New York responds to Trump’s travel ban with art

A new exhibition is opening its doors in February at the Museum of the City of New York, as a response to President Trump’s travel ban. The photography exhibition, named “Muslims in New York”, depicts the lives of the diverse and essential Muslim community in New York, which represents approximately 3% of New York’s population.

Muslims in New York” features four different photographers, who each documented Muslim New Yorkers in a different time frame. Photographers portray the daily lives of Muslims in New York through the years.

Alexander Alland’s work dates back to a time when New York’s Muslim community included people from all over the world, the 1940s. The Photographs by Ed Grazda come from his project named “New York Masjid: The Mosques of New York City”, and date back to the 1990s. His photographs portray immigrants as well as native New York Muslims, which include converts, the African-American community and the Latino Muslim community.
Mel Rosenthal’s work was part of the 2002 MCNY exhibition called “A Community of Many Worlds: Arab Americans in New York” and documents Arab New York Muslims in the early 2000s. Last but not least, Robert Gerhardt’s pictures portray Muslim New Yorkers in the early 2010s.

As one exhibition, these photographers’ images offer us an insight into the Muslim community of New York, and how it has impacted the city over the years. It fights back against the stereotyping of Muslims and tells us that there is no particular portrayal of Muslim life, because of the diversity within the New York Muslim community.


Alexander Alland, Turkish-American children at a table with workbooks, ca. 1940.
Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York and the photographer’s estate.

One of the photographers featured in the exhibition is Robert Gerhardt. He began his project in 2010, when he noticed the opposition to the proposition of a new mosque on Staten Island. The situation lead to Gerhardt hearing all different kinds of assumptions toward the Muslim community, which he then decided to explore.

During Ramadan of 2010, Gerhardt photographed the daily life at a mosque in Brooklyn.
“I would go out to this mosque two or three times a week, go hang with the kids playing basketball in the park, attend youth meetings, karate classes, all over the place.” He told the Huffington Post.

Gerhardt’s original plan was to stick to this particular mosque in Brooklyn until he decided that one mosque would not be able to represent the story of Muslim Americans around the United States. Since beginning the project in 2010, Gerhardt is still photographing daily life at different places of worship.


Robert Gerhardt, “NYPD Traffic Officer at Prayers, Park 51,” Manhattan, New York, 2012.
Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York and the photographer.

His visit to one mosque in particular, paid off in the form of a striking image. The photograph shows an officer in prayer at the Manhattan Islamic Community Centre. This mosque is also known as the “Ground Zero” mosque because of its location, and the prospect of building a mosque near Ground Zero caused a lot of opposition. All of these aspects make the image of this man peacefully praying, very impactful.

With his work, Gerhardt hopes to break the image of Muslims as anonymous threats by showing them as human beings. This is why his work tends to be images of day-to-day, mundane activities, since these are the things that everyone can relate to.

The Museum of the City of New York isn’t the only museum in New York that countered Trump’s travel ban. The Museum of Modern Art also decided to let its voice be heard. Momma is doing this by exhibiting work by artists from one of the seven countries that are on Trump’s travel ban list.

Seeing this as a form of peaceful protest, we look forward to seeing more art in the future.


Mel Rosenthal, Girls in hijabs at Al Noor School, ca. 2001.
Courtesy of the Museum of the City of New York and the photographer.

This article was written by Yasmine Nollet

Written by Mvslim

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