VICTORIA – Making a fusion between Islamic heritage and Australian culture, Australia’s first Islamic Museum has opened its doors to the public to showcase the Islamic culture and present the true-face of Islam.
“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,” Moustafa Fahour, the Islamic museum co-founder, told ABC on Monday, March 3.
It's about creating a “fusion between Australian infrastructure but a lot of Islamic principles, from traditional calligraphy to geometric tile patterns,” the co-founder added.
Planned since 2010, the dream of launching Australia's first-ever Islamic Museum came true this month in a bid to highlight Muslim contributions in Australia and defy misconceptions about Islam.
Constructed in Melbourne with a budget of $10 million, the museum presents the tenets of Islam through various forms of arts.
The Museum is expected to enhance Australian’s understanding of Islam and help build bridges of communication.
Moreover, it includes galleries that display Islamic contributions to engineering, architecture and arts.
“To really open the doors on what Islam is and the positive contribution Muslims have made to civilization and more importantly to Australia,” Fahour added.
The iconic design of the building merges between rusted red steel and a sleek grey front decorated with Arabic script quoting a Qur’anic verse reading: “so narrate to them the stories so that upon them they may reflect”.
The museum offers visitors an opportunity to explore the true meanings of misunderstood terms like jihad and hajj.
The project is an exercise in “enhancing the social cohesive and multicultural landscape,” Fahour said.
“And really give a window into the Islamic life and the Australian Muslim history and contributions they've made to Australia and to civilization.”
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
Islam is the country's second largest religion after Christianity.
For Australian Muslims, the new museum would offer Muslims a better connection with the wider community, citing the positive feedback they received during the opening.
“The support that we have tonight is phenomenal,” Fahour, the Islamic museum co-founder, said.
“I heard a comment today where someone said that we as Australian Muslims feel proud that we contributed to this country.
“And to hear people from other faiths say the museum was amazing is, for me, the ultimate goal,” he added.
The opening ceremony was attended by key Muslim figures, including music legend Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens.
“It is a fantastic project and it is going to grow… it is just going to grow”, Yusuf Islam was quoted by SBS.
Along with arts, the museum restaurant presents Middle Eastern food for visitors.
“I have two cultures Australian and middle east so I have to represent that in my food,” said Samira El Khafir, Masterchef finalist who supervises the museum restaurant.
Opening its doors to the public, the Islamic museum has received dozens of tour request from several schools.
“They show us a video of Islam and what we do in our religion” said Meriem Ibraimi, a student.
“I have learnt the different names of the prophets,” another student said.