The Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative was selected as one of 840 libraries and state humanities councils across the country to receive the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the American Library Association (ALA). The endeavor aims to familiarize public audiences in the United States with the people, places, history, faith and cultures of Muslims in the United States and around the world.
The six library branches that received the bookshelf, which included 25 books, 3 films, and access for one year to Oxford Islamic Studies Online, will be offering related programming the week of October 6th to October 12th in celebration of Muslim American Heritage Month. Hillsborough County is the epicenter of this program in Florida offering Arabic calligraphy classes, books and films.
This celebration is an oxymoron. There is no American Muslim heritage. There is a Muslim heritage in Islam. All of the books and films are about Islam, not one is about a Muslim heritage in America.
One film Muslim Journeys is being shown at the John F. Germany Public Library on October 12th. It is about “an African-Muslim prince who was captured and sold into slavery in the American South.” However, there are no books on the reading list by South African-born Ronald Segal. According to Salon.com, “Segal is the author of 13 books including ‘The Anguish of India,’ ‘The Americans’ and ‘The Black Diaspora.’ In his latest book, ‘Islam’s Black Slaves: The Other Black Diaspora,’ he offers one of the first historical accounts of the Islamic slave trade.”
In an interview with Segal, Suzy Hansen from Salon.com writes, “Another slave trade, however, the Islamic one, remains a mysterious aspect in the history of the black diaspora. Fourteen centuries old, this version of slavery spread throughout Africa, the Middle East, Europe, India and China. It is the legacy of this trade that continues to ravage Sudan and Mauritania today.”
Hansen asks: How did the Atlantic and Islamic slave trades differ?
Segal’s “Islam’s Black Slaves” documents a centuries-old institution that still survives, and traces the business of slavery and its repercussions from Islam’s inception in the seventh century, through its history in China, India, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Libya, and Spain, and on to Sudan and Mauritania, where, even today, slaves continue to be sold.
Islam’s Black Slaves also examines the continued denial of the very existence of this sector of the black diaspora, although it survives today in significant numbers; and in an illuminating conclusion, Segal addresses the appeal of Islam to African-American communities, and the perplexing refusal of Black Muslim leaders to acknowledge black slavery and oppression in present-day Mauritania and Sudan.
Events in Nairobi, Egypt, Syria and across the Middle East and North Africa are not on the library reading list. There are no films or books about attacks by Muslims against their fellow Muslims, no discussion of Shariah laws and its impact on minorities and women and nothing about the ongoing slave trade operated by Muslims buying and selling black Africans.
Perhaps a more balanced approach to at least the slavery issue is in order?