Saturday, 6 December 2008

Surfing Islamic Art

Sydney art fuses surf with Islam
By Nick Bryant
BBC News, Sydney

An Australian artist has produced a range of Islamic surfboards in an attempt to create a greater understanding between East and West. Phillip George was inspired by his trips to the Middle East and by riots in 2005 when Lebanese Australians were targeted on a beach in Sydney.

He has called the range the Inshallah - or God Willing - surfboards and has put them on exhibition in Sydney. There are 30 surfboards in all, each adorned with intricate Islamic motifs.

Mr George hopes that the Inshallah surfboards can help bridge cultural and religious misunderstandings within Australia. His inspiration has come from his travels and also from the Cronulla riots, when a crowd of mainly white Australians gathered at a beachside suburb of Sydney and targeted people of Middle Eastern appearance.

This is an attempt to fuse the Australian beach culture with the Islamic culture, he says. "What I've done to bring the joy and the interest of our Islamic art to an Australian audience," said Mr George. "I have actually transposed a lot of my photographic images - the work of the tiles and shots of the mosque - on to a surfboard so that they become a lot more acceptable or easy to digest for an Australian audience."

The exhibition, Borderlands, is at the Casula Powerhouse arts centre near Sydney. All the surfboards face Mecca, and visitors have included schoolchildren from Cronulla, a mainly white suburb, and pupils from Sydney's Islamic schools. This is not the first time that symbols of the Australian beach culture have been used in this way.

A local designer has already brought out what she calls a burqini - a full-length swim suit to make Muslim women feel more comfortable at the beach.

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Lovers, Religion and Inhumanity

Amanullah De Sondy
BBC Radio Scotland
Thought for the Day
Monday 1st December 2008

‘Porridge for my breakfast and Dall for my lunch, I’m a typical Scots-Asian’ said the main character in the Glasgow adaptation of the famous Punjabi love story, Heer Ranjha. I went to watch the play at the Tramway in Glasgow at the weekend. It’s an interesting and tragic tale of a rich Sikh girl, Heer, and a poor Pakistani Muslim boy, Ranjha, who is given a job in one of Heer’s father’s Indian restaurants. Ranjha cannot be accepted by the Sikh family, because of his Pakistani Muslim roots, and he’s taunted by the Sikhs around him.

In the end, Heer is forced to marry a famous Bollywood movie star, Sikh of course, but at the final moment Ranjha re-appears and is killed by her uncle. In a tragic finale, Heer kills herself so that she can to be with Ranjha.

The play raised the issue of how the identities of the new generation of Scots Asians are continually being defined and challenged. It showed how ethnic roots are hugely important in shaping the lives of youngsters. Heer Ranjha’s love made me realise that racism is not a one-way process between the white and non-white communities, but that the ugly disease of racism can also be seen within.

But I think the most powerful message of the play was that race, religion and cultures can make us lose our humanity. The love between Heer and Ranjha was beyond race and religion, yet no one seemed to realise this until after their deaths.

The terrorist bombs in Mumbai have also jolted the international world to yet another form of human hatred. Where relations between India and Pakistan were looking positive recently, in a matter of days there has been talk of war between them. Fear and recrimination have rushed in again. Love is not simple; love comes out of a mixture of emotions and events, hardships and successes, good times and bad. Love has to struggle against hate, bombs, revenge and inhumanity. For after all it’s an eternal struggle.