Louvre opens long-awaited Islamic Wing

News Agencies – September 20, 2012


France’s Louvre Museum is unveiling a new wing devoted to Islamic art, with the long-gestating project debuting during a period of increased tension with the Muslim community over a French publication’s caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

The Louvre’s new addition, which cost nearly 100 million euros (about $127 million Cdn) is its biggest project since the famed Parisian art museum unveiled its I.M. Pei-designed, now-iconic glass pyramid in 1988. The dragonfly-shaped new galleries will showcase a rotating display of artifacts from the Louvre’s collection of Islamic art, which includes pieces dating from as far back as the 7th century.

The museum first opened its Islamic art department in 2003, during the tenure of former French president Jacques Chirac, who urged a “dialogue of cultures” to break down walls between religions. France is home to more than four million Muslims, western Europe’s largest Muslim population.

However, an expansion was necessary because the Louvre did not have enough space to display what has grown to become a vast collection of Islamic art, including treasures donated by King Mohammed VI of Morocco and the foundation of Saudi Prince Waleed Bin Talal.


The Louvre Prepares to Open Islamic wing

News Agencies – January 5, 2012

With a roof designed to look like a floating sheet of silk, a reference to the Islamic headscarf, a new wing of the Louvre housing Islamic art is nearing completion. The project to house the Paris museum’s well-regarded collection of Islamic objects was launched by former president Jacques Chirac in 2002.

Six years later his successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, laid the first stone. After four years of construction, the wing is set to open in the summer.

The building’s architect Mario Bellini, who has designed the structure with Rudy Ricciotti, said the structure should seem as if it is “floating in mid-air.” The 3,500 square metre space is the museum’s biggest project since the construction of the glass pyramid that sits in the Louvre’s main courtyard twenty years ago. The €98 million ($126 million) new wing will sit in one of the Louvre’s hidden courtyards in the Denon wing of the gallery and can house around 18,000 works.

Jacques Chirac emerges as spokesperson for Holocaust instruction in Muslim countries

Former French President Jacques Chirac has emerged as a spokesperson of sorts for Holocaust instruction in Muslim countries. Chirac’s popularity in parts of the Arab world and his history of making clear statements about France’s responsibility in the World War II destruction of Europe’s Jews accords him, according to this IHT feature, a unique place in talking about the relationship of racism and anti-Semitism to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Chirac said he had no intention “to place on Muslim countries a responsibility” for the Holocaust “that isn’t theirs” but stressed the importance of “making the Shoah known while removing it from the silence that people have built up around it in many countries.” “It’s been hidden,” Chirac said, “because referring to the Shoah in these countries has risked creating sympathy for the Jews and Israel.”

French Muslims Regroup With New Organization

PARIS – French Muslims on Sunday created a new representative group aimed at “complementing” an existing state-sponsored umbrella organisation that has been stalled by infighting. The Rally of Muslims in France (RMF) held a gathering in Paris of 200 heads of mosques and associations to establish itself as an alternative to the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM) set up by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy in 2003. In a statement, the RMF said it wanted to “contribute to the emergence of moderate Islam” that would respect French laws while lobbying on behalf of the country’s estimated five million Muslims. The group is led by Taoufiq Sebti, the president of a regional Muslim group covering the Paris area. The head of another Paris Muslim group also participating, Anouar Kbibech, stressed that the RMF intended to be “complementary, and not a rival, to the CFCM”. The CFCM has been riven by power struggles since its inception. Its president, Dalil Boubakeur, who is rector of the mosque in Paris, said an overdue board meeting of the organisation has again been pushed back, this time to early July. Boubakeur explained that CFCM members agreed to the additional delay at the request of the office of President Jacques Chirac, who next Sunday is to inaugurate a memorial to Muslim soliders who fought for France in World War I.

Cultural Workshop To Bridge West-Muslim Divide

France is launching a “cultural workshop” starting in September in a bid to promote understanding between the West and the Islamic world, the diplomat in charge of the project said Thursday. The workshop, which is the brainchild of French President Jacques Chirac, will hold its first session in Paris on September 13-15, ambassador-at-large Jacques Huntzinger told AFP. Huntzinger, in Doha to attend an inter-faith dialogue, said the workshop aims at “countering the risk of the development of misunderstandings, prejudices and fear among peoples and civil societies” on the two banks of the Mediterranean. According to a presentation of the project, a copy of which was obtained by AFP, the second session will be held in the Spanish city of Seville February 7-9, 2007 and the third in the Egyptian port of Alexandria in June next year. Participants in the “dialogue of peoples and cultures” will come from non-governmental organizations although organizers will seek the support of the governments concerned. “The platform must be given to historians, educators, researchers and new thinkers on both banks. With the help of the media, satellite channels and the Internet, they will know how to fight stereotypes,” the document says. The series of workshops will be open to Arab countries of the Maghreb, Levant and Gulf, in addition to Israel, Turkey and member states of the European Union. Themes to be debated will range from the role of media to the relationship between society and religion in secular systems and those based on sharia, or Islamic law. The need for an inter-cultural dialogue was highlighted by the crisis sparked by the publication of cartoons of Islam’s Prophet Mohammed in European papers, which infuriated Muslims across the world, according to the document. The cartoons row showed the degree to which “the Arab-Islamic world resents the West, notably Europe,” a feeling which can resurface any time, the document warns. Preparations for the dialogue are taking place in close cooperation with Spain and with the backing of Egypt, it said.

Chirac Slams Media “Provocation” in Printing Mohammad Cartoons

PARIS – French President Jacques Chirac on Wednesday accused newspapers printing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed of “provocation,” after yet another French publication put the contentious caricatures on its pages. “Anything that can hurt the convictions of another, particularly religious convictions, must be avoided. Freedom of expression must be exercised in a spirit of responsibility,” Chirac told his cabinet, according to a government spokesman.

Laïcité Still Hot Topic

1905: Le D_bat Sur La La_cit_ Toujours Ouvert Mais Avec D’autres Enjeux With the rise of Islam in France, the 1905 law of la_cit_ has become a topic for debate. Muslims, the second largest religious group in France, often have a difficult time raising the funds for building mosques. Because of this, moneys are sometimes received from Saudi Arabia and other Arab states where forms of Islam are prevalent which have become worries since September 11th. To deal with this issue, there have been several approaches, with Nicolas Sarkozy supporting revisions to the law, while Jacques Chirac and Dominic de Villepin supporting the creation of a foundation to support mosques, but no changes to the law. {(article continues below in French)} Cent ans apr_s, la la_cit_ consacr_e par la loi du 9 d_cembre 1905 continue de faire d_bat en France, mais le ton s’est polic_ et les enjeux se sont d_plac_s vers l’islam et les nouvelles demandes religieuses, y compris les sectes. Le d_bat s’est rallum_ lors de la pr_paration de la loi du 15 mars 2004 sur le port d’insignes religieux _ l’_cole. Il conna_t des sursauts r_guliers, par exemple sur la mise en berne des drapeaux pour la mort de Jean Paul II. Mais son intensit_ et son ampleur restent sans commune mesure avec le d_but du si_cle. Son cadre a chang_ avec l’insertion dans l’espace europ_en. Et cette fois, il tourne surtout autour de l’islam. L’islam, qui n’_tait pas concern_ par la loi de 1905, est devenu la deuxi_me religion en France derri_re le catholicisme, avec environ 5 millions de musulmans estim_s pour quelque 40 millions de catholiques et autant de pratiquants r_guliers, entre 10 et 15%. Par rapport aux catholiques, aux protestants (un peu plus d’un million) ou aux juifs (environ 600.000), les musulmans sont d_pourvus de patrimoine immobilier cultuel. Souvent peu fortun_s, ils ont du mal _ financer leurs mosqu_es. Les municipalit_s peuvent les aider (baux emphyt_otiques, garanties de pr_ts etc.) mais la loi interdit tout financement public. Le recours _ des fonds _trangers, notamment d’Arabie saoudite, patrie du wahabbisme rigoriste, est mal per_u depuis les attentats du 11 septembre 2001. Le ministre de l’Int_rieur, charg_ des Cultes, Nicolas Sarkozy s’est fait le champion d’une nouvelle r_vision de la loi –il y en a d_j_ eu dix– pour mettre l’islam sur un pied d’_galit_ avec les autres religions. A gauche, Manuel Valls, d_put_-maire PS d’Evry (Essonne), soutient l’id_e. “commission de r_flexion” Mais ils restent isol_s. Le pr_sident Jacques Chirac ainsi que le Premier ministre Dominique de Villepin, qui a lanc_ une Fondation pour financer l’islam, ne veulent pas toucher _ la loi. Fin octobre, pour le centenaire de la F_d_ration protestante de France qui r_clame depuis fin 2002 un toilettage de la loi, M. Sarkozy a annonc_ une “commission de r_flexion juridique sur les relations des cultes avec les pouvoirs publics”. Elle rendra ses conclusions en juin. Hormis les protestants, les grandes religions l’ont accueillie avec r_serve. Les catholiques, qui ont mis vingt ans _ s’accomoder de la loi, redoutent d'”ouvrir la bo_te de Pandore”, selon l’expression du cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger. “Sans remettre en question les grands _quilibres trouv_s au cours d’un si_cle d’application de la loi de 1905, nous voulons, comme catholiques, apporter notre pierre _ l’_dification, sans cesse _ reprendre, de notre unit_ nationale”, vient de rappeler le pr_sident de la Conf_rence des _v_ques de France, Mgr Jean-Pierre Ricard. “Ceux qui veulent _carter les religions de l’espace social et les enfermer dans le seul domaine des convictions priv_es se trompent de si_cle”, a-t-il ajout_. Outre l’islam, nombre d’autres religions se sont d_velopp_es depuis 1905 –bouddhisme, _vang_lisme– ainsi que des mouvements comme la scientologie ou les T_moins de J_hovah, estim_s sectaires en France mais pas ailleurs notamment aux Etats-Unis qui accusent les Fran_ais d’entraves _ la libert_ religieuse. Pour leur part, les T_moins de J_hovah ont d_pos_ le 25 f_vrier un recours contre un redressement fiscal de 23 millions d’euros devant la Cour europ_enne des droits de l’Homme.

Chirac, Prime Minister Say No To State Support For Mosques In France

MARSEILLE, France (AFP) – In a major broadside, President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin rejected a senior government minister’s idea of using state funds to build mosques and train Islamic religious leaders. Chirac obliquely accused his arch rival – Finance Minister Nicolas Sarkozy is expected to seek his job in the 2007 presidential election – of trying to “open up a new and pointless debate in France on topics that enjoy consensus.” Raffarin said for the government to get mixed up in religion in any way would undermine the very foundations of the French republic, which is based on a strict separation of church and state.

Europe Battles Islam’s Rise, Via Head Scarves

By Mathew Schofield With immigration from Muslim countries rising throughout Europe, politicians across the continent are pushing for laws reining in the Muslim community. Often the legislation is being introduced by politicians who represent centrist and leftist parties that traditionally champion human rights. The movement has little opposition. When France’s 577-member National Assembly approved the head-scarf ban last month, only 36 legislators voted against it. The margin was just as one-sided when the Senate gave it final approval Wednesday, 276-20. Top French officials, including President Jacques Chirac, have said the ban will help preserve France’s secular national character. Muslims have become fair game for a number of European political factions. Feminists say the head scarf is a sign of the oppression of women. On the right, politicians say Muslims will tear apart the fabric of all that’s European.