Engaging Islam: Working with Muslim Communities in a Multicultural Society



Abstract  Recent global political events have pushed Islam to the center stage in European and American museums. Since 9/11 there has been a substantial increase in exhibitions featuring Islamic art, the Muslim world, and the Middle East (Flood 2007; Winegar 2008; Ryan 2009; Shatanawi 2012). For museums in Western Europe, the presentation of Islam-related topics is closely related to the domestic issues of migration and multiculturalism. The new millennium has seen a vigorous debate about multiculturalism in Western Europe; several European leaders have declared multiculturalism a failed policy. This paper presents a case study, based in Amsterdam’s Tropenmuseum (one of Europe’s best-known ethnographic museums), that investigates the complex relationships between audiences and communities in the context of the public debate on Islam. It critically discusses the relevance of a community-based approach for museums that intend to reflect the cultural diversity of European societies.