CHARLESTON - Eastern Illinois University’s Booth Library has received a $4,500 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association to host a five-part reading and discussion series titled “Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys.”

Booth Library is one of 125 libraries and state humanities councils nationwide selected to participate in the project, which seeks to familiarize the public with the people, places, history, faith and cultures of Muslims in the United States and around the world.

“We are delighted to have been chosen to host this unique series that will allow citizens of East Central Illinois a chance to explore and discuss some important themes in Muslim history and literature with the help of well-qualified scholars,” said Allen Lanham, dean of library services.

The EIU project scholars are Brian Mann, assistant professor of history, and Jay Shinde, assistant professor of business.

Mann has a master’s in history from the University of Texas at Austin and will receive a doctorate in history from UT-Austin in August. His research interests include the modern Middle East, with a focus on modern Iran. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the Middle East and Islamic world.

Shinde is a practicing Sufi and has a doctorate in business administration (accounting) from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He teaches Sufi meditation to EIU students and the community, and is a board member of the Qadriya Sufi Foundation of America.

Through the grant, the library will host a five-part book discussion moderated by these project scholars and Booth Library staff.

A limited number of free books will be available for participants in the series. Titles are “The Children of Abraham: Judaism, Christianity, Islam,” by F.E. Peters, discussion led by Mann; “Muhammad: A Very Short Introduction,” by Jonathan Brown, led by Mann; “The Story of the Qur’an: Its History and Place in Muslim Life,” by Ingrid Mattson, led by Mann; “The Art of Hajj,” by Venetia Porter, led by Mann; and “Rumi: Poet and Mystic,” edited and translated by Reynold Nicholson, led by Shinde.

Booth’s programs will focus on the theme “Pathways of Faith.” Following the correct pathway to spiritual fulfillment and success is a key Islamic principle.

All of the books to be discussed are part of the “Bridging Culture” Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys. The books and films comprising the Bookshelf were selected with the advice of librarians and cultural programming experts, as well as scholars in the fields of anthropology, world history, religious studies, interfaith dialogue, the history of art and architecture, world literature, Middle East studies, Southeast Asian studies, African studies and Islamic studies.

In association with the grant, Booth will sponsor a semester-long programming series on Muslim culture during the spring semester of 2014. Among the activities planned are a three-part film series with discussion led by EIU faculty members and librarians, and an interfaith panel to explore both Western and Eastern faiths.

All events will be free and open to the public. More information will be available on the Booth Library website,; on the library Facebook or Twitter pages; or by calling Kirstin Duffin, reference librarian, at 217-581-7550.

The “Bridging Cultures” Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys is a project of he National Endowment for the Humanities, conducted in cooperation with the American Library Association Public Programs Office, with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Additional support for the arts and media components was provided by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Arts. Local support is provided by EIU’s Academy of Lifetime Learning and the Interdisciplinary Center for Global Diversity.


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