Community Engagement

The PBS films Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet and Muslims are the keystones of the Islam Project, which also includes a national community engagement campaign to raise public awareness, build community bridges, support dialogue, offer educational resources, and explore workplace issues as they relate to Muslims.

The Islam Project is partnering with interfaith and other community-based organizations to focus attention on issues facing Muslims in America and throughout the world. The campaign includes a range of tools--both video and print--for use by community organizations, educators, civil rights leaders, policymakers, journalists, employers, and those in the general public who want to learn more about Muslims and Islam.

How is the Islam Project being used right now across the United States?
Communities in ten cities--Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Wichita, Kansas--have launched campaigns based on the tools of the Islam Project. These campaigns are flexible, educational, and strategic; designed to allow communities to tailor their efforts to their particular concerns. For example, in Cleveland, community members focused on professional training for public school superintendents. For some examples, go to Community Case Studies.

How can I explore the possibility of implementing these ideas in my community?
First, check out the Community Case Studies, which present strategies that other communities have used that might work in your area. Also, look at the Community Planning Checklist, designed to help you plan a campaign, and the tools, which include print and video resources to use in trainings, screenings and forums.

National Partners
Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding (Georgetown U)
Council on Islamic Education (CIE)
Freedom Forum, First Amendment Center
Hope in the Cities, Initiatives of Change
Islamic Society of North America (ISNA)
National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ)
North American Interfaith Network (NAIN)
Pluralism Project at Harvard University

Local Partners
Atlanta: Southern Regional Council
Boston: Public Conversations Project
Cleveland: National Conference for Community and Justice-Northern Ohio
Dallas: Council on American-Islamic Relations--Dallas / Fort Worth Chapter
Detroit: Detroit Public Television/DPTV
Los Angeles: Center for Religion and Civic Culture, Days of Dialogue
New York: Auburn Theological Seminary
San Francisco: Interfaith Center at the Presidio

The Islam Projectís community engagement campaign was implemented by Active Voice, a multicultural, nonprofit team. Active Voice helps groups to use social issue television programs as tools for community building, citizen engagement, and partnership development. To learn more contact:

Active Voice
2601 Mariposa Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
(415) 553-2841

The Islam Project Tools
Islam Project tools can be used to deepen discussions that have already begun between organizations or groups of individuals by offering new content that helps find solutions to their more difficult problems.

The Islam Project Overview
The Islam Project Overview gives a full description of the Islam Project campaign.
Click here for The Islam Project Overview high res PDF.
Click here for The Islam Project Overview low res PDF.

To view PDF files, get the FREE Adobe Acrobat Readerģ

The Facilitatorís Guide
The Facilitator's Guide is a 12-page discussion guide which includes information on how to lead a discussion on Islam, how to plan an Islam Project event, specific discussion questions for use in conjunction with the films Muslims and Muhammad, background information on Islam, and a timeline of Islamic history.

Facilitator's tips Learn strategies for guiding a discussion using these helpful tips.

The Islam Project Modules
If you are looking to organize a series of events that can build upon one another, and build relationships over time, consider using the Islam Project Modules videotape.

The tape contains four thematic segments, called modules. Each module is about 20 minutes in length, and suitable for community and classroom settings. The modules provide a built-in structure for in-depth dialogue by offering new topics for each session, and a two-page guide for mediating the discussion. Module topics include The American Muslim Experience, Beliefs and Practices, Muhammadís Example in Action, and Women and Islam. The cost of the videotape is $19.95, plus shipping and handling. To order this tape call 800-727-2470.

The Module Guides
The Module Guides are written to help you use the thematic video modules.

Click each to view PDF:
Module Guide 1: The American Muslim Experience
Module Guide 2: Islam: Beliefs and Practices
Module Guide 3: Muhammad's Example in Action
Module Guide 4: Women and Islam

The Community Planning Checklist
The Community Planning Checklist takes you through the steps of planning a campaign in your community.

The Islam Project Films
Order a DVD or VHS of Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet or Muslims.

Community Case Studies
Each of the 10 communities listed above that have implemented the Islam Project began the process with a survey of local needs and an assessment of possible partnerships. (To plan this in your community use the Community Planning Checklist.) Once partnerships were identified, a "braintrust" meeting brought together leaders in the Muslim, interfaith, civil rights, media, and education communities to brainstorm about how Islam Project tools might augment the work they were currently doing.

Every community had its own local needs and developed its own strategic plan for implementing the Islam Project. Some plans were extremely targeted, while others involved the general public. But they all used the Islam Project films or video modules and facilitatorís guides to initiate conversations and education about Islam and Muslims. These conversations have sparked new partnerships, workplace diversity training, and the beginnings of a dialogue that promises to continue well into the future.

We invite you to use the tools page and Community Planning Checklist to create your own Islam Project, and urge you to browse the case studies below, culled from our ten original pilot communities. Each case study in this section tells how a community met a specific goal: sustainable dialogue, professional development, increasing sensitivity among service providers, organizational bridge-building, interfaith work, or community development.

Sustainability: Keeping the Dialogue Going
For many organizations, the days and months following September 11th, 2001 were a time of intense bridge-building and community dialogue. People who had never been involved in interfaith or intercultural work began to reach out to their neighbors to learn who they were, what was important to them, and what their experiences were like.

Today, the conflict in Iraq, the feelings of isolation and alienation that many American Muslims have, and the experience of immigrants from Arab countries, has made sustaining an on-going dialogue about Islam more important than ever.

Case Study

"The Islam Project has helped us take our mission statement from paper to action."

--Executive Director, Days of Dialogue

In Los Angeles, Days of Dialogue, a coalition of community organizations, used the Islam Project to deepen a dialogue that had already begun. Working with KCET, Los Angelesí local PBS station, and the Center for Religion and Civic Culture, an academic center based at the University of Southern California, Days of Dialogue organized a viewing of Islam Project video modules and a discussion about American Islam. The event brought together a wide range of community and religious leaders from around the city to discuss the topic in depth.

At the beginning of the evening, Aliah MaJon of Days of Dialogue asked the audience for comments on the topic of Muslims in America. There were none. Later on, however, after viewing the videotape and hearing from the panel, half the people present had become engaged in the dialogue. When MaJon asked the question again, most hands went up in the air.

At the end of the evening, those gathered agreed that there was much more that they wanted to discuss. They planned to meet again the following month to discuss another Islam Project video module, Women and Islam.

For Days of Dialogue, an Islam Project event helped put their mission into concrete action. They hope to create a ripple effect throughout the region by including a "train the trainers" component in their next event, so that the people who attend the meeting can go back and continue the process on an even deeper level in their own communities.

Learning about Islam for the Workplace
The encounter between people of different religious traditions is an increasingly common experience for people in the United States. We are one of the most religiously diverse countries in the world, and yet how much do we really know about one another? For many people, whether we work in schools, offices, hospitals, or almost anywhere else, the place we most often encounter people of other faiths is in the workplace. Yet sensitivity to or knowledge of the different religious needs of coworkers, employees, clients, or students is rarely part of the job requirement. Many institutions are beginning to see the value of sensitivity training for their employees. Islam Project materials may be useful in learning about what is believed to be the fastest growing religion in America.

If you want to hold an educational event about Islam in your workplace, think about including a screening of an Islam Project video module, and inviting a panel of local Muslim experts and practitioners who can talk about their own experiences and answer questions.

Case Study

"There was huge interest among the superintendents in the information that was presented in the clips, because it was new to many of them.

--Executive Director, Cleveland NCCJ

In Cleveland, which has a growing Muslim community, the local chapter of National Conference on Community and Justice (NCCJ) decided to focus on the workplace as a locus for community education about Islam. They organized an event attended by school superintendents, school principals, and other key administrators representing 95 school districts.

At the event, NCCJ screened one of the Islam Project's modules and heard commentary by a professor from a local university, and a student panel. Participants were then encouraged to talk about their own concerns about meeting the needs of a rapidly changing student body, and to ask questions of the panelists.

Organizational Bridge-Building
Because of time pressures, financial limitations, or for various other reasons, many organizations often feel like they are doing their work in a vacuum. They know that there are others within their community who are working on similar issues, but they have no relationship with these groups. In such a situation, finding a way to begin a dialogue can be the first step toward building a bridge to other organizations and becoming part of a larger network.

Case Study

"Coordinating the Islam Project in Boston has provided us with a way to encourage people to collaborate with each other across religious and organizational lines in order to make events happen."

--Maggie Herzig, Public Conversations Project

Public Conversations Project, Boston's lead partner to the Islam Project, identified a wide array of organizations whose work meshed well with their own. They met with leaders from these groups and identified the areas of intersection: community resources, interfaith dialogue, and civic values. They then split into committees to work on each of these issues. Each committee was composed of people from different organizations, including institutes of higher education, local foundations, educational organizations, community-based organizations, and religious institutions. These groups collaborated over the course of the year to organize a wide array of events that met their mutual needs.

The resource committee put together a speakers' bureau that could send experts to speak about Islam in various settings. The interfaith committee held a screening and discussion of the Islam Project films that was co-sponsored by a mosque, a synagogue and a church. The committee also offered information to numerous interfaith dialogue groups in the area. The civic values committee organized a large event at the Dreams of Freedom Museum, entitled "Islam and the American Dream." It included a screening of film clips dealing with civic values, dinner, a panel of Islamic scholars and Muslim activists, and group discussions.

Interfaith Work
As the United States becomes more religiously diverse, people of different faiths are reaching out to one another to learn about each other's beliefs, views, and practices. Most commonly, this takes place in the form of an interfaith dialogue or a shared service project. Other times, it can be as informal as getting together for a meal or entertainment. For groups that are just starting out, films can provide a safe window into the faith experiences of others. For groups that have been meeting together for a while, having new materials such as the Islam Project films and discussion guides can be useful for deepening the content of the dialogue.

Case Study

"All the issues--chosen-ness, servant leadership, personal stories in communities and public work--we wrestle with all of this in interfaith and intrafaith [arenas]. These films are catalysts. They spark all these theological themes today."

--Katherine Henderson, Auburn Theological Seminary

In New York City, Auburn Theological Seminary has been working to encourage engagement across religious traditions. Part of their mission is to "initiate conversations about complex issues in light of religious traditions and contemporary life." They partnered with the Islam Project to host a meeting of religious leaders from around the city. The meeting garnered a great deal of interest on the subject of contemporary Islam and, as a result, the seminary decided to follow it up by co-hosting an event with Judson Memorial Church that focused on topics raised by the Islam Project's American Muslims module.

Through this event, new connections were made between faith leaders. Auburn Theological Seminary has decided to follow up by serving as the clearinghouse for Islam Project materials, encouraging religious centers to use them for their own intrafaith and interfaith events.

Community Development
Many communities have demonstrated a long-term commitment to civil rights and diversity work, but recent issues have brought about the need to reassess their populations' changing needs. The Islam Project materials can provide an opportunity to bring people of different faiths, races and ethnicities together to talk about old issues in a new light.

Case Study

"The Islam Project was programmatically important because it went deeper than just looking at "diversity"... It helped us to really examine who works in and contributes to the American South."

--Wendy Johnson, Southern Regional Council

In Atlanta, The Islam Projectís local lead partner, the Southern Regional Council, decided to reach out to Atlanta's Muslim community and create bridges to address their concerns. The events they organized using the Islam Project materials served as a goodwill first step toward meeting this goal.

Southern Regional Council began meeting with local Muslim and community leaders to plan an event that would encourage community dialogue about the experience of being Muslim in the United States in general and in Atlanta in particular. They gathered more than 60 people at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. The group watched the American Muslim Experience video module and heard from a six-member panel that included Muslim educators, journalists, and religious leaders from a diversity of racial and ethnic backgrounds. The meeting precipitated so much interest in the topic and the films that the organizers decided to follow with a town hall-style event a month later.

About 30 people gathered at the follow-up event, which was held at a local mosque. Having already met once, community members were able to engage in an even deeper discussion about the parallels between their faiths.

As a result of these conversations, and the realization that the need for community education on the topic of Islam is just beginning to be addressed, Southern Regional Council is planning a new partnership with the Muslim Speakers Bureau of Athens, Georgia, whose members attended both events.

Click here for a Community Planning Checklist to help you plan a strategic campaign in your community using the tools of The Islam Project.