Celebrating Muslim culture

The Peterborough Town Library has been awarded a collection of approximately 30 books and films on the subject of Muslim culture. This award was made by the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

This spring, the library, in cooperation with the Mariposa Museum, will be offering a series of book discussions, film showings and discussions, a poetry reading, and a Sufi sacred dance performance, all intended to introduce audiences to the peoples, places, history and cultures of the Islamic world.

The series, titled “Bridging Cultures: Muslim Journeys,” will begin with two book discussions. Tonight, a discussion of Turkish author Orhan Pamuk’s book, “Snow,” will take place. A tale of yearnings for love, art, power and God, “Snow” is set in a remote Turkish town, where stirrings of Islamism threaten to unravel the secular order.

On May 23, readers will discuss Yasmina Khadra’s “The Attack.” Yasmina Khadra is the nom de plume of a former Algerian army officer, and his novel tells the story of a respected Arab-Israeli doctor whose wife is implicated in a bombing attack. “The Attack” portrays the reality of terrorism and its terrible spiritual costs, and attempts to portray to readers what seems impossible to comprehend.

The facilitator for these two discussions will be Mohammed Defaa. A native of Morocco, Defaa is a teacher of Middle Eastern studies, Arabic and French in Merrimack.

On May 24, beginning at 7 p.m., the Mariposa Museum will offer a Sema/Sufi Sacred Dance. The Sufi whirling tradition developed among the followers of the Sufi poet and mystic Rumi in Turkey 800 years ago. Accompanied by live music, this “sema” ceremony will be performed by Christopher Briggs, who learned the “Mevlevi turn” 20 years ago.

In June, the library will offer two additional book discussions -- Anthony Shadid’s “House of Stone” on June 13, and Leila Aboulela’s “Minaret” on June 27, both led by Nabil Migalli.

On June 4, Mary Catherine Bateson will show and discuss the film “Koran by Heart,” a documentary about young Muslims who participate in the International Holy Koran memory competition.

On June 18, Jonathan Bloom and Sheila Blair will show and discuss “Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World,” a film depicting 1,400 years of Islamic art, crafts and architecture.

Between these two film showings, on June 11, Jim Kates will read from and discuss the works of three poets from Syria, Palestine and Morocco -- Ali Ahmad Sa’id Esber, Mahmoud Darwish and Rachida Madani.

At the Mariposa Museum, Dr. Olga Davidson will lead an Iranian film showing and discussion on June 15. Davidson is the former chair of Islamic and Middle Eastern studies at Brandeis University.

Books for the May discussions will be available for borrowing at the library two weeks before each event. A library card is not required to participate, just a form of I.D. to borrow a book.

All library events will begin at 7 p.m. in the downstairs meeting hall. For more information, call the library at 924-8040 or visit and click on Departments/Peterborough Town Library. For more information about related events at the Mariposa Museum, call 924-4555 or visit

Funding for the library programs has been provided by the N.H. Humanities Council and by the Friends of the Peterborough Town Library.

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