x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Europe learning about Islamic culture

The opening of a new Islamic-art pavilion at the Louvre is a healthy acknowledgement, a columnist says. Other topics: Jordan's Syria problem and the sterile UN session.

Louvre's Islamic-art pavilion shows Europe's growing awareness of Islam's cultural legacy

Last week French President Francois Hollande opened the new Islamic arts pavilion of the prestigious Louvre Museum. Eight years in the making, the permanent exhibition is significant recognition of Islam's underreported contributions to arts, culture and the humanities, columnist Faisal Jalloul wrote in yesterday's edition of the UAE paper Al Khaleej.

The pavilion, which will showcase 18,000 pieces in a rotating fashion (about 3,000 at a time) opened as the Muslim world was seething with anger at a poorly made small budget film mocking the Prophet Mohammed.

The Louvre pavilion opening is positive on a number of levels, the columnist argued.

Some of the items will be put on display for the first time, "especially a Louis XIV collection that comprises Ottoman gifts … and objects seized during Napoleon Bonaparte's campaign in Egypt," the columnist said.

"This will be in addition to artefacts that were brought to Paris through various means from Spain, India and Central Asia.

"Many of these items are completely unknown, which means that the simple act of putting them on display will be tantamount to shedding light on thousands of pages of history that emphasise the bright side of the Arab Islamic civilisation," the column went on.

At a cost of about €100 million (Dh473mn) the project of the Islamic pavilion has been partly funded by Gulf states and the Kingdom of Morocco, but it still amounts to "a western recognition, though overdue, of the greatness of the Arab Islamic civilisation and its decisive role in the making of world civilisation," the columnist noted.

The United States had taken a similar initiative of its own in 2006, followed by Britain in 2008 and by Germany a bit later, the writer added.

All of this "clearly shows that the West, through some of its key actors, wants to acknowledge this great Islamic culture not only at the state level but also at the level of public opinion."

In France in particular, the move will help efforts to integrate parts of the Muslim community into the local social fabric. It is not necessary to mention that Muslims in France, as is the case in many other places, are subject to "arbitrary, racist stereotyping" that sums them up as only wearers of niqabs and beards.

"With the Louvre's Islamic pavilion, French Muslims will have reason to be proud in an environment that is usually charged with anti-Muslim, anti-Arab sentiment," according to the columnist.

There is the remarkable aesthetic aspect of Islamic art which adds value to the Louvre, but there is also a political aspect that will help France have a better relationship with its large Muslim community, he observed in concluding.


Jordan can play a role in ending Syrian crisis

Until a few weeks ago, the Jordanians have been apt at avoiding any involvement in the Syrian crisis over 18 months, columnist Abdul Rahman Al Rashed said in the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al Awsat.

"All indications reveal that Jordan is nowadays undertaking an important role in its northern neighbour's revolution," he said.

The people of Jordan are justified in their fear of drowning in Syrian quicksand. The expenses and the repercussions of a long crisis could tax their humble resources.

They have every reason to dread a possible decision by the Assad regime to cross the border. In that case, their biggest fear would be triggered: Israel could seize the opportunity of the chaos to transform the eastern side of Jordan into an alternative Palestine.

Jordan can no longer afford to hesitate on the Syrian issue. They are now in the line of fire. Their cities and border towns are gorged with tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, and the numbers are still on the rise. Such a flood would eventually drown the small kingdom.

The Syrian regime poses a danger to the safety of Jordan and to its very existence. This may be Jordan's opportunity to become the gateway for positive change in Damascus through additional support for refugees and favourable policies towards deserting troops from the Syrian army, coupled with various support passageways across the borders.

Global issues stalled until after US elections

Three main topics overshadowed most of the speeches at the inauguration of the annual United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday: the Syrian crisis, Iran's nuclear programme and the infamous anti-Islam video, said the London-based daily Al Quds Al Arabi in its editorial yesterday.

President Barack Obama confirmed that the Assad regime must come to an end. He pledged to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons that could endanger Israel. And when it came to the hideous anti-Islam video, he strongly defended freedom of expression. "President Obama highlighted all three crises, but failed to provide incontestable strategic plans to deal with them," the paper said.

The Qatari emir, Sheikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Thani, was the only speaker to request military intervention in Syria. Knowing full well how hesitant the US is towards the concept, he suggested that the intervention be led by Arab countries in an effort to stop the bloodshed.

But the fact is, nothing can be expected to move on the world political scene until the US presidential elections are over.

"The UN Assembly General has become like Hyde Park Speakers' Corner in London, where world leaders meet to enjoy each other's short-lived orations," added the paper.

* Digest compiled by The Translation Desk