Press Release 2008
“Building Islam in Detroit” Photo Exhibition Provides View of Muslim Life in America
A photo exhibition documenting the growth of Muslim communities in the American city of Detroit showed in Harar on February 6-8 at Amir Abdullahi Hall, and in Dire Dawa on February 10-11 at the Municipal Library, and will show in Addis Ababa on Fevruary 25-29 at the Municipality Theater. The photo exhibition, “Building Islam in Detroit,” looks at the diversity of Muslim American life and explores the architecture of the public and private spaces Muslims have built in Detroit since they first began to arrive in the 1890s. An interdisciplinary team of architects, historians, sociologists and anthropologists from the University of Michigan prepared a multi-media presentation from many traditions in greater Detroit including African-American, Albanian, Syrian, Iraqi, Yemeni and, most recently, Bangladeshi. Today, roughly 150,000 Muslims live in greater Detroit and worship in over 50 mosques.
U.S. Embassy Diputy Chief of Mission, Deborah Malac will open the exhibition in Addis Ababa. Mayor Arif Mohammed Haj and U.S. Speaker Rev. Elbert Ransom opened the exhibit in Harar and Ato Mesrak Worku, Head of Information and Public Relations in the Bureau of Culture, and Cultural Attaché, Patricia Johnson, opened the one in Dire Dawa. Over 800 people visited the exhibition in Harar, including students, teachers, government officials, religious leaders and businessmen and women. They appreciated the exhibition, expressing pleasure that the exhibition shows American Muslim life so well. The exhibition, some suggested, was educational and could herald the beginning of greater understanding and exchange of culture between the U.S. and Ethiopia. Another commented that the exhibition showed that good communication was necessary for people to live together with tolerance and harmony. More than 600 people attended the exhibition in Dire Dawa. Many visitors expressed pleasure that American Muslims were free to worship in mosques and were not being persecuted. Some noted that mosques in America had become not only places of worship, but community centers as well, and thought that Muslim Ethiopians could benefit by developing social activities for Muslim youth as has happened in Detroit.
The photo exhibition will show in Addis Ababa in Jimma from March 13-15 and in Bahir Dar from March 27-29.
Since 1990 the number of mosques in Detroit has doubled, springing up in the inner city and outer suburbs alike. Although recent growth of Islam in Detroit has been fueled by immigration from all corners of the globe, it is based on foundations laid by the city’s Muslim communities dating back to the late 19th century.
Muslims first came to Detroit in the 1890s, drawn by the city’s booming industrial economy in the 1920s. Some of Detroit’s early Muslims came from Europe and the Middle East. Others were African Americans from the United States’ “Deep South.” These African American Muslims often embraced versions of Islam outside of the traditional Sunni and Shia framework, including the Moorish Science Temple (founded by Noble Drew Ali in 1913), the Ahmadiyya movement (originating in India in the 1880s and brought to the U.S. n 1921 by Mufti Muhammed Sadiq) and the Nation of Islam (founded in Detroit in 1930 by W.D. Fard).
The photo exhibition showed in at the University of Michigan in 2005. Since then it has been updated, reflecting the growth and changes in the Muslim communities of Detroit. In fall of 2007 it showed at Harvard University and the Islamic Center of America. After appearing in Ethiopia, the exhibition will travel to Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan and Tanzania.