David Robinson, professor of history and African studies at Michigan State, is collecting print, audio and video documentation of the Muslim people of Ghana and Senegal in an online archive.
A Michigan State University professor is creating a digital archive of stories of West African Muslims in two countries he considers models of peaceful coexistence between different religions.
David Robinson, a professor of history and African studies at MSU, is gathering print, audio and video documentation of the Muslim people of Ghana and Senegal.
They comprise an archive titled "Diversity and Tolerance in the Islam of West Africa: Creating Online Resources of Peaceful Muslim Practice."
In August, the university announced that Robinson's work had received a three-year, $250,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities
The work has previously been recognized with a $380,000 grant from the National Science Foundation
growing archive will be of use to many academic disciplines, including anthropology, political science, sociology, criminal justice and language education.
chose Senegal and Ghana not only because of his
team's specialties but for a deeper reason.
"We've emphasized Senegal and Ghana in particular in order to have two situations where Muslims and non-Muslims get along fairly well.
In the Senegal case, the majority of the population is Muslim and in the Ghana case only a modicum are Muslim," he
In Ghana, the groups are "enthusiastic about cooperation and mutual respect."
"Muslims of different persuasions, Christians of different persuasions and people who are neither Muslim nor Christian who are holding on to traditional practices get along quite well," he
described the way their interaction as more reminiscent of a friendly rivalry than of an acrimonious feud.
In Ghana, for example, members of the Ahmadiyya movement, a small branch of Islam that split from the mainstream in the late 19th century, use social services to attract followers.
"They have been quite successful in the last 80 years or so," he
said, "and they have adopted some of the Christian missionary methods of propagation, by holding services and developing schools.
They've sort of been in a competition but a healthy competition with the Anglicans and Pentecostals.
Their education system is considered to be just as good as those established by the secular government or the Christian churches and missionaries."
is putting the finishing touches on a new gallery soon to enter the archive about the Mouride brotherhood, a group of Muslims that follows the mystical Islamic tradition of Sufism.
Typically they will go back to their sacred city in the interior of Senegal, Touba, every two or three years," Robinson
fellow researchers are busy gathering, digitizing and uploading material for the archive, he
said that he
has already spread the word about it and will use MSU's strong connections to other history programs to further promote it.
"We are in touch with a tremendous number, thousands of classroom teachers throughout the country.
If we alert them to these materials and tell them to go to this Web site, 50 percent of the time we'll succeed in getting into the classroom and getting teachers to use this material," he
hopes that the archive will present a positive view of peaceful coexistence between Islam and other religions and foster better understanding of the people of West Africa specifically and the religion in general.
"We hope overall that the project will used by researchers and especially by teachers and students, so that they will see that Islam is very important in Africa as the religious practice of close to half the people of that continent.
The perceptions that have come out from 9/11 and other terrible episodes will not be generalized," he