Editor's note: Shahan Mufti is The Collegian faculty adviser.
The Multifaith Group, Muslim Students Association and Hillel met on Tuesday, Oct. 3rd, in the Wilton Center to discuss the role of religion and identity.
Andrew Sharp, the program specialist for multi-faith initiatives, guided the conversation between students and faculty from different religious backgrounds.
The discussion focused on the One Book, One Richmond selection, "The Faithful Scribe," written by UR journalism professor Shahan Mufti.
"One of the important themes in my book is political Islam and how it has evolved over the twentieth century," Mufti said. "And the story is also really relevant to our current discussion in this country about the political space for Muslims in America."
Emily Bradford, a senior, is a member of the Multifaith Group and said she believes that the selection of the book will be useful to discuss cultural issues on UR’s campus.
“The book in general can start to facilitate some of those difficult discussions," Bradford said. "You know we don’t really have those discussions in class on a day-to-day basis. UR people don’t speak about this issue in a personal way."
To spark discussion, Sharp asked participants to reflect on the role religion plays in their lives, as well as how it helps shape their identity.
Muhammad Coovadia, a junior, said he read part of the book and saw a variety of cultural themes represented, most of which he was able to connect with. He was also able to relate to Sharp’s question.
“For me personally, I am proud of where I am from and proud of my religion," Coovadia said. "I know some people are nervous to express their faith because of repercussions."
Coovadia hopes discussing these issues will diminish the prevalence of judgements and stereotypes regarding religion, he said.
For the most part, participants agreed that religion plays a role in creating his or her own identity. Some said they are faced with prejudgments, while others are faced with different obstacles relating to the role of religion in their lives.
“The themes in the book are applicable to all of us," Coovadia said. "Because of how diverse Richmond is, you have people coming to the US for the first time."
"The Faithful Scribe" proved to be a powerful vehicle to start conversation about the issues and themes that are represented in the novel and, as Bradford notes, can be related to current events.
There are many different ways to join these discussions as the conversation about the novel will continue throughout the year.
The Multifaith Group meets Tuesday evenings in the Wilton Center and provides students with a safe space for conversation. The meetings are open to all.
Contact news contributor and copy editor Caroline Queally at firstname.lastname@example.org.