Muslim Culture in a Southern Space

This article shared by Tahir Mahmood.

In an America where public American narratives of Muslims are limited to images of terrorists and poverty-stricken refugees, our perception of Muslim history may be similarly warped. Especially in a small state such as ours, the scarcity of Muslims to counter the dominant stereotypes about their culture furthers the narrative. That’s what makes the work at the International Museum of Muslim Culture so important.

#The Jackson museum, the first of its kind in America, provides a valuable resource for both Muslims and African Americans to learn more about their legacy. It’s had its ups and downs: After the Sept. 11 attacks, someone threw a brick through one of its windows, which resulted in a massive wave of support from Jackson’s government and local colleges and universities.

#The museum’s exhibition, “The Legacy of Timbuktu: Wonders of the Written Word,” highlights how West African Muslims contributed to the world’s knowledge and may have even been responsible for your favorite blues song.

#IMMC’s co-founder and executive director of the exhibition, Okolo Rashid, acknowledges that disrupting false narratives is a central part of her work at the museum. When she gives tours of the exhibition, many visitors are surprised to find out that a huge contingent of black Muslims and that Muslims are responsible for inventions such as the loom.

#While the museum is small (it takes up one wing of the Mississippi Arts Center, where it moved in 2006) and lacks the deep pockets of big museums such as the Smithsonian, word of mouth and public support has ensured the museum’s residency in the Jackson area since 2001.

#“It’s because the significance of the story (of African Muslims) and the lack of knowledge behind it,” Rashid says.