MELBOURNE – For many Australian Muslims, the Islamic Museum of Australia (IMA), in suburban Thornbury, has become an important local institution which aims to educate and break down stereotypes.
“We’re fighting a force which is online which is where the community need to get together to connect with the youth to show them what Islam truly is versus what’s been falsified,” IMA founder Moustafa Fahour told ABC News.
“It’s all about how do we draw back the youth? How do we reconnect and share what really Islam is — the factual information.”
Planned since 2010, the dream of launching Australia’s first-ever Islamic Museum came true in early 2014 in a bid to highlight Muslim contributions in Australia and defy misconceptions about Islam.
Constructed in Melbourne with a budget of $10 million, the museum presents the tenets of Islam through various forms of arts.
Moreover, it includes galleries that display Islamic contributions to engineering, architecture and arts.
Since March 2014, it has attracted 20,000 visitors, including 200 student groups from both Muslim and non-Muslim schools.
“There’s something called culture and religion and unfortunately the two are getting mixed up,” the museum’s retail manager Wafa Fahour said.
“So we don’t just educate the non-Muslims, we educate the Muslim children not to mix up culture and religion.”
Ilim College in Melbourne’s north is one of the Islamic schools which organized a trip for its students to the museum recently.
The museum’s gallery dedicated to the Muslim contributions to Australian life was inspiring to many, instilling a sense of pride.
“I didn’t know about the university — that Muslims were the first to create the university in the world,” student Walid Mawas said.
“I learned that the first man who flew was a Muslim, I never knew that before,” student Asmaa Hussein said.
Girls college principal Zeynep Sertel said positive role models were important to young Muslims, who usually face intimidation because of their religion.
“I think it’s really good for the youth to be engaged and it gives them clear sense of direction as well,” she said.
“They see positive role models that have done so much for their communities — it just makes them think I’m no different from them I could do exactly the same thing.”
Muslims, who have been in Australia for more than 200 years, make up 1.7 percent of its 20-million population.
Islam is the country’s second largest religion after Christianity.