NEWPORT, R.I. – A public exhibition sponsored by the government of Oman that promotes religious tolerance, intercultural understanding and inter-religious dialogue while depicting how Islam is practiced in daily life in a modern Arabic society, will be installed for the first time on United States soil when the 15-day show opens next month at Salve Regina University.
An opening reception for the exhibition, “Religious Tolerance: Islam in the Sultanate of Oman,” will begin at 4 p.m. on Monday, April 8 at the Antone Academic Center, Lawrence Avenue, during which several representatives from the Sultanate of Oman will join with Rhode Island leaders and members of the state’s religious and university communities. The exhibit, open to the public, will run through April 23.
The touring exhibition (in eight languages) has already been presented in more that 25 cities in 10 countries in Europe, and the Salve Regina show will mark its first installation in the U.S. It consists of 20 display panels, two pop-up displays and a 35-minute documentary film, “Religious Tolerance in Oman” by the award-winning German filmmaker Wolfgang Ettlich. Replicas of important religious artifacts will also be displayed.
Members of the Omani delegation who will be in attendance at the April 8 opening will include Dr. Mohammed Al-Mamari, Shiekh Ali Al-Shanfari and Ahmad Al-Kharoussi – all of whom serve as advisors to H.E. Shaikh Abdullah bin Mohammed al Salimi, Minister of Awqaf and Religious Affairs.
Fostering the exhibition’s installation at Salve Regina are the university’s Department of Religious and Theological studies together with Ali Al Abri, a doctoral student in Salve Regina’s humanities program who has been working with Dr. Daniel Cowdin, associate professor of Religious and Theological Studies.
“Salve Regina is honored to host this exhibit, and especially pleased to receive a visit from the Omani delegation, Cowdin said. “This event fits beautifully with the religion component in our core curriculum, which emphasizes Christianity in dialogue with world religions, including Islam. In our culture today we often speak about religious pluralism, both around the globe and in our own society, but we don’t always have the opportunity to engage other religions in any depth. The generosity of Oman in sharing its religious perspective makes a deeper dialogue possible. We’re grateful to them for coming, and excited for this opportunity to learn and exchange views.
“It also seems fitting that such an event would happen here in Rhode Island this year, as the state celebrates the 350th anniversary of the Rhode Island charter, a document which set forth a social experiment in religious tolerance far ahead of its time,” Cowdin said.
The project is an initiative of Oman’s Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs to open dialogue about the current climate of debate over Islam and to provide a positive image to contrast often negative perceptions. The presentation will also present another facet of Islam – Ibadhism – which is generally unknown, even in Islamic circles.
“The exhibition is intended to acquaint the general public with the openness, tolerance and religious acceptance found in Oman, where freedom of religion is guaranteed by the constitution,” said Michael Dickinson, Oman Projects Manager. “The religious institutions of the Buddhists, Hindus, Catholics, Copts and other Christians are not only respected but supported by the state.”
Contents of the exhibition may be viewed online at www.islam-in-oman.com.
Salve Regina, a Catholic institution founded by the Religious Sisters of Mercy, has recently welcomed important world leaders in the spirit of advancing religious, cultural and political dialogue. In October 2011, Michael Oren, Israeli Ambassador to the U.S., presented a talk, “The Ultimate Ally.” In August 2010, Imad Moustapha, former Syrian Ambassador to the U.S., presented a talk, “Obama and the Middle East: A Dawn of a New Era?” In November 2005, His Holiness the Dalai Lama visited Salve Regina and spoke on “A Human Approach to World Peace.”