Michael Sells on the
"Spirit of Islam" program
featured in NPR's "First Person: Speaking of Faith"
Short version: from http://www.haverford.edu/relg/sells/resources_Islam_Sept11.htm
Human and Cultural World of Islam. On 10/19/01, The
MPR (Minnesota Public Radio) program "First Person: Speaking
of Faith" featured The Spirit of Islam with Omid Safi and
Seemi Bushra Ghazi. MPR is making the show available to all NPR
stations nationwide. The show is available on the web for
readaudio listening or download at:
http://www.speakingoffaith.org/index_main.html. Whether a local
NPR station picks it up depends on public interest. Your calls to
your local NPR affiliate, asking with the Spirit of Islamprogram
on First Person: Speaking of Faith will help demonstrate public
Safi discusses Islamic culture, poetry, mysticism, and music (with recitations and songs). Ghazi speaks of the meaning of Qur'an recitation for her as a woman; the issue of veiling; of her prayer shawl for Qur'an recitation or or "portable tabernacle"; and how Urdu poetry has consoled her in the current situation (with Ghazi's own beautiful Qur'an recitation). Both speak of their lives as Muslim Americans and backgrounds (in Iran for Omid and in India and Saudi Arabia for Seemi) with personal immediacy. This is the human face of Islam missed or unknown in the non-Muslim world. Invaluable.
Yesterday, at noon and 9PM The MPR (Minnesota Public Radio) program "First Person: Speaking of Faith" aired the show on the Spirit of Islam which
featured Omid Safi and Seemi Bushra Ghazi on all stations of the Minnesota network. MPR is making the show available to all NPR stations nationwide,
and the producer Krista Tippet (also the interview who does such an outstanding job of posing and following up questions) writes that there is
already a sense of strong demand, that many will pick it up.
This show is a "paradigm breaker" in public programming in the U.S. -- a show that instead of proclaiming that non all Muslims are the Taliban etc.,
just begins with the depths of Islamic culture that are known and taken for granted in the Islamic world and are almost utterly unknown outside of it
among the general public. It surprises the listener with an immediate human and cultural connection before the old stereotypes can stuff up the ear.
Omid's discussion of Iranian and Afghan culture, Rumi, poetry and music, and Sufism (along with his comments on the recitations and songs that are
played) will be an eye-opener in many areas and also to those who associate Afghanistan only with the Taliban.
As is Seemi's discussion of the meaning of Qur'an recitation for her personally and for her as a woman, of what she calls the "portable
tabernacle," and Urdu of some verses of Urdu poetry by Mir (I think by Mir Taqi Mir, but I could be wrong) in relationship to the current situation.
Although discussions on the level of doctrine and politics are important, people seem more receptive to distinctions in that area after they have an
original dhawq of the tradition, however fleeting, that allows them to make an immediate human and cultural connection. This is one of the few public
programs I know of that are accessible to the general public to allow such a connection in a way while true to the depth of the issues discussed.
The show is available on the web for readaudio listening or download at:
and click on the "Listen" button, and the interview pops up in Realplayer.
Whether a local NPR station picks it up depends on public interest. Calls by members of this list to NPR stations, asking when the important show
will air could make a difference.
I am putting this link on my resource page at http://www.haverford.edu/relg/sells/resources_Islam_Sept11.htm
This page is designed for members of the general public, clergy and religious congregations, Middle School and High School teachers, and others
who do not have the benefit of studying Islam in a college class environment and has been well received so far. It is still in need of
improvement and suggestions would be welcome.
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