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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Bringing the riches of Islamic history to the world

The British Museum's Albukhary Foundation Gallery tells a vibrantly pluralistic story

The Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World at the British Museum. Fernandes, K.Lovelock © Trustees of the British Museum
The Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World at the British Museum. Fernandes, K.Lovelock © Trustees of the British Museum

We live in an age of unparalleled global connectivity, an era when communication between different cultures has never been easier. Yet, from America to Europe, we are witnessing instead the rise of isolationist political groups driven by divisive agendas that seek to demonise Islam. What better time, then, for the British Museum to open its Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World and tell the true story of one of humanity’s great religions and cultures. The new gallery, which opens on Thursday, brings together the very best of the British Museum’s world-renowned Islamic collection. Through a dazzling display of art and artefacts, it tells the story of Islam from its foundation in the seventh century to today, exploring global connections from West Africa to the Malay archipelago.

The very location of the gallery, at the heart of the museum, underscores the intention, in the words of the curators, “to tell the universal story of Islam in a global context and to show us the interconnectedness of our shared cultures”. It is meant as a recognition of the significant role Islam has played in many great civilisations as a faith, political system and culture. It is also a story of inclusion, not exclusion. The gallery will reflect collaborations between the Islamic world and members of other faiths, including Christians, Jews and Hindus.

Against a backdrop of fake news and internet conspiracy theory, this gallery offers a reminder of the vital role institutions such as the British Museum play in anchoring the narratives of the past in solid, historical fact. From cooking pots, musical instruments and textiles to rare books, contemporary art and the greatest treasures of archaeology, visitors to the Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World will learn the greatest truth of all: that in the rich tapestry of human existence, there is far more that unites us than can ever drive us apart.