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US Faiths Launch Know Your Neighbor Campaign

WASHINGTON – At a time of growing level of assaults and intimidation against Muslim Americans, the Islamic Networks Group has partnered with 70 interfaith organizations to launch a “Know Your Neighbor” campaign.

“We believe that if enough Americans join our campaign by participating in one or two simple actions of encounter, we can push back effectively against the division and polarization that have become toxic to our national life,” Maha Elgenaidi of ING told National Catholic Reporter.

Kicked off on July 20, the Know Your Neighbor Campaign will run for a week to conclude next July 27.

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It “is an effort of compassionate resistance against increasing polarization in the country along political, religious, and cultural divisions,” a statement by the Council on American Islamic Relations read.

“Decades of social science research have shown that personal contact with members of groups you are unfamiliar with is the most effective way to dispel prejudice, and the Know Your Neighbor campaign offers tips, tools, and guides, to help with that exchange.”

The initiative comes as a direct response to events such as the Portland stabbings and ACT for America’s anti-Shariah marches scheduled for June 10 in over 25 cities.

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Corey Saylor, a director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said during a news conference June 8 that anti-Muslim hate crimes had increased 44 percent in CAIR’s 2016 report.

He cited President Trump’s proposed travel ban and other comments as a factor, which he said “conditions the public to accept measures against Muslims that may be extreme.”

“In many ways, the only significant way to push back against that, at a local level, is getting people together and letting them get to know one another.”

The number of anti-Semitic events has also increased, said David Bernstein, president and CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs.

Since the election, anti-Semitism incidents have risen 86 percent over last year, however, Muslim and Catholic community were quick to offer help.

“At a time when we are most concerned about what’s happening in our political system, concerned about changes in certain segments of American society,” he said.

“We are also most optimistic about the prospect for expanding our connections and developing a more cohesive interfaith community in this country.”