Organizations: Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta
The Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta’s goal is to build bridges of understanding and mutual respect between communities.
Islam is often misunderstood, so when it comes to explaining their faith and their culture, Muslims prefer to speak for themselves rather than leave it to others.
“Our goal is to build bridges of understanding and create spaces for mutual respect between communities,” says Soumaya Khalifa, executive director of the nonprofit Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta (ISB Atlanta). “We provide opportunities for people to learn about Islam in an objective, educational manner through dialogue, presentations and outreach.”
Khalifa founded the group in August 2001, just before Sept. 11.
“As a Muslim who grew up in Texas,” she says, “I just had this gut feeling that there would be a need for an organization like this.”
ISB Atlanta trains and certifies its speakers who hail from all walks of life. “We have teachers, police officers, healthcare workers,” she says. “You don’t have to be a Muslim to be part of our organization. We have a Baptist minister and a Jewish person and representatives from several faiths, including Buddhism, Sikhism and Hinduism.”
Available to address civic, church, business and educational groups, speakers reach an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 people each year, she says. The organization currently comprises 45 speakers.
The group offers Jummah (Friday) prayers at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and it mobilized more than 600 Muslims to participate in the Atlanta Community Food Bank’s Hunger Walk.
“We partner with other service organizations for a variety of outreach projects, including a summer lunch program for underserved children,” Khalifa says.
ISB Atlanta also has established an annual Iftar – the meal eaten after sunset during Ramadan – at Atlanta’s City Hall.
Georgia has more than 125,000 American Muslims. “There is a growing curiosity among people to get to know their Muslim neighbors,” Khalifa says. “We help by speaking for ourselves.”