Rumi: A Cosmopolitan Counter-Narrative to Islamophobia

  • Ehsan Akbari


I present the poetry and life of the influential Sufi scholar Rumi in order to counter the prevalent Islamophobic images of Muslims in the media. Rumi’s philosophy epitomizes a cosmopolitan sensibility that embraced cultural diversity. One of Rumi’s most important legacies for our contemporary world is how his work creates bridges between Western and Islamic cultures. I suggest that the true cosmopolitan value of Rumi’s poetry can be realized if Rumi’s poems and philosophy are situated within their specific cultural and historical context, and are appreciated alongside the works of contemporary artists from the Islamic world who carry on Rumi’s legacy. As such, the artwork of Iranian-America artist Shirin Neshat is also discussed in relation to Rumi. I argue that art educators can play an important role in combatting bigoted perceptions of Muslims by incorporating the art of significant artists from the Islamic world, both past and present – such as Rumi and Neshat –in their curriculum.