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An Artstic Approach To Inter-Faith Dialogue: The International Ramadan Photography Competition

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Tomorrow marks the start of the holy month of Ramadan for Muslims around the world. It also marks the beginning of the 2013 International Ramadan Photography Competition: Capture the Spirit of Ramadan, for a third year.

The International Ramadan Photography Competition™ is a unique and unprecedented 30-day visual celebration that aims to educate and enlighten millions of viewers around the world about the holy month of Ramadan through the art of photography. It currently houses the world's largest modern collection of Islamic themed photographs from over 60 countries. The IRPC aims to provide a platform for talented photographers to share their creativity with the world while delivering a cross-cultural and inter-faith message that aims to eradicate misconceptions and misunderstandings about the Muslim faith with beautiful and positive imagery.

In the past 3 years, the IRPC has attracted over 60,000 photographers and photography enthusiasts worldwide with thousands of photo entries from all corners of the globe. They have published the First and Second Volumes of the Capture the Spirit of Ramadan Photography Book, the first and only photography publication solely dedicated to "Ramadan" around the world.

The contest is open to all nationalities and faiths. Entrants must be 18 years or over. Submitted photographs should focus on the Ramadan theme, but that doesn't mean only mosque shots or people indulging in iftars (post-sunset meals). As the competition title suggests, the aim is to "capture the spirit" of the Holy Month in a visual way.

At Ramadan's end, a panel of judges will judge the competition, this year with world-renowned photographer Steve McCurry, who took the National Geographic prize-winning photo of the "Afghan Girl" on the panel. The judges will be "looking at the impact and message, creativity, level of photographic quality, technique and composition", says spokeswoman Lina Ali.

Why does the IRPC choose Ramadan for this? As well as being Islam's holiest month, Ramadan also offers a colorful window into the fasting, lives and customs of more than one and a half billion worshippers. Ramadan is not only considered to be the most spiritual month in the Islamic calendar but is also a time for families and friends to reunite in peace, prayer and piety. Fasting from sunrise to sunset as a form of spiritual cleansing, self-discipline and empathy for the less fortunate, Muslims during Ramadan practice tolerance, forgiveness and perform good deeds.

The idea of fasting is not unique to Islam. Judaism and Christianity both have days of the year dedicated to fasting in similar manners

Photographers are invited to share their work during a 30-day online exhibition highlighting a side of the faith that many are unaware of, in hopes of educating and enlightening those who know little of Islam.

As a way to share the beautiful and positive Islamic imagery of the IRPC and to provide maximum exposure for the photographers around the world that have shared their creative work, the IRPC is working with international galleries, museums, universities and culture institutions to host exhibitions of the IRPC photographs.

The IRPC has gained world-wide support from organizations such as UNESCO and The British Museum.

They collaborate with top international art venues including the Islamic Arts Museum of Malaysia, the Arab American National Museum and the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris.
This initiative aims to foster communication and dialogue between cultures and countries and offers a creative view of Islamic traditions around the world. It is truly a beautiful Ramadan experience that has captured the hearts and minds of people from all walks of life across the globe as they watch the IRPC every day during Ramadan around the world that benefit from these initiatives.

Most importantly, this competition sheds light on the fact that Muslims are just regular, normal people. Seeing the photos should remind everyone that the average Muslim is not someone with a turban on who is screaming violent chants, or someone that advocates of child brides. Islamophobia is rampant in the media today, with images of terrorism and hatred often associated with American Muslims. Images of everyday Americans enjoying Ramadan will give the viewer an intimate view into a faith that teaches true devotion through restraint and patience.