Muslims are not terrorists

This is the number one takeaway from my month long education touring Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of a Fulbright Hays faculty development program this past June. I was one of 16 high school and community college educators from Arizona taking part in a program designed to increase our awareness of European Muslim culture and art so that we may incorporate that understanding in our course curricula.

Islam is a religion that came to Bosnia in the 13th century by the Ottomans, also known as Turks. Bosnians embraced Islam pledging allegiance to the ruler in Constantinople, later Istanbul. The Bosnians were so agreeable to the embrace of Islam that the Ottoman leader decided not to occupy the country. That is why Bosnians look the same as the Croats and Serbs and other Slavic peoples in the region. However, Bosnian Muslims do observe the same customs as every other Muslim, as we found during our visit which fell during Ramadan. During Ramadan, Muslims may not eat or drink during daylight hours.

By checking Facebook while in Sarajevo, I found an art gallery that was holding a reception. Duplex 100m2 is the only gallery in Sarajevo that focuses on contemporary art in Sarajevo. Its owner and director, Pierre Courtin is a graduate of the Sarajevo Art Academy and has operated the gallery for 15 years. His current artwork is a graphic collage of sentiments gathered from the Internet and combined to represent the avalanche of content and vitriol to which we are subjected daily, as well as a depiction of the nationalist rhetoric and anti-immigrant sentiments which are growing globally.

The countryside of Bosnia and Herzegovina is incredibly beautiful.Green mountains, pristine rivers, spanned by ancient stone bridges, traditional brick houses topped with red tile roofs. The people are friendly and I made many friends.

I saw a lot of great street art in Sarajevo that commented on the war and on widespread corruption in the Bosnian government.

I will return to Bosnia and Herzegovina in October 2017 for one month to interview artists who make art about social justice themes. I will also travel to Zagreb, Croatia and Belgrade, Serbia to meet and interview artists in those countries. This is for a sabbatical project for the fall semester to gather examples of art that expresses opinions on social justice themes for my students to learn how to create their own art that expresses their own opinions on social justice themes.

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