‘Paint Your Faith’ Colorfully Depicts Students’ Feelings on Religion

Muslim Students Association at George Washington University organizes collaborative art project.

Participants in the Muslim Students Association's "Paint Your Faith."
Participants in the Muslim Students Association's "Paint Your Faith." (Rob Stewart for GW Today)
March 30, 2015

The George Washington University’s Muslim Students Association hosted a collaborative art project in University Yard Friday. Called “Paint Your Faith,” the project asked passers-by—Muslim and non-Muslim alike—to depict what their own faith, or lack thereof, meant to them.

On four canvases, participants wrote words like “Love,” “Peace” and “Joy.” Some drew mountains or colorful, shifting spirals. Some contributions were plain, some embellished.

“Sometimes it’s hard to talk about religion, because it’s such a charged topic,” said freshman Nora Abdel-Gawad, an MSA member. “But art can be anything. It has no boundaries, and you don’t have any pressure to be eloquent.”

Zainab Rashead, also a freshman, agreed. “Everyone can express themselves in pictures, no matter what languages they speak or what their background is,” she said.

A student contributed to one of the MSA's four canvases during "Paint Your Faith." (Rob Stewart)

“Paint Your Faith,” now in its second year, was the last event of the MSA’s Islam Awareness Week. The week also included interfaith service projects, movie screenings, info sessions and lectures by GW professors on topics like Islam’s contributions to the world.

MSA board member Elina Mir said it was important to create a dialogue—even, or perhaps especially, a non-verbal one—around faith on campus.

“Even though this is an event by Muslim students, it’s open to people of all faiths, and people who don’t have a faith,” she said. “It’s important for people to understand that, whatever your experience of faith is, you shouldn’t be ashamed. It’s something to be proud of, and other people will be understanding and accepting of that as well. Art is a good way to express that.”

Ms. Mir said her faith meant patience. Ms. Rashead said that, to her, it meant kindness to everyone.

Rafay Ahmad, a sophomore, put it simply. “I’m a Muslim, and faith is the foundation of everything I do,” he said. “It’s everything.”