Muslim Journeys Programs Continue at Urbana University

URBANA, Ohio (October 14, 2013) - The Muslim Journeys: Bridging Cultures Bookshelf programs continue at Urbana University. Members of the public are invited to view and discuss the movie, Koran by Heart, at Urbana University’s Student Center Moore Conference Room on Thursday, October 17 at 7 pm. The program is part of the Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys programs being offered by Urbana University through November 11, 2013. 

Koran by Heart, released in 2011 as an HBO documentary, reveals an annual worldwide competition between young children and early teens that learn to recite the entire Koran from memory. The Koran is the holy book of Islam. Participants in the competition are judged on their recitation, pronunciation, intonation and memorization. The movie provides insight into the lives of Muslim children from three countries which also demonstrates the variety of Islamic life. Moderate to fundamentalist views are presented from countries including the Maldives, Senegal, Tajikistan and Egypt. 

Many of the recitation participants do not speak Arabic but are able to memorize the Koran and begin reciting at a randomly selected verse. The recitation is to be done with proper intonation, called tajweed. In the movie, the children are shown preparing for the competition and competing in the intense two weeklong event. Koran by Heart premiered at the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and was an official selection of 2011 Mountain Film in Telluride and 2011 HotDocs.

Following the showing of the movie at Urbana University, participants will be invited to discuss the film. The discussion will be led by members of the Urbana University Chaplaincy Team.

On Monday, October 21 at 6 pm, Debra Johanyak, PhD, will present “The Personal Impact of the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis.” and Jerry Pankhurst, PhD, presents, “Islam on the World Stage” on Monday, November 4 at 7 pm. Both programs are in the Swedenborg Memorial Library on the campus of Urbana University. The event is free and open to the public. The Children of Abraham exhibit will also be available for viewing till October 31.

Dr. Johanyak will discuss her experiences as a graduate student at Shiraz University in Iran during the 1979 hostage crisis. Dr. Johanyak was born and raised in Akron, Ohio and then married a citizen of Iran. As a citizen of both the U.S. and Iran, she experienced insights that shaped her political and religious beliefs. As tensions escalated following the hostage taking, she was forced to choose one country over another for the well being of her two young sons and herself. In her book about the experience, Dr. Johanyak says “like divorced parents with shared custody, the United States and Iran nurtured our family in differing yet complementary ways.”

On November 4, 1979, sixty-six Americans were taken captive by a group of Iranian students who took over the American Embassy in Iran’s capital, Tehran. Prior to the takeover of the American Embassy, the Shah of Iran had been overthrown and was allowed by the United States to seek medical treatment in the US. In Iran, this was viewed by some Iranians as American complicity with the Shah’s policies. 

Dr. Johanyak is a Professor of English at The University of Akron Wayne College, where she teaches literature classes and writing. Her most recent book, Behind the Veil: An American Woman’s Memoir of the 1979 Iran Hostage Crisis, details her experiences before and after the hostage crisis. She has also published Shakespeare’s World, which explores the literary and cultural landscapes of Shakespeare’s writing.

Dr. Pankhurst will give an overview of the current state of Islam around the world. While Dr. Pankhurst’s talk will include background information about Islam and its adherents, it will be focused on recent events, perhaps even events that happen the day of his presentation.   

Dr. Pankhurst serves as professor and chair of the Department of Sociology at Wittenberg University. His concentration is in Cultural Belief Systems, and he has developed a teaching and research specialization on Islam and Islamic societies. He has previously led programs and discussions in a non-classroom setting as well, initiating programming for and coordinating an annual community Iftar meal during Ramadan that has been held at Wittenberg annually since 2005 when Ramadan falls during the school year. In 2012, he received a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award and taught in the Republic of Estonia for a semester. In 2008, Dr. Pankhurst received an award for outstanding achievement in education from the Springfield An-Nur Islamic Center.

There is free parking near Barclay and Bailey Halls as well as in front of Memmott and Eaton Halls.

Dr. Johanyak’s program is made possible in part by the Ohio Humanities Council, A State Affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Bridging Cultures Bookshelf: Muslim Journeys is a project of the National Endowment for the Humanities conducted in cooperation with the American Library Association. Major support for the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf was provided by a grant from Carnegie Corporation of New York. Additional support for the arts and media components was provided by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art. 

For more information on this upcoming exhibit and programs, go to the Urbana University web site and click on:


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