Yunus Emre Institute in London hosted a lively talk and book signing by 2021 Baillie Gifford Prize Nominee, Tharik Hussain on his magical work, ‘Minarets in the Mountains: A Journey Into Muslim Europe.’
Exploring the centuries of rich Islamic history and culture found natively in Europe, travel author Tharik Hussain discusses his latest book, Minarets in the Mountains: A Journey into Muslim Europe at the Yunus Emre Institute in London on Thursday 11th November 2021.
It was in the hilly village of Palamartsa, north-eastern Bulgaria while on a family holiday that travel writer Tharik Hussain was inspired to follow in the footsteps of the great 17th century Ottoman explorer, Evliya Celebi, and set off on a trip around the western Balkans. This road trip that would eventually become the book Minarets in the Mountains.
During his talk, Tharik energetically walked through his travels across Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Albania, and Montenegro. He detailed this extraordinary journey where he found Muslims whose identity had been forged in and of Europe, whose identities entrenched fully in local society and who were as European as they were Muslim.
Nominated for the prestigious 2021 Baillie Gifford Prize, this trailblazing book recounts a journey into a Europe which rarely makes the news and is in danger of being erased altogether – a Muslim Europe. Crucially, Tharik’s fascinating analysis during the talk touched upon the importance of counter-narratives in history that challenge ideas and stereotypes we have been taught. Pointing to the importance of ‘decolonising’ travel writing and giving voices to those usually unheard, his powerful words struck a chord with the audience.
Tharik’s eye-opening recollection of his travels across the Balkans concluded with a poignant discussion on the importance of the narrator within the media we consume. He further went on to stress our responsibility to contextualise the literature we read to gain a fuller picture of the history and culture around us.
Minarets in the Mountains is the first non-fiction account by a Muslim writer on this subject and further explores the historical roots of the current tide of Islamophobia. Tharik himself has explored encountering Muslim cultures and heritage across the globe for various media publications and his work often serves to counter popular religious and cultural narratives. For example, Tharik has created Britain’s first Muslim heritage trails in Surrey, England in 2019 and won Best Religious Program at the New York Festivals World’s Best Radio Programs Award for his BBC World Service radio documentary, America’s Mosques; a story of integration in 2016.
After a lively Q&A session aided by an eager, full audience and Tharik’s engaging character, the event ended with a book signing.
This event was jointly organised by Yunus Emre Institute in London, London Central Mosque and Everyday Muslim and can be watched online on Yunus Emre Institute in London’s Facebook page and YouTube channel (@yeelondra).