NEW YORK, NY.-
On Saturday, February 18, 2017, the Museum of the City of New York
will open a special installation, Muslim in New York: Highlights from the Photography Collection, featuring 34 historic images of Muslim New Yorkers in the 20th and 21st centuries by photographers Alexander Alland, Ed Grazda, Mel Rosenthal, and Robert Gerhardt.
This special installation comes at a time when the place of immigrants from Muslim-majority countries is being scrutinized, and even challenged, on a national level, said Whitney Donhauser, the Museums Ronay Menschel Director. The Museums rich photography collection, begun in the 1930s and growing each year, speaks eloquently to the enormous diversity of our city and the many ways in which immigration and religious diversity has enriched and benefited New York, the quintessential city of immigrants. We are proud to display these beautiful images of Muslims in New York as part of that story.
Muslims have been woven into the fabric of New York since the citys origins as New Amsterdam. Antony Jansen van Salee, a Muslim of North African and Dutch descent, lived and owned property in the town in the mid-17th century, and the slave trade brought additional Muslims to New York to perform forced labor in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the late 19th century, immigration from the Middle East created an Arabic-speaking community centered in Lower Manhattan. Although most of the residents of Little Syria were Christian, Muslims became a significant presence within the community, and Turkish, Russian, Albanian, Bengali, and other Muslims added to the cultural and religious landscape. By the 1910s, the diverse Muslim community could attend prayers in a Turkish chapel that served as a mosque in Lower Manhattan.
In the years between World Wars I and II, the size and diversity of New Yorks Muslim community continued to grow, with Muslims living and worshipping in Harlem and Brooklyn as well as Lower Manhattan. Beginning in the 1930s, New York City also became a base for the growing Nation of Islam, with Malcolm X ultimately becoming the city's most famous and influential Black Muslim leader before his death in 1965. The change in U. S. immigration laws in 1965 ushered in a period of massive expansion and further diversity, as new arrivals from the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and elsewhere made the city their home. By 2015, an estimated 3% of the population of New York Citysome 270,000 peopleidentified as Muslim.
The photographs on view in the exhibition span from the mid-20th century to the early 21st century. Four photographs by Alexander Alland date to ca. 1940, a time when New Yorks diverse Muslim community included Turks, Afghans, East Indians, Albanians, Malayans, African Americans, and others. Photographs by Ed Grazda come from his project, New York Masjid: The Mosques of New York City, which he undertook in response to the Islamophobia after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; these images cover both immigrant populations and the native New Yorkers of the 1990s, including converts, the long-standing African-American community, and a growing Latino Muslim community. Mel Rosenthals photographs of Arab New York Muslims from the early 2000s were commissioned for the Museum of the City of New Yorks exhibition A Community of Many Worlds: Arab Americans in New York (2002). Finally, Robert Gerhardts images, a promised gift to the Museums collections, document Muslim New Yorkers in the early 2010s. Together these photographs paint a group portrait of New Yorkers who have greatly enriched the life of the city.
Muslim in New York delves into several themes from the Museums newly launched signature, permanent exhibition, New York at Its Core, which is structured around four themes money, density, diversity, and creativity and argues that a distinctive blend of these key characteristics has produced a powerfully creative environment that has made New York a center of innovation in the arts, business, science, politics, and urban development for over four centuries. The photos in Muslim in New York again present ideas embodied in New York at Its Core: that immigration and diversity have been and remain central to the evolution and resurgence of our city.