Guest post from Ruhi Shamim

As a 2008 “Innovators in Cultural Diplomacy” fellow, an initiative brought to you by Americans for Informed Democracy (www.aidemocracy.org), I gained a deeper understanding of the current progressive Muslim American identity movement. While the identity issue at hand has personal significance to me as a Muslim American, it is my commitment to the bigger picture of an inclusive, diverse democracy that fuels my work in this field.

My initiative, “The Crescent Project” was developed in response to the need to organize the Muslim community on my campus based on a common principle of open dialogue that did not exclude self-identified Muslims who have diverse views, practices, and experiences. I reached out to upperclassmen who have achieved leadership positions in a variety of aspects of the university culture (athletics, student government, grassroots organizing, the arts, the sciences, etc..) and who also represent the diversity of the Muslim experience (Black Muslims, International Students, Shi’as, Sufis, Converts, Secular Muslims…) to create a network of support for incoming freshman who are negotiating identity questions upon arriving at college. We wanted to encourage Muslim youth to be engaged in the university community without being pigeon-holed as the token Muslim and without giving up their connection to the Muslim identity and heritage. Through this project, we created open dialogue for alternate views and a forum for active community engagement.

The Muslim community in America is undergoing an important shift as first-generation born Americans who identify with Muslim culture assume leadership positions in the community. This social shift includes a revival of Islamic intellectualism, arts, and culture tied inextricably with active involvement in American and Global affairs, via politics, environmentalism, public health, public policy, and grassroots organizing. The platform for this shift is a commitment to diversity and pluralism within the Muslim American community, an active anti-violence and anti-oppression stance, and an active, informed, peaceful engagement with the larger community and environment.

A variety of civic engagement organizations, like Project Nur, (www.projectnur.org), are working to raise awareness about the diverse Muslim identity and shatter negative and misleading stereotypes about Muslims. Project Nur specifically focuses on spreading the movement to universities across the nation, training student leaders to facilitate open dialogue, and creating opportunities to be active in humanitarian issues. Project Nur is collaborating with Americans for Informed Democracy to build bridges across in order to reach out to youth via videoconferences and other cultural events. This is indicative of a larger social movement which seeks to include Muslims in the active American experience, shifting general public views towards progressive, inclusive open-mindedness and peaceful, strategic, informed action.

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