The International Museum of Muslim Cultures, in existence for 20 years, held a special VIP reception for its new exhibition, titled “Muslims with Christians and Jews: Covenants and Coexistence,” on June 27. The grand opening, ribbon-cutting ceremony, and press conference were held the following day (June 28), in the presence of local elected officials and community leaders in Jackson, Mississippi (US).
Although the event featured a press conference, the media was conspicuous by their absence. “They were all invited,” explained Okolo Rashid, President and Co-Founder of the museum. “If they are not here, it is by design,” she asserted, adding that “whenever something bad happens, they show up; however, when Muslims do something good, the media is nowhere to be seen.” Dr. Safiya Omari, Chief of Staff for the City of Jackson praised the museum and exhibit as did Dr. Loye Ashton from Tougaloo College. Dr. John Andrew Morrow, scholar and Special Consultant for the Covenants Exhibition gave an extemporaneous lesson on the Covenants of the Prophet.
The exhibition is centered around the Constitution of Madinah and the Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It showcases the centrality of divine unity and human unity and presents the Prophet as a mercy and a liberator who belongs to a long line of messengers that includes Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus (a).
The exhibition provides an overview of the major events in Muslim sacred history, including the migration to Abyssinia, the land of a righteous Christian king, where the Prophet (pbuh) sent his persecuted monotheistic followers, as well as the second migration to Madinah, where he was elected by popular acclaim, consulted with tribal leaders in drafting a constitution, the first in human history, and where he created a pluralistic society.
Visitors learn that the Constitution of Madinah predates the Magna Carta by 593 years and the Constitution of the United States by 1,126 years. The charter provided protection to all citizens regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, gender or class. The product was a multiethnic, multiracial, multilingual, and multi-religious commonwealth. The Covenant of the Prophet is featured prominently in Turkish-Arabic script and its English translation.
The exhibition also features a section on “Islam and the Founding Fathers.” It focuses on the copy of the Qur’an Thomas Jefferson had in his possession and proposes that the Qur’an and the Constitution of Madinah influenced America’s founding fathers. It also highlights the fact that there has never been a time in which there were no Muslims in the United States. They were there from day one among the enslaved Africans.
The exhibition clarifies misconceptions regarding jihad and introduces visitors to Islamic principles of religious pluralism, “Let there be no compulsion in religion” commands the Qur’an (2:256). It ends on a positive note with a section on the Golden Rule in Islam, emphasizing the universality of this ethical principle. The exhibit will remain in Jackson for months to come after which it will travel to museums and venues throughout the United States and beyond.
In the past, the museum has hosted such other wonderful exhibits as “Islamic Moorish Spain” and “The Legacy of Timbuktu.” The City of Jackson clearly sees the museum as adding quality to the life of the community, hence its support for it. Large corporations and foundations also support the museum. Despite this, it is entirely ignored by the media.