If I were to say that Islam and daily secular life could exist hand in hand you would probably laugh yourself off your Herman Miller office chair. (I'll wait for you to right yourself.)
But if you visit the Grand Rapids Public Library's newest exhibition, Tolerance Understanding, Coexistence: Oman's Message of Islam, then you can see it firsthand while also getting an education on the power of how it's possible in our society to live in harmony beyond the headlines of our 24/7 news programming.
Not only will this traveling exhibition of Oman's Message of Islam provide us an educated insight into the role of religion in the daily life in Oman, but we will see via the pieces, as well as the short documentary playing on loop, that Islamic believers along with Christians, Jews, Hindus, and Zoroastrians in Oman provides all of us a hopeful look at these various religious factions in a country where they can exist side by side with a nation's cultural identity during expansive times of great change.
The GRPL's exhibition demonstrates that “progress” does not necessarily go hand in hand with a loss of one's cultural identity. That's something I'm sure everyone could use some reminding of in Western culture, where instead of the land of the free we have morphed often into a "my way or the highway" mentality as we seek to live with one another.
"Our exhibition consists of 24 panels and small artifacts that discuss the various religious practices in Oman," says Kristen Krueger-Corrado, GRPL's marketing and communications manager, who is bringing this to the library by way of The Kauffman Center at GVSU. "Public libraries are the place that people can explore all the different viewpoints of a subject, without bias or censorship. We are also the place that our community can come together for civil discourse and public exploration of ideas."
Krueger-Corrado adds that this exhibit is a good example of the GRPL's mission to continue to present these opportunities to learn through powerful presentations like this exhibition – as well as last week's Dia de los Muertos celebration - and then having the resources available nearby to allow a patron to dig deeper and enhance the knowledge experience.
I knew there was a reason why I loved the library so much as a child. It is so much more than books these days; it is a place where the community, regardless of how you define it, is made to feel welcome.