Carnegie builds understanding of Islam

The Carnegie Corporation of New York aims to enrich public dialogue about Islam and Muslim societies with an investment of over $10 million in a variety of programs.

For the past six months, the 97-year-old foundation has sought in U.S. public discourse to create a more complex understanding of the religion’s diversity, funding programs that range from international security and immigration to journalism and support for individual scholars.

The 17 grants totaling nearly $7.4 million that resulted from the initial fact-finding phase is only the beginning of the foundation’s commitment to a deeper understanding of Muslim societies, officials say.

Combined with an earlier set of investments with a pricetag of almost $3 million, Carnegie funding for the cause has already reached more than $10 million.

Officials say it is the largest such commitment by a U.S. foundation.

“There is a disconnection between many of our public conversations about Islam and our knowledge of it,” Vartan Gregorian, Carnegie Corporation president, says in a statement.

“Our Islam-related grantmaking is, in part, a response to an increased demand since September 11, 2001, by cultural institutions, think-tanks, elected officials, policymakers and journalists for more and better information about Islam as a religion, about Islamic civilizations, and about Muslim states and societies,” Gregorian says.

The latest grants range from $50,000 to $4 million and span a variety of organizations and disciplines.

Gregorian says the integrated program structure intended to promote wider dissemination of the resulting knowledge and experiences.

As part of the effort, the Carnegie Scholars program has committed $4 million to support 20 scholars, analysts and writers in catalyzing intellectual discourse and guiding policy discussions about Islam and Muslim societies.

This is the fourth consecutive class of scholars to focus on Islam, and foundation officials say a fifth will follow in 2009.

The second-largest grant, $1 million, will produce, promote and distribute a series of 12 one-hour episodes entitled “Charlie Rose: Conversations in Islam.” Produced by the Educational Broadcasting Corporation, the series will focus on the diversity of viewpoints on Islam.

Journalism features prominently among the recent Carnegie grants.

Eight of the 17 grants went to media organizations or journalism schools for professional development, expanded news coverage and special reports and resources focusing on various aspects of the Muslim world.

The grants also include several seminars for a wider variety of audiences promoting dialogue about Muslim societies and religion.

An $800,000 grant to the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C., for example, supported a series of workshops for congressmen on contemporary Islam.

The Carnegie Corporation will continue to support a variety of Islam-focused programming, officials say, including individual research, media coverage, university efforts to connect their research to a broader public, and efforts to inform specific audiences, such as Congressmen, about the diversity of contemporary Islam.

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