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W professors to present as part of series about Islamic history and culture

Spice Merchant - courtesy Lori K. GordonCOLUMBUS, Miss. – The Department of Languages, Literature, and Philosophy and the Department of History, Political Science, Geography at The W have partnered with the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library to host a series of events about Islamic history and culture.


The programs are being made possible through a grant the library received titled “Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys.” The grant includes a collection of books, films and other resources that will introduce the American public to the complex history and culture of Muslims in the United States and around the world.

Dr. James W. Hardin, Middle Eastern archaeologist at Mississippi State University, will discuss his experiences with Muslims and Jews while working in Jordan, Israel and other parts of the Middle East. His presentation, "Working in the Middle East: An Archaeologist's Experience," is set for Tuesday, Nov. 5, 7 p.m., at The W in Parkinson Hall, Room 117.

Dr. Amber Handy, assistant professor of history at The W, will present “Medieval Islam and Its Neighbors,” Thursday, Nov. 7, 5:30 p.m., at the public library. She will discuss the cultural and religious diversity of the Middle East when the Islamic religion first emerged in the seventh century and address some common misperceptions about how interactions between Muslims, Jews, Christians and pagans continued to develop throughout the Middle Ages.

On Friday, Nov. 15, at noon, Dr. Kim Whitehead, assistant professor of religious studies and English at The W, will present “Women in Islam: Misconceptions and Realities,” in which she will discuss common misconceptions about Muslim women, rights guaranteed to Muslim women, women’s contributions to Islamic history, and the diversity of Muslim women’s roles today. This event will also be held at the public library.

“This series reflects the enormous interest in Islamic history and culture among Americans in recent years and is a great extension the very fruitful interfaith and intercultural dialogue already going on at MUW and throughout the Golden Triangle,” said Whitehead.  “We especially invite our students to take advantage of these educational opportunities.”

Other events include:

Wednesday, Oct. 30
Movie: “Mirror of the Invisible World”
Columbus-Lowndes Public Library (Chebie G. Batemen Building), 2 p.m.

“Mirror of the Invisible World” is a documentary that covers nine countries and 1,400 years of cultural history to reveal the riches of Muslim art, crafts, and architecture.

Wednesday, Nov. 6
Movie: “Prince among Slaves”
Columbus-Lowndes Public Library (Chebie G. Batemen Building), 2 p.m.

“Prince among Slaves” is an historical documentary that retells the story of Abdulrahman Ibrahim Ibn Sori, a prince from West Africa who was made a slave on a tobacco plantation in Natchez, Mississippi and freed 40 years later.

Wednesday, Nov. 13
“Islamic Art of Calligraphy”
Columbus-Lowndes Public Library (Chebie G. Batemen Building), 12:30 p.m.

Artist Sheida Riahi will explore the significance and methods of calligraphy and its tools as well as demonstrate some of her work.

Tuesday, Nov. 19
Movie: “Persepolis”
Columbus-Lowndes Public Library (Chebie G. Batemen Building), 2 p.m.

“Persepolis” is a poignant coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution.

The Library will also host exhibits showcasing the works of mixed media artist Lori K. Gordon as well as calligrapher Sheida Riahi.

Gordon’s exhibit, “Six Degrees: West to East,” is a series of collage and mixed media works that are inspired by her travels to the Middle East and Europe.  The series incorporates digital photographic imaging with traditional media and collage. Drawing on her background as a visual artist, Gordon transforms photographs taken in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Haiti into visual stories which focus on the richness and complexity of these cultures.

Gordon's work has been featured on MSNBC, CBS, National Public Radio, Christian Science Monitor, Mississippi Public Broadcasting, New York Times, Travel Mail (UK), Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden) and in regional magazines and newspapers across the nation.

To find out more about Gordon’s work visit www.lorikgordon.org.

Calligrapher Sheida Riahi’s exhibit will include works in the Thuluth style of calligraphy. Some items will include Koranic passages and others will be the Arabic translation of Biblical passages. There will also be Persian miniature style paintings as well as works in the Persian art of Illumination or Tazhib. Tazhib art work is created by repeating geometrical and decorative forms and patterns from nature, combined with natural colors. Tazhib is used in the decoration of manuscripts as well as buildings such as palaces and Persian mosques.

The Columbus-Lowndes Public Library was one of 842 libraries nationwide and one of only three chosen in the state of Mississippi to be awarded the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf.

The Columbus-Lowndes Public Library received 25 books, three films and access for one year to Oxford Islamic Studies Online.

Developed by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Library Association based on the advice of scholars, librarians, and other public programming experts, the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf is intended to address both the need and desire of the American public for trustworthy and accessible resources about Muslim beliefs and practices and the cultural heritage associated with Islamic civilizations.

Created in 1965 as an independent federal agency, the NEH supports research and learning in history, literature, philosophy, and other areas of the humanities by funding selected, peer-reviewed proposals from around the nation. Additional information about the NEH and its grant programs is available at www.neh.gov.

For more information about the Muslim Journeys series and resources at the Columbus-Lowndes Public Library visit the blog http://muslimjourneyscolumbuslibrary.wordpress.com or contact Mona Vance-Ali at (662) 329-5304.

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