An Interactive Website about Muslims in America
New York: Huge numbers of Americans profess to having little knowledge of Islam despite the fact that there are as many as five million American Muslims. Intersections, a multi-cultural and multi-faith initiative of The Collegiate Church of New York, announces the September 24 launch of a unique on-line resource ChangeTheStory.net, that addresses this lack of understanding.
ChangeTheStory.net offers an interactive experience where users can meet their neighbors, learn about Islam and apply techniques of interfaith dialogue and action to local communities. The primary audiences for the website are educators, religious leaders and individuals concerned about building bridges of understanding across lines of faith and culture.
Intersections has made its mark on New York City by forging common ground for global social justice among diverse individuals and communities.
“Our goal is to build an interactive experience for concerned individuals, educators and religious leaders that helps to change the stereotypical narratives about Muslims that so dominates our media and prevailing public perceptions about Muslim communities in this country and around the world,” said the Rev. Robert Chase, Founding Director of Intersections. “We wanted to create something groundbreaking, distinctive, and totally compelling, something that Muslims and non-Muslims alike can call their own.”
Intersections enlisted a nationally known team of writers, theologians, video producers and web designers to develop this resource. ChangeTheStory.net is designed to be informative, interactive, and user-friendly. It has a youthful look, yet will appeal to all ages. The content is designed to connect people with informative resources and an array of tools for networking. ChangeTheStory.net also allows people to tell their own stories of being Muslim in America.
“It has been an honor to work on this project,” says Munir Shaikh, a doctoral student in Islamic Studies at UCLA and a member of the writing team for ChangeTheStory.net. “I don’t know of another visually-appealing resource like this anywhere that is so informative for such a variety of audiences.”
Some examples of the sections offered:
- Meet Your Neighbor – allows Muslims and non-Muslims to get to know each other on a one-to-one basis, through videos and personal narratives. There is a map of Muslim communities in the US; listings of exchange programs, university groups, and links to activities that connect people to discuss relationships and tell stories of friendship and common experience.
- Change the Story – addresses the many myths, prejudices and misinformation about Muslims and breaks down stereotypes. It offers a timeline of the history of Muslims in the US (for example, Morocco — a Muslim country — was the first nation to formally recognize the US); comparisons of sacred texts and historical writings of the three Abrahamic faiths; Muslim women discussing head-coverings and dress codes; and an Abrahamic faith calendar of holidays for communities who want to share rituals and celebrations.
- Change the World includes recommendations from the larger Report; pointers on how to write Op-Ed essays, and letters to senators, representatives and local officials. It has the words of faith leaders speaking out, links to service projects and other suggestions on how to meet your Muslim neighbors.
- For Educators and For Religion Leaders contains educational materials, curriculum outlines, leader’s discussion guides, links to student exchange programs, and resources for films and books.
- For Concerned Individuals offers enlightening statistics from the Report, cutting edge videos and documentaries, interactive blogs, and other tools for people to network nationwide.
ChangeTheStory.net was inspired by a new and major report, Changing Course A New Direction for US Relations with the Muslim World. The report was compiled by the Leadership Group on US Muslim Engagement, comprised of more than thirty American leaders with expertise in foreign policy, politics, public opinion, business, religion, education, psychology, philanthropy, national security, and conflict resolution. These members include such luminaries as Madeleine Albright, Stephen Covey, Daniel Yankelovich, Vin Weber and Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf. Their report was released on September 24th at the National Press Club in Washington , DC.
The Report offers recommendations, strategies, and actions that the US can take to improve relations with Muslims across the world. The US-Muslim Engagement Project Leadership Group was convened by two organizations, Search for Common Ground and the Consensus Building Institute.
ChangeTheStory.net has been developed in cooperation and consultation with the staff of these two organizations. Intersections is responsible for all content on ChangeTheStory.net. This unique website serves as an example of how increased understanding and respect can cross lines of faith and culture.