From Shah Faisal in Islamabad to Nusrat Djahan in Copenhagen, Islamic places of worship provide some of the world’s most compelling examples of religious architecture. The Netherlands is home to more than 400 mosques, located across the country’s polders, suburbs and town centres. Photographer Marwan Bassiouni has shot more than 70 of them but, rather than focusing on the building’s exteriors, he has honed in on a single detail: the views from their windows.
The result of this year-long study is a series of landscape images – framed by Islamic motifs, patterned walls and prayer rugs – which feature in an exhibition at Fotomuseum Den Haag. The show, titled ‘New Dutch Views’, finds a synergy between two seemingly juxtapositional aesthetics.
Islamic iconography against a European terrain embodies the emergence of a ‘new Western Islamic identity’ – something of interest to Bassiouni. Looking out variously onto deep-green fields, residential roads and cityscapes, these works show how the scenery that surrounds us affects our experience of intramural activities.
While Bassiouni – who was raised in Switzerland as the son of an Italian-American mother and an Egyptian father – may be concerned partly with autobiography, he is equally focused on collective representation. These images attempt to derail Western narratives about Islam by exemplifying its peaceful coexistence – something that is all too often eschewed by the media.