Art, Islam & Europe

Arts, culture and religion are always interesting topics at hand. Often debates about how art represents a particular religion creates controversy exposing the many fault lines in society. Controversies about arts, religion and the relation between the two are therefore a sort of barometers of what matters in contemporary societies. Both arts and religion have the capacity to resist, challenge, mobilize and to transcend boundaries and create new boundaries. The next video Art, Islam & Europe shows all that. It is a short documentary to explore the perception of Islam as a civilisation and culture through contemporary art and artists influenced by eastern culture in Europe.

This Belief in Dialogue project, by the British Council, is enabling the Council to tackle current issues around cultural diversity, challenging misunderstandings and misconceptions of different communities. According to the Council, acknowledging the complex identities which form our pluralistic societies, Belief in Dialogue is exploring how to develop engagement for better global citizenship, help widening participation and building trust.

director and footages : khéridine mabrouk
editor and color grading : maxime mathis
post production:
special thanks : benjamin laurent
additional images/
art videos by damir niksic
the film graffix from the Soux by pete stern
art and islam usa tour by musa syeed

It is interesting of course, and some stories, images and songs are certainly challenging and transgressing some boundaries. In their attempt to show, let’s say, a creative humanity of Muslims they do run into some pitfalls that Jessica Winegar points to in her article The Humanity Game: Art, Islam, and the War on Terror:

[…] the claims about art, humanity, and religion governing these arts events actually operate in the same discursive universe of the conflict (which often frames problems in religious terms) and thus may act to reproduce it. When art is used to show Middle Easterners’ humanity or to advance certain views of Islam, a very particular and politicized “bridge of understanding” is created that obfuscates, and perhaps refuses, other understandings […]

p. 653

Many, but not all of them, in the video are responding against what they perceive as common stereotypes of Islam. Furthermore since ‘Islamic art’ has become somewhat of an interesting market, labels, images and so on are commercialized. Combining this may mean that the artists are actually not transcending boundaries but re-affirming them. It is the urge to produce art labelled as Islamic or made by Muslims, ends up reproducing a particular framework which is often interpreted referring to Islam and the predicaments of Muslims in Europe. They certainly do open up and make visible trajectories of Islam and ways of being Muslim that often are not visible for the larger audience. It is a type of religiosity that is not so much interested in being Muslim by following a code of do’s and don’t but in being Muslim by experiencing it, expressing it in various ways and by seeking channels to find and produce thrills, experiences, emotions and all kinds of creative expressions.

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