by Fatima Ahmed
The Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) started in the fall of 2001, just weeks after the harrowing events of 9/11, a date and an event that marked the entire world in ways we will be trying to understand for decades to come. While America rightly mourned for the victims of this tragedy, a turbulent era seemed to be mounting. In its anticipation, ISPU started taking root.
ISPU started as a small grassroots group of young Muslim professionals who were concerned about the (mis)information, or lack thereof, available about the American-Muslim community as well as the lack of American-Muslim voices on the public level. The group started solely as volunteers, sacrificing their own time and energy to create something positive in a society that was increasingly becoming Islamophobic.
The organization wanted to produce facts about Muslim-Americans through research, discourse, and community outreach. ISPU has focused on social policy, public policy, and thought leadership as ways to allow Muslim voices to have a say in American society. To this day, ISPU is a modest organization, sustained by donations from people and organizations that believe in ISPU’s vision of the modern Muslim community.
“ISPU conducts objective, solution seeking research and provides thought leadership on American Muslims and the issues that affect them. A think and do tank, ISPU’s research is used to educate, to raise awareness, and to inform the major conversations of our time. In this way, ISPU promotes pluralism over prejudice, combats alternative facts by pursuing real ones and builds resiliency by strengthening community.” – Meira Neggaz, Executive Director at ISPU
ISPU examines how to amplify Muslim voices in American politics. There are clear barriers in today’s society against Muslims feeling included and participating in the governance of their own country. Whether this is done through discrimination, systematic barriers, violence, or more, Muslim exclusion is occurring on a daily basis.
Recent times have seen an unprecedented rise in Islamophobic hate crimes with approximately 385 tracked incidents in the last year. This has led to Muslim-Americans feeling unsafe and unwanted in their own homes. ISPU analyzes these barriers and their effects. They investigate the feelings of American-Muslims, the effects of Islamophobia on such communities, as well as uncover solutions on how to move forward in a divided nation. Their research has helped provide data on the demographics, identity, economics, and politics of Muslim-Americans in an effort to help give them an authentic face.
In addition to public policy, ISPU has also taken on the mantle of working with decorated scholars to conduct groundbreaking research. Prior to this initiative, there was little research available on the Muslim communities that exist throughout the U.S. In fact, many Americans operate on biased headlines rather than actual truth when forming their opinions on Islam and Muslims. When facing a world in which Muslims are quickly and easily demonized, this lack of information about the very real people living in the United States presented a glaring hole. ISPU is attempting to rectify this oversight by initiating studies and projects which analyze real-life Muslims. Through this, they have managed to gather data that has helped inform actionable recommendations on how community development among Muslims can be catalyzed.
Finally, a large part of ISPU is the discourse and discussions they ignite in today’s political climate. Too often, Muslim voices and opinions are excluded in the discourses happening nowadays. Through thought leadership, ISPU aims to rectify this problem. They conduct respectful debates, thinking, and visioning which will help shape how future Muslim communities will look in the U.S. This allows Muslims to have a say in how they live as well as stay informed and engaged in the national conversations occurring around the Muslim identity.
In the future, ISPU aims to continue working toward a more inclusive society which is built on the appreciation and acceptance of Muslims. The organization aims to further increase their impact, build capacity, and ensure sustainability in the coming years. ISPU is working to reach a wider audience, tackle new topics facing Muslims today, partner with more organizations looking to better the community and more. In this day and age, Muslim communities across the world will need strong pillars that will assist, defend, and champion them. Organizations like ISPU attempt to accomplish exactly this. Through their work, they hope to strengthen the Muslim communities of the Unites States of America.
Donate to ISPU to support the work that they do at ISPU.org!