The arts have a unique ability to embrace complexity; to hold a variety of ideas at once. They can foster exploration not always possible through other routes. That’s the idea behind the Islamic Worlds Festival at Virginia Tech’s Center for the Arts, which opens next month.
"There’s such a cultural clinging to tradition that is both admirable and sometimes problematic, but that’s in every culture; if you hold too strongly to tradition."
Lindsay Laughridge is a theater arts and cinema major. Her mother is from Guam, her Dad is Scottish Korean and she’s a Christian. A club D.J.in her native northern Virginia, she’s taking a course in Arabic music this semester and will be part of a group performing it at the festival.
"From what I’m learning, there’s many beautiful things to be taken from these countries and who the people are vs. their government system, are two very different things. And I think that’s something people need to know. Especially when it comes to -like Iran."
Laughridge has Iranian friends and she’s studying Farsi to as a way to learn more about their culture. That same motivation is what drove international studies major, Vince Marcantonio to take the class.
"I couldn’t not take it. I love music and I love my Middle East."
And while the Islamic worlds festival is not confined to the Middle East - there are Islamic countries in southeast Asia, Africa and populations in most others, Marcantonio, who’s background is Christian, says the class gives him a chance to explore his curiosity and what he calls his suspicions about Islam.
“My opinion is that, I’m very critical of Islam, but I find it still an interesting topic. It is true that, they like to say that it means ‘peace’ but it means ‘peace by submission.’ So I find that rather interesting linguistic trick I would say. I want to know more about these people; What they’re up to."
Marc Lucht is a professor of Philosophy and one of the organizers of the Islamic Worlds Festival
"I guess I’m someone who believes that dialogue matters and that people who sometimes have relationships with each other that are filled with tension or people who distrust each other should talk to each other."
Sana Rauf is a sophomore studying business information technology. She’s part of the Muslim Student Association on campus. "This festival, what I’m hoping to get out of it is that people will realize that Muslims are Americans too."
She came to the U.S. with her parents from Pakistan when she was 5.
"We’re here for all the same wishes, desires, we believe in the government, we believe in the democracy, we believe in a better life, the freedom of religion, the freedom for everyone here, human rights, peace, and all of that."
Rauf is concerned that the image of Islam is being hijacked.
"It’s just a very small population.of people, that from - when I read about them, when I learn about them they don’t even seem to be practicing Islam to me because what they’re doing is so against what I learned Islam is growing up."
The Islamic Festival coming next month at Virginia Tech includes performances, discussions, food tasting and a fashion show.