By Leah Fallon
The Art Advisory Committee of Loudoun County, in partnership with the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, will feature an Islamic art show this month at the County Government Center in Leesburg.
Larry Roeder, member of the ADAMS Center mosque and Loudoun County Art Advisory Committee board member, said the show isn’t about Islam. The artists, all members of the ADAMS center, are Americans who want to help bridge the gap of knowledge about Islam.
“We are not looking for official recognition of any religion,” Roeder said. “What we wanted is to host an opportunity for artists who are Muslim and pray or work in Loudoun to show art that has been informed by their religiosity and culture.”
The Islamic-American artists’ work represents the great diversity and range of the cultural traditions of Islam, with a wide range of ideas on what makes art great.
The artwork being displayed ranges from an oil painting of an iconic American bison to a portrait of a girl. Some pieces are modern Islamic abstract, while others are very traditional. “Like the art of many cultures, there is no one thing that is Islamic art, which was one of our points,” Roeder said.
More than anything, the artists want their message, “We are all American,” to be the driving force of the show.
“As you know, Islam is under threat,” Roeder said. “I’m often asked to be an advocate or explainer for Islam and in those conversations I frequently meet people who have never met a Muslim, or didn’t realize it, more likely.”
The artists hope by putting their art on display in Loudoun, and inviting the community, that it could bring more acceptance for the Islamic community.
Ahmed Ansari, of Chantilly, will show two of his art pieces. He knows that the exhibit can be a positive way to break down misconceptions about people who practice Islam. He said that some in the community may feel worried about having Muslims as their neighbors because of the fear of terrorism. “One of the most important practices of our faith is to be kind and caring toward our neighbors regardless of their faith,” he said.
Leesburg resident, Shela Kizilbash is a Muslim-American and looks forward to attending this art show. As a Calligraphy artist, she is drawn to the more traditional religious paintings, but also is interested in the non-traditional art the show has to offer. As a child in Pakistan, she began her lessons of Calligraphy and its ties to the Qur’an. Her art is used to offer blessings around her home, and remind her to stay grounded and good. She says it’s important for Muslim Americans to stand up against misinformation about Islam. “It breaks my heart to hear ‘Islamic’ used to describe a terrorist.” She says the terrorists committing these violent crimes do not follow the teachings of the Qur’an.
Although Roeder is a Christian, he was born in Lebanon to the parents of American diplomats and has lived all over the world including Egypt, the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza, and Sudan. At the age of 8, his father handed him the Qur’an and told him to read it—not to become Muslim, but to become more informed and “not to be swayed by ignorance.” He says of Muslims he has encountered, “They have always impressed me as quite similar to Christians and just as peaceful, with much the same goals in life for economic prosperity and a peaceful life as any American.”
He joined the ADAMS center four years ago and continues to advocate for the Muslim community. Bringing together artists to exhibit their work is part of that effort.
Bridges of Faith and Traditions, Islamic Art Show will be in the County Government Center on 1 Harrison St. SE Leesburg from Sept. 12 to Nov. 4. The opening reception is Monday, Sept. 12, from 5:30 to 7 pm. in Gallery One at the County Government Center.