Our focus on cultural topics was deliberate. In our efforts to break down stereotypes about Islam, our strategy was to humanize Muslims by showing them engaged in activities non-Muslims could relate to. Popular culture has always cut across cultural and geographic borders, so we focused heavily on the medium. Continue reading →
Hatemi speaks to visitors about his work at a recent gallery opening. Photo: Haydarhatemi.com
The state of Kentucky has a strong tradition of political conservatism and also, unfortunately, a long history of bigotry. Although this means that it has become one of the more hostile places for Muslims in the US, this Islamophobic atmosphere hasn’t stopped Iranian-born artist Haydar Hatemi from creating art in his Lexington basement studio that builds bridges between Muslims and non-Muslims.
The mainstream portrayal of Islam does not usually deal with transcendent beauty, elegant ornamentation, or intricate calligraphy. But might art be one of the keys to healing some of the chasms and conflicts that have plagued Muslim-West relations over the last 10 years? The power of art to build bridges of understanding is becoming more recognized as a vital component to repairing the Muslim-West divide. The new exhibit on Islamic art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art has already attracted thousands, and leading contemporary Islamic artists in America were recently featured at the Andy Warhol Museum, as part of the Dislocating Culture exhibit.
The largest mud brick building in the world is the Great Mosque of Djenné in Mali
In an another effort to present the great masterpieces of Islamic art and architecture to an American audience, a new documentary film, Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World, is slated to air on PBS in 2012. The film will launch with a series of nationwide screenings starting today at the Kennedy Center with its world premiere. Exploring five themes that are central to Islamic art–the Word, Space, Ornament, Color and Water–, the film traces the arc of Islamic art as a universal human endeavor that frequently interacted with people of other faiths and cultures. Framing Islamic art as the result of a multicultural and adaptive set of artistic approaches and creations, the film highlights Muslim artists who developed new art forms through an integration of various cultural expressions. Continue reading →
A number of images have received a great deal of attention during the Arab Spring, but one sticks out for its powerfully emotional evocation: Zehra Tajouri’s photo of her sister’s humble and defiant pose is one for the history books. The photo, taken and posted on Tajouri’s blog on February 16—the first day of the revolution—received immediate attention inside and outside of Libya.
Islamic Calligraphy Depicting the 13th Century Andalusian Morrish Sufi Mystic and Philosopher, Ibn Arabi
We hear a lot about the decline of intellectual and cultural production in the Muslim World, but very little attention is paid to the actual heyday of Islamic scholarship itself. Many of these traditions have indeed declined, but so too have recognition and knowledge of the most important spiritual, artistic, and scientific contributions Muslims have made. Islamic scholarship—from poetry to the philosophy of metaphysics—has been rich since the founding of Islam in the 7th century, but very few even know it exists.
A variety of factors have prevented many of the most insightful and stunning works of art and scholarship from gaining recognition. Pieces remain hidden treasures in the minds of a handful of academics and on the dusty shelves of libraries and museums around the world.
With Mubarak gone, Ahmed Abu Haiba no longer has to worry about the infamous SSIS (Egypt’s Secret Police), but his 2-year-old Islamic music channel’s future is anything but certain. Haiba’s Cairo-based 4Shbab TV aims to instill Islamic values in Arab Muslim youth around the world, but some conservative Muslims think that its programming is polluting young minds with “inappropriate” presentations of makeup-wearing women in music videos. A few key Gulf-based financiers have responded to these criticisms by divesting from the channel. A popular Arab sheik even accuses Haiba of promoting “American Islam.”
In a recent Al Jazeera documentary, Pop Goes Islam (embedded below), Haiba explains his reasoning behind the channel’s creation–offering Islamic values in the language of 21st-century youth–and notes that the only women who have appeared on his channel have worn headscarves and occasionally even niqabs. No female musicians or vocalists have ever been broadcast.