Bridging Cultures: Expand your understanding 2013.08.14

Discussions about Muslim culture in a tiny Midwestern town? That’s about to begin at Morenci’s Stair Public Library. Stair is one of 125 public and academic libraries across the country chosen by the American Library Association to participate in Muslim Journeys, in the National Endowment for the Humanities

“Bridging Cultures: Let’s Talk About It” program—a reading and discussion series that currently focuses on Muslim culture.

At first thought, Morenci doesn’t appear to be a very likely location for the program—we doubt if anyone in the area practices the Muslim faith—but when you think about it, what better place for the Muslim Journeys series? Muslim culture is very foreign stuff to most of us here. Let’s talk about it. Let’s learn about it.

Islam does not have a very good standing with many Americans. It’s associated with terrorists and others out to get the United States. That notion itself is foreign to the millions of Muslims living in this country, some of whom are third and fourth generation Americans.

National Public Radio reporter Deborah Amos, who developed the program theme that Morenci will study, covers events from the Middle East and she’s often troubled by the negative opinions she hears expressed back home in the United States.

“Public libraries!” she wrote in a letter to the Observer. “What better way to enlighten, even in ‘small Midwestern towns that have no Muslims.’”

She added, “I’m certainly glad [your library director] decided to participate. I believe she will enjoy the selections as will the readers who come to a library to learn and expand an understanding of the world.”

Muslim Journeys appears to be an excellent way to break through stereotypes and discover shared values—to shrink the gap between us and them. Those who choose to participate in the program starting here next month are likely to learn that people from Muslim cultures are very much like themselves.