Salaam: Expressing Islam through art

The MSC Visual Arts Committee (VAC) has teamed up with the Muslim Students Association (MSA) to educate the Bryan-College Station community about Islam through art.

The two organizations have assembled an art exhibit, “Salaam,” which opened on Jan. 18 in the MSC Reynolds Gallery and will be on display until March 3. The exhibit features artwork provided by A&M students and the Islamic Arts Society of Houston.

According to Sibba Al-Kahtani, vice president of MSA, “Salaam” is a word that means peace. Muslims use the word to greet each other. She said peace is what Islam is really about.

“Islam is a peaceful religion,” Al-Kahtani said. “I know a lot of people don’t particularly believe that, but it is. It is a religion that allows you to find clarity within your own self. It pushes on forgiveness and being one with everything, almost. Peace is heavily emphasized in our religion and order because if you don’t have peace, you cannot be at rest.”

Al-Kahtani said she wants people to realize there is a Muslim community at Texas A&M and challenge preconceptions they may have about the religion.

“It allows them to see how Muslim students express themselves and how they view their religion,” Al-Kahtani said. “That can bring other audiences to clear misconceptions or feel a desire to have a conversation with a Muslim, rather than attaching labels and stigmas.”

Meghan Grayson, public relations director of VAC, said the committee tries to collaborate with other organizations in order to display the unique culture of multiple groups.

“Being diverse is one of [VAC’s] core values,” Grayson said. “We realize Islam has a rich traditional background that Americans don’t have as much access to because there’s an ocean between us and their origins. Overseas, they have a lot of architecture and over here we don’t really have as much. Unless you’ve taken a class that specifically discusses Islamic art, you probably don’t know anything about that history.”

Grayson said the exhibit is unique because it provides an opportunity to learn about art and history from a new perspective.

“When I found out about this exhibit, I knew it was going to be a really special one,” Grayson said. “This cultural background we’re showing will bring people a better appreciation. The art is so unique to that culture and so beautiful.”

According to the VAC, viewing the “Salaam” exhibit is only one way to begin learning about Islam. They recommend viewing the websites of the Islamic Arts Society of Houston and the Texas A&M Muslim Students’ Association to learn more.

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