For some folks, the study of Islam was one week in the sixth grade during a time when it was not only OK to talk openly about religion, it also was OK to practice your religion in public schools. For many of those people, any other understanding about religion had been influenced through radio commentaries, news articles, television reports or film documentaries. It is only when there is a rise in religious conflict that there is an increase in the number of non-followers who are seeking sources such as their local library or the Internet to research more information about the conflict and about the people who live in that region.
As a commitment to the federal Library Services and Technology Act Grant that was awarded for the "One County Reads One Country Project," the Beaufort County Library system is offering a variety of programs that deal with Afghanistan: the people, the culture, the food and the religion.
"In the Sea There Are Crocodiles," by Fabio Geda, tells the story of a young boy who had to travel through several countries to get his freedom. One untold story in this book is the strength of his mother's faith and the decision that she made to protect her son from an ethnic group in Afghanistan that wanted to sell him as a slave.
In "Afghan Dreams: Young Voices of Afghanistan," by Tony O'Brien and Mike Sullivan, a young deaf boy tells his desire to learn how to live correctly according to Islam. Even though there isn't anyone in the mosque who signs, he still goes every day to watch the mullah preach. What is it about the teachings of Islam that make a woman hide her son or that drive a hearing impaired boy to the mosque every day?
Islam began in the early seventh century and it quickly became a global religion, uniting tribesman from across the peninsula of Arabia and South Asia, according to "World Religions: From Ancient History to the Present."
Islam is an Arabic word that means "acceptance" or "submission." Some people believe that people who are Muslims worship the prophet Mohammed, who is the founder of the Islam movement. This is a misconception.
Today, there are more than 700 million people who are Muslim and they follow the teachings of Islam and the belief in monotheism or "one true God." They believe in community and having the laws of their community be in accordance with the Quran, the holy book of the Islam faith.
Two major factions of the Islamic faith exist in Afghanistan -- Sunni and Shiite. Their differences are similar to the differences between Catholics and Protestants in the Christian faith. It is this difference that is the driving force behind conflicts that will define how the people should live, conduct business and govern the country.
Sources from the library such as CultureGrams through the DISCUS database provide access to information about the people or to hear them talk about various aspects of Afghan life. BYKI is a foreign language database that can be used to learn how to speak Pashto and Dari, the official languages of Afghanistan.
Go to our "One County Reads One Country" website at www.beaufortcountylibrary.org/ocroc for a comprehensive list of resources available through the SCLends catalog. To learn more about Islam or to attend some of the programs centered around the books chosen for this project on Afghanistan, visit your local branch library.
As Helen Keller said, "the highest result of education is tolerance."
Maria Benac is the branch manager at the St. Helena branch of the Beaufort County Library system at 1025 Sea Island Parkway, St. Helena Island.