Following the rise in Islamophobia after the Charlie Hebdo attacks, France saw an increase in separatism and identity politics. The French government has turned to the unifying power of art to deal with the wave of separatism. The government of France is organizing numerous exhibitions over the period of four months to showcase the cultural and traditional diversity in the Islamic world and break stereotypes associated with Islamic culture and tradition.
It is especially important at this time where France hasn’t had the best track record in recent years when it comes to combating Islamophobia. When recently, Algerian Muslim women were stabbed near the Eiffel Tower for being Muslims and two Jordanian nationals were assaulted for speaking Arabic in the city of Angers.
A Past For Present,” is organized by the Réunion des Musées Nationaux-Grand Palais, and led by the head of the Louvre’s Islamic art department Yannick Lintz. The idea of the exhibitions was first suggested by the French President Emmanuel Macron to showcase the true face of Islamic tradition rather than the prevailing dogmatic side of it, perpetuated mainly by the militant organizations working under the banner of Islam.
— Mad Paris (@madparisfr) November 27, 2021
The exhibitions would display works from 19 artists from different parts of the Islamic world. The artists would showcase their cultural affinity with the past and the heritage they draw from cultures and how it affects their lives to this day.
The exhibition displays around 210 art pieces borrowed from national museums, 60 of which have been loaned from the Louvre. It is especially important for France to promote diversity as it hosts one of the largest Muslim and Jew population inside Europe and where the wave of resentment against the Muslim community is rising. Lintz believes “it’s important, as curators specialized in Islamic civilization and Islamic art, to give another message about what is the historical reality of Islam, through 13 centuries of art, civilization, and intellectual life.”
Très belle (et concise) expo "Arts de l'islam, un passé pour un présent" au musée de la céramique – @RMM_Rouen, un des 18 évènements coproduits sur ce thème par @MuseeLouvre et @GrandPalaisRmn. Avec de beaux prêts de @quaibranly @FracNR et de la bibliothèque Villon de @Rouen pic.twitter.com/moV3Cyngd0
— Nicolas Coutant (@Nicolas_Coutant) November 29, 2021
France has banned most religious activities publicly, partly because of its legal principle called “laicite”. The law was passed in 1905 and calls for the state to be secular and separate itself from any religion. However, over the years, the French government has resorted to newer interpretations of the “laicite” principle to the point it is now believed to be going after religious practices. Recently, the focus of the laicite principle was shifted towards Islamic practices.
This exhibition is an attempt to curb the rising Islamophobia and separatism in France. With such diverse population it is important for the French to learn how celebrate cultural differences to coexist peacefully.
Charlie Hebdo Attack:
Following the publishing of caricatures of Prophet Muhammad, on 7 January 2015, at about 11:30 a.m. CET local time, two French Muslim brothers, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, forced their way into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Armed with rifles and other weapons, they killed 12 people and injured 11 others.