Louvre’s new wing restores full glory to Islam
PARIS - Agence France-Presse
A lectern for Koran (L) and lamps from Egypt or Syria from the 14th century are displayed at the new Department of Islamic Arts at the Louvre.Paris’s famed Louvre museum this week opens a new wing of Islamic art in a bid to improve knowledge of a religion often viewed with suspicion in the West. Costing nearly 100 million euros, it is funded by the French government and supported by handsome endowments from Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Kuwait, Oman and Azerbaijan.
About 3,000 precious works from the seventh to the 19th centuries are spread across 3,000 square meters over two levels. The exhibits will be rotated.
The project was a brainchild of French former president Jacques Chirac and dates back to 2001. It groups 18,000 treasures from an area spanning from Europe to India and includes the oldest love missive in the Islamic world. It is to the honor of Islamic civilizations that they are older, more alive and more tolerant than some of those who today abusively suppose to speak in their name,” French President Francois Hollande said yesterday at the inauguration of the new wing.
Four million Muslims
France is home to at least four million Muslims and leaders of the community say incidents of Islamophobia are on the rise against a background of confrontation with the authorities and rising suspicion of Muslims. Many Muslims in France have been angered by legislation banning women from wearing full veils and this year’s elections were marked by debate over the use of halal methods of animal slaughter.
The tensions were highlighted by the one of the main movers behind the project, Sophie Makariou, the head of the department of Islamic arts at the Louvre, who said the aim is to show a “Islam with a capital I.” “That means the civilization as a whole, not with a small ‘i’ designating just the religious sphere,” she said. “We must give back the word Islam its full glory... and not leave it to the jihadists to tarnish it,” she said. “Islamic art is not confined to the art of the Muslim community. It is the art of all those who comprised the Islamic world and in it there were Christians and Jews,” she said.