Islamic Heritage Honored
Published: Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 8, 2013 01:10
This October, Washington, D.C., is celebrating its eighth Islamic Heritage Month.
“It helps Americans as a whole to know that Muslims have been a part of American society since the conception of America,” America’s Islamic Heritage Museum President and Curator Amir Muhammad said. “Throughout America, people acknowledge and celebrate African American and Latino heritage months, and we felt there was a need to celebrate America’s Islamic heritage.”
Islamic Heritage Month, which is held in October because it coincides with the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, began in 2005 with the opening of the Smithsonian Institution’s America’s Islamic Heritage exhibit, in which the museum displayed letters, copies of the Quran and other Muslim artifacts found in the country.
Eight years later, Amir Muhammad said he hoped the month would continue to raise awareness of the historical contributions of Muslims in America.
“It was a history that was forgotten about,” Muhammad said. “People thought it was something foreign and strange, but we have been involved in American history. We fought in every American war since the Revolutionary War.”
In line with that goal, America’s Islamic Heritage Museum, which is not associated with the Smithsonian, is reaching out to local schools to entice students to learn about Islamic culture and history, as well as to teach tolerance. The museum has also planned a number of events, such as historical documentary viewings and a book signing and discussion with Imam Mikal Saahir, a well-known Muslim author. The museum will hold two plays and a speech, all focusing on Muslim-American relationships in the early days of U.S. history, stretching back to the colonial period.
Amin Gharad (COL ’16), coordinator of Georgetown’s Muslim Interest Living Community, praised the D.C. government’s efforts in promoting diversity.
“A lot of times, we fail to remember that different cultures have come from all over the world to shape America into what it is today, and some of them are Muslim people, whether they came on slave ships many centuries ago or whether they came with changes in immigration law within the past century,” Gharad said. “They’ve had an indelible impact on the ethos of the American community.”
In particular, Muslim Student Association Secretary Sabrina Khan (COL ’16) pointed to the current attitude toward Muslims in the United States.
“I really respect the mayor’s decision to celebrate Islamic heritage in America, especially when there is so much prejudice against the ‘un-American’ Muslim,” Khan said.
Gharad agreed and said that he hoped celebrations such as Islamic Heritage Month would help ease relations in the country.
“Concerted efforts to bring that which is ‘otherized’ into the mainstream and the common consciousness of American people does a lot to reduce tensions on both sides,” Gharad said.