Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts presents a honest view of Muslim culture
by Zehra Abbas, The Daily Cougar
In keeping with UH’s much-appreciated diversity, the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts is making an effort to gain a better understanding of Muslim culture. To support its effort, the Association of Performing Arts Presenters awarded it the $200,000 Building Bridges grant in February. This is a wonderful accomplishment for UH that shows the importance of expanding awareness of Muslim culture and expanding awareness in general.
On behalf of the Mitchell Center, executive director Karen Farber expressed her appreciation upon receiving the grant.
“The Building Bridges grant will help us show how the arts can be transformational for a university campus,” she said. “We can’t wait to get started with the remarkable artists that will be a part of the Intersections initiative.”
The Mitchell Center is a recent addition to UH. Formed in 2003, this donation by the Mitchell family was bestowed to enhance UH’s art programs. It encourages the collaboration between the schools of Art, Music, and Theater and Dance, the Creative Writing Program and the Blaffer Art Museum to create an interdisciplinary attitude toward the arts.
Intersections is a project organized by the Mitchell Center with the objective of creating awareness of Muslim culture through interdisciplinary art. It consists of four artists from UH presenting their pieces throughout the next two years that, the Mitchell Center hopes, will shed a light on Muslim societies. These pieces are to portray the diversity within the Muslim community at UH.
When some people hear the word “Muslim,” their thoughts immediately travel to the Middle East. They would think that the Mitchell Center and APAP are promoting Middle Eastern art. Why isn’t it labeled that way — what is so diverse about Muslim culture, they think.
The APAP could not have given a more clear reason for why this is. In regards to the Building Bridges program, they have said that “one of the most important characteristics of the Islamic civilization is that it is not the product of a particular people or race. It is the product of people of different races (and) languages.” This explains why there are Indian-Pakistanis like me who eat spicy food and speak Urdu but also read the Qur’an and pray namaaz. The same applies for most religions.
As a Muslim, I was pleased to find many different people interested in the artistic aspect of Muslim culture and making an effort to inform the public. It was refreshing to hear of people who are seeing past the violent extremists and other false portrayers of Islam and making their way to the intricate patterns and swirling calligraphy, among other types of art. This allows people not only to appreciate unique art, but also to see a less negative, and unfortunately less common, view of Islamic culture.
The United States has been and continues to be populated by people from all across the world, and their clothes are not the only thing they bring in their suitcase. People bring their customs, traditions, language and other aspects that make up their culture. It makes sense to try to educate ourselves about the many different cultures present. The efforts of the Mitchell Center and many others who strive to do this are truly commendable.
Opinion columnist Zehra Abbas is an English sophomore and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org