One local organization wishes to define the teachings of Islam by separating religion from culture and politics.
The Emerald Project is a Salt Lake City-based non-profit organization that seeks to combat Islamophobia by engaging in dynamic dialogue with the greater community.
Emerald Project members can be found hosting private classroom talks at the University of Utah and Utah Valley University. Some students at Salt Lake Community College have also had the opportunity to engage with them in classroom sessions. Additionally, the group has presented to The American Association of Women Psychologists and the FBI, and trained the UTA Police force.
Led by Satin Tashnizi, Faeiza Javed, and Nora Abudan, the Emerald Project kickstarted their mission after winning the SLCC Shark Tank Award in 2017. Their presentation had judges personally donating to their cause.
This idea is a response to fears caused by 9/11, as well as travel bans in place for people from mostly Islamic countries. The public may not know exactly why these laws have been put in place. Some see these laws as being used by lawmakers to legitimize ideological causes, and that it is a political issue, not a national security problem.
“Public opinion has an impact on national and local decision making. There are real repercussions in being afraid of the wrong things,” Tashnizi says.
Tashnizi studied political science with an emphasis in Middle Eastern studies in college and wishes to use what she has learned to help other Muslims feel accepted in their community.
When Islam is tied with extremism in mainstream media sources, the definition of both can be blurred. Tashnizi hopes to talk with people who have misconceptions of Islam and those who are curious and want to know if what is portrayed in television, radio and movies is accurate.
The team hopes to be noticed by the Muslim community who may be experiencing negative effects of how they are portrayed in media. The Emerald Project looks to reach more people with their new campaign that is dedicated to sharing the stories of Muslims of all ages and backgrounds. They hope to serve as a resource for people who are looking to understand what it means to be Muslim. They do this by offering different personal stories from everyday people as well as striving to give a voice to other Muslims.
The next Emerald Project presentation will be at Marmalade Branch Public Library on April 10 at 6 p.m. The group will host a panel of young men in the community to talk about their identity as Muslim men and what the separation of Islam and culture looks like to them.