An eager crowd of about 50 people gathered outside Saanich Municipal Hall on July 27 for the opening of an Islamic art exhibition.
Organized in partnership with Voices for Muslim Women – an organization actively working to address racism and discrimination by creating opportunities for cultural education and expression – Al-Fatiha has been over a year in the making and is aiming to increase Islamic representation and foster a greater sense of belonging for Muslims living around Greater Victoria.
“The exhibition is called Al-Fatiha which is the first chapter in the Quran, meaning the opening,” organizer Asiyah Robinson said. “We take that two ways. It’s opening the public to the contributions of Muslims to art, but we also hope this exhibition isn’t the last of its kind. We want to start a conversation that’s open-minded and based in more than just negative stereotypes. I think that’s really the intention.”
It’s just one part of a larger effort to create more welcoming and inclusive spaces for one of Canada’s fastest-growing demographics. Robinson, along with Zaheera Jinnah and colleagues, called on the mayors of Saanich and Victoria to implement recommendations to help confront the growing issue of Islamophobia. These recommendations span several sectors, from suggestions concerning policing reform to more funding for the arts.
The exhibition is showcasing artwork created by Muslim women from around the province and explores key themes within Islamic traditions and Muslim practices like prayer, identity, belonging, resilience, spirituality and new beginnings.
But it’s not only for those who practice Islam or identify as Muslim, say Robinson and Jinnah, who invited members across different faith communities to participate. It’s for the entire community, especially those who belong to other marginalized and underrepresented groups, they said.
“We want to make sure that it’s inclusive and it’s open to everybody. We want not just Muslims to see themselves in this but other people, other communities and other groups,” Robinson said. “Whatever you identify as we hope you can come here and say, ‘this is what I want to create for my community too.’”
The exhibition runs until Sept. 5. For more information, visit voicesofmuslimwomen.com.