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Building Tolerance – Tafahum

Tafahum is the Arabic word for “understanding”. The Tafahum initiative counters bigotry and promotes tolerance. In the aftermath of September 11, we need to develop a new discourse and climate of understanding. The Muslim community must actively censure hate speech made in the name of Islam and defend against anti-Muslim bias in American society. Tafahum programs include:

Denouncing Hate Speech and Religious Intolerance:

Hateful speech sows the seeds of violence and persecution. From the Nazis to the Ku Klux Klan to Al-Qaeda, ideologies and rhetoric of hate can have brutal consequences. Leaders who make derogatory statements about Islam and ordinary citizens who stereotype Muslims create an environment of discrimination and bias against proud Americans. Muslim Americans who remain silent in the face of hate speech by fellow Muslims only make matters worse. Read Spotlight on Bigotry: Franklin Graham’s Vision of Islam for more on this vicious circle. To help American Muslims respond to incidents of intolerance – whether directed against Muslims or issued by Muslims – see Responding to Hate Speech: A Citizen’s Guide.

Tools for Teaching Tolerance:

American parents and educators need sensitive, insightful information to help discuss the September 11 attacks with children. Our Teachers Guide on Islam and September 11 provides important materials for contextualizing the recent terrorist attacks and for deepening respect for the richness of Islam and Muslim civilization. At the same time, we are producing foreign-language guides for parents and educators in the Muslim world to better understand America and the Muslim experience in America.

Intra-Muslim Diversity:

We are committed to strengthening the American Muslim community across gender, race, national-origin, and religious strains. The rainbow of Muslim life in America can serve as a model for resolving conflicts in the Muslim world and beyond. At the same time, we need to bridge the racial gaps that exist within the Muslim community, especially between African-American Muslims and immigrant Muslim communities. And we need to ensure that women are empowered as community leaders.

Children of Abraham Peace Project:

The rhetoric of Usama bin Laden, reports of minority persecution in the Muslim world, and the religious tone of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have exacerbated tensions between Muslims, Christians, and Jews. As common descendants of Abraham, we all have a responsibility to develop a new dialogue of peace and understanding. The Children of Abraham Peace Project is the American Islamic Congress’ effort to strengthen interfaith collaboration in the United States.


Widely-held stereotypes regard Muslims as violent, chauvinist, and muzzling. AIC’s programs challenge this perception – and the reality that drives it. Our work promotes Nonviolence, Women’s Equality, & Free Expression< via these thematic campaigns:

      • “No Buts”: Unequivocally denouncing terrorism without rationalizations and providing nonviolence training for young reformers
      • “50/50”: Treating Muslim women as equal partners in communities at home and abroad, including leadership roles, civic rights, and an end to ‘honor killings’
      • “Think Different”: Supporting free speech advocates, bloggers, and activists under fire – and highlighting under-reported reform efforts in Muslim world.

These campaigns are advanced through specific efforts on American campuses, via interfaith community dialogue, on Capitol Hill, within the Mideast civil rights movement, on the ground supporting Iraqi women civic leaders, and media outreach.

View our spotlight campaigns and learn how you can get involved.

American Islamic Congress

Muslims have been profoundly influenced by their encounter with America. American Muslims are a minority group, largely comprising African-Americans, immigrants, and children of immigrants, who have prospered in America’s climate of religious tolerance and civil rights. The lessons of our unprecedented experience of acceptance and success must be carefully considered by our community.

  • American Muslims must champion pluralism and condemn all forms of intolerance. American Muslims have a vested interest in the strength of religious freedom and democracy. Because Muslims are relative newcomers to America, we must work to guarantee our equal rights and prevent hate crimes. At the same time, we must condemn hate speech and calls for violence by Muslims. Hateful statements and actions by fellow Muslims threaten the reputation of our entire community. We must censure intolerance, whatever its source.
  • American Muslims must be leading ambassadors to the Muslim world. America has been a haven for Islam. American Muslims must educate the Muslim world about the remarkable freedoms and coexistence we enjoy here. Calls for “Death to America” and the murder of Americans are an attack on millions of Muslims who are proud to call themselves American. Virulent anti-American rhetoric and action by radicalized Muslims threaten our country, our freedom, and our democracy.
  • American Muslims must recognize and celebrate our own diversity. Our community comprises individuals of various religious strains, ethnic and racial backgrounds, and political outlooks. We embody the spirit of American diversity and represent a rainbow of humanity. By celebrating diversity and building bridges within our own community, we help strengthen American society.
  • All Muslims should enjoy the social and economic prosperity experienced by American Muslims. We owe our strength and success in part to classic American principles of individual rights and social justice. And, as Americans, we are citizens of a nation that has prospered greatly in the global economy. But in much of the Muslim world, wide income disparities, high unemployment, economic underdevelopment, and limited individual rights create a fertile ground for despair and extremism. We should strive to improve economic conditions and individual freedom in the Muslim world.
  • American Muslims must champion the rights of minorities in the Muslim world. We know firsthand the importance of protecting the full rights of minority communities. One of our gifts to the larger Muslim world must be a new emphasis on considering and protecting the rights of minorities. This includes a painful reckoning with past and present episodes of intolerance in the Muslim world – and a commitment to progress in the future.

If you support this statement of principles, make sure to sign our petition. Click here.

Download the Statement of Principles as a PDF file.

Arcadia University to Host Project Nur Dinner, Nov. 13

Reem Sharhan of Project Nur, second from left, met with Arcadia University leadership to discuss bringing Project Nur to campus.

On Oct. 11, President Carl (Tobey) Oxholm III, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Steve O. Michael, Associate Dean for Institutional Diversity Judith Dalton, and Assistant Professor of History and International Studies Samer Abboud met with Reem Sharhan, a representative of Project Nur, a student-led social justice advocacy group that promotes mutual respect between Muslims and all communities. The small assembly discussed a shared vision and recognized the opportunity to collaborate with the organization and implement Project Nur at Arcadia.

To further develop this initiative, the University will host a Project Nur dinner, open to various members of the campus community on Tuesday, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m. in Commons Meeting Rooms 2 and 3.

“The basic mission of Project Nur mirrors our student-led Multicultural Organization Coalition, which seeks to create a space where student clubs and organizations can meet to further develop an appreciation for our diverse community through dialogue, relationship building, collaboration, and providing support for events and programs,” says Dalton. “Project Nur will be a very welcomed addition to our efforts of creating an informed, educated and more inclusive community. My hope is by working along with Project Nur, that our Islamic and Muslim students, staff and faculty will know that we are supportive and they will become more involved within the life of the university.”