Building a Core Collection
Although Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the United States, many Americans know little about their Muslim neighbors. This lack of knowledge about one of the world's major religions has contributed to serious problems, including misunderstandings in the workplace. While the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim rights advocacy group, noted an increase in workplace discrimination complaints in 1999, the council cited ignorance rather than prejudice as the basis for many of these grievances. In other cases, this minimal understanding of Muslim religious practices has resulted in highly publicized business blunders, such as Nike's recall of a shoe line bearing a logo that many Muslims found offensive since the design resembled the Arabic word for God.
It seems apparent that many American employers and the public at large are in need of basic information about Islamic beliefs and customs. Librarians can play a role in educating non-Muslims about Islam by building a basic reference collection in this area and by becoming familiar with well-designed Web sites on the topic. A quick search in the Library Literature Database indicated that only a half-dozen articles were published in the 1990s on the topic of collection building in Islam. Consequently, there is a need for an updated article on the topic, one that builds on the excellent article contributed by Plantz in Library Journal's collection development series.
Daniel Mack's guest column will assist librarians in the development of a core reference collection in this area. As Humanities Librarian at Penn State University's Middlemas Arts and Humanities Library, Mack has selection and other collection development responsibilities for the disciplines of classics, ancient Mediterranean studies, Jewish studies, philosophy, and religious studies. As an undergraduate, he majored in both philosophy and religious studies. He hold's master's degrees in both library and information science and ancient history. He has been actively involved in the work of the Reference and User Services Association. He was the assistant editor of "Best Bibliographies in History" in 1995, and editor-in-chief in 1996. In addition to his editorial work, he contributed reviews to "Best Bibliographies in History."
Today, the Islamic presence in America is apparent as never before. From major figures in international affairs to the family down the street, Muslims are no longer strangers. Even so, American society still holds many misconceptions regarding Islam and its adherents. Despite the surge of news stories, articles, and books on Islam, many prejudices remain. One reason for this may be the unavailability of solid, basic reference resources regarding Islam, its beliefs, and its adherents. From small school and public libraries providing communities with general information to large academic collections supporting curricula in comparative religions and cultural studies, libraries can do their part in correcting these inaccuracies by developing solid core reference collections in Islam.
The history of Islam begins in late sixth-century Arabia. There, according to Islam, Muhammad received God's message while living in Mecca. The first Muslims were so persecuted in Mecca that they immigrated to Medina in 622 A.D. Mecca is often thought of as the central city of Islam because it is the destination of pilgrims at the annual hajj (pilgrimage), and because Muslims face the direction of Mecca to recite their daily prayers. The Prophet, however, maintained Medina as the administrative center of the burgeoning Islamic state even after Mecca became a Muslim city.
Mecca was brought under Muslim control in 630 A.D. Muhammad died in 632 A.D. in Medina and is buried there. Medina remained the capital of the Islamic state until 661 A.D., when the capital was moved to Damascus. Muhammad's message spread throughout the Middle East, Persia, and North Africa, soon reaching into both Europe and Asia. …