Nations, like people, build their place in the world by building their stories around themselves, journalism professor Shahan Mufti said last Wednesday during a talk about his new book in Boatwright Memorial Library.
With about 30 seats open to the public, a mixed audience of faculty and students listened to Mufti speak about his book that is part of the Muslim Journey Bookshelf.
In early 2013, the National Endowment for the Humanities Bridging Cultures Initiative and the American Library Association awarded the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf to the staff at the library and the Office of the Chaplaincy, said Olivia Reinauer, University of Richmond librarian.
The grant provided books, online databases and publicity materials for programs focused on Islam. According to the library, the books were chosen by scholars and focused on five broad themes, including American stories, connected histories, literary reflections, pathways of faith and points of view as a way of exploring the diversity of Muslim thought and experience.
Mufti published a new book on Sept. 24 titled, "The Faithful Scribe: A Story of Islam, Pakistan, Family and War," which gained a popular audience and a lot of press, Reinauer said. Mufti's personal and professional journey of reconnecting with his family history and talking about Pakistan as the first Islamic democracy fit with the Muslim Journey, she said.
Mutfi's talk allowed students to hear more about his background as a journalist, his family's past and the types of things he had been researching and writing about. "I think any time we can offer an opportunity for that to happen, that really enriches the student's experience here with their faculty members," Reinauer said.
In the talk, Mufti weaved together the three main ideas of family, political history and religion. Mutfi, who refers to himself as 100 percent American and Pakistani, read a section from his book that explained his path in exploring where he came from.
Born in the U.S., Mufti spent a number of years in Pakistan as a youth becoming familiar with the culture, language and his extended family.
As an adult, he has reported extensively from that country for American publications, such as Harper's Magazine, WIRED, The New York Times Magazine, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Atlantic and many others.
He learned that the origin of his last name, Mufti, meant "one who gives a legal opinion," but also stumbled upon some other family history as well, he said. Looking through his grandfather's belongings, he found a scroll--maybe the size of a poster--that was frail, yellowing, old and bruised, he said. It dated back 44 generations.
"For those of you that are not as good at math, that would put me around the mid-eighth century that this family tree was claiming to trace my family tree," Mufti joked. At the bottom he found his grandfather's name, and at the top he found the name of the Islamic prophet "Muhammad," he said.
"My grandfather's blood was connected with a single line all the way up to the blood of the Islamic prophet Muhammad," Mufti said.
"I look forward to reading the book," said Madiha Tahir, a fellow colleague and journalist from New York. "The stuff he traced out was needed because we don't have a lot of thoughtful work on and around Pakistan, and this looks like a promising book," she said.
Contact reporter Catherine McTiernan at email@example.com