My Nonprofit Reviews
Review for Salaam Network Inc, Louisville, KY, USA
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