An Oklahoma State University-Tulsa lecturer in religious studies hopes to inspire a more accurate portrayal of Muslims across the globe than what she said is commonly seen in media reports when a terrorist group such as ISIS makes headlines.
Dr. Najwa Raouda is conducting a five-part series dubbed “Let’s Talk About It: Muslim Journeys,” which as the name suggests is a scholarly quest to unlock a deeper understanding of Muslim culture and history through film, literature and discussion.
Raouda said curriculum in American schools doesn’t include the Middle East or Muslims, who make up a quarter of the world’s population. The key to combating ignorance or fear of a culture is education, she said. Raouda said she believes most Americans understand Islam through the lens of television media coverage during tragic events.
“When you know somebody, you don’t fear them,” Raouda said. “When you don’t know them, you fear and you start isolating yourself. When you isolate yourself from them, it’s going to be ‘us versus them,’” Raouda said.
Raouda, who according to the university is an international consultant on the Middle East, oil, comparative literature and world religions, said everyone is living in a global world. Knowing its history and learning from past atrocities — such as slavery — is important to understanding where the culture is today and preventing recurrences, she said.
“(It’s) just like teaching World War II,” Raouda said.
The series, which is hosted by the OSU-Tulsa Hispanic Student Association, began Tuesday evening on OSU-Tulsa’s campus with the true story of Abdul Rahman Ibrahima, an African prince who was captured and sold into slavery in Mississippi in 1788.
Attendees viewed the documentary “Prince Among Slaves,” which is based on a book by Terry Alford.
Raouda said the prince was enslaved for 40 years but was able to keep his dignity. She said Ibrahima’s good education helped to free himself at the age of 66, but that freedom was short-lived as he died only a few months later.
The remaining four sessions will feature discussions centered on pre-selected books people are encouraged to read prior to attending. The university said the books and films used in the series were selected on the advice of librarians, cultural programming experts and distinguished scholars across many disciplines.
Raouda said she hopes people take away from the series the large role Islam plays in America. She said it is an interesting and complex journey.
“Come along and I’ll enlighten you,” Raouda said.