“Our goal is to have children deal with differences in a healthy, positive way and encourage them to be inquisitive while exploring the world instead of running away from its differences,” Rashid said, an experience not so different from his years growing up in Elmont.
For the last few years, I got paid to play with toys. I was able to put a philosophy of Star Trek’s Vulcans into practice, and live as a Jedi. Comics littered my work space, and Dr. Who’s TARDIS traveled with me through space and time. All I was missing was a Buffy or Firefly fix. All of this was possible because I was working on religious literacy and global citizenship.
Hussein Rashid, a professor of religion at Hofstra University, says that many qawwaliartists working in South Asia today have limited themselves. He believes this American group is bringing the music back to its roots.
"You know, I think there's been so much concern about what is Islam, and what isn't, politically speaking and artistically speaking," Rashid says, "that there's been a push in modern qawwali to actually sanitize it and make it very sterile — and almost rule-bound — rather than ecstatic and devotional. For me, I think what Riyaaz Qawwali is doing is trying to go back to that very exciting, innovative space that qawwali was."
And so to Rashid, it's totally logical that such a burst of inspiration would come from deep in the heart of Texas. "In fact," he says, "it seems natural that we would get a new flourishing of Muslim devotionals in a place like America, where we do have this freedom of religion."
Pakistani-American, Houston-based artist Fahim Somani creates expressionistic, calligraphy-inflected compositions which are not only exquisite formal experiments full of delightful painterly flourishes, but aesthetic bridges between two cultures. While drawing on the text of the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam, Somani incorporates elements that evoke Minimalism, Abstract Expressionism, and other currents in post-war American art. The artist achieves this marriage of visual cues from Islamic and American art with innate talent, producing powerful and enigmatic images full of brilliant brushstrokes and vibrant textures.
Other Arab bronzes with inscriptions in Arabic and Latin conjure memories of places where East and West met.
A ewer from Arab Spain in the shape of a peacock carries an Arabic signature identifying it as “the work of the Christian King’s slave.” Underneath, an inscription in Roman capitals proclaims “Opus Salomonis Erat” naming the artist, probably called Sulayman, the Arabic form of the biblical name.
Now the museum is again risking the public’s wrath as it introduces the most radical architectural intervention since the pyramid in 1989. Designed to house new galleries for Islamic art, it consists of ground- and lower-ground-level interior spaces topped by a golden, undulating roof that seems to float within the neo-Classical Visconti Courtyard in the middle of the Louvre’s south wing, right below the museum’s most popular galleries, where the Mona Lisa and Veronese’s “Wedding Feast of Cana” are hung.