The University of Iowa

New eyes on the Middle East

December 1st, 2016

By Travis Coltran, The Daily Iowan  

“Islamophobia” isn’t a word commonly heard on the University of Iowa campus; however, in the Old Capital Museum, the word has found a place in an exhibit whose hope is to abolish it.

Have No Fear: Islamophobia in the 21st Century is a showpiece of modern and relevant art from artists in the Middle East. All of the artists were in a way affected by terrorism or the violence that has hit much of the area.

The artwork tells stories that show the true horror and sadness these artists have faced. By showcasing pictures and examples of the violence in the Middle East, the exhibit gives a look into the region.

“I think it’s important for people to be able to see and recognize that they might have wrong ideas about certain people,” said Callaghan Todhunter, a docent at the Pentacrest Museums. “For example, the people in the exhibit were just normal artists who were simply trying to live; it gives a human connection to it.”

The exhibit, which has been open since August, has a goal to show that human connection. However, it is about more than just showing others the artists’ lives; it also aims to showcase the similarities between the Muslim community and the viewer by showing the things important to the artists.

Todhunter said she believes there has been more Islamophobic comments recently because of certain politicians perpetuating them.

“In my opinion, Have No Fear has never been more relevant than in this moment,” wrote Rachel Winter, curator of the exhibit, in her “A Letter from the Curator.”

UI freshman Jared Worley agrees, believing much of the Islamophobia present today is becauseof the recent election and comments said by politicians.

“Islamophobia is all just a social construct that has been made more popular by propaganda after the 2001 terrorist attacks,” Worley said. “These thoughts have taken over parts of the country, as if people are being brainwashed through fear.”

Winter said she hopes people will begin to look at the Middle East as a whole in a new light. She wants anyone who enters the exhibit to enter without biases about the region and without considering political affiliations while viewing the exhibit.

The exhibit, which is located in the Old Capitol second-floor rotunda, will be open to the public until the end of December.