Home Testimonials 2019

LETTERS OF SUPPORT FOR THE SALAAM NETWORK’S ATLANTIC RENEWAL AWARD APPLICATION

RAINBOW SPIRITUAL EDUCATION CENTER

Please accept this letter of support for the important focus and dedicated work of The Salaam Network in consideration for the 2020 Atlantic Renewals Award.

It has been a great pleasure to work with the well qualified scholars and teachers associated with The Salaam Network in our common goal of assisting the community to dispel with fears by providing educational opportunities and knowledge about various religious and cultural groups. I believe that over the past three years there has been much healing of wounds caused by misinformation and lack of quality programs open to the community at large. These 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, The Salaam Network has brought people together from many paths to honor differences and celebrate the many similarities.

The Salaam Network offers quality programs and does so with much integrity.

It is my hope that The Salaam Network will be awarded the 2020 Atlantic Renewals Award in order to increase its positive impact on our community.

Rev. Cynthia Jo (C. J.) Wright, CTR, CTSS, CCISM [Executive Director]

RAINBOW SPIRITUAL EDUCATION CENTER

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CENTRAL PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

I write to you in support of The Salaam Network in Louisville, Kentucky so that it will be able to continue the important work of educating the community about the Abrahamic faith traditions, their similarities and differences.

In a time of community division, discrimination and the misunderstandings of world religions, The Salaam Network, especially the series they have held, is vitally important.

Central Presbyterian Church where I am a pastor, in collaboration with Fourth Ave. United Methodist Church and the Roman Catholic Cathedral of the Assumption, sponsored one of TSN’s excellent four weeks’ series.

I hope that with your assistance the important work of The Salaam Network may continue to thrive in churches, synagogues, and mosques. Education leads to understanding. The destructive forces of Islamophobia, anti semitism, and racism are being confronted peacefully.

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Rev. D. Mark Baridon

Central Presbyterian Church

SAINT MEINRAD ARCHABBEY

I am writing this letter in strong support of the very fine and timely work of The Salaam Network. I had the privilege of being a presenter at a program looking at the ways Christianity and Islam view Mary in the Bible and the Qur’an. It was a wonderful learning experience for me as well as for the people who attended. It was the fulfillment of exactly what The Salaam Network strives to accomplish. The key for me was the fact that this program and others like it bring together not just ideas, but real people who share a diversity of ideas. It is the human exchange that breaks down the prejudices.

I think it is very important that The Salaam Network be able to continue with the fine work it does. It is remarkable that these programs come at no cost to the people who attend them. The mixture of scholars, practitioners, and ordinary interested people is very impressive. The wide range of topics that the Network has presented is remarkable.

Today our country and the diverse religions that can be found there live in fear of the unknown. A great deal of misinformation is spread, especially regardingIslam. We need organizations such as The Salaam Network which have as their mission the breaking down of these many prejudices through open encounters which can and do build the bridges necessary for new and deeper understandings.

Reverend Eugene Hensell, OSB, PhD

SAINT MEINRAD ARCHABBEY

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DREPUNG GOMANG CENTER FOR ENGAGING COMPASSION

For more than two decades I have been part of generating a city of Louisville based on compassion and receptive to diverse religious traditions.

I function from the perspective articulated by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama: Respect of and understanding between religious traditions is the foundation of world peace.

For this reason, I was honored to assist Dr. Riffat Hassan in providing fertile ground for the creation of The Salaam Network in 2016. Drepung Gomang Center for Engaging Compassion hosted the initial gathering that gave birth to TSN, then continued hosting presentations and meetings and providing committed involvement for the next two years. I am delighted to watch how TSN continues to grow, offering essential and beautiful presentations and encouraging dialogue in the local community.

TSN reaches out to all kinds of educational institutions and faith groups. Presentations vary, providing deeper understanding of the richness of the Islamic tradition, its wisdom as a path of peace, its interrelatedness with the great Abrahamic traditions, and its importance in our community.

I am honored to consider myself a founder of TSN and humbled to watch it continue to open the eyes and hearts of our community.

Anne Walter Director, DGCEC

Drepung Gomang Center for Engaging Compassion

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ISLAMIC RESEARCH FOUNDATION INTERNATIONAL, INC.

Since 2016 The Salaam Network has presented a large number of programs free of cost to the Louisville community. These programs have been presented 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,University of Louisville, and other community-based forums.

I have attended many of the Salaam Network’s educational programs. I can testify that their programs are of very high quality and disseminate a great deal of information that facilitates interfaith understanding. This will lead to a better relationship amongst Louisville’s religious communities, particularly of Muslims, Jews, and Christians, and promote peace and harmony in our city.

Hence IRFI very strongly supports The Salaam Network’s application for an Atlantic Renewals Award which is being sought to expand its programs in multiple ways.

Ibrahim B. Syed, Ph.D., Sc. D., D. Sc.(H) [President]

Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.

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FOURTH AVENUE – UNITED METHODIST CHURCH

This letter is written to support the vital work of The Salaam Network (TSN), a community not for-profit which provides education and advocacy to assure that all people are informed about the history, theologies, and traditions of the Abrahamic faith communities in an ongoing effort to assure safety, dignity and understanding of all people. There has been much misunderstanding, recently about Islam but historically about Jewish and some Christian groups. This has led to exclusion and violence. TSN provides excellent programs that specifically dispel these misunderstandings and myths.

Our church, Fourth Avenue United Methodist, has been grateful for and supportive of the work of TSN. One of our clergy members, The Rev. Dr. Donna T. Morton, has served on TSN’s Core Group and she coordinated a four weeks series at our church, co-sponsored with Central Presbyterian Church, The Cathedral of The Assumption, and The Guiding Light Mosque. These lectures and presentations drew around 50 to 60 people each week. In addition to the excellent scholarly presentations, we also had a panel of Muslim high school and college students. Although It was disheartening to hear their stories of bullying and exclusion, their resilience and commitment to compassion and justice is amazing.

TSN provides vital voices to our city, leading us toward the vision of the beloved community. Your support is needed. As TSN seeks to continue its important mission in the community.

Rev. Craig Tuck

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VERITAS (Bellarmine)

The Salaam Network has presented two excellent courses for the Veritas Society at Bellarmine University, and is scheduled to present another one in Spring 2020.

These courses explore various aspects of the subject matter. The courses are:

  • Fall 2017, six 90-minute presentations. “Islam: One Branch of the Abrahamic Faith Tradition,”
  • Fall 2018, six 75-minute presentations: “The Abrahamic Faith Traditions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam”
  • Scheduled for Spring 2020, six 75-minute presentations: “Judaism, Christianity and Islam: Confrontations with Modernity.”

Attendance at these presentations has averaged 49 per class and reviews have been excellent.

There is so much misunderstanding about Islam in our society. Through the Veritas courses, we have been able to give accurate information about Islam in various contexts. This has generated not only a positive interest in learning more about Islam and its relationship to Christianity and Judaism, but also made the students aware of the contributions Islam has made to Western civilization. A better understanding of a different religion – especially one that is generally perceived negatively – has enriched and enlightened our community in multiple ways.

Since 1995, Veritas has offered the pre-eminent learning experience to people over 54 in the Louisville area. Our mission is to keep our minds active open and growing. We are retired or semi-retired people – doctors, educators, homemakers, office workers, administrators, artists, and executives. The Veritas Society is governed by a Board of Directors elected by the membership. Membership is currently over 400.

Linda S. Bailey [Veritas Coordinator/Liaison & Director of Continuing Education]

VERITAS (Bellarmine)

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UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE, DEPARTMENT OF COMPARATIVE HUMANITIES

Interfaith dialogue is a critical component of civic stability, both national and international. As a Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of Louisville, I strongly believe that 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. Riffat 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 in Louisville.

Maryam Moazzen, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies

louisville.edu/humanities

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KENNETH STAMMERMAN, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, RETIRED

I am writing this letter in support of The Salaam Network for a 2020 Atlantic Renewals Award. I have been familiar with the work of the organizers of the network, especially Dr. Riffat 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. Riffat Hassan 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. Riffat Hassan 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. Riffat Hassan 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.

Kenneth A. Stammerman, Retired Senior Foreign Service Officer, U.S. State Department

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LANE STUMLER, VOLUNTEER

I recommend The Salaam Network (TSN) as being most deserving of the Atlantic Renewal Award for its innovative work in the Metropolitan Louisville community as peace and justice advocates, working to dispel misunderstandings and provide healing education.

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. Being awarded the Atlantic Renewals Award could provide the opportunity for TSN to continue to grow, being able to do more to help with the healing of our nation and the spreading of peace and understanding amongst our citizens.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. Being awarded the Atlantic Renewals Award could provide the opportunity for TSN to continue to grow, being able to do more to help with the healing of our nation and the spreading of peace and understanding amongst our citizens.

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Lane Stumler, Avid Volunteer

CENTRE COLLEGE

I am writing to express my strong support of The Salaam Network to be considered for a 2020 Atlantic Renewal Award. Since their launch in 2016, The Salaam Network has offered an incredible array public discussions, seminars, and educational events that have enriched the public understanding of critical issues facing our society today. Their work has continued to bring together diverse groups of people to think and talk about about difficult questions. In a world that is increasingly polarized along lines of religion and politics, it is urgent that groups like The Salaam Network find the support they need to continue.

I was honored to have been invited to speak at The Salaam Network’s inaugural event in 2016 along with numerous other scholars and community leaders. It was immediately clear that their events would provide a creative and unique space to discuss urgent social, religious, and political issues among community members with diverse experiences and perspectives. Their commitment to bringing people together for informed discussions has helped bridge the gap between our cultural divides. The Salaam Network has also helped bridge the gap between the academy and the public. Often referred to as the “town and gown” divide, there is a very real cultural disconnect between the public and those who teach in colleges and universities. Finding spaces for high quality discussion of issues that are not within the university setting is critical. The Salaam Network has been able to involve community members from all backgrounds and bring them together.

The specific emphasis on public understanding of Islam helps meet a specific need in our society today and helps set The Salaam Network apart from other interfaith organizations. Given the realities of American politics today and contemporary global events, the public misunderstandings of Islam and Muslims is painfully apparent. By centering their programming on diverse Muslim traditions and ideas, the participants consistently gain an experiential understanding of Muslims as partners in conversations rather than just the “other.” We need this work today.

When most Americans think of Kentucky, they do not think about diverse religious groups meeting to better understand critical issues of our day. The Salaam Network pushes against the social tendency that we all have to listen only to people who share our same opinion. The events at The Salaam Network have proved that dynamic and informed conversations about sensitive questions are still possible in our society today. I have regularly encouraged my students and other community members to attend and participate in The Salaam Network’s events. They have consistently found the events to be uniquely enriching and helpful.

The Salaam Network is meeting an urgent need in our society today. Their programs on Islam reach audiences that yearn for a public space to learn and talk about these issues. By bringing together diverse groups to think and talk about issues facing us today, The Salaam Network serves a role that is otherwise neglected. I urge you to consider awarding them the Atlantic Renewal Award.

Matthew Pierce [NEH Associate Professor of Religion]

CENTRE COLLEGE

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SIDDIQUE MALIK

The purpose of this letter is to recommend The Salaam Network, a Louisville-based organization, for a 2020 Atlantic Renewal Award. TSN’s objectives revolve around fostering inter-faith camaraderie and triggering modernistic and humanistic tendencies in society’s collective thought processes.

An attribute of this group that excites me greatly is its pluralistic and scholarly composition. Professors, philosophers and thinkers of multiple cultural and religious backgrounds are among its leaders. The group holds meetings and debates on various topics that confront humanity today. I look forward to attending such meetings, when I can.

When various segments of society interact with each other from a position of strength based on equality, it enhances society. It helps society become a place in which its subgroups and subcultures maintain their individuality, yet happily and uninhibitedly contribute towards society’s collective interests.

But this is easier said than done. Some segments of society are not even aware of their rights that their faith and country give them. This lack of awareness subtracts from their ability to seek and sustain equality in society. It diminishes them and hampers society.

One handicap that society, time and again, exhibits is its general inability to recognize the need for gender equality. This is an area on which TSN has focused since its inception. It has tried to educate and empower women — especially women who have ties with the subcultures that discourage women from fully exploring their God-given abilities. It has made a number of presentations on women rights and LGBTQ issues.

TSN is offering an ongoing free program “Qur’anic Teachings relating to Muslim Women”. It is taught by the TSN founder, Dr. Riffat Hassan, a pioneer in the area of Feminist Theology in Islam. A number of men and women, including non-Muslims attend this course.

Muslim women in the U.S. are engaged in an intense struggle to define their identity. They find that the patriarchic tendencies and conservatism of their communities are an impediment in their quests for self-empowerment. But they are reluctant to take a stand for their fundamental rights because they do not always understand that these rights are God-given and not dependent upon social approval. TSN wants to educate them about the Qur’anic teachings relating to their rights so that they can become free of their inner doubts, fear and guilt.

TSN needs and deserves help as it strives to enrich society by empowering its vulnerable. A 2020 Atlantic Renewal Award will go a long way in helping TSN help society become an equitable place for all human beings. A few words about myself: I am a keen observer of sociopolitical affairs and often express my viewpoints in the local newspaper. Louisville knows me well. It’s my honor to recommend TSN for the award.

Siddique Malik

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SAINT ANDREW UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

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.

Rev. Lori Miller-Price

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SAINT ANDREW UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST

JEFFERSON COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

Jefferson County Public Schools is pleased to provide a letter in support of The Salaam Network (TSN) as they aim to seek funding to support greater programs/speaker sessions and awareness. TSN is an interfaith nonprofit organization advocating for better understanding and communication, respect among individuals, and empowerment of those in the community.

In 2016, TSN worked in collaboration with our Diversity, Equity, and Poverty Division in providing a professional development session for our educators to better understand experiences of Muslim students. Such sessions create dialogue and ensures our underrepresented students and families are better understood and advocated for.

Dr. Monica Lakhwani [Multicultural Specialist, DEP]

JEFFERSON COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

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DR. MARY ANN STENGER

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.

Dr. Mary Ann Stenger, Professor Emerita, Humanities (Religious Studies) University of Louisville

University of Louisville

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REV. DONNA MORTON

The Rev. Dr. Donna T. Morton

The Salaam Network (TSN), established in 2016, is an all volunteer not-for-profit that seeks to educate the community and advocate for justice and peace for all people in the community. It has been a privilege to join with Dr. Riffat Hassan, scholars and social justice advocates as a member of the Core Group. We seek, through educational presentations to inform the community about the history, traditions, interconnections of the three Abrahamic faith traditions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Throughout the history of these faiths, there have been people who have oppressed and discriminated against each of them (including shameful histories of one group violence against another). Unfortunately, this is often the only thing people know about the groups of which they are not members. So much of the literature, music, science and art of these groups is completely unknown to people raised in the other religious groups (or with no religious background). Through TSN, we have held numerous presentations in houses of worship (e.g. Jewish, Christian, Unitarian Universalist, Islamic, Buddhist) educational institutions (like Bellarmine University and JCPS) and in libraries (such as the LFPL). Scholars and religious leaders have graciously donated their time to these excellent presentations.

In one of these series that I coordinated with Fourth Ave. United Methodist Church, Central Presbyterian Church, the Cathedral of the Assumption, Guiding Light Islamic Center, we heard from academics, faith leaders, and students about contributions the Abrahamic faith traditions have made to cultures throughout the world. Through the panels we have held with high school and university students, we have heard the painful stories of Islamophobia and bullying played out in our community that prides itself on being a progressive, compassionate city. Through the many programs TSN has sponsored, friendships have been forged across religious and secular lines. Clergy who have co-sponsored these events have reported how they have continued dialogues and friendships with the other sponsoring groups.

Much more work is needed. Volunteer members of the Core Group have spent their own funds on basics like printing and distributing flyers and providing refreshments. The houses of worship and libraries have been generous in providing space free of charge. In order to meet a wider audience TSN needs funding to maintain and update our web page, to provide video presentations, and to reach a broader audience through multi-media projection.

TSN is both diverse and inclusive and has tackled subjects that others fear, including racial justice, gender equality, LGBTQA rights, and the scourge of Islamophobia. There is much work to do to help create the beloved community of justice, unity, peace, and love.

Rev. Dr. Donna T. Morton

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SISTERS OF ST. BENEDICT – FERDINAND

Monastery Immaculate Conception

It is my understanding that The Atlantic Renewal Awards are generally given to nonprofits engaged in practical projects. The Salaam Network (TSN) fulfills this criterion. It is a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization consisting 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 to overcome prejudices and discrimination in our communities.

I have been connected with TSN and its founder, Dr. Riffat Hassan, for almost three years. Since its founding in 2016 TSN has made a number of presentations at religious and educational venues, especially on the three Abrahamic traditions. 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 (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam). I also have been a presenter in a program, Mary, the Mother of Jesus, as presented in the Christian Scriptures and in the Quran. Among its many programs TSN has also done programming on fasting and homosexuality in the three Abrahamic traditions. It also has offered education on various aspects of Islam.

All programs have been both enlightening and enriching for presenters and participants.

The reception of a 2020 Atlantic Renewal Award will allow The Salaam Network to continue and expand its fine work.

Sister Kathryn M. Huber, OSB, MA

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DR. DENNIS NEYMAN

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

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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

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THOMAS JEFFERSON UNITARIAN CHURCH

Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church, Louisville, KY

I am writing in support of The Salaam Network (“Network”) for the 2020 Atlantic Renewals Award. As the former minister of Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church (“TJUC”) and as a participant in interfaith work in Louisville, Kentucky, for over three decades, I have followed the work of Network from its earliest days and have been impressed by the quality of and participation in its programs, and believe that such efforts are important to the health of the local community.

The impressive resume, both as an highly respected academic and as an involved activist, of Dr. Riffat Hassan, one of the principal founders of the Network, speaks for itself. In my opinion, Dr. Hassan’s involvement has helped draw an impressive array of participants and contributors to the Network’s mostly educational efforts. For example, two of TJUC’s most credentialed members, each known for their engagement with peace and education efforts, have been involved from the beginning of the Network. I was pleased when TJUC was invited to be participate in the Network and encouraged the involvement of these members, and am happy that TJUC’s engagement has continued and grown since my retirement. I understand that a successful multi-part Network program has just concluded this month at TJUC.

All of the Network’s programs which I have experienced have been high quality, engaging programs speaks lifting up the common values which Islam shares with other religious traditions and, more generally, with the broader Louisville community. Participants are given the opportunity to learn accurate information about Islam and its concerns, and to increase their understanding of how diversity enriches our local community. At a time when fear of Islam and of immigrants is being aggressively promoted by some politicians and when social media and some other media share uninformed and often simply false stories about Islam, it is important that the Network steps up to offer facts and informed perspective to help sustain and grow community instead of tear it apart.

The Islamic community has been an important, growing part of the greater Louisville community for longer than I have lived here. In recent years, the rise of visible anti-Islamic actions has, regretfully, increased. In a city that proudly claims Muhammad Ali as its most famous native son, I believe it is important for the Network to continue its efforts to educate, to heal, and to inspire us all.

he Rev. Elwood R. Sturtevant, Minister Emeritus

Rev. Elwood R. Sturtevant, Minister Emeritus

www.tjuc.org

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DRS. MARCIA TEXLER SEGAL AND EDWIN S. SEGAL

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, Ph. D., of Professor of Sociology & Dean for Research Emerita, Indiana University Southeast, Co-Co-Editor, Advances in Gender Research, Faculty Member Louisville Florence Melton Adult Mini-School

Edwin S. Segal, Ph. D., Professor of Anthropology Emeritus, University of Louisville, Board Member, Congregation Adath Jeshurun, Faculty Member, Louisville Florence Melton Adult Mini-School

Drs. Marcia Texler Segal and Edwin S. Segal

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BELLARMINE UNIVERSITY

Professor, Department of Theology
Bellarmine University
2001 Newburg Road
Louisville, KY 40205

I am writing to offer my highest recommendation and enthusiastic support for The Salaam Network to receive a 2020 Atlantic Renewal Award. Louisville has been my home for most of my life and I have witnessed a variety of movements for change across the city from the era of bussing in the 1970s, to the compassionate city, and Empower West. As a city, we have grown because of the presence of refugee ministries and a rich religious community as well as new efforts to build our economic infrastructure. However, few movements and organizations share a similar educational mission and purpose with the Salaam Network.

The Salaam Network emerged as a grassroots organization by volunteers and has made significant strides over the last few years to educate and increase interfaith understanding, combat Islamophobia, and authentically embrace the reality of religious pluralism that has always been part of the landscape of our city. Presenters and participants include scholars, religious leaders, non-profit leaders, community organizers, and other professionals as well as members of local congregations.

In the last three years, I have been actively involved in The Salaam Network and participated in a programs on Teaching Religion in Public Schools at the University of Louisville (April 17, 2017) and in a Women’s Workshop at the Earth and Spirit Center (October 29, 2017). In addition, a team of three experts made presentations in a class that I teach on Women and Gender Studies at Bellarmine University on February 9, 14 and 16, 2016, and collaborated for a panel discussion for the university as a whole. The presentations were well researched, engaging, creative, and awakened a new generation of students to the problem and promise of religion for women in the three Abrahamic traditions.

In sum, The Salaam Network is doing unique and life-giving work within this community and vital to the flourishing of people here. Hate crimes have been on the rise nationally, most U.S. Americans have little understanding of Islam, and pernicious stereotypes continue to inform practices and policies of our nation. Supporting organizations like The Salaam Network promises to do much more than just educate our local area. Your support will increase cooperation, collaboration, understanding, and our national collective wisdom.

I offer my highest recommendation that The Salaam Network receive this award.

The Rev. Dr. Elizabeth L. Hinson-Hasty

www.bellarmine.edu

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REV. WALTER S. SNOWA / REV. DIANE S. SNOWA

161 Edgewood Way, Louisville KY. 40243

Rev. Diane Snowa and I are writing on behalf of The Salaam Network (TSN) which is applying for the 2020 Atlantic Renewals Award. As ordained ministers in the United Church of Christ, we see the need for an organization that separates Islam from terrorist pretenders. Thus we became Core Members of TSN. Since its founding in May 2016, The Salaam Network has built bridges among the various religious communities in Louisville, Kentucky. Its key value is education.

Both of us have been actively involved in TSN. At St. Andrew United Church of Christ, Rev. Diane Snowa organized seven weeks of educational programs on comparisons and contrasts of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. To support this project, she brought together the St. Andrew congregation along with neighboring religious bodies: the Catholic Church of the Ascension and The Guiding Light Islamic Center. Among the many topics discussed, one week the participants learned about Islamic calligraphy as divine language. Another week, our speaker spoke of the Golden Age of Islam which helped bring the return of Greco-Roman thought to the European Renaissance.

We were hoping 25-35 people would come to the programs. The first week 48 came. By the fifth week 97 people were present. As we polled the participants as to why interests grew week by week, the common refrains were: “I didn’t know anything about Islam.” “I wanted facts not opinions.” “ I did not know what to say when friends/relatives call Muslims terrorists.”

As a matter of note, the Episcopal priest in the neighborhood has recently contacted us about being resources for his pursuit of a doctorate in Christian-Islamic history. This priest declined to participate as a partner church in the original series at St. Andrew, but attended the final two presentations.

I will be presenting my third six-week session for The Veritas Society on the campus of Bellarmine University. Veritas is a non-credit educational program for adults over 54 in the Louisville area. Our first course was “Islam: One Branch of the Abrahamic Faith Tradition”. In 2018 we offered “The Abrahamic Faith Traditions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam”. One class focused on the stories of Mary, mother of Jesus, in the Qur‘an and the New Testament.

In the spring of 2020, our Veritas program will include: “Judaism, Christianity and Islam:Confrontations with Modernity”. This course will spend six weeks on the issues of women and the LGBTQAI communities. Our question: How can our traditional faiths support vulnerable people in the modern world?

Our speakers and discussion leaders come from Conservative and Reformed Jewish traditions, Protestant and Catholic Christian traditions and from leaders in several Muslim organizations. Our classes are given the largest available rooms. In our courses, would be participants were turned away, because our rooms are not large enough to accommodate all who sought to register.

Thank you for your consideration of The Salaam Network. We have accomplished much to help people celebrate both the unity and diversity of the Abrahamic faith traditions. Louisville is fortunate to have The Salaam Network in our midst.

Rev. Walter S. Snowa / Rev. Diane S. Snowa

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ST. WILLIAM CATHOLIC CHURCH

I am writing to express my wholehearted support for the work and contributions of the Salaam Network among the faith and educational communities of Louisville, Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

For several years, in response to a growing climate of division and mistrust, the Salaam Network has served as an educational bridgebuilder and a catalyst for scholarly interreligious dialogue in our area.

As minister of peace and justice formation for the St. William Catholic Church, with extensive experience in spirituality and interreligious dialogue, I have been privileged to collaborate with the Salaam Network. Serving as an adviser, I have sought to help expand the network to encompass local Catholic religious communities and colleges. Additionally, I have encouraged participation from Catholic parishioners and staffs in the excellent educational programming that highlights the common spiritual heritage shared by the “People of the Book” (Abrahamic Religions).

I hope you will support the work of the Salaam Network, since its unique blueprint for educational cooperation at the highest level could be replicated in other communities, and many more schools and congregations could gather to listen to and learn from one another.

Joseph Grant MDiv., Minister of Peace and Justice Formation

St. William Parish

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PASSIONIST EARTH AND SPIRIT CENTER

I am writing to offer an endorsement of the nonprofit Salaam Network (TSN) of Louisville, KY, as part of that organization’s application for a 2020 Renewal Award from The Atlantic and Allstate. I am the executive director of the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center, an interfaith nonprofit spirituality center, also based in Louisville, and we have had a close, collaborative relationship with the Salaam Network since its founding. Since TSN has no physical building space, we have lent our own space for many of their planning meetings. Additionally, we help TSN promote their events through our monthly e-newsletter, and many of the participants in our programming are also involved in TSN’s events.

I believe strongly 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. With no paid staff and a minimal operating budget, TSN has nonetheless managed to execute a large number of rigorous, engaging public presentations from highly knowledgeable experts. I have no doubt that such events have built essential interfaith bridges and have helped mitigate stereotypes about the Muslim community, both in Louisville and more generally. A cornerstone of these accomplishments has been the tireless efforts of Dr. Riffat Hassan, professor emerita of the University of Louisville, along with many other committed volunteers.

An Atlantic Renewal Award would enable TSN to take the next essential step of organizational maturity and capacity building: paid staff. I heartily recommend TSN as an organization worthy of such investment and capable stewarding it well. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Kyle T. Kramer, M.Div, Executive Director

Passionist Earth and Spirit Center

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INDIANA UNIVERSITY SOUTHEAST LIBRARY

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. I urge your Committee to select the Salaam Network as the recipient of the 2020 Atlantic Renewal Award to continue their excellent work promoting peace and understanding.

Melanie E. Hughes, Library Liaison to the School of Education and Center for Cultural Resources

Indiana University Southeast Library

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ANEESAH R. NU‘MAN & FELICIA J. NU‘MAN

We are local, professional, Muslim sisters who have been familiar with Dr. Hassan’s work in our 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 – as in the rest of the country – changed drastically towards Muslims. Instead of innocuous curiosity about our religion, we were regarded with suspicion and distrust. It was, and still is a difficult time to be a Muslim and we still suffer 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, we attended a series of classes called “Contributions of Islam to World Civilizations” that The Salaam Network held 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 being challenged by learned scholars of history. We also attended the Seminar on “Normative Islamic Education for Muslim Women” and it was enlightening to listen to Dr. Hassan patiently address and dispel myths and misunderstandings. She uses non-patriarchal exegesis to interpret the text of the Qur‘an, and demonstrates to the audience that “common knowledge” about Islam and Muslim women is far from accurate.

The Salaam Network is making a great impact on our city. It helps achieve a citywide mission of Louisville being a Compassionate City and it fulfills the Network’s goal of educating people who can spread the true meaning of Islam to the world.

Aneesah R. Nu’Man, High School Teacher & Felicia J. Nu’Man, Attorney

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MAKESHA LAUN

I write in encouragement and support of The Salaam Network of Louisville, KY, for the 2020 Atlantic Renewal Awards.

The work that TSN 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. Bringing people together who 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 is driving so many disturbing 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 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 hope you’ll agree that the importance of this work cannot be overstated.

Makesha Laun, Advanced Application Engineer

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ADEL S. ELMAGHRABY

It is my pleasure to write this letter in support of in support of The Salaam Network (TSN) is applying for the 2020 Atlantic Renewals Award. And it exactly meets the purpose of this Award as it is a non-profit organization serving our local communities. Louisville is a city with many diverse people from different religious, cultural and ethnic backgrounds. This diversity created many different religious institutions (Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and others) which creates a need to create a systematic bridge-building effort amongst them. The Salaam Network (TSN) is itself composed of a diverse 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. TSN was founded in 2016 and has been active in providing presentations to enhance the fundamental understanding of the different religions and addressing important issues such as rights of Muslim Women and of LGBTQ. TSN may be a relatively small organization with very limited financial resources but it is already making a significant contribution to Louisville.

This grant will allow TSN to expand its work and disseminate the presentations and knowledge to a larger audience. This effort is needed to educate the majority about the “other” who are becoming more vulnerable across our society.

Adel S. Elmaghraby, J.B. Speed School of Engineering

J. B. Speed School of Engineering, University of Louisville

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THOMAS JEFFERSON UNITARIAN CHURCH

This is to communicate our appreciation for the hugely important work currently being performed by The Salaam 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 members of the Muslim faith. The misinformation that exists 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 Salaam 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 Salaam 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 and Marilyn Snyder Cochairs, Adult Religious Exploration Committee

www.tjuc.org

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DR. JOSEPH BRENNAN

I am glad that the Atlantic Renewal Awards offer The Salaam Network (TSN) the possibility of extending its educational efforts throughout Louisville. Since its earliest days, TSN has successfully obtained the participation of leading scholars and community leaders in presenting programs for understanding and peace in Louisville.

TSN has presented a broad scope of presentations combating Islamophobia, while addressing theological issues such as the role of women in different faith traditions, Muslim history and culture, and differing traditional religious practices that reflect common roots. It has united persons of differing religions – especially the three Abrahamic faith-traditions – to engage in face to face dialogue, eliminating previous misconceptions that create fear and mistrust.

TSN has contacted the local Chief of Police and the Superintendent of our Public School System, offering the opportunity of orienting their staffs in the areas of understanding Muslim culture, Muslim family relationships, and difficulties that such families might encounter in interacting with public employees. Undoubtedly, educating people about fundamental Islamic beliefs and practices will foster a greater understanding of the Muslim community.

There is a serious limitation among young Muslims, especially female Muslims, who want to develop their understanding of their Muslim faith, and more especially a deeper understanding of the words and teachings which are actually found in the Quran. Fortunately, TSN has the services of Dr. Riffat Hassan, who is one of the few internationally recognized Quranic scholars in the world. Her specialty for the past forty years has been the presentation of what is actually written in the sacred scripture, what is the true meaning of the words of the Prophet of Islam, and what ought to be the manner in which normative Islamic teachings are enacted by contemporary Muslims.

Dr. Hassan focuses on the rights and role of women as it is revealed in the text of the Quran. Unfortunately, the role of women has been misunderstood, and the words of the sacred text have been seen through the lens of cultural practices and customs that do not conform to the actual content of the Quran. It is hoped that these unique courses will provide the women participants with a new understanding of their role within the Muslim community. In time this will help to transform the wider gathering of women and enable them to take their rightful place in the larger Muslim community.

Since its start in mid-2016, TSN has offered Louisville more than sixty programs and presentations including some consisting of four or more sessions each. Most of these sessions have been recorded and are awaiting the resources needed to distribute them throughout the community, and via internet to other communities. TSN also maintains its own website which lists all its programs, presentations and presenters. With greater resources TSN will be able to make its educational materials available to other like-minded organizations.

One of TSN’s primary goals is to educate Louisville and the surrounding area about the realities of Islam and the Muslim community. It is mindful of the fact that confronting current misunderstanding and Islamophobic fears, is a major challenge. Our committed presenters are convinced however, that their efforts are essential to creating the “compassionate” city that our elected leaders desire.

TSN has worked very hard for three and a half years to contribute toward building a culture of knowledge and dialogue in our city. I have no doubt that with additional means it will be able to do much more to bring harmony and wholeness to our diverse community, making Louisville a model of peace and understanding that other cities may wish to replicate.

Dr. Joseph Brennan, D.S.W., M.Div.

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JAMES R. TOMPKINS III

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 R. Tompkins, Professor Emeritus, University of Louisville

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DOUGLASS BOULEVARD CHRISTIAN CHURCH

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.

Dr. Derek L. Penwell, Senior Pastor

Douglass Boulevard Christian Church

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FARIBA NOWROUZI KASHAN

It is my great pleasure to write this letter to strongly support The Salaam Network (TSN) of Louisville, KY, for the 2020 Atlantic Renewals Award. At this time, more than ever before, we need to bring people together regardless of their beliefs to establish peace and justice in our community. I am a Muslim woman with a Ph. D in Applied Mathematics from the University of Louisville. Currently, I am a faculty member at Kentucky State University. Aside from my professional 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 and work as one of its core members.

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 Qur’an and the life of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) without any prejudgments and from multiple perspectives. TSN has been extremely effective in spreading awareness regarding 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 settings.

All conducted programs and presentations by The Salaam Network are listed and can be found in https://salaamnetwork.org/programs/. It verifies that TSN’s educational mission has advanced in various ways over time since its start in 2016. Its programs have provided free education not only about Islam, but have also highlighted the common values among different religions, especially amongst the three Abrahamic religions.

TSN has worked very hard since its inception to contribute toward building a culture of knowledge and dialogue in our city. I am sure that if TSN is awarded the 2020 Atlantic Renewals, it would be able to do much more to bring harmony to our diverse community, making Louisville truly a “City of Compassion” with a high level of understanding of, and respect for, all the individuals and groups that live in it in an atmosphere of equality and equity.

Fariba Nowrouzi Kashan, Ph.D. Mathematics Department

Kentucky State University

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ELLEN SISTI WADE, THOMAS JEFFERSON UNITARIAN CHURCH

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

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DR. M. SALEEM SEYAL

I have been a practicing Cardiologist in the Louisville area for 36 years. Being a Muslim, I am keenly aware of the increasing xenophobia and islamophobia in our community. Under the leadership of Dr. Riffat Hassan, The Salaam Network (TSN) has recruited highly qualified educators from diverse backgrounds who have helped disseminate the commonality of not only the three monotheistic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – but other faith traditions as well. I have an abiding interest in interfaith harmony and have strived through my presentations in TSN programs to improve interreligious understanding.

Through my presentations on Islamic Contributions to Western Civilization, Islamic Calligraphy, and Islamic Mysticism, I have aimed to disseminate knowledge about significant aspects of Islamic history, art and spirituality, in our local community. It is a sad fact that Islamic Contributions to Western Civilization and the remarkable “Convivencia” in Andalusian Spain when Muslims, Jews and Christians lived and worked together in relative peace, are not commonly taught in Western history books. Not many Americans know that while Europe stagnated a thousand years ago during the “Dark Ages”, the rich culture of the “Golden Age of Islam” was creating breakthroughs in higher mathematics, science, medicine, philosophy, architecture, and literature. This laid the foundation of the European Renaissance. Apathy towards the astounding achievements of Islamic Societies can be explained, at least partly, by the ignorance and indifference – if not hostility – of Western societies. Through my presentation, I endeavor to bridge an important gap in our education about the history of Western Civilization.

Though Rumi is well-known in the U.S. not much is known about Islamic Art and Mysticism. Through my presentation on “Divine Penmanship – Islamic Calligraphy,” I demonstrate the profound connection between seekers of God and their Beloved who is Rabb al ‘alameen (God of all peoples and universes). Islamic Art is focused on representing the divinely-revealed words of the Qur’an, making Calligraphy the highest of all art-forms for Muslims.

Islamic mysticism is the spiritual dimension of Islam focused on a believer’s quest to be close to God. It is practiced through chanted recitation called Zikr – remembrance of God’s names – and sometimes includes dance and music. My presentation explores the origin, history and evolution of Islamic mysticism into modern times. Education about the mystical or spiritual dimension of Islam is an effective counter-balance to the stereotype of Islam as a militant religion.

The Salaam Network programs are offered to the public at many accessible venues such as local churches, synagogues, mosques, Public Library branches, and other local venues. It is inspiring to witness people coming together to learn and understand other religions and cultures and promote peace through knowledge. I am honored to be a part of this important and worthwhile venture.

Dr. M. Saleem Seyal MD, FACC, FACP, Cardiologist

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SR. JEANA VISEL, OSB

I write to show my support to the efforts of the Salaam Network at promoting greater understanding of different religious traditions. I spoke on “Fasting in Christianity” for one of their gatherings and I learned much from the Jewish and Muslim speakers who addressed the topic from their own tradition. In an era of much religious illiteracy, it is helpful to provide spaces for such shared conversations.

Sr. Jeana Visel, OSB

St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology, Ferdinand, Indiana

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REVIEWS OF THE SALAAM NETWORK POSTED ON THE GREATNONPROFITS.ORG WEBSITE (2019)

DR. M. SALEEM SEYAL

(Core Member) 12/07/2019

The Salaam Network (TSN) is the brain child of a distinguished educator and bridge-builder, Dr. Riffat Hassan. 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 interfaith harmony in our age of division, walls and xenophobia.

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PROFESSOR DAVID HORVATH

(Advisor) 12/07/2019

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. Though amazing programming and educational effort, the organization has made our area a shining example of compassion, interreligious dialogue and just relationships.

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Ms. ANEESAH NU‘MAN & Ms. FELICIA NU‘MAN

(General Members of the Public) 12/08/2019

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, we 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.

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MIRZA ASLAM BEG

(Core Member) 12/08/2019

Since the inception of The Salaam Network (TSN) 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

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SISTER KATHRYN M. HUBER, OSB

(Volunteer) 12/08/2019

I, Sister Kathryn Huber OSB, have been connected with The Salaam Network (TSN) and its founder, Dr. Riffat 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 – Judaism, 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.

In Peace,

Sister Kathryn M. Huber, OSB, M.A.,Monastery Immaculate Conception,

802 E 10th St., Ferdinand, IN 47532

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DR. MATTHEW PIERCE

(Professional with expertise in this field) 12/08/2019

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.

Matthew Pierce, Associate Professor of Religion, Centre College, Danville, KY

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AMY O’KOON

(General Member of the Public) 12/09/2019

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 The Salaam Network is doing is exceptional. What a resource for Louisville!

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JOSEPH GRANT

(General Member of the Public) 12/09/2019

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.

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MAKESHA LAUN

(Volunteer) 12/11/2019

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 TSNTSN 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.

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DR. MARY ANN STENGER

(Professional with expertise in this field) 12/11/2019

I write to strongly endorse The Salaam Network in Louisville, Kentucky. 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 “The 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 community 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.

Mary Ann Stenger, Professor Emerita, Humanities (Religious Studies), University of Louisville

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DR. IBRAHIM SYED

(General Member of the Public) 12/11/2019

The Salaam Network is to be appreciated and applauded for its educational mission in various ways. Since 2016 The Salaam Network has presented a large number of programs free-of-cost to the Louisville community, and has been managing on donations given by members and supporters. It has the potential to do much more both in terms of additional programs and in terms of disseminating their spoken and written word.

It has presented its 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 the University of Louisville. I have attended many of its educational programs. I can testify that their programs are of a very high quality and present a great deal of information which facilitates interfaith dialogue and communal harmony which will result in peace and understanding.

I am proud of The Salaam Network Inc. for its outstanding work, dedication and service.

Dr. Ibrahim B. Syed, President, Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc., Louisville

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SOPHIE MAIER

(Volunteer) 12/12/2019

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.”

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The 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 Kentucky 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 Kentucky-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 dialogue and community building in a time when civil discourse and education about one another is truly vital to the growth of our democracy.

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HAMZA FOY

(Volunteer) 12/12/2009

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 Christian-Islamic interactions in late antiquity and medieval Andalusia 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.

Sincerely,

Hamza Foy, Board Member at Guiding Light Islamic Center