Interview with International Museum of Muslim Cultures
The International Museum of Muslim Cultures (IMMC), is approaching groundbreaking milestones in the heart of Mississippi. Its co-founders president Emad Al-Turk and chairwoman and director of the IMMC’s thought Institute Okolo Rashid checked in with Sapelo Square and shared their excitement about these upcoming projects and extended an invitation to our readers to make a visit. Check out our interview with these education innovators.
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Sapelo Square: During our Black Muslim History Month discussions you shared with Sapelo Square how in 2000, the Majesty of Spain exhibit at the Jackson Mississippi Arts Pavilion inspired you to create the International Museum of Muslim Cultures. In what ways do your Islamic identities inspire you, specifically would you say that there is an ahadith or surah/ayah that inspires the mission of the Qur’an or inspires you personal in your service to Allah?
Emad: I would have to say 49:13″O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” Islam mandates for us to be one human family and we should celebrate these differences and embrace them to reflect the global Muslim population worldwide. From various Islamic interpretations and cultures
Okolo: I would say, 96:1 “Read in the name of your Lord Who created.” -the first revelation to Prophet Muhammad to read (inspires the basis of the Museum’s curriculum and unifies Islamic principles. ) Part of the Museum tour is the focus on education. These verses were a lesson to Prophet Muhammad and by extension to us. This lesson also serves as a reminder to respect the intelligence and the perfection of Allah’s creation of the human.
I also feel inspired by Surah 42, Ash Shura which deals with conflict resolutions. One of the major museum outreach programs is Scholars of Peace, a peer-mediation program for young people in schools. In the collection of manuscripts that the museum owns, one manuscript is called scholars of peace, the namesake of the program. This manuscript addresses the peace-building and mediation activities of Imams, political leaders and scholars who unified to resolve issues and create peace in the masjid, family, community and country wide in Timbuktu. The Scholars of Peace program uses authentic history and resources that relate to African Americans to inspire African American youth.
SS: What is the current exhibit of the museum?
IMMC: The exhibit “The Legacy of Timbuktu: Wonders of the Written Word” challenges perceptions about sub-Saharan Africa as uncivilized through audio and visual displays, interactive media, and hands-on learning focusing on the ancient city of Timbuktu, located in modern-day Mali. In 2010 IMMC began the development of its national traveling exhibition program. The Timbuktu exhibition will begin its national tour in 2017 to ten venues in major US cities for a five year period.
SS: What current and/or upcoming program(s) are you most excited about?
Emad: I would have to say I am excited for our upcoming Islamic Heritage Festival in April. All month long we will be celebrate the cultural and artistic contributions of the varied Muslim communities to America. The month will be filled with diverse presentations representing different cultures in Islam, programs about Islamic and Quranic basics, the celebration of Jackson’s new sister cities program with M’bour, Senegal and so much more culminating in an all-day festival on Saturday April 30th. You can check out the full schedule of events here: Islamic Heritage Month
Okolo: The Museum recently consolidated all of its educational activities under our newly created Islamic Thought Institute. As director I oversee the museum’s human dignity and cultural relevancy educational program in the Jackson Public School Districts. This two year project involves using the legacy of Timbuktu to teach human dignity through in class presentations in the public schools by Maryam Rashid Abdur Rahman, who is the Bridging Cultures Racial Equity for African Americans Project Co-Director and IMMC’s Education Coordinator and Muhammad Abdur Rahman, who is the Project Manager, and IMMC’s Imam In-Resident. We are currently negotiating the Fort Worth School District in Texas and hope to expand the program to other school districts. As part of this institute we are expanding our teacher workshops and educational outreach. We will be adding an interactive education website as well as an Islamic history and culture Library.
SS: Can you tell us more about the next exhibit coming to the Museum?
IMMC: The next exhibit, At the crossroads of Christianity and Islam: The covenants of the Prophet Muhammad in historical context will explore the oft-neglected historical context of the Prophet Muhammad’s peaceful interactions and treatise with Christian groups throughout history. We believe that is an important aspect of Islamic history that should be promoted due to its value but also as it is extremely relevant to addressing the climate surrounding discussion about Islam today. This exhibit and related educational programming will be implemented in September of 2016.
SS: Beyond April what can museum-goers look forward to?
Okolo: Along with the new crossroads exhibit the Museum will be hosting a national conference in early 2017 “AMERICA AT A CROSSROADS: Race and Class at the Center—of an On-going Struggle for Human Dignity.” This conference will focus on the question “Can Islam/Muslim Americans Offer A Way Forward to address human dignity, race and culture with American Muslims at the center?”
SS: Where is the Museum located and how can Sapelo Square reader’s support the Museum’s projects and community outreach?
The International Museum of Muslim Cultures is conveniently located in the heart of downtown Jackson’s Arts District in the vicinity of the Mississippi Arts Center.
201 E Pascagoula Street
Jackson, Mississippi, 39201 USA
We welcome you to visit the Museum any time, but there are some wonderful programs happening this April during Islamic Heritage Month that are not to be missed. We also welcome volunteers for our events and programs.
Additionally, You can follow the IMMC at:
Additionally, you can become a member of the museum or give a one-time gift to protect this effort to preserve and educate others about the history of Islam and its contributions in America.