An unexpected location
The leafy, semi-industrial backstreets of Thornbury, in Melbourne’s inner north, seems an unlikely location for an institution as important as the Islamic Museum of Australia. Yet backing onto Merri Creek, against a backdrop of sounds from neighbouring furniture manufacturers, clothing factories and the local fire department’s fire engine workshop, stands the museum, proud and peaceful.
A unique façade
With its corten steel façade and Arabic text adorning the front and side exterior, the building evokes a sense of curiosity in first time visitors.
A dazzling entry
This curiosity is further piqued when entering through a discrete front door - where light filters in through the perforated corten, shimmering on the glass and concrete floor.
Take one step forward through the narrow entry, where visitors encounter a hard-left turn and are greeted with a bright, open foyer, and more importantly, the welcoming face of one of the team.
Founder Moustafa Fahour OAM doesn’t underestimate the importance of first impressions, "We know for many visitors, not only is this their first time visiting an Islamic Museum but it’s also the first interaction they have with a Muslim. The architecture of the building quite deliberately reflects this, the space is bright, modern and welcoming.”
1 - The Faith Gallery
On arrival, visitors are guided towards the Faith Gallery, the first of five permanent exhibition spaces that connect seamlessly across the building's two levels. For many, it is here where they gain the most valuable knowledge and where what they previously knew about the religion will be challenged.
The Faith Gallery is the only space which talks specifically to Islam, outlining the fundamentals of the religion and addressing common, topical myths about women in Islam, and facts around the often misrepresented concepts of ‘halal’ and ‘jihad.’
Look around to learn more about Islamic Faith.
2 - Islamic Contributions to Civilisation Gallery
Following on, the Islamic Contributions to Civilisation (ICC) gallery takes us in a time machine back to the industrious Middle Ages.
The space highlights Muslim inventors and polymaths, and their contributions to fields including medicine, mathematics and science, exploring how Muslims have been at the forefront of innovation over the centuries.
Did you know, for example, that over 1,000 words in the English language are derived from Arabic, Persian or Turkish?
3 - Art Gallery
Adjoining the ICC is the Art Gallery. Its walls are adorned with contemporary artworks created by Australian Muslim artists.
Front and centre are three surfboards from Phillip George’s Inshallah series which he created following the Cronulla Riots - an infamous, race-fuelled conflict which played out in the beachside enclave of Cronulla, Sydney in 2005.
A bridge between East and West, these surfboards fuse together two iconic traditions, Aussie beach culture and complex Islamic geometric art.
Temporary Visiting Exhibition
There’s also a temporary exhibition space where the Museum hosts 3-4 exhibitions each year, including its flagship Australian Muslim Artists exhibition, held annually with an attached monetary prize.
4 - Architecture Gallery
Upstairs in the museum is a space dedicated to Islamic Architecture, providing a spotlight on some of the most magnificent mosques and buildings from around the world, and highlighting their architectural features and influences.
Navigate around and explore the Taj Mahal, the Great Mosque of Cordoba, Nasir al-Mulk Mosque in Shiraz, Iran and more architectural wonders.
Did you notice? The IMA also incorporates examples of this unique architecture within its own building, including this Minaret - where visitors can step inside & listen to the sounds of the Adhan or 'call to prayer'...
Listen... this Adhan was recorded for the museum by Richmond Tigers AFL player, Bachar Houli, as part of the interactive audio tool in the minaret display.
5 - Australian Muslim History Gallery
The fifth and final gallery, presenting Australian Muslim History, is arguably the most surprising.
Did you know that Muslim history in Australia began prior to colonisation?
Notable Australian Muslims
Notable Australian Muslims challenge stereotypes and inspire young Muslims. They lend a human face to Islam. Young Muslims are now active in the media as presenters of, and participants in, TV and radio programs, and as writers and bloggers. Muslim participation in all key aspects of life in Australia is increasing significantly, despite Muslims representing less than 2 per cent of Australia’s population. Many Muslim Australians are also successfully reconciling their religious and ethnic identities with their local context.
The Australian Muslim Connection
While the Museum’s mission is clearly to share aspects of Islam and associated arts and cultures, the jewel in the crown is the storytelling of Muslim history in Australia’s very own backyard. The Islamic Museum of Australia has documented, in both video and written form, Australian Muslim History in its work, Boundless Plains.
This is a space in which the founder, Moustafa Fahour OAM, is most proud.
“While the Museum was still in its development stages, myself and three others were inspired to journey across Australia, visiting destinations, some of which are very remote, which have played a significant role in Australia’s Muslim history. This gallery brings together three hundred plus years of Australian history, that is otherwise largely forgotten...
... When people visit, they simply can’t believe the indigenous population in the northern reaches of Australia actually traded with Macassan fishermen in the 1700’s or that the country’s first mosque was built in the middle of the outback by Afghan cameleers."
Keep exploring... discover more collections and stories from the Islamic Museum of Australia.