam Network a fitting recipient of the Atlantic Renewal Award.
Mary Ann Stenger
Professor Emerita, Humanities (Religious Studies)
University of Louisville
To Whomever it may Concern
The Salaam Network is to be appreciated and applauded for their educational mission in various ways. Since 2016 The Salaam Network have presented a large number of programs free of cost to the Louisville community, and have been managing on donations given by a few members and supports. They have the potential to be able to do much more both in terms of additional programs and in terms of disseminating their spoken and written word.
They have presented their programs at the River Road Mosque, the Guiding Light Islamic Center, and the Turkish Mosque. Also, at a number of churches, the Jewish Temple, the Buddhist Center for Engaging Compassion, Bellarmine University and University of Louisville.
I have attended many of their educational programs. I can testify that their programs are of a very high quality and render great deal of information that enables interfaith dialog and communal harmony which will result in peace and understanding.
I am proud of Salaam Network Inc for their outstanding work, dedication and service.
Ibrahim B. Syed,
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
Headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky, USA
My name is Dr. Derek Penwell and I am the Senior Pastor of Douglass Blvd. Christian Church, as well as a lecturer of Religious Studies in the Comparative Humanities Department at the University of Louisville. I am also a board member of the Kentucky Refugee Ministries.
I am writing in support of the work of The Salaam Network. Louisville has designated itself a “Compassionate City.” As such, our community has demonstrated a desire and commitment to working toward religious inclusion. One of the primary foci has been to challenge religious stereotypes—in particular those that further marginalize the thriving Muslim community in our city. The Salaam Network has been a leader in offering varied educational opportunities, led by experts in their fields. These educational opportunities shine a light on how Islam has historically had a positive impact on the religious and cultural landscape. I have been a presenter and a panelist in two TSN offerings: Prophet Abraham and His Legacy—Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Perspectives and Women in Four Spiritual Traditions:Further Along in the Journey To Wholeness.
The work of TSN is crucial in our endeavor to see the realization of mutual respect between all people. TSN brings people of diverse religious and non-religious backgrounds together, under the assumption that our capacity for empathy and understanding is increased as we spend time with one another, learning about the lives and traditions of people who are different from us. Our moral imaginations expand as we begin to see one another as potential friends and partners, instead of as threats or competitors.
I cannot recommend the work of TSN highly enough as a critical component in making Louisville a model of religious affirmation and support, a truly compassionate city.
Fariba Nowrouzi Kashan, Ph.D.
At this time, more than ever we need to bring people together regardless of their beliefs to stablish peace and justice in our community. I am a Muslim woman who has received my PhD from the University of Louisville in Applied Mathematics. Currently I am a faculty member at Kentucky State University. Aside from work, I have also been a leader and facilitator of Islamic education for the local Iranian community (youth and adult) for almost twenty years. Over the past several years, I have been pleased to be involved with The Salaam Network (TSN) and work as one of its core member to build an understanding bridge between different beliefs.
Islamophobia is one of the largest problems that divides our nation and communities. The best solution for this problem is educate people (Muslim and non-Muslim) about Islam based on the holy book Quran and life of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) without any prejudgments and from multiple perspectives. TSN has been extremely effective in spreading awareness against islamophobia in Kentucky and abroad by offering free education classes. TSN outreach has offered many discussions groups, student panels, lectures, and workshops at venues of various religious followings and academic standings.
All conducted programs and presentations by The Salaam Network are listed and can be found in https://salaamnetwork.org/programs/. It verifies that TSN has been improved each year since 2016 by providing free educational opportunities that highlight the common values among the different religions, especially amongst three Abrahamic religions
TSN has worked very hard since 2016 to contribute toward building a culture of knowledge and dialogue in our city. I am sure that TSN would be able to do much more to bring harmony to our diverse community with more support. When we work all together, TSN’s contribution can help to make Louisville a city with a high understanding of culture and community.
Dr. Fariba Nowrouzi Kashan
December 10, 2019
Times of crisis bring out the best and the worst in us, and in trying times our true character shines for all the world to see. The Salaam Network was birthed in just such times. In the face of a rising tide of divisive rhetoric and anti Islamic ideology in the U. S. and beyond, that challenged the fundamental vision of tolerance, respect for religious plurality and cultural diversity, Riffat Hassan brought together a number of scholars and religious leaders. Through thoughtful and scholarly presentations in houses of worship and classrooms the Salaam Network has sown seeds of understanding and offered opportunities for dialogue and mutual appreciation between disparate religious groups across Louisville. I have been privileged to collaborate by making connections with Roman Catholic communities and institutions. From my personal experience it is clear that the Salaam Network has greatly enriched and changed the face of our local community.
We live with an abundance of information available to learn about other cultures, religions, and peoples, however, our challenge becomes filtering through all that comes at us—some of it ill-informed, some of it quality journalism—so that we may learn and grow to become a more compassionate community and world. The Salaam Network, composed of excellent scholars and community religious and lay leaders, in Louisville, Kentucky, is creatively working to share open, honest, and accurate information about Islam and our Muslim neighbors to create friendships and partnerships to overcome the problem of Islamophobia.
There are 25 mosques in Louisville and five synagogues, and hundreds of churches. It is vital for there to be events to meet and mix with peoples of Abrahamic and other faith traditions. The Salaam Network creates pop-up spaces for cultural understanding and dialogue at universities, public libraries, and varied religious institutions. These events bring us together in an intentional, proactive way.
As a college educator, I want quality resources, and experiences about different cultures and religions to exist in our community for student and lifelong learning. As a spiritual person, I am interested in building understanding and creating connections between different religions, in a step towards world peace. The Salaam Network has given me, and hundreds of others in our community, opportunities to for both. In 2018, I represented the Jewish faith for "Women in Four Spiritual Traditions: Further Along the Journey to Wholeness," where our panel engaged one another and our audience in authentic dialogue about our respective faiths and cultures.
As Louisville strives to become known as a compassionate city, the work of the Salaam Network is essential.
Melanie E. Hughes
Librarian, Coordinator of Automation and Technical Services
Library Liaison to the School of Education and Center for Cultural Resources
Indiana University Southeast Library
Kenneth A. Stammerman
I have been familiar with the work of the organizers of the Salaam Network, especially Dr. Rifaat Hassan, for some years since returning to Louisville after my U.S. Foreign Service career, much of which was spent in the Muslim world or in Washington dealing with issues involving Muslim countries of the Middle East. I was pleasantly surprised to find the work being done then by Dr. Rifaat and her friends in welcoming delegations from Muslim countries to Louisville under the auspices of the Visitors Programs of the U.S. State Department. As one of the organizers of such delegations when I was in the Foreign Service, it was great to find that, thanks to their work, Louisville was a prime destination for delegation visits, and the University was a center of promoting excellent Muslim-community relations both here and abroad.
Moving forward, Dr. Rifaat and many of these same activists formed the core group of The Salaam Network, which became active in local and regional responses to the unfortunate increase in recent times in misinformation and outright prejudice against our fellow Muslim citizens and immigrant communities in the area. Its speaker programs brought to the public prominent members of the community from various backgrounds, not only Muslims but also presenters with strong involvements in Louisville’s faith and civic communities. They put together presentations not only to specific community groups but also entire semester programs in Continuing Education at the university level. The Network’s role in arranging cultural and religious programs at local mosques with invitations to non-Muslims has lifted many cultural barriers in our community.
One welcome recent focus in dealing with so much misunderstanding of Muslim culture has been the Network’s programs with Dr. Rifaat on Feminism in Islam. Also, exploring the issues of gender equality and the rights of LGBTQ individuals has made The Salaam Network a unique local voice for compassion and tolerance. We like to think of our town as a compassionate city, and The Salaam Network’s efforts towards that goal have been outstanding.
I have admired Dr. Riffat Hassan as an educator since my days as a student at U of L. I consider myself very fortunate to have studied humanities under her mentorship. Her style of teaching was powerful, interactive and unique.
Having moved back to Louisville from New York after nearly 15 years I was overjoyed to discover that Dr. Hassan was still thinking outside the box with her initiative with the Salaam Network. I have attended several of the programs in the past two years with a special interest in all the programs which have focused on interfaith dialogue and understanding. I have been blown away by the many exceptional presenters. Given the growing need we have for peace, tolerance and education I think the work Salaam Network is doing is exceptional. What a resource for Louisville!
The Salaam Network has provided a wonderful opportunity for community engagement on important social and religious matters. As a professor of Islamic Studies, I am aware of just how much need there is for public spaces where people can engage in informed discussions about Islam, the Middle East, and religion in our world today. This is something that we can provide in the university setting, but most community members are not able to take college classes on these topics. The Salaam Network helps fill that gap and bridge the cultural divide between the academy and the public.
The programs at The Salaam Network have been well attended by a variety of people. I often encourage my students to attend the Network events and I always look forward to see what future programs they are planning. They have become a valuable resource to the area around Louisville. Their work is urgently needed in the social and political context in which we live today. We all want to live in more open and educated communities; The Salaam Network is helping to build those communities.
Associate Professor of Religion
I, Sister Kathryn Huber OSB, have been connected with The Salaam Network (TSN) and its founder, Dr. Raffat Hassan, for almost three years. The Salaam Network is a group of interfaith educators, peacemakers, justice activists, and interested citizenry who are committed to promoting greater understanding and wholeness in the city of Louisville and the area known locally as “Kentuckiana” (Kentucky and southern Indiana). The purpose is to make Louisville and the surrounding areas more understanding and compassionate in receiving the "other." The TSN programs help overcome prejudices and discriminations in our communities.
Since its founding in 2016 TSN has made number of presentations at religious and educational venues, especially on the three Abrahamic traditions-JudIsm, Christianity, and Islam. Moses, Jesus, Muhammad-all taught union and communion with the Divine, by whatever name we call the Divine, as well as greater compassion and understanding of humanity and all creation.
I have attended TSN programs primarily those of the three Abrahamic traditions. I also have been a presenter in a program, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as presented in the Christian Scriptures and in the Quran. Two other Benedictine sisters of my monastery have also participated. Sister Anita Louise Lowe provided harp music for the program on Mary. Sister Jeana Visel presented in the program on Fasting in the Three Abrahamic Traditions. TSN has done much education on various aspects of Islam. All programs have been both enlightening and enriching for presenters and participants.
I am greatly enriched by being a volunteer in the The Salaam Network.
Sister Kathryn M. Huber, OSB, MA
Monastery Immaculate Conception
802 E 10th St.
Ferdinand, IN 47532
Since the inception of The Salaam Network I have attended all its programs and presentations. I have done so because I support its aims and objectives i.e., to overcome the divisiveness evident in the community by removing the misconceptions (stereotypes) about Islam and other religions and cultures, minimizing hatred and creating acceptance of the “other” through proper education. It is my considered opinion that only through imparting sound education, can one eliminate ignorance which is the breeding ground of prejudice and bigotry.
The Salaam Network has world-class scholars from the three Abrahamic faiths - Judaism, Christianity, Islam. It also has teachers with outstanding artistic and spiritual abilities, who are fully capable of spreading the message implicit in the word “Salaam” which means Peace, Tranquility and Wholeness.
The scope of TSN’s educational programs presented thus far is so broad that there is take-home for every participant. Its learned presenters have shed light on many issues which are relevant in our times. They present a variety of perspectives with open-mindedness which opens the way to understanding and accepting persons of other religions, cultures, and ethnicities. TSN programs have shown the beauty of diversity and how it enriches the community.
I give my highest commendation to TSN and its exceptional team of educators.
Mirza Aslam Beg
It has been gratifying to work with The Salaam Network (TSN) toward the goal of promoting unity within the Greater Louisville community through education and outreach. TSN fosters understanding and challenges ignorance, prejudice and animosity toward marginalized faiths and groups. To meet growing concerns about the prevalence of Islamophobia we became members of a core group of educators, clergy and activists representing the three Abrahamic faiths who joined together to develop a series of programs to be presented in religious, educational and secular venues.
Louisville is a religiously and ethnically diverse community. Every major religious faith is represented by long-time residents and newer immigrants. We are officially a Compassionate Community, appreciative of diversity and welcoming to newcomers. Nevertheless, there is a tendency for groups to be isolated. Knowledge can begin to break down this isolation on both interpersonal and policy levels. The self-image of our city as one that strives for wholeness provides an opportunity for type of outreach that shapes the TSN mission.
One approach TSN has taken has been to address the ways each faith community deals with central concerns of the day such as the position of women and LGBTQ individuals within it. Another has been to examine shared scripture and shared history. Each presentation or panel has been tailored for its audience: religious venue, university class, continuing education program or public library. Wherever possible presentations have been part of a series allowing presenters and audience to get to know each other. For many that has provided their first contact with a Muslim, their first introduction to Jewish ritual or their first opportunity to learn alternate scriptural approaches to issues of gender and sexuality. TSN programs have allowed for in depth focus on the origins of Islam and on the relationships between Jews, Christians and Muslims in medieval Spain. Where possible American Indian perspectives and traditions have been included in TSN programming as well.
As TSN core members and presenters we have drawn upon our academic backgrounds in sociology and anthropology including focuses on gender, diversity and religion, our extensive international experience as well as our grounding in Judaism, our own religious tradition. We have both learned an immeasurable amount from those we have worked with in TSN. We have become better prepared to work toward wholeness and have seen how effective TSN outreach has been. The questions participants in our programs ask have become more focused and nuanced. Members of the wider community and of our own congregation who have attended our programs and are not only eager for more, but also tell us that they have shared what they have learned and want to know when and where the next offering will be so they can encourage others to attend.
TSN is justifiably proud of the work it has done and continues to do.
Marcia Texler Segal, PhD Professor of Sociology & Dean for Research Emerita, Indiana University Southeast Co-Editor, Advances in Gender Research, Faculty Member Louisville Florence Melton Adult Mini-School
Edwin S. Segal, PhD Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, University of Louisville Board Member Congregation Adath Jeshurun, Faculty Member Louisville Florence Melton Adult Mini-School
BARBARA J. WOOLLEY MSW
I was present at the Drepung Gomang Center for Engaging Compassion, when the first meeting of about 150 persons, including many religious leaders and teachers, took place on May 1, 2018. This meeting had been called by Dr. Riffat Hassan, Professor Emerita of University of Louisville, a renowned Islamic scholar who had been engaged in interreligious dialogue since the 1970s. Her reason for organizing this meeting was to initiate serious reflection on how to counter the dangerous and dramatic acceleration of Islamophobia in the U.S.
There was a general consensus among those present at the brainstorming meeting, that there was urgent need to educate the larger community about Islam and its historical, as well as ongoing, contributions to the Western World. A lesson taught both by our national, as well as global, history, is that fear is divisive and – at times – deadly, provoking people to think, speak and act in ways they might not otherwise. Fear is often rooted in ignorance. Believing in the efficacy of a sound educational approach to open hearts and minds, The Salaam Network was created to address the serious situation.
Since 2016, the dedicated team of TSN scholars, writers, artists, and justice advocates, have provided a wide array of presentations to the greater Louisville community. Many of the programs have focused on disseminating accurate knowledge about various aspects of Islam including its core beliefs and practices, its cordial relationship with Christians at the time of Prophet Muhammad, the cultural interchange among Muslims, Jews and Christians during the Middle Ages which were regarded as the “Golden Age” due to the stupendous flowering of intellectual, mystical and artistic genius in Muslim Spain. Commonalities among the three Abrahamic faiths and the wisdom of other religious traditions including the Native American, has been highlighted in a number of presentations. TSN has also made presentations which relate to the issues of women in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions, and on revisiting their scriptural texts relating to LGBTQ issues.
TSN programs and panel presentations have done much to raise awareness about the need for dialogue among st our religiously and culturally diverse groups which make Louisville such a great city. TSN has contributed toward creating an open and empathetic culture where people can be real with other people, learn from one another, and begin to move together toward a harmonious and integrated community.
TSN’s past achievements are a sure sign of its potential to do so much more if it had greater financial resources. In my view, TSN should be deemed a most worthy recipient of an Atlantic Renewals Award.
Barbara J. Woolley MSW, Spiritual Teacher/Facilitator
November 26, 2019
The Salaam Network (TSN) seeks to raise humanitarian principles to the forefront of dialogue among Louisville’s diverse religious communities. Through education and dialogue, we’ve invited Buddhist, Abrahamic faith traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Indigenous as well as secular activists seeking justice, humanists, and other peace and justice proponents, to create greater understanding and appreciation of the many paths to the Beloved Community.
As the Community Outreach Coordinator of TSN, I’ve seen first-hand the interest throughout the community for more education about Islam in particular, and a greater understanding of the commonalities among diverse belief systems. We have been welcomed in the Buddhist Center for Engaging Compassion, at a number of Protestant and Catholic churches, the Jewish Temple, River Road Mosque, the Guiding Light Islamic Center, and the Turkish Mosque. Also, we’ve conducted presentations at Bellarmine University, the University of Louisville, several public libraries, and other community-based forums.
When leaders of TSN met with the Superintendent of Jefferson County Public Schools in 2017, there was great enthusiasm and encouragement for us to participate in the beginning-of-the-school-year teacher in-service development classes to share knowledge-based programs in response to the rise in Islamophobia in particular. The Chief of Police also welcomed the potential for future collaboration in dispelling misunderstandings and creating training guides to assist officers in peaceful interactions with diverse members of the Muslim community.
Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church (TJUC) of which I am an active member, has supported TSN in various ways. It has sponsored our programs on important contemporary issues relating to Women in the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Native American traditions, and the LGBTQ community. We have recently concluded a Series of 8 weekly classes offered as part of Open Campus Fall courses. The theme of our course was “Islamic Contributions to World Civilization.” The classes were all well-attended and well-received. TJUC has also provided space for other educational meetings of TSN educators with students. For instance, in March 2019, it welcomed Professor Matthew Pierce who brought his “Islam and Gender” class from Centre College, Danville, for an in-depth conversation with Dr. Riffat Hassan, a founder of Islamic feminist theology and also founder of TSN.
In May 2019, TJUC gave its enthusiastic support to Dr. Hassan’s project to hold one 3-hour meeting each month for teaching a group of young Muslim women (who came from a local mosque) about Qur’anic teachings relating to their fundamental human rights. TJUC has thus provided a safe space where young Muslim women could study the Qur’an from a non-patriarchal perspective and discuss their issues openly without fear of reprisal. A number of TSN Core Members, including myself, have been participating in this study group, which will continue to meet for several more months, and have found this to be a deeply enlightening and enriching experience. The partnership of TSN with TJUC is of great import in advancing awareness of social justice and human rights, particularly with reference to marginalized and vulnerable groups.
TSN has also joined a national conversation among Unitarian Universalists (including a few Muslim Unitarian Universalist ministers) to consider adding Islam as a Source of Inspiration for our worship and discourse. This is a highly significant educational initiative, which demonstrates TSN’s commitment to inclusiveness and bridge-building among religious communities which have shared moral and spiritual values.
When Americans think of Louisville, they see “The City of Compassion” as heralded by our mayor, Greg Fisher. When people think about a prominent Muslim, they think of Muhammad Ali, a noteworthy humanitarian from Louisville. Following in the footsteps of two of our own spiritual role models – Thomas Merton and Muhammad Ali – TSN aspires to live up to its motto: “Striving to make the Beloved Community of Louisville Whole.” The support of the Atlantic Renewal Awards, will enable us to build on, and expand, the work we have undertaken to make our Beloved City and Community a place where the identity, integrity and security of every person is honored and safeguarded, and which is truly an abode of peace.
Dr. Dennis Neyman
November 26, 2019
We have been familiar with Dr. Hassan’s work in the community for over twenty years. The Salaam Network fills a unique, necessary void in our community that focuses on peace, understanding, and restoration. Louisville is the home of Muhammad Ali, The Greatest, the first celebrity Muslim, and global philanthropist. It is only fitting that The Salaam Network grew from the soil of the same city. It is our pleasure to endorse and support The Salaam Network.
After 9/11, the climate in our city changed drastically towards Muslims, as it did all over the country. Instead of innocuous curiosity about our religion, we received suspicion and distrust. It was and still is a difficult time to be a Muslim and we still suffer a bit from Islamophobic notions that have seeped into our society and into our everyday lives. The Salaam Network was formed when we needed support as individuals and our community needed healing. Recently, Felicia and I attended a series of classes called "Contributions of Islam to World Civilizations" that The Salaam Network put on at Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church. The classes were informative, timely, and lively with conversation and friendly debate. It was interesting to hear misconceptions about Islam and enlightening to listen to Dr. Hassan patiently address and dispel myths and misunderstandings. She uses exegesis to interpret the text of the Qur'an, therefore showing the audience that "common knowledge" about Islam is all wrong.
The Salaam Network is making a great impact. It helps achieve a citywide mission of being Compassionate citizens and it fulfills the Network's goal of educating people who can spread the true meaning of Islam to the world.
The Salaam Network (TSN) is the brain child of a distinguished educator and bridge-builder. Her dedicated work in interfaith understanding has been well acknowledged for many decades.
I have been affiliated with TSN as a presenter since its inception in 2016 and have seen tremendous acceptance and encouragement at various venues where TSN programs and symposia have been presented. These include various churches, libraries and mosques.
The educators, thinkers and presenters are of varied backgrounds but their core motive is to build inter- faith harmony in our age of division, walls and xenophobia.
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
Introducing myself: I taught Theatre Arts at the University of Louisville for 32 years, and have been engaged in peace-making projects involving Americans and South Asian Muslims for more than two decades. I write this letter in support of The Salaam Network.
Who: The Salaam Network (TSN).
What: To present lectures, discussions and workshops to disseminate accurate information about Islam and the commonalities of the three Abrahamic religions, as well as critical contemporary issues such as those related to women and other vulnerable and marginalized groups.
Where: Churches of various denominations, synagogues, mosques, universities and other educational institutions, libraries and community-based forums.
When: There have been about one hundred educational activities since the Fall of 2016. These are listed on the TSN website under “Programs and Presentations.”
Why: Because the misunderstandings and problems due to what has been considered "my religion" and what has been considered "the enemy" have gotten out of control. TSN has been responding to Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination and bigotry in an intelligent and open-hearted manner.
Since its start in the summer of 2016, The Salaam Network has organized and presented educational programs which have been instructive as well as interesting to a variety of audiences. The words "theatre", "therapy" and "theology" all come from the same Greek root - "Theos". God. Isn't this what is needed in today's world? Presentations have not only educated but have entertained; they have not been exclusively for an educated elite - talks to the choir. As a result, a broad range of audiences in the Louisville area have attended.
TSN wants to go farther and wider by making its work available on the internet so that other communities may also benefit from it. Your grant will help TSN to achieve its goal.
James Tompkins, Professor Emeritus
I have been involved with The Salaam Network since its founding. It developed in a time when the U.S. began seeing ever-increasing incidents of hate crimes and islamophobia. There is no other organization in the region which has done more to root out cruel stereotypes and misinformation than The Salaam Network. Through amazing programming and educational effort, the organization has make our area a shining example of compassion, inter-religious dialog and just relationships.