NEW YORK – Over the past two years, Carlos Khalil Guzman has been traveling across the US to interview an array of Muslims and take their photos as part of his ambitious project seeking to showcase Islam’s diversity.
Frustrated by a lack of diversity and representation of Muslims in the mainstream media, Guzman said he decided to create the project to help people learn how American Muslims practice their Islam,
“I wanted to be proactive about it,” Guzman told HuffPost. “We need to find our own ways to educate people.”
Guzman, a 28-year-old photographer from Brooklyn, New York, is an activist and a Latin convert to Islam.
He started exploring Islam in college, after getting to know Muslim activists through different networks on his campus.
He found in Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) an example of what it means to be tolerant, charitable and compassionate, and realized that Islam reinforced his own beliefs about social justice.
Since converting to Islam in 2012, Guzman has been putting that passion for social justice into practice with his project.
“Islam is against all types of oppression, literally all of it,” Guzman said.
“It’s against racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, you name it. I want people to see that in this project.”
After two years of work, Guzman has taken 52 portraits across about 26 states. His goal is to take 114 portraits, to symbolize the 114 chapters in the Qur’an.
He hopes to finish the project this year, and later turn the entire series into an interactive traveling art exhibit.
Guzman also hopes that the series will serve as an educational tool for people who have been fed false narratives about Islam, demonstrating Muslims as an integral part of the United States’ history and culture.
“There’s always been a Muslim presence in the country. The values that our Constitution upholds are part of Islam, if people only took the time to learn about Islam,” Guzman said.
“Islam is all about justice.”