Omani students express their voice of religious tolerance through art
One day a year, the United Nations sets aside time to educate people and promote acceptance with International Day of Tolerance, which is on Sunday this year. Ohio University’s Multicultural Center is extending the day with a month-long art exhibition.
Since the first of November, the Multicultural Center’s art gallery has been hosting a Religious Tolerance art exhibit centered around Islam in the Sultanate of Oman. Oman, a country in the Middle East, is one of the most respected nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council on tolerance and that is something to celebrate.
The pieces in the gallery consist of banners showcasing pictures and commentary of tolerance through Omani culture and society.
“As we are in a globalized world, it’s important to understand religious diversity,” said Winsome Chunnu-Brayda, associate director of the Multicultural Center. “If we were to look in Western media to what they have to say about the Middle East, we would depict it with oppression of women and violence. This is a counter narrative to that story. An area to inclusion and acceptance and as many viewpoints as possible.”
This Oman exhibit first debuted in Germany and has grown to feature in 48 exhibitions in 18 countries. This Sunday, the display will additionally be shown in 7 more countries and be translated into 20 languages, adding to a total of 60 Oman exhibits worldwide.
OU is the first school in the nation to simultaneously have this exhibit and an Omani Students Association at the school.
“I tell people I’m from Oman, and people ask me where that is,” said Saif Al-Wahaibi, president of the Omani Students Association. “You never hear anything about us, but Oman is very politically active. We mediate between countries on issues of petroleum, business and territory. People will generalize in their perceptions, but we live in one of the calmest, safest countries in the Middle East.”
The Omani Students Association at OU has about 65 members from Oman. Many of the members are women, which reflects how well Oman represents tolerance in its own society.
“Women have a lot of opportunities. They hold high positions in the government, and other key positions. The ambassador of Oman in the U.S. is a woman,” Al-Wahaibi said. “In terms of scholarships to the West, they are equal when competing for scholarships. At OU last year, most of the people from Oman were girls.”
Rashid Al-Saadi, vice president of the Omani Students Association, said the freedoms in Oman and America are synonymous.
Although Oman’s foundation on peace is to be admired, the country might undergo some changes in the future. Qaboos bin Said Al Said, sultan of Oman, is the ruler of the country and has his focus set on tolerance, but the future is not guaranteed.
“Our sultan has absolute power, and is going through health problems,” Al-Wahaibi said. “Through his 44 years we have experienced peacefulness. Everything is great; it’s been one major constant.”
Oman students listen to the news regularly for information back home. Even though the future is uncertain, the country deserves the respect it has upheld through its tolerance and influence in the world.