If you asked someone to think of an American Muslim, the image of a Latino or an African American would immediately come to his/her mind, missing an important fact about the rich diversity of the Muslim community.
To challenge this standard notion, Ramin Samandari has been traveling for years across Texas to interview an array of Muslims and take their photos as part of his ambitious project seeking to demystify Islam and showcase its diversity.
“Faces of Islam”, which features 50 portrait photos highlighting the diversity of Muslims in Texas, made its public debut Saturday in San Antonio at the Dock Space Gallery.
“The idea for this project came about in 2016 after the Presidential election and all the anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from the former president,” he told Fox 26 Houston.
“First I did the series on immigration which was funded and housed permanently at the Institute of Texan Culture. Next, I started the Faces of Islam project.”
Frustrated by anti-Muslim rhetoric after 2016 presidential elections, Samandari aimed to showcase the lives of ordinary Texans, who just so happen to be Muslim.
“I wanted to show the Muslim community in its all diversity and demystify what it means to be a Muslim,” he explained.
Though he started his project six years ago, Samandari only finished the project this year due to the COVID pandemic.
“After the nearly 3 years delay due to Covid and lack of funding, I do have a sense of relief that finally, I’m able to bring the project to reality,” he said.
“Overall the feedback has been very positive which is very gratifying.”
Samandari is not the only American artist to showcase the diversity of the Muslim community in an exhibit.
In July 2017, photographer Carlos Khalil Guzman also travelled across the US to take photos of Muslims and showcase the diversity of Islam.