The following article appeared on ABC Melbourne on 3rd March 2014:
Australia’s first Islamic Museum opens in Melbourne
By Prue Bentley
A new museum showcasing Islamic art, design and ingenuity has officially opened its doors to the public.
Sport has a place in shaping the Australian world view, but to Moustafa Fahour, it’s the arts that truly bring us together. Mr Fahour is one of the founders of Australia’s first museum dedicated to Islamic arts and culture, nestled between the Merri River and an industrial slice of Thornbury. With a mission to highlight a singularly Australian expression of Islamic culture, he says the $10 million purpose-built space will do for Islamic identity what the AFL has done for indigenous Australia. “I think art is more universal and can really bring people from all faiths and cultures together and once you learn and understand you’ll actually celebrate these differences.” He says it’s about creating a “fusion between Australian infrastructure but a lot of Islamic principles, from traditional calligraphy to geometric tile patterns.”Even before you cross the threshold, it’s clear that idea is embodied in the building’s distinct design. The large warehouse space is partially enveloped in Australian corten steel patterned with indigenous themes. Where it wraps across the front entrance-way the rusted red steel meets a sleek grey front emblazoned with arabic script quoting a passage from the Qur’an which translates to “so narrate to them the stories so that upon them they may reflect”. The route around the museum is a deliberate journey, starting with a space that explores elements of Islamic faith and efforts to explain concepts too often misunderstood or misrepresented; terms like “jihad” and “hajj” along with the origins of Islam. Examples of archeology including early bone and ivory chess pieces from Afghanistan give way to modern art inspired by and created by Australian Muslims. A special piece of their permanent collection has pride of place; a series of three beautifully painted surfboards inspired by the 2005 Cronulla Riots in Sydney.
Several notable Australian Muslims have been involved in this project, including the CEO of Australia Post Ahmed Fahour who is serving as the museum’s patron. His brother Moustafa Fahour explains the project is an exercise in “enhancing the social cohesive and multicultural landscape and really give a window into the Islamic life and the Australian muslim history and contributions they’ve made to Australia and to civilisation.” He hopes people from right around the nation will embrace their mission.
Some may need to step outside their culture, others outside their comfort zone but what they step into will undoubtedly be worth the effort.