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The Qur’an is in the process of being featured in art gallery across the nation. Sandow Birk, an American artist from Southern California, wants to shed light on the true message of the holy book through an art project known as “The American Qur’an." Birk has focused on a variety of projects throughout his art career including surfers, prisoners, graffiti art, and the war in Iraq, but is gaining attention for his portrayal of one of the world's oldest book in pictures of progressive ideas.

Birk reworks the pages of the Qur’an and sets them in contemporary American life.  The project aims to make the Qur’an more accessible by clarifying what he says its message might mean for the average American.“The Holy Qur’an is arguably the most important book in the world right now,” said Birk.  “Our nation is in the midst of two wars in Islamic nations, hundreds of thousands of our troops are involved, our political landscape has been altered, and our daily lives are all affected by events connected to the Qur’an and yet I knew nothing about it.”

The project, an illustration of the Qur’an along with the accompanied text in English, features women in jeans, golfers teeing off, and modern market places, replacing the traditional images of Middle Easterners dressed in rags, wearing sandals, and traveling by camel.

Inspired by his travels through the Islamic world, Birk hopes his project “might lead more Americans to understand more about Islam.” “More understanding can only be a good thing,” he says.

The popular perception of the Qur’an puts the Muslim faith in a negative light, and seen as the driving force behind fueling extremists, promoting jihad, and fostering Muslims to become terrorists. The “average American” most likely does not understand the message of the Qur’an, but Birk possesses the desire to change that.

Although Birk’s project is not complete, the expectations for his debut are high. Many online forums have lauded Birk’s work calling it “highly creative” and “a beautiful concept,” but some antagonists believe that turning the message of the Qur’an into an American perspective will diminish what the book was originally intended for. Birk explains his side, “The images are my own personal reflections [and] are metaphors for the imagery of the text. I try to think of things in our lives that are symbolic or emblematic of the text, things that present the message in a more easily graspable way, things that average Americans can relate to.” Whether it is positive or negative feedback, his finished project is being anticipated everywhere, and Birk is already planning for much more.  “I’m going to carry on working on it for a couple more years before I’m finished, and then it will become a book and there will be exhibitions of the completed project.” 

Until then, “American Qur’an” will be on display from September 10th through October 9th this year at the P.P.O.W. Gallery in New York For a sneak peak Birk’s gallery, click .


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