On a downtown street in the middle of the Deep South stands the nation’s only museum devoted exclusively to Islam. It’s an exploration of a culture that’s slightly out of place, it seems, in the land of Evangelical Christianity, casinos, fried fish and grits.

The International Museum of Muslim Cultures opened as a temporary exhibition in a tiny building just months before Sept. 11, then was threatened as the nation struggled with the horror of the terrorist attacks. A single brick that shattered the museum’s front plate-glass window shattered as well a community’s silent embrace.

But soon, townspeople — of all ethnicities, cultures and creeds — spoke up. They began calling the little storefront museum with the Moorish arches, offering warm wishes, support, assurances that the hateful brick was the tool of an isolated act. This exchange between museum staff and anonymous Mississippi residents drove the decision to keep the museum open, and to make it a permanent celebration of tolerance and multiculturalism”¦


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