Muslim Journeys

November 19th 2014
Our latest and penultimate Muslim Journeys event, an interfaith panel discussion, went even better than I had hoped. Everyone, including the panelists, had a great time. Rabbi Eliana Jacobowitz of Temple B'nai Brith, Rev. Jeff Mansfield of the First Church of Somerville, UCC, and Dr. Ghiath Reda of the Islamic Center talked about what their religions have in common, how they differ, and other people's misconceptions about their faiths and its members.* Alexis Jordan Gewertz of Harvard Divinity... Read Post
November 3rd 2014
The latest event in our Muslim Journeys programming series will take place on Wednesday, November 12 at 7 p.m. with the interfaith panel discussion “All Abraham’s Children: What Judaism, Islam, and Christianity Share.” at the Central Branch, 79 Highland Avenue. The program is funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association, and aims to familiarize the American public with Islam, the cultural heritage of Islamic civilizations around the world. We’re... Read Post
July 30th 2014
Since our Muslim Journeys series began at SPL, I've been reading quite a bit about Islamic history and culture and taking note of events in the Islamic calendar. As with Christianity and Judaism, the Islamic year is based on a lunar calendar. Ramadan, the period when Muslims must fast between sunrise and sunset, ended recently. A writer for The Atlantic brought up an issue that had never occurred to me: how can Muslims be expected to fast between sunrise and sunset in a place where the sun is... Read Post
July 28th 2014
The next installment in the “Muslim Journeys” book series at the Somerville Public Library will take place on Thursday, July 31 with a discussion of Why the West Fears Islam and Acts of Faith at 6:30 p.m. In recent years the presence of growing Muslim populations in Western democracies has sparked fierce debate on issues ranging from what constitutes genuine assimilation to whether Islam poses an existential threat. Jocelyne Cesari, Director of Harvard University’s Islam in the West program... Read Post
July 18th 2014
Boston University professor Linda Heyw0od gave a great talk last night on Prince Among Slaves, one of the titles in our Muslim Journeys bookshelf. Prince is the story of Abdul Rahman, a Fulbe prince captured and sold into slavery in Mississippi and his quest for freedom. The book is also a fascinating portrait of antebellum Natchez, the heart of the "Cotton Kingdom." Dr. Heywood is a  dynamic speaker who  did a fabulous job placing the events and people of the book in their historical context,... Read Post
July 9th 2014
Join us at the Central Library Thursday July 17 at 7 pm when Boston University Professor Linda Heywood will give a talk on the groundbreaking historical work Prince Among Slaves, the story of an African Muslim prince's enslavement in antebellum America and his quest for his freedom and that of his family. Even if you haven't read the book, you should come. It should be a fascinating evening. Abdul Rahman was 26 when he was abducted in the present-day Republic of Guinea and sent on a slave ship... Read Post
June 6th 2014
Since the beginning of the Muslim Journeys programming here at Somerville Public Library, I've been thinking about how little attention historians have paid to the Islamic elements of "Western" history--such as the Jefferson Administration's diplomatic relations  and military confrontations with North African states.   Today, on the seventieth anniversary of D-Day, University of Michigan historian Juan Cole rightly points out the vital role Muslim soldiers played in the Allies' victory over... Read Post
June 3rd 2014
Harvard Divinity School Professor Jocelyne Cesari's talk "Islam in the West: The Issues," originally scheduled for June 12, 6:30 at the Somerville Central Library, has been cancelled due to extenuating circumstances. It will be rescheduled. Stay tuned.
May 20th 2014
One of the most interesting books I've read this year  has been Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an: Islam and the Founders. I would have been drawn to it anyway because of my love of history, but I was especially intrigued by the book's subject because I'm in charge of the library's programming series Muslim Journeys.   Thomas Jefferson's Qur'an is a fascinating look at one of the most astonishing episodes in American history: the establishment of America as a secular state, one where there were no... Read Post
March 13th 2014
Join us at the Central Library next Thursday March 20 at 6:30 for a talk on Islamic feminism with journalist Elisabeth Segran, who's been traveling the Muslim world and meeting women who are re-thinking and changing their place in their society. For centuries, many Muslim women felt they had to choose between feminism and their faith; they believed that these two ideologies were mutually exclusive and incompatible. However, around the world, Muslim women are reexamining the Qua'ran and... Read Post
March 6th 2014
Join us this Saturday at 2 pm for our next Muslim Journeys event: University of Michigan professor Stewart Gordon will lead a discussion of the his book When Asia Was the World: Traveling Merchants, Scholars, Warriors and Monks Who Created "The Riches of the East."   In school we learn the history of Europe: how civilization was in ruins after the fall of the Roman Empire, but slowly, over centuries, it staggered back to life: first through the crude but vibrant Middle Ages, then its flowering... Read Post
February 20th 2014
As part of our ALA/NEH sponsored series Muslim Journeys we are pleased to host a screening of the documentary Dear Bawa Muhaiyaddeen by filmmakers Kythe Heller and Peter McMurray. This event will take place on Thursday, February 27th at 7:00 p.m. at the Central Library. How can one film something that cannot be seen? Unlike traditional documentaries, which typically view religious experience as a metaphor for something else--whether socially or psychologically construed--this experimental... Read Post
January 13th 2014
For the next few months we will continue our series of NEH/ALA-sponsored programs Muslim Journeys, an effort to educate the public about Islamic history and culture.  In keeping with the spirit of Muslim Journeys, I thought I should note that Mawlid, the celebration of the birth of the Prophet Mohammed, begins at sunset today. Observances of Mawlid vary from country to country. Some Islamic scholars actually discourage celebrating Mawlid, pointing out that as far as anyone knows Muhammed ... Read Post
December 1st 2013
Given that 2013-2014 is SPL's year of Muslim Journeys programming, I thought this podcast on the new book Thomas Jefferson's Q'uran particularly timely.  From the series Fifteen Minute History, it's a brief interview with the author, Denise Spellberg, on how Thomas Jefferson's interactions with the Islamic world and his study of John Locke shaped his beliefs on the relationship between religion and the state. Jefferson had grown up in a Virginia where the only sanctioned religion was the... Read Post
November 15th 2013
Last night's Muslim Journeys event was great. Harvard Divinity School professor Leila Ahmed participated in a discussion of her book, A Quiet Revolution: The Veil's Resurgence, from the Middle East to America.  We had a good turnout, and everyone who participated in the discussion had interesting questions and shared well-informed opinions. The conversation ranged from  the history of this highly symbolic garment to the differences in religious practice and culture in various Islamic nations... Read Post