Tuesday, June 1, 2004

International Museum of Muslim Cultures (Cultural Cover Story)

This is the kind of piece that made me love Mississippi. When we printed this, the only (and I mean only) complaints we got were from two people from Alabama. One was a guy who logged on and fussed, sight unseen, about them "damn terrorists." The second was an Alabama girl who knew 'me' from some boards on IMDb and followed me on Planet's site. She couldn't believe we'd waste space on the Muslims and blasted on the site. I cut ties with her, but we left her comments up. That was the only bad feedback we got. Most of what we got was, "I've been there. It's pretty cool." It is. I'm not Muslim, and neither is about 98% of the people who go, but it's refreshing to see a place that takes the time to educate you about a people you should know more about - and about how positively they've affected the direction of the world.

Jackson has its fair share of good museums. The Old Capitol Museum is one. The Mississippi Museum of Art and the Smith Robertson Cultural Center are both well known far beyond the borders of our state. One of the most important ones sits less than a block from the Museum of Art and is, quite literally, unique in this country. There is no other like it.

That museum is the International Museum of Muslim Cultures (IMMC). The museum opened its doors in April 2001 with the exhibit, Islamic Moorish Spain: Its Legacy to Europe and the West. Developed by Okolo Rashid, the current executive director of the museum, and by Emad Al-Turk, the board chairman of the museum, the exhibit was conceived as a companion piece to the Majesty of Spain exhibit when the organizers, Mississippi Commission for International Cultural Exchange, Inc., decided not to include any pieces that reflected the nearly eight hundred years of Moorish influence in the exhibit. Islamic Moorish Spain received considerable local press in its first few weeks. The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience and the Catholic Diocese of Jackson both gave their blessings to it.

"Civil Unions" (Column)

This was one of my serious columns, regarding a situation about which I feel very strongly. Living here in Calfornia now makes me glad I wrote this all those years ago.

For the first time, the issue of gay marriages – or civil unions – has been brought up for serious discussion. With the Commonwealth of Massachusetts deciding that they are legal, there is finally real, tangible discussion about this issue. Yes, the State of Vermont allowed civil unions several years ago, but Vermont is a small state with little influence on others. When Massachusetts took this big step, it became major news.

The conservatives’ views on this issue are already well known. In a nutshell, they believe that allowing gay marriages leads to the end of civilization, as we know it. This is not a surprise. A bit more surprising is the mixed reactions occurring in the various liberal camps. Even my man Wesley Clark splits this particular hair, supporting “civil unions,” but not going so far as to call them “marriages.”

Personally, I don’t see the problem. I totally support the idea of gay marriages. And I don’t feel a need to qualify the statement. I don’t think they should be called “civil unions.” I think that if a marriage is recognized in one state, it should be recognized in every state. I think a gay married couple should be allowed every right that a straight married couple receives. Call me crazy, plenty have, but I simply don’t believe that allowing gay men and women to marry will cause the downfall of the American Way.