Sahar Taman / 2010 National Awards Honoree
Consultant and former Director of the Religion and Society Program at the National Peace Foundation (Far left, second row)
"I am honored and touched by the U.S. Center for Citizen Diplomacy for recognizing my work on U.S.-Muslim relations in international interfaith citizen diplomacy. Faith matters! Religion matters deeply! And, in order to build the trust and understanding among the peoples of different nations to develop the bonds to manage, and perhaps prevent conflicts, we have to talk about what is important to them.
My experience is that Muslims, including American Muslims like me, are willing and ready to listen to understand what America is; the diversity and richness of views and values we cherish and especially seek to learn about the complexity of our great historical experiment as a pluralistic religious society. I have also found that Americans, including American Muslims who too have much to learn about the Muslim World, are just as ready to open their houses of worship, their communities and their homes to see the Muslim World as complex pluralistic societies on religious, political and societal levels."
Sahar Taman is a consultant in cultural communications and transformative conflict. She works with American and international constituencies as well as the U.S. foreign policy community to nurture relationships between the U.S. and Muslim majority- countries. She is a board member of the Bosnian American Genocide Institute and Education Center and is on the Charitable Giving Committee of the Islamic Society of Northern Wisconsin.
Ms. Taman was the Project Director for the Religion and Society Program for the National Peace Foundation and the Islamic Society of North America. She developed the program to foster a dialogue between Muslim religious communities from the Arabic-speaking Middle East and American religious communities of all faiths as citizen diplomacy experiential workshops focused on the study of the many "places of religion" in American and Arab societies.
Growing up in the only Muslim family in a rural Wisconsin town, Ms. Taman knew first-hand the challenges of communicating about her religion, Arab culture and the complexity of Middle Eastern politics -- topics that were so often misunderstood by those around her. Later in her adult life, she realized how she could bring the East to the West and vice versa through tours focusing on the complexity of religion and faith in American and Muslim societies. Ms. Taman's citizen diplomacy was carried out as experiential workshops, which reached deep into U.S. communities and Arab societies and took people directly into small Arab villages and rural American towns.
The Religion and Society Program brings together more than 70 religious actors and hundreds of their hosts from seven Arab countries and from many parts of the U.S. to serve as citizen diplomats. These individuals include religious leaders, community leaders and professionals whose work stems from a religious perspective. By immersing themselves into each other's worlds, the participants learn about Islam, Judaism, and the vastness of Christianity not just in dialogues, but also in experiencing worship, participating in each other's events and meeting those who they would have never had the chance to meet either in the United States or the Arab world.
As an outcome of these experiences, she has solicited feedback from participants and has published a book of 36 essays entitled, "Reflections and Experiences of Religion and Society," as testimonies to personal transformations and a solid proof that citizen diplomacy works.
Ms. Taman has previously worked in the Executive Office of the President of the United States. She holds a Master of Public Policy from the University of Chicago's Harris School of Public Policy and is fluent in Arabic.