One reason I've written so much about Islam since 9/11 is that so many Americans are abysmally ignorant about that ancient religion.
But I learned recently by reading this "Sightings" column from the Martin E. Marty Center that the National Endowment for the Humanities is doing its part to educate Americans about Islam using quality books, not hateful entries from the blogosphere.
NEH has put together a collection of 25 books, four DVDs and other resources that can help Americans understand Islam, its history and its values. And it is making that collection available to libraries around the nation. The collection is called the "Muslim Journeys Bookshelf" and is part of NEH's "Bridging Cultures" program. The first link in the previous sentence will give you the names of the books and DVDs in the collection.
A list of the libraries that have received books from the collection can be found here. The Kansas City Public Library is among the recipients in Missouri, while the libraries of Kansas State University and Emporia State University are among the four recipients in Kansas. Check the list to see if the books are available at a library near you.
Not long after 9/11 I began receiving hateful anti-Islamic e-mails, including a persistent and pernicious one that pretended to describe words found in verse 11 of chapter (or surah) 9 of the Qur'an. The verse, of course, was entirely made up, and each time I received it I sent it back to the person from whom I got it and asked that he or she send out a correction noting that what was sent previously was fraudulent.
Perhaps if people would take the time to read quality books about Islam found in this collection some of that bigotry would be short-circuited.
Among recommended books about Islam in my own collection not included in the Bookshelf list The Heart of Islam, by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Understanding Islam: An Introduction, by C.T.R. Hewer, American Islam, by Paul M. Barrett, Allah: A Christian Response, by Miroslav Volf, and Standing Alone: An American Woman's Struggle for the Soul of Islam, by Asra Q. Nomani.
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HOLI, HOLI, HOLI
I spent two years of my boyhood in India, and remember with fondness the colorful and fun Hindu Holi holiday celebration, when we threw colored water from the roof of our home onto people dancing in the street below. For a sense of this joyful celebration, here's a slideshow of Holi, which was celebrated this week. Who says religion can't be fun?
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P.S.: Again this year, through the AIDS Ministry of my church, Second Presbyterian of Kansas City, I'll be participating in the annual AIDSWalk KC. Please help me by making a pledge at this online site. Lots of folks are depending on your help for the AIDS Service Foundation of KC, which supports the work of several AIDS organizations in our region. In fact, after you pledge, make a note to come walk with us the morning of Saturday, April 27, starting at Theiss Memorial Park across from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Folks from my congregation this year will be joining up to walk with representatives of Hope Care Center, a 24-hour skilled nursing facility that my church helped start in 1996.