CAIRO - Islamic art from around the world will be exhibited in Brigham Young University's Museum of Art in an event organized by Utah Mormons to celebrate the Islamic culture and show how religious beliefs can parallel each other.
"It was amazing how many times people found the same values found in the Mormon traditions and culture also in (Islamic culture)," Sabiha Al Khemir, the project's director, told Desert News newspaper.
"We aspire to similar things. Many times, my Mormon colleagues are quoting things to me directly from Mormon scripture that directly correspond with what these pieces are about."
Planned since 2008, the project began when Al Khemir, a Tunisian native and world-renowned writer, artist and expert in Islamic art, had the idea to bring a collaborative exhibition to the university
The exhibit, which will feature more than 250 pieces from nine countries, will take up the main floor of BYU's Museum of Art.
The exhibit will open on at BYU Feb. 24, 2012, and run through Sept. 29, 2012.
Later on, it will move to the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Newark Museum in Newark, N.J., and the Portland Museum in Portland, Ore.
Guiding visitors step-by-step through the exhibit, the progression will help visitors appreciate and understand Islamic culture by starting with simpler pieces and ending with the more complex.
"The mentality is to be in the state to learn but to also be in a state to unlearn," Al Khemir said.
"When it comes to Islamic culture, we have a great deal to unlearn and forget and to just see what is."
Like any other branch of Christianity, Mormonism is centered on Jesus Christ, but has substantial differences in belief to the Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox churches.
There are some 5.8 million Mormons in the US today, part of over 12 million members world-wide.
The United States is home to some six to seven million Muslims.
Collected from around the world, the international scope of the museum will remind the community of how religious beliefs can parallel each other.
"There's no question that when you get to know people who truly live their value system, it is an act of devotion," said Mark Magleby, director of the museum.
"Her (Al Khemir's) practice is an act of devotion within Islam. We see our jobs at BYU the same way to be in excellence as a museum or university needs to be when it is funded by the faith of the Saints and the church."
Working on the projects, the museum staff was amazed by the connections they found between Islam and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, even down to the architecture.
"She [Al Khemir] has no trouble hearing about the kinship to the faith," Magleby said.
"We felt some meaningful moments of sharing faith."
Al Khemir suggested visitors attend the exhibit to open communication between Muslims and Mormons.
"Because you are bringing objects from all over the world, the scale is huge," Al Khemir said.
"That has added to the dimensions of the dialogue. That is what is going to bring interaction from the Mormon community to the rest of the world."
Moreover, Magleby added the exhibit will give visitors the chance to get to know the Muslim culture that many in Utah are not familiar with.
"One of the great privileges of working on the exhibition is becoming aware of the significant community of Muslims in the West and in Utah," Magleby said.
"It's a great opportunity to get to know neighbors we haven't formally known as well as we should."