Building bridges of understanding

Daily News Egypt
6 Min Read

Organization works to teach people how to present Islam

CAIRO: To prepare its recently hired American employees for their new life in Cairo, the American Embassy in Egypt, in coordination with the Bridges Foundation, has organized a lecture about how to live in an Islamic country.

The lecture was given by Fadel Soliman, founder of the Bridges Foundation and former imam of the American University in Washington, D.C. Some of the topics discussed were how to avoid embarrassing situations and misunderstandings that might occur due to the differences in cultures and religions.

Soliman established the Bridges Foundation in 2003, the first international organization aimed at bridging the gap between people from different religious and ethnic backgrounds through educational interfaith activities, including power point presentations, gatherings and discussions.

“Bridging people and creating peace through education is our main goal in Bridges, says Soliman.

The Bridges Foundation has two divisions, the first of which is the Public Presenters for Peace (PPP), a group of certified presenters, specialized in presenting the true values of Islam to non-Muslims in a variety of languages. They use power point presentations to address many sensitive issues like jihad, the status of women in Islam, human rights and the veil (Muslim women’s headdress). These presentations have been presented to thousands of people in the United States and Europe, correcting many misconceptions about these topics.

“I attended “How to refute misconceptions about Islam, one of the workshops organized by Bridges, and now I can confidently stand strong and answer questions regarding this topic, says Yasmine Abou El-Naga, business consultant and one of the attendees of the workshops.

The second division of the group is the International Institute for Training Presenters (IITP), an institute that trains Muslims on how to appropriately present Islam to non-Muslims, answer the questions raised and handle the misconceptions non-Muslims have about Islam, all with honesty and professionalism. The training is acquired through a 15-hour workshop after which each attendant receives an attendance certificate.

Presentations and lectures have been given in different places around the world, including the United States, Malaysia, Denmark and other countries. Soliman achieved great success while presenting his lecture to the former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahatir Mohamed.

Soliman’s greatest concern these days is getting his film, The Fog is Lifting, finished. The movie is a two-hour documentary presenting Islam to non-Muslims and speaking about Islam’s main fundamentals.Soliman is paying for the movie’s production from his own pocket and so the process is taking more time than expected. Volunteers are most welcomed to assist in any way in helping the movie come to light, says Soliman.

Soliman will convey his message to people in a series of three documentaries, starting with The Fog is Lifting, followed by Islam: Is it a religion of peace or a religion of war, and a third about women in Islam.

In the wake of the cartoon incident in Denmark last March, what has been finished of The Fog is Lifting was shown to Danish journalists and they admitted that their perception of Prophet Mohamed had changed. According to surveys and questionnaires distributed to those who attended, 97 percent said that people around the world need that kind of awareness.

While fighting hard to produce the documentary, Soliman and his team are also working on printing Knud Holmboe’s book The Desert Encounter. Holmboe is a Danish journalist who converted to Islam in the ’30s and was killed by Mussolini in a fight for freedom of expression.

The Bridges Foundation is presenting an annual award for excellence in the name of Holmboe, for Danish journalists who promote dialogue. The award includes 5,000 euros, two tickets to Egypt, including accommodation, and a crystal trophy.

“Bridges is a spirit that flows in society, says Soliman. He hopes that people volunteer in Bridges to help them achieve their goals of making the world a better place and helping people live in harmony.

Soliman used to have a marketing company in the United States, but after the 9/11 attack, which he said changed his life, he returned to Egypt and started new activities to promote Islam and clarify its image in the eyes of non-Muslims.

“After the September 11 attack, Americans sympathized with Muslims, but the poison the media kept injecting in Americans’ brains, turned them against Islam, says Soliman, and that was one of the main reasons why he decided to pursue his career in promoting Islam’s true image.

For more information or to contact the Bridges Foundation organizers, log on their Web site www.bridges-foundation.org or send an e-mail to [email protected]. Tel. (+) 2 02 670 5553.

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