One of several highlights of the Special Projects area of the Rose State College Library and Learning Resources Center for 2013 was “Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys.” Muslim Journeys was a multifaceted program made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to promote understanding of and mutual respect for people of the Muslim faith. In cooperation with the American Library Association, the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies, and George Mason University, NEH made the Muslim Journeys program possible, through a grant and support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. The week began Sunday October 6th with an opening reception in room 109 of the Learning Resources Center. The reception included light refreshments an exhibition of Middle Eastern artifacts, native dress, music and dance. The evening was topped off by a 90-minute film, “Islamic Art,” narrated by Susan Sarandon. Attended by several dozen students from Rose State College, the University of Central Oklahoma and the community at large, the reception was a great way to introduce the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf program. Students from Saudi Arabia ended the evening by leading a discussion about Muslim culture, and provided a demonstration of how to use a Hookah.
The second program of the Muslim Journeys project was a public lecture by Rose State College Professor, Dean Fisher. The title of his presentation was “Islam and the West,” which provided insight into the impact Islam has had on Europe and America. Several classes were required to attend the lecture including one humanities class and one history class. The lecture was held on October 8th and approximately 40 people were in attendance. As a graduate of the University of Central Oklahoma and the University of Oklahoma, Mr. Fisher has taught courses related to Islam for a number of years and thus brought a high level of expertise to the program. A popular professor with students, Fisher was an automatic magnet for attracting students.
The third program offered was a lecture presented by Imam Imad Enchassi, President of the Islamic society of Greater Oklahoma City. Dr. Enchassi’s lecture was titled, “The 10 Misconceptions about Islam.” Using a well developed Power Point presentation, Dr. Enchassi not only made his lecture educationally stimulating but entertaining as well. After hearing the lecture a number of students expressed the opinion that if more American’s had a clearer understanding of Islam the fear about Middle Eastern people would diminish. Having received a Master’s Degree in Islamic Studies at the University Institute of Vocation in Beirut, Lebanon as well as a Ph.D. in Islamic Studies at Dawa University, Dr. Enchassi was the perfect person to present a lecture dealing with misconceptions regarding Islam.
Dr. Robert Carpenter, Professor of Ministry and Missiology at Oklahoma Christian University, delivered the final lecture of the series. Dr. Carpenter, a respected professor of world religions, received degrees from Princeton University, Stanford University, Abilene Christian University and the University of California at Santa Barbara. His topic was “Muslims in Today’s America: Opportunities and Challenges.” Following his lecture, Dr. Carpenter invited questions from the audience and encouraged all in attendance to continue to strive for knowledge about Islam in an effort to break down barriers between the Middle East and the West.
The finale of the week was a free concert of Middle Eastern Music featuring Ali Soltani and Doosdahn. Ali Soltani, of Edmond, Oklahoma is a seasoned performer on the violin, viola, and the oud. Soltani has performed with a number of artists and orchestras, combining Middle Eastern music with western music through his understanding and expertise of the oud. A graduate of Oklahoma City University’s School of Music, Soltani had this to say about his work: “There are not many prominent Muslims in the classical art world, especially in Oklahoma. I make it an obligation to communicate to others through my artform that the message of Islam is peace, and there is a common desire amongst individuals of all walks of life to gravitate towards peace.” Soltani and his ensemble performed in the beautiful H.B. Atkinson Theatre.
In addition to these live programs, the Muslim Bookshelf grant provided materials to be used by instructors as part of curricula in their respective classes. Coincidentally, several classes had units coinciding with the Muslim Journeys programs, highlighting and emphasizing information being presented in the classroom. Books and multimedia materials were added to the library collection and made available for students and faculty upon request. The materials were also made available through interlibrary loan to the public. Instructors in the areas of the humanities and history found the materials particularly beneficial in supplementing the classroom experience. Access to Oxford Islamic Studies Online was made available to all students, faculty and guests using the library. The subscription began in January and ran through February of 2014.