Professor To Lead Screening Of ‘Islamic Art’

Posted: March 15, 2014

Dr. Abdelrahman Rabie likes geometry, not unusual for an Integrated Science and Technology professor.  

As it turns out, the James Madison University lecturer’s affection for that branch of mathematics is also relevant to his religion.

“You can make drawings of human beings and creatures but it’s not …  recommended, particularly in the early stages in Islam, and that’s why …  they used geometrical shapes to create something alternative,” he said, explaining that many Islamic artists have avoided imitating God’s creation in their works.

Rabie will be introducing a 2012 film called “Islamic Art: Mirror of the Invisible World,” at 7 p.m. March 18, during which he will explain those intricacies. The film will air for free at Court Square Theater in downtown Harrisonburg as part of the JMU College of Visual and Performing Art’s Cultural Connections Artist-in-Residence program featuring Arab photographer Lalla Essaydi.

The showing is presented by the Islamic Association of the Shenandoah Valley, which operates the only local mosque located at 1330 Country Club Road in Harrisonburg. Rabie started going to the mosque when he moved to the Friendly City in 2000.

At the time, only about 30 to 40 families were attending the mosque — a number that has since risen to about 150 — and roughly 30 students. Those students and families claim anywhere from 8 to 10 different nationalities, he added, from Pakistani to Iraqi to Egyptian.  

About 300 families of Muslim backgrounds live in the area, Rabie estimated, a number that has also grown dramatically with the influx of political refugees.

During the mosque’s two most popular events — the celebration of the end of Ramadan in July and Hajj in the fall — roughly 500 to 600 people attend, Rabie said.

The mosque was vandalized in September 2012, but the community flooded it with support shortly thereafter.

“It was a great day for us, not because of the vandalism, but the response we got from the community and their acceptance,” he said. “It was really important for us to see positive reaction from the community.”

He’s heard of one other occurrence about seven years ago, when kids mocked a Muslim girl. But he doesn’t know of any other such incidents, and many Muslim refugees — some of whom wear the traditional clothing of the culture — have settled into the area.

“It means that now, the Muslims are becoming [a part] of this community and they are accepted,” Rabie said.

Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or

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