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Facing Islamophobia: Building Bridges of Peace and Unity

General Assembly 2014 Event 407

This event was sponsored by Peace and Unity Bridge.

Program Description

This worship invites non-Muslims to understand Islam, bridge the dangerous chasm between Muslims and non-Muslims, and explore life lessons from the inspiring Islamic tradition. We’ll raise a collective prayer for love, healing and understanding among Muslims and non-Muslims. After, we’ll share info on tested programs and educational resources for next steps.


  • Rev. Dr. M’ellen Kennedy
  • Jaye Starr

Peace and Unity Bridge (PUB)

Cultivating Understanding and Friendship among Non-Muslims and Muslims

A Project of the Washington UU Church, Washington, VT

Funded in part by a Grant from the Fund for Unitarian Universalist Social Responsibility


To address Islamophobia and to cultivate understanding and friendship among non-Muslims and Muslims. This project, in its third year, offers resources to counter the severe and dangerous tensions, misunderstandings and animosity across the faith and cultural groups. The project helps members of UU congregations and others to open hearts and minds to valuable life lessons found in the powerful and inspiring religious tradition of Islam. In these trying times when Islam and Muslims are being targeted, we have the opportunity to inform ourselves and speak up for tolerance and understanding. A main aim of the project is for non-Muslims to become familiar with Islam and Muslims, so we need not be fearful out of ignorance.


The Workshop “Facing Islamophobia.”

This workshop includes a presentation on the basics of Islam and the value of facing what it is that may be unfamiliar; small group discussion, a lunch of food from Islamic cultures; and a panel of Muslim spokespeople. If You’d like to host the workshop, please be in touch. It lasts between 4 to 6 hours. The Fund for UU Social Responsibility was so pleased with the first year of work, that they more than doubled the funding for our second year. Here is a comment from a participant at the workshop in March.

“Because of the way the workshop was organized by Rev. Kennedy and the communication skills of the Muslims on the panel (and the small group discussions, this was the best workshop dealing with human interaction and gaining a better understanding of people other than myself that I have ever attended. Rev. Kennedy does an excellent job in fulfilling a need for more understanding of Islam at a time when the need is acute.” Neil Richardson, member of St John's Episcopal Church in Randolph, VT, and an active member of Vermonters for a Just Peace in Palestine/Israel

The Web Site

The web site has the following materials: Events, Programs, Resources, Worship Resources, Links to Useful Web Sites, and Project Advisors. The Religious Education Materials (under Resources) in particular lists documentary films about Islam with small group discussion ground rules and guidelines. Overall the web site is meant to be a resource for congregations on addressing Islamophobia.

Featured Film: Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslis Really Think. We highly recommend this eye-opening one-hour documentary of a Gallop poll. Great for Adult Religious Education.

The Lectures/Sermons “What I Love About Islam”& “The Veil and Other Costumes and Customs”

Rev. Kennedy is available to offer a lectures or sermons on Islam. The information and ideas are offered in an engaging manner that truly helps non-Muslims relate to the power of the Islamic tradition. Perhaps this comment from a past participant in a program is the best example of the impact of this program.

We were privileged to have Rev. M'ellen Kennedy come speak to us in a program entitled, ‘What I about Love Islam’ as part of an All About Islam Series I coordinated in the Fall of 2011 in Durham, NH for the seacoast's Active Retirement Association. We had a large audience of about 80 academics and professionals of all genres for this special event and Rev. Kennedy made an indelible impression. These very educated participants went away very enlightened. And given our respective ages, this is no small achievement. Our group is still talking about the way she conveyed both her passion and knowledge of Islam. So inspirational was M'ellen, that the group continues to spread the memory of her love of the subject and the import of the Qur'an. Rev. Kennedy is a unique spokeswoman for Islam. We all need her voice as we try to build bi-cultural bridges and establish ongoing dialogue to combat distorted, destructive Islamophobia.” Carol Selberg, President, Active Retirement Association, Durham, NH

Endorsement by Muslim Colleagues

“I have come to know the outstanding work that Rev. M’ellen Kennedy has been carrying out in various communities in New England. Her work has been critical to promote tolerance, understanding, and respect between various religious groups. It is also one that seeks to build bridges between communities through which they can exchange, cooperate, and promote the well-being of their future generations.

“In my capacity as an Imam (religious and community leader) for over two decades, I have seen many faces of intolerance and extremism…. I have also seen attempts by some interfaith groups and other citizens to present different conciliatory views, or allow such different views to be expressed. … Rev. Kennedy’s activities in this regard have so far shown to be among the very few that require our strong support and the support of all people of conscience. M’ellen has been able to reach out and touch the hearts of ordinary people in a unique and effective way.

Mohamed Ibrahim, Ph.D. Imam and Director, Islamic Society of the Seacoast Area, Dover, NH

Resources, Books, Links, Movies, Articles, etc

  • “The Footsteps of the Prophet” by Tariq Ramadan
  • “The Story of the Quran” by Ingrid Mattson
  • “The Muslim Next Door” by Sumbul Ali-Karamali
  • “On Being Muslim” by Farid Eseck
  • “No God but God” by Reza Aslan
  • “Who Speaks for Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think” by Esposito & Mogahed
  • “What is Sufism” by Martin Lings
  • “Islam: A Brief History” by Karen Armstrong
  • “History of Muslims in America” (PDF, 104 pages) by the United States State Department

UU Specific Resources

  • Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful Signs : A Treasury of Islamic Wisdom for Children and Parents, by Sarah Conover and Freda Crane
  • Muhammad: The Story of a Prophet and Reformer, by Sarah Conover, with a foreword by Eboo Patel,
  • Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice, and the Promise of America, by Eboo Patel, Beacon Press (Eboo Patel is the founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core and the author of Acts of Faith.
  • An Urgent Encounter with Islam, A reading List in the Aftermath of 9/11 is an article by Rosemary Bray McNatt in the January/February 2002 issue of UU World.
  • Islam and Gender: The Slippery Slope of Interfaith Dialogues was a talk given at UUA General Assembly in 2007 by Dr. Amina Wadud, professor of Islamic studies at Virginia Commonwealth University known for her feminist interpretations of Islam.
  • Why I am fasting for Ramadan: A Unitarian Universalist embraces a month-long discipline of letting go, is an article in UU World by Abhi Janamanchi
  • Unitarian Universalists and Islam: An Introduction to Interfaith Dialogue And Reading Group Guide is a 12-page pdf resource produced by the UUA Washington Office of Advocacy. It includes a study guide to the book, No god but God: The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam by Reza Aslan.
  • Standing on the Side of Love is a coalition of religious liberals, many Unitarian Universalist, actively “Harnessing Love’s Power to Stop Oppression.” They have lots of resources for congregations and activists aiming to integrate their faithful hearts into social justice work.

National Resources on Islamophobia

  • Shoulder to Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims; Upholding American Values “is an interfaith organization dedicated to ending anti-Muslim sentiment by strengthening the voice of freedom and peace. Founded in November 2010 by over 20 national religious groups, Shoulder-to-Shoulder works not only on a national level, but offers strategies and support to local and regional efforts to address anti-Muslim sentiment and seeks to spread the word abroad.” The Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations joins a number of other national religious bodies as members of this initiative.
  • Fear, Inc. Report from the Center for American Progress

Audio recordings of General Assembly (GA) programs are available for purchase. Every GA 2014 registrant has access to all of the 2014 audio content at no charge.

Ayat Jamilah: Beautiful Signs A Treasury of Islamic Wisdom for Children and Parents

By Sarah Conover, Valerie Wahl

From Skinner House Books

"Many of the tales from Ayat Jamilah will make excellent read-alouds, and the adapters have done a magnificent job of collecting stories from throughout the Islamic world, from China to Africa to the Middle East." — John Green, The American Library Association.

Buy This Book