On April 14, 2015 at 5 p.m. in Umrath Hall Lounge, veteran journalist Carla Power talked about “Reading the Quran at Starbucks: An American Secular Feminist and a Traditional Muslim Scholar Find Commonalities.”
For decades, Power has been covering the Middle East, telling stories about its people, traditions, cultures and conflicts. Now, the Time correspondent has written an engrossing account of her yearlong undertaking to learn the Quran, the central religious text of Islam, guided by her madrasa-trained Muslim friend.
The book, If the Oceans Were Ink, reveals what can happen when open-minded people break through stereotypes and misconceptions and search for common ground. If the Oceans Were Ink is Carla Power’s eye-opening story of how she and her longtime friend Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi found a way to confront ugly stereotypes and persistent misconceptions that were cleaving their communities. Their friendship between a secular American and a madrasa-trained sheikh had always seemed unlikely, but now they were frustrated and bewildered by the battles being fought in their names. Both knew that a close look at the Quran would reveal a faith that preached peace and not mass murder; respect for women and not oppression. And so they embarked on a yearlong journey through the controversial text.
A journalist who grew up in the Midwest and the Middle East, Power offers her unique vantage point on the Quran’s most provocative verses as she debates with Akram at cafes, family gatherings, and packed lecture halls, conversations filled with both good humor and powerful insights. Their story takes them to madrasas in India and pilgrimage sites in Mecca, as they encounter politicians and jihadis, feminist activists and conservative scholars. Armed with a new understanding of each other’s worldviews, Power and Akram offer eye-opening perspectives, destroy long-held myths, and reveal startling connections between worlds that have seemed hopelessly divided for far too long.