The new exhibit, “Passion in Practice: Muslims of the Carolinas,” opened on Wednesday and displays enlarged photos of 17 North Carolina Muslims — taken in ways that exemplify how each person lives Islam in his or her daily life.
Junior Aisha Anwar and senior Layla Quran, who created the exhibit, wanted to share Muslims’ stories.
“We wanted to focus on how Islam drives people and how people are working with their hands to improve their community,” said Anwar.
Visitors on Wednesday seemed to be in high spirits as they explored the exhibit. People displayed in the gallery took pictures in front of their photos, and others milled about in groups.
Anwar and Quran spoke briefly to introduce the exhibit, referencing the three Chapel Hill shooting victims.
“The three people that best represented this exhibit are no longer with us. We felt like this was the least we could do to honor Deah, Yusor and Razan,” said Anwar.
Krista Bremer, a memoirist whose photograph is in the exhibit, also spoke to the crowd, touching on her personal journey with Islam.
“If you take a step toward God, he comes running to you in the form of so many great people,” said Bremer.
Passionate words came from Manzoor Cheema, a Muslim activist and filmmaker, who described a need to join the grassroots movement and fight against Islamophobia — eliciting choruses of snaps and rousing applause at the end.
“I was snapping throughout his speech,” said UNC sophomore Amina Garba.
Students and community members recognized the importance of the event following February’s shooting, which rocked the Muslim world.
“In wake of the tragedy, it’s important to show people that Muslims are diverse and active in the community,” Garba said.
Saarah Khan, a sophomore, said the memories of the three victims are always on her mind and that she felt compelled to honor them.
Attendees frequently cited the biased depiction of Muslims in the media as a key part of the Islamophobia that remains in society.
“So often ... people ask where the ‘normal’ Muslims are,” said Khan.
“If (the exhibit) can prevent any more Islamophobia, it’s a great method,” Garba added.
Anwar said the exhibit is important for the Chapel Hill community because it gives a fair voice to people who wanted to be represented and make a statement about what Islam means to them.
The exhibit is on display for the rest of the spring semester, and Quran said she hopes people keep stopping by and visiting.
“Hopefully it sparks a dialogue, and we want people talking about it.”