Islamic Library Exhibit Outshines National Rancor

September 8, 2010

The Midwest City (Okla.) Library and a Muslim pre-K–10 school in this Oklahoma City–area community have collaborated on an exhibit in the library’s lobby of student paintings that interpret the Islamic tradition of the 99 Muslim names of God. Debuting August 15, the exhibit created by the Muslim Mercy School is scheduled to run through September 12.

Unremarkable in itself as an example of how libraries celebrate their communities’ diverse populations every day, the show eloquently counters through the peaceful reception it received from Oklahoma library visitors the bitter national debate about a proposed Islamic community center several blocks from Ground Zero in New York City. Art teacher Tehmina Cheema, who created the school assignment that resulted in the display, said in the September 1 Oklahoma City Oklahoman that library patrons have expressed appreciation for the English-language explanations of the Arabic calligraphy and Islamic symbolism in the artwork, noting that one visitor remarked, “It enlightens us more about Islam.”

Noting that the library’s mission is “providing information and knowledge of other cultures and traditions,” Midwest City Library Director Linda Temple told the Oklahoman that there have been “lots of positive reactions” to the display.

The Midwest City Library exhibit is scheduled to remain open a day longer than an anti-Muslim Qur’an-burning slated to take place September 11 on the grounds of the Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida. The book burning is being promoted by the congregation’s pastor, and the American Library Association is planning a read-in of the Qur’an that same day to protest the action.