Paris, Nov 18 (EFE).- The French government and the Louvre museum have teamed up for a project of unprecedented scale in the country — 18 simultaneous exhibitions across several cities inviting visitors to explore the rich and varied history of Islam at a time of heated debate and inter-community tensions in the country.
From Friday until March 27, museums and cultural centers from Rouen to Limoges, Clermont-Ferrand to Marseille will host artefacts from national museums and the iconic Louvre’s department of Islamic Art.
Underlying the project are two political topics du jour in France; firstly the Paris-centric nature of administration and culture in the country (on this occasion, none of the exhibitions will be held in the capital).
Secondly, the controversy in France swirling around the topic of teaching Islam in schools as well as the rise of Islamophobia in the wake of a number of Islamist attacks, including last year’s brutal murder of teacher Samuel Paty after he showed his students caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.
“I understand that it is a political exhibition,” Yannick Lintz, head of the Louvre’s Islamic Art department, told Efe. “If it wasn’t for the current context of community tensions, where the word Islam is present in the press every day, we would not have wanted to show the true reality of this civilization.”
A total of 200 artefacts are going on display in spaces designed to be conducive to discussions.
One example is a plate from 10th or 11th century Iran, which depicts a couple embracing.
The selected works from across the Islamic world talk of a rich, varied and expansive culture that has had considerable influence on the world.
“It will be interesting to see the reactions to a reality that can be uncomfortable. If there are hostile reactions, then that is healthy, this will mean that young people take the time to look, and that this affects their beliefs,” says Lintz, who says the exhibition does not intend to “convert anyone.”
“Many young people will continue to think that Islam has its prohibitions, that women should cover themselves, although here we show the opposite”.EFE