Hussein Rashid to deliver lecture on learning about Muslim faith through short stories

Hussein Rashid believes in the power of education as a driving force behind tolerance and peace. Between managing his consultancy, islamicate, and teaching courses on Islam at Barnard College, he never ceases in his mission to educate others about his faith.

“There’s now a greater sense of urgency for the type of work I do and more people willing to say, ‘Yeah, this is where we should be committing resources,’ ” he said. “Not after the conflict and not during conflict, but to try to prevent conflict.”

Hussein Rashid

Thankfully, Rashid also believes education should be fun.

At 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 10, in the Hall of Philosophy, Rashid will deliver his lecture “Riding Backwards: Laughing and Learning with Muslims” as part of the Week Three interfaith theme, “The Spirituality of Play.”

For this lecture, Rashid selected a series of “trickster tales” to help Chautauquans understand Muslim traditions and ethics. These tales are short stories full of  humor, character and hidden meanings.

“I just really love them because they’re so short and spiffy, but there’s so much you can read into them,” he said.

My goal is to really look at some of these stories and tell these stories, but then also get the audience to think, ‘OK what is this trying to teach? What are the different ways in which we can read these stories?’ ”

-Hussein Rashid, Founder, islamicate

As someone who was inspired by a teacher to pursue his passion for education and religious studies, Rashid firmly believes in paying it forward and passing along his knowledge.

“What got me into the area of study was a wonderful professor I had as an undergraduate who turned me onto the idea of studying professionally,” he said. “I’ve been blessed to have a series of mentors since then who really encouraged me to find my own voice and my own interests.”

Much of Rashid’s career is devoted to analyzing Muslim representation in American culture. Through his work at religious literacy consultancy islamicate, he partnered with the Children’s Museum of Manhattan to develop the exhibition “America to Zanzibar: Muslim Cultures Near and Far.” Currently, islamicate is working with a kid’s television program to help develop informative and engaging material.

For Rashid, the theme “The Spirituality of Play” was a great opportunity to combine his passion for education and knack for making learning enjoyable.

“It’ll be a nice way to approach a topic that will reflect material I’m using,” he said. “The problem for me was not so much looking for material, but trying to narrow the material down.”

Though he did have to cut down the material to 45 minutes, Rashid said is he eager and excited to deliver his lecture. This will be his fourth visit to Chautauqua.

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The author Julie Ciotola

Julie Ciotola is reporting on the Interfaith Lecture Series and Sacred Song Services. She is an Akron, Ohio, native and studies journalism and history at Ohio University. Next year, she will serve as editor-in-chief for Backdrop Magazine, a student-run campus publication. This is her first time at Chautauqua. Contact her at or on Twitter.