'America To Zanzibar' invites Philly families to explore Muslim cultures

Hadas Kuznits
February 01, 2019 - 2:09 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — A new exhibit about Muslim culture opens at the Please Touch Museum on Saturday. The traveling exhibit, two years in the making, is called "America To Zanzibar." It was customized for Philadelphia after curators first caught a glimpse of it at the Childrens Museum of Manhattan.

"Philadelphia is home to over 200,000 Muslims, 85 percent of whom identify as African-American, and 50 mosques," museum President and CEO Patricia Wellenbach said

"America To Zanzibar" exhibit at the Please Touch Museum.
Hadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio

With the help of exhibit manager Salima Suswell, it has been customized for Philadelphia.

"We brought in local families to give us objects to put in our American Home," Suswell said, referring to a portion of the exhibit.

"The whole idea is A-Z, from beginning to end we have represented so many different Muslim cultures," she said.

At Please Touch, she says, visitors will find items borrowed from the Penn Museum and the Rosenbach.

"We have a Koran that dates back to 1852," she said.

"America To Zanzibar" exhibit at the Please Touch Museum.
Hadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio

Wellenbach says the main message is "everyone has value; that people bring great joy in a family’s history, in the culture that they embrace, and in the Muslim culture it is deeply tied to their faith and so we have a prayer room here, too.”

There will be a call to prayer five times a day every day for the run of the exhibit, so visitors and families can experience Muslim prayer.

"America To Zanzibar" exhibit at the Please Touch Museum.
Hadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio

Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney, who on hand for the unveiling on Friday, said he hopes the new exhibit will help facilitate peace and understanding among people of different backgrounds.

"There’s been a lot of misdirection and misinformation and Islam and Muslims," Kenney said. "The president himself has been one person that’s been setting up this narrative along with his followers, and when you start using religion as a weapon, weaponizing religion and different ethnicities, it’s not good for the country. It’s not good for the world."

Adds Suswell, "I mean, I believe there are so many individuals who find the religion to be mysterious, and so this museum is offering the opportunity for individuals who have had questions about the religion to ask those questions, to ask those questions in an environment that is recreational and fun and where they will learn."

The exhibit runs through Sept. 2.

"America To Zanzibar" exhibit at the Please Touch Museum.
Hadas Kuznits/KYW Newsradio

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CORRECTION: This story is updated to correct the spelling of Salima Suswell's name.