Australia's First Islamic Arts Museum Opens

Australia's first Islamic museum is to be built in Thornbury and will work to dispel stereotypes of the often misunderstood religious minority.

Though the museum is not yet open, it will be exhibiting at the Australia Arab Business Expo at the Sofitel on Collins, Melbourne from 5-6 May 2011.

The project is spearheaded by a group of Melbourne Muslims, including prominent business figures Ahmed and Moustafa Fahour, and will seek to showcase the community's cultural contribution in a mainstream museum setting.

The Islamic Museum of Australia is a not-for-profit foundation founded in May 2010 with the purpose of establishing the first Islamic Museum in Australia. It aims to showcase the rich artistic heritage and historical contributions of Muslims in Australia and abroad.

Fascinating stories, interactive displays and exquisite art exhibits will provide an insight into the Australian Muslim experience for tourists, school groups and other visitors. This Museum will enhance the spectrum of community museums in multicultural Melbourne and open a much needed window into Australian Muslim life.

Modelled on ventures such as the Chinese Museum, the Museo Italiano in Carlton and the Jewish Museum in St Kilda, the idea for a precinct emphasising heritage and art drawn from the more than 60 ethnicities who identify as Muslim here was developed by Macquarie banker Moustafa Fahour and his wife Maysaa.

"Muslim fishermen and traders first came to our shores in the seventeenth century, or even earlier, from the eastern islands of modern Indonesia. They sailed their prahus along our north and north-western coast fishing for trepang and trading with the Aborigines; a cross-cultural interaction that carried on for more than three centuries. However, it was not until the nineteenth century that a new wave Muslims entered Australia and settled here." - Australian Muslim History

''I am a very proud Australian Muslim,'' says Moustafa Fahour, 29, one of eight children born to Lebanese migrant parents who settled in Melbourne in the 1960s.

Maysaa Fahour, 27, a teacher who has assumed the chairmanship of the board that will oversee the museum and raise funds for the construction, approached her brother-in-law, Australia Post chief Ahmed Fahour, at a family barbecue and he agreed to become the museum's patron.

The venture has recently been granted charity status by the Australian Tax Office and has the personal endorsement of Victoria's Multicultural Affairs Minister Nick Kotsiras.

Land has already been acquired at a Thornbury industrial site. While plans to refit the former factory will have to go through council approval processes, the Darebin Council had signalled that an Islamic museum would be welcome in the neighbourhood, Moustafa Fahour said.

The museum will include a permanent exhibition featuring basic information about Muslims' religious beliefs provided in a digestible form to the public.

School groups are also expected to tour on a daily basis.

''As a mother, I love the NGV and Scienceworks and have my kids participate in knowledgeable activities. Nowhere was there something about Islam … It struck me as something to really strive for,'' said Mrs Fahour, who settled here as a child-migrant from Lebanon.

Apart from a six-member board, which has been collaborating on the idea for about two years, an advisory committee includes SBS board member Hass Dellal, Immigration Museum manager Padmini Sebastian and ABC personality and politics lecturer Waleed Aly. Islamic art expert Phillip George is among the arts advisers.

The Museum will include a specialist shop which will stock islamic art prints, gifts, crafts, posters and other souvenirs. There will also be select books about Islamic Art, design and heritage. An online store will enable purchases from anywhere in Australia or overseas.

The Museum shop will include a Café serving hot beverages and light refreshments.

The Islamic Museum of Australia promises to enhance the spectrum of community museums in multicultural Melbourne and open a much needed window into Australian Muslim life.

Muxlim viewers: Watch the Islamic Arts Museum trailer on YT


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