Why read Muslim authors?
Have you ever heard about how readers are smarter and more empathic than non-readers?
Research has shown that this statement is a fundamental truth, universally known with a few needed corrections. Research has shown more specifically that children do develop more empathy by reading IF they engage with what they read and talk about it afterwards. You can’t read yourself to be an empathic person. You have to talk yourself into being a more empathic person but talking about books is a great way of starting that conversation (http://dx.doi.org/10.13128/RIEF-13299). This is one reason I love readathons. A readathon is an easy way of entering conversations with other readers. When you do a readathon, big or small, you are connected with other readers who are reading about the same thing you are reading.
One of the hardest things we, as a society, need to figure out is how do we live together. We need to find a common way to interact with one another where we can agree on not just values, but also a shared field of knowledge and truth. E.g.: Are all people created equally? What does it take for something to be true? What is the purpose of… anything?
Habermas proposed a way of dealing with this issue called discourse ethics. He said that we can solve all these things if we just manage to talk to one another in a civil tone. A common critique of dialogue ethics is that not everyone are good at talking. It takes a lot of skills to formulate your thoughts and feelings into good arguments for your way of seeing the world. A secondary problem with discourse ethics is that it’s never neutral, and this issue can also be found in readathons.
One example is the #ramadanreadathon. The purpose of this readathon is to highlight a group that is suffering in a lot of European and North American countries due to discrimination. This could (1) lead to read books that show Muslims in a purely positive light, rather than showing them as complex people, and (2) result in the books being read being from mainly European and North American authors. The last point is an issue I have with a lot of readathons centring around minority groups. Personally, I am sick of minorities only coming from the US (and in some part England, but this also is surprisingly rear).
When the aim of my reading is to better understand other people, I don’t think that Muslims or any singular group holds the key to this understanding. I want to read from different groups and different countries, different skin colours and different religions, because no-one holds the key on their own. This is also very important when focusing on a religion, that how Islam is understood in Pakistan, in Somalia, in England and in Norway are different ways of being a Muslim.
Please comment below on how you think your reading can help you interact with the world. If you think that should be the goal of reading? If you are going to/are participating in #ramadanreadathon and how you think we in the readathon can have a good conversation about the books we read.