Bangladeshi artist Shahidul Alam has come up with an unprecedented and innovative exhibition of photographs that is rare in the arts sphere. The exhibition, titled “Embracing the Other,” could stand as a tool to combat Islamophobia, and to clear some misconceptions about the medium of art in Islam.
Shahidul Alam told Scroll.in, “I specifically mentioned this, as it is often said that photography is haram in Islam. Apart from the fact that millions of Muslims get their passport photos taken for going to Hajj, the idea is quite bizarre when one considers that the Quranic rules were made way before the existence of photography.”
The exhibition will take place in a field, within the premises of Bait Ur Rouf mosque on May 8 from 10am to 6pm. The mosque is designed by Marina Tabassum, who won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2016. The exhibition is aimed at creating openness and the ability to reach out.
Dr Muhammad Ibrahim, Professor of the Department of Islamic History and Culture at Dhaka University, photographer Dr Shahidul Alam who is also the Managing Director of Drik Picture Library, and Din Islam, the imam of the Bait Ur Rouf Mosque will speak at the launch.
A mosque was the first urban element introduced by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to the city of Madinah, which functioned as a community development centre. It was used as a centre for religious activities, for learning, the seat of the Prophet’s government, welfare and charity centre, a detention and rehabilitation centre, a place for medical treatment and nursing, and a place for leisure activities. The Prophet is known to have permitted women to sleep in the mosque, and for non-Muslims to pray there.
“It is this openness and the ability to reach out to others, that appears to be missing today, in everyday life and in the mosque,” says the photographer.
Rezaur Rahman, curator of “Embracing the Other” said, “One expects to be surprised by Shahidul Alam. Following on from his groundbreaking shows on “Crossfire” and “Kalpana’s Warriors”, this unique exhibition turns tradition on its head by holding a photographic exhibition in the last place you would expect.To use it to combat both Islamophobia and extremism in one go is a masterstroke by one of the most innovative and courageous artists of our times.”
Recipient of the Shilpakala Award, photographer, writer, curator and activist Shahidul Alam has been documenting his country’s struggle for democracy for over 30 years. Exhibited in MOMA, Centre Georges Pompidou and Tate Modern and speaker at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Oxford and Cambridge universities, Alam is an Honourary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, and Visiting Professor at Sunderland University. John Morris, the former picture editor of Life Magazine describes his book, My Journey as a Witness, as “the most important book ever written by a photographer.”