Two DFW university libraries and two Irving public libraries are among this year’s recipients of a grant offered by the National Endowment for the Humanities, NEH and the American Library Association, ALA. Among 843 national universities and libraries, the University of Texas in Arlington and Texas Christian University in Fort Worth have each received a grant that includes a library collection of 25 books and 3 documentary films about Islam in America and in the world.
This grant is part of an initiative called “Bridging Cultures Bookshelf” that includes the “Muslim Journey Bookshelf” collection mentioned above. The bookshelf aims at introducing readers to diverse perspectives on the histories, places, peoples, cultures, ideas, beliefs, practices and faith of Muslims globally.
The idea behind this grant is to for the recipient library to team up with other organizations and faith groups to make the collection available for the students, faculty, and patrons of the library. Consequently, each community receiving this collection will actually benefit from not only having access to this collection, but from the several events planned throughout the year to highlight the book. Some of these events will be tours and visits to local Muslim mosques and Islamic centers, scholarly presentations on campus, panel discussions, film screenings and much more.
The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) is an independent federal agency founded in 1965. Aiming at spreading and nurturing democracy, NEH believes that wisdom plays a significant role in empowering citizens. Thus, NEH funds diverse programs that typically strengthens teaching and learning at schools and colleges, facilitates research and encourages scholarship, provides opportunities for lifelong learning, foster cultural resources for learning, and enrich the learning process in humanities.
Humanities are the field of study in social sciences that focus on human interaction and relations. It studies languages, linguistics, literature, history, jurisprudence, philosophy, religion, ethics, arts, archeology, etc…
Thus, according to the vision adopted by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Muslim Journeys initiative aims at engaging the “power of the humanities to promote understanding of and mutual respect for people with diverse histories, cultures, and perspectives within the United States and abroad.” (From Muslim Journeys website)
The themes of the books included in the grant are divided into five well researched areas, which several scholars have meticulously chosen. First, American stories: books in this category discuss the history of Islam in America since colonial times. Prince Among Slaves by Terry Alford and A Quiet Revolution by Leila Ahmad are some of the available books in this theme. Second, connected histories: these books explore how our world has interchanged with Islam throughout history. In An Antique Land by Amitav Ghosh is one example. Third, literary reflections are a theme of books talking about Muslim piety, ethics, governance, knowledge and identity. Included in such books is Snow by Orhan Pamuk, translated by Maureene Freely. The fourth theme is pathways of faiths which discuss Islamic spirituality and worship as well as the Abrahamic origin of Islam. A book that fits in this category is The Story of the Quran: Its history and Place in Muslim Life by Ingrid Mattson. Finally, the theme of points of view shows the diversity of Islamic societies and brings out diverse voices coming out of faith, conflict and much more. An example is In the Country of men by Hisham Matar.
UT in Arlington’s library has these books available for circulation and will be starting events around this collection soon. For more info, check their website. One of UTA's partners in this project is the Daughters of Abraham.