Europe’s biggest exhibition of modern-day Islam will take place in London a year after the 7 July bombings in an effort to depict the religion in a positive light.
The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, is set to launch the event which hopes to “combat the myths, misconceptions and misunderstandings of Islam”. IslamExpo will consist of a series of exhibitions on Islam’s cultural heritage, lectures, debates, films, stand-up comedy and workshops at Alexandra Palace. Organisers plan to invite survivors of the Tube attacks to attend with a special commemoration on the day.
It is hoped that the event will help to improve relations between Britain’s 1.8 million Muslims and the wider community.
The exhibitions will be divided into three zones: “Discover Islam”, which will feature famous mosques and a demonstration on a prayer platform; “Muslim Civilisation”, which traces Islam’s history; and “Muslim World”, which covers Palestinian history, religious chants and a gallery of famous converts. Seminars ranging from democracy and jihad to Muslim gardening and agriculture will also take place.
The event has received the backing of numerous Muslim groups as well as the al-Jazeera news channel and the Greater London Authority If it is successful, it could become an annual event in London.
Anas Altikriti, the director of IslamExpo, who recently went to Iraq to plea for the release of the kidnap victim Norman Kember, said he hoped the event would “build bridges”.
“We do not want a target audience of just Muslims or just white British males. The hope is that all kinds of people will visit and go away thinking about things, and not that Islam is a danger or a threat. The mere initiative of a positive dialogue has been absent for the past two or three years,” he said.
Ihtisham Hibatullah, from the Muslim Association of Britain, the group that devised the project, said the exhibition would be a celebration. “It will be a Muslim festival. It came about because of the negative polarisation of Islam and the West and it is a way of taking Islam forward, a change from what we have been going through for the past four years.”
The exhibition aims to draw Arab businesses to the capital by encouraging trade from 54 Islamic countries in a dedicated financial conference.
Mr Livingstone said: “IslamExpo offers a unique opportunity for dialogue that furthers strong community relations and greater understanding between Muslim and non-Muslim people.
“In addition, it will enhance London’s reputation for cultural and creative diversity whilst promoting London to key businesses and decision makers as a business and tourist destination.”