The Louvre opening of Islamic art wing Final Project by: Jacob Beyer

Posted on December 7, 2012 by

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Louvre roofIn the past few years the Western and Islamic worlds have been at a constant battle with many different issues. These issues range from the Islamic world protesting over the western world depicting their prophet Muhammad in various media sources, to the western world’s view of Islam as a violent religion. For what feels like ages, we still haven’t seen a hint of light at the end of this dark tunnel signifying an end to this conflict between these two large worlds. This is where the Islamic art wing recently introduced in the Louvre, a world renowned museum located in France, comes into play. It was initially thought to pour some light upon a very misunderstood community, giving both the westerners a very non-violent view of Islam, and also the Islam world a place to show their rich culture and history. In doing this it is thought to be the bridge to close the gap between the Western and Islamic worlds. I believe that the opening of this Islamic art exhibit will spread some light on the Islamic culture to the western world, not saying that it will settle the unrest the western world is having with the Islamic world at this moment, but there is no doubt in my mind that it will help the cause.
For France to finish this exhibit that has been almost a ten year project is a pretty controversial spot for this huge Islamic based wing to be opened. Being that just last year Nicolas Sarkozy, the former president of France, banned the burqa and shortly before the exhibit opened the cartoons in the Charlie Hebdo magazine depicted a negative image of Islam’s prophet Muhammad. The protest happening in the days following the release of these cartoons were said to kill about 30 people. The estimated cost of the building varies, most of the estimates range from around 80 to 100 million euros, or anywhere around 130 million dollars. This estimate isn’t all paid for by the French government and the renowned museum, a good portion of this money came from Islamic investors excited about the opening of the Islamic art wing. Prince Waleed Bin Talal of Saudi Arabia was said to donate 20 million dollars himself, while other smaller contributors such as the governments of Oman, Morocco, Kuwait, and the Republic of Azerbaijan. There is said to be around fourteen to eighteen thousand art pieces and artifacts now reside in the Louvre permanently. The gallery itself covers some 30,000 square feet with a roof on top that has been the landmark of the new exhibit (seen in picture above). The wavy golden tinted glass rooftop has been thought to symbolize few different things, such as the sand dunes of the Middle East, a dragonfly’s wing, a luminous veil, or even a flying carpet. Having the roof made of glass allows for the exhibit to be illuminated with natural light during the day.
Looking through various articles about the topic, I only found one article that talked about the three pictures of Muhammad with this face is exposed. This is strange that this issue didn’t come up in any other articles. That makes you wonder if it’s true and most media sources do not want to add fuel to the already burning fire, but it does come from a pretty reliable source (Huffington Post). This is a huge issue right now in France and some other places in the Western world. Just a few days before the wing opened the Charlie Hebdo magazine, which a year ago had their offices firebombed, once again depicted the prophet Muhammad’s face in its cartoons. In the United States another controversial video, made in the United States on the Anti-Innocence of Muslims, which basically mocked the religion and the laws that It’s built on. Islam doesn’t take much of a liking to the depiction of their Prophet Muhammad, especially in a negative way, because they believe that doing so leads to the idolism of something other than Allah. This could have been a risky move if it’s true, but comparing the only three pictures exposing his face to the out of the 18 thousand some artifacts and art pieces makes it a hard to argue that they are doing the Islamic religion injustice with this art wing. Though the said pictures are in a corner of the wing, you could still make and argument that having pictures exposing the face of Islam’s in this exhibit puts a small shadow if any on the light that it shines on the Islamic religion.
In almost all of the articles I looked at had a reference to the new president of France, Francois Hollande, attending the inauguration of this exhibit. The Huffington Post quotes Hollande calling the inauguration a “political gesture in the service of respect for peace.” With this hope that this will send a message to Islamic world that France is not a part of the cartoons published in the Hebdo magazine, they have no control over what has happened. It is unlikely that the Islamic world will just forget about the cartoons over the opening of the museum, especially with the protests that sparked after the United States movie about the Anti-Innocence of Muslims. I commend the French government reaching out in order to try and settle the unrest going on between these two worlds, but there isn’t much one person can do in order to completely settle this issue at hand. I didn’t see much in the news about the United States government doing anything to counteract the controversial video disrespecting the prophet Muhammad, even after a US embassy was attacked. Along with the references to the French president, most of the posts had quotes from the upper employment of one of the world’s most popular and well known museum. They had quotes that mostly talked about how this project was created in order to give back Islam his glory that the jihadists have been tearing apart.
My original belief that the Louvre would without a doubt have a positive impact was somewhat proven by the governments of some big Muslim countries donating money towards the Islamic wing addition to the Louvre. It is hard to say how big that impact really is, with all the unrest in the Middle East at the moment, for example the Palestine and Israel conflict going on along with the Syrian Civil War. But it has only been two months, and it does take time for tourists to go to the Louvre to see this new enlightening view of Islam that the Western world has not been exposed to. A positive view of Islam is exactly what the Western world needed, though it took 10 years to construct this wing, it came at a very significant time with the extent of the unrest happening between these two worlds, but only time will tell if this will even be a start to bridging the gap between these two worlds views.

Sources:
http://www.businessinsider.com/the-louvre-opens-islamic-art-wing-2012-9?op=1
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/20/arts/design/the-louvres-new-islamic-galleries-bring-riches-to-light.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/cultural-capital/2012/09/why-louvre%E2%80%99s-new-islamic-art-wing-won%E2%80%99t-bridge-divide%E2%80%9D
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/20/louvres-islamic-art_n_1901030.html
http://www.france24.com/en/20120922-france-paris-louvre-museum-unveils-new-islamic-art-wing-culture-peace
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/sep/20/paris-louvre-museum-unveils-islamic-art-wing/
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-19672951

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