THE LEVANT – Oman is sharing its experience of religious tolerance and co-existence among the followers of various faiths through a touring exhibition titled, “Oman’s Message of Islam”.
The exhibition, organised by the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs, is taking its message to Western countries, and is currently visiting England’s Cambridge University, its 49th destination abroad.
The exhibition, previously the “Exhibition of Religious Tolerance in Oman” has been on tour since its launch in Germany on April 16th, 2010.
Omanis believe they have a historical obligation to convey the essence of Islam and its tolerance and sublimity, said Minister of Endowments and Religious Affairs Sheikh Abdullah al-Salmi.
“The exhibition represents an opportunity for up-close learning about the features of religious tolerance in Oman, as a human value and necessity for a better future for the world,” he told Al-Shorfa.
“The exhibition informs visitors about the values inherent in Islam, which allow ample room for dialogue, co-existence and understanding among the various religions and cultures,” he said.
Oman derives its intellectual, ethical and ideological makeup from its geography and topography, al-Salmi said, and has interacted with all the ancient civilisations through maritime contact and commerce. It has had contact with the ancient civilisations of China, India, Egypt and others, and has developed “unwritten rules” that have governed its dealings with others since ancient times.
With the touring exhibition, Oman seeks to rebuild the wall of trust between Muslims and people of other faiths, said general supervisor of exhibitions Mohammed bin Said al-Maamari, who serves as scientific advisor at the office of the Minister of Endowments and Religious Affairs.
This would promote co-existence with amity and compassion in a world “in which the values of humanity are upheld instead of conflicts and wars that are of no benefit to humanity and leave behind only destruction and devastation”, he said.
“The exhibition includes paintings that depict everyday Omani life, worship practices and dealings between people, and also sheds light on the sultanate’s efforts to promote co-existence among peoples,” al-Maamari told Al-Shorfa.
It also introduces people to the Qur’an and its significance to Omanis and to the role of women in Omani society, in addition to offering an overview of the sultanate’s history and the development and modernisation it has witnessed, he said.
TOLERANCE IS DEEPLY ROOTED IN OMAN
The exhibition also distributes booklets on religious tolerance in more than 20 languages and screens a documentary film about religious tolerance in Oman, al-Maamari said.
The aim is to convey the message that “religious tolerance and openness to others are two elements that have been deeply rooted in Oman since ancient times to the present day, while preserving [Omani] society’s authentic social, religious and cultural values”, he said.
Islamic preacher Khalfan al-Balushi said the exhibition yields more than one benefit.
“It introduces people to the essence of Islam, which is based on the freedom of choice of religion, non-coercion in the espousal of beliefs and peaceful co-existence, for in the end, we collectively constitute the diverse human community that God intended,” he said.
The exhibition also contributes to altering the prevailing negative perception of Islam that stems from the incorrect understanding of its principles by some Muslims and people of other faiths, he said, and conveys the message that Muslims are “advocates of peace, co-operation and harmony”.
“We want to say to others that there is a common human element that we can build upon, and it is much greater than the points of differences,” al-Balushi said.