While Islamic Arts are some of the oldest and most elaborate on Earth, over the last 10 years in the United States there has been a growing movement towards Islamic Arts in fine arts, ceramics, and textiles, including an array of fabulous museum exhibits that have garnered a substantial amount of praise in the news. The Islamic Arts Society (IAS) of Houston is part of this expansion of Islamic arts organizations. Happily, the IAS, whose Islamic Arts Festival runs December 5th to the 6th, has agreed to a short interview with Muslim Girl.
Muslim Girl: Thanks so much for speaking with Muslim Girl about your work. How, when, and why did the Islamic Arts Society come into being?
IAS: The Islamic Arts Society of Houston is a non-profit organization that was founded in 2014 by a small group of Houstonians who met by chance at a local museum during an exhibition of Islamic arts. They came from varied backgrounds — a physician, an engineer, a homemaker, and business owner; but had one thing in common — their passion for Islamic Arts! Together we started the Islamic Arts Society. We wanted to show people the beauty of Islam through art.
Muslim Girl: Would you please tell us about the Islamic Arts Festival? How did it start?
IAS: We wanted to share the rich heritage of Islamic arts among both Muslims and non-Muslims. By sharing Islamic arts, the society hopes to promote mutual understanding, enhance cultural and religious harmony, and to bring the broader American community together. Art is a universal language and helps build bridges. It breaks the ice and starts a dialogue. The Islamic Arts Society has been particularly successful in creating understanding, tolerance, and coexistence through the medium of art in the last few years, not only in Houston but all over America.
Muslim Girl: What were your reasons for the festival, or another way to say this is, what were your intentions in beginning the festival?
IAS: With all the negative attention in the media about Islam and Muslims, we wanted to share something positive about our religion. Not many people understand the relationship between art and Islam. One of the best things that has happened since our inception is that Muslim children and adults are feeling proud of our heritage, and many people have taken up the Islamic Arts as their hobby. Inspired by our festival many people across America have started doing their own “art festivals.” Alhamdulillah, in our 7th year we are the largest and oldest festival of Islamic arts in USA
Muslim Girl: What have been some of the challenges for both the IAS and the festival itself? Are there any harder moments you can describe to us?
IAS: Many people are skeptical about “Islamic Arts” and question if there is such a genre. We explain the emphasis in Islam about beauty and creating things of beauty. There is a saying; “God is beautiful and loves beauty.” Calligraphy is the most revered form of Islamic art. It is beautifying “the word of God,” which is the Quran. It is nothing but pure Ibadah, or service. Muslim artists seek to create art by glorifying the words from the Quran. Muslims believe that depicting figurative images of God is akin to idolatry. Therefore, Muslim artists channel their artistic expressions towards decorating the word of God through calligraphy.
Muslim Girl: What are your future goals for the festival?
IAS: To make it into a national event and an annual convention which attracts large number of visitors from all over North America
Muslim Girl: If you could share what your vision is for Islamic Arts in contemporary times, we would really appreciate it. What do you think the future possibilities are for contemporary Islamic Arts?
IAS: Many of the arts and motifs you see around us are inspired by Islamic art. Islamic geometric patterns, arabesque, and henna patterns are ubiquitous in our society and many people are unaware of the Islamic origins of these designs
Well, thanks so much again for agreeing to speak with Muslim Girl about your fantastic work.
For the Facebook event: http://bit.ly/iaf2020
Sarah is a social worker in the San Francisco Bay Area with at-risk and homeless youth. She likes to paint, drum, sing, and spend quality time with her family and God.