Muslim Voices: Art & Ideas

The arts and cultural exchange programs have the unique power to create new connections between people locally and globally. On behalf of all of us at Asia Society, Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), and New York University Center for Dialogues, we are pleased to welcome you to Muslim Voices: Arts & Ideas—the largest, multi-venue celebration of Islamic cultures ever presented in the United States. The festival ran from June 5 - 14, 2009.

Muslim Voices: Arts & Ideas was designed to share and celebrate the arts and culture of Muslim societies. Islam is the world’s second-largest religion, with an estimated one billion-plus members—approximately 600,000 in New York City, with nearly 100,000 in Brooklyn alone—but many non-Muslim Americans have had only limited exposure to the faith, its civilization, diverse cultures, and traditions. Arts and culture play a vital role in helping us learn more about each other by providing new perspectives and fostering the mutual respect that leads to peaceful co-existence among people.

The idea for Muslim Voices emerged from preliminary conversations between Karen Brooks Hopkins, President of BAM and Mustapha Tlili, Founder and Director of New York University Center for Dialogues at conferences in Malaysia and Austria. A broader conversation in New York led to this three way collaboration among Asia Society, BAM, and NYU Center for Dialogues, with each organizing partner bringing distinct expertise to the initiative.

After three years of intensive planning and the support of our committed partners, generous funders, and tireless advisors, we are proud to have shared the kaleidoscopic richness of Islamic arts and culture in this ten-day festival and two-day academic and policy conference.

Muslim Voices: Arts & Ideas highlighted the rich diversity of Muslim cultures by presenting over 300 artists, performers, cultural entrepreneurs, policy makers, and scholars from as far away as Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and as near as Brooklyn. Through this initiative, at both Asia Society and BAM arose the opportunity to experience performances, films, exhibitions, talks, and other events, from the traditional, such as calligraphy and Sufi devotional music, to the contemporary, such as Arabic hip-hop. In addition, nine associate partners throughout New York City—American Museum of Natural History, Austrian Cultural Forum, Brooklyn Arts Council, Brooklyn Museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum for African Art, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA), and New York Public Library, in partnership with the European Union National Institutes for Culture (EUNIC)—offered visual arts, film, literature, and other programming.

A community souk took place the weekend of June 6 & 7, featuring artisans and merchants from near and far. Education and humanities events complemented festival shows, enabling audiences to thoughtfully experience the full range of Islamic artistic expression within its cultural and historical context.

Our media partners, WNET/THIRTEEN and The New York Times, further extended the initiative’s reach. This website, MuslimVoicesFestival.org, continues to provides information on specific artists, partners, and participants as well as artist voices, resource articles and other deeper content for the long-term following the festival's conclusion.

The arts have the unique ability to illuminate and inspire. Through the festival and now this website, we hope to showcase the diversity of the arts of the Muslim world, gaining new perspectives along the way—the key to creating a world of vibrant mutual engagement and respect.


Vishakha N. Desai, Karen Brooks Hopkins, Mustapha Tlili

Asia Society, Brooklyn Academy of Music, NYU Center for Dialogues