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IMAGES OF THE DAY: The Louvre In Paris Opens New Islamic Art Wing, As Angry Protests Carry On Around
September 23, 2012
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As violent protests continue around the world against that anti-Muslim film, the Louvre Museum in Paris has opened a new wing that's designed to showcase the beauty, history and art of Islam.

The protests, of course, started after the release of the YouTube video 'Innocence of Muslims,' which mocked the prophet Mohammed. And France hasn't escaped the anger - at least 80 people were arrested last weekend in Paris after a demonstration by French Muslims outside the U.S. embassy.

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French President Francois Hollande addressed the tension at a VIP event marking the week of the gallery's opening: "The honour of Islamic civilizations is older, more vibrant and more tolerant than some of those who pretend to be speaking in their name today."

Not everyone in France is happy with President Hollande's statement.

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Marwan Mohammad is a writer and spokesman for CCIF, the Collective Against Islamophobia.

He accuses President Hollande of seeing "Islam only as a cultural element and history, but not as a real, living culture in its midst."

He also points out that the gallery may not appeal to mainstream Muslims in France. According to Marwan, in the multicultural area where he lives, "if we ask people in the street, not many would be aware that the Islam gallery has opened, they won't know about it."

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Here's an Al-Jazeera report on the opening and the tensions surrounding it:

The idea for the gallery didn't come from the current leader of France, but from an earlier President, Jacques Chirac. He said he wanted to highlight the contributions of Muslim civilizations to Western culture and create a "dialogue of cultures."

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According to Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, the single biggest donor to the new wing - he gave over $21 million - the display of art is all about engagement.

"After 9/11 events, all Arabs and Muslims have a duty and responsibility to do as much as they can to tell the West about real Muslims, about real Islam, and how peaceful our religion is," he told the BBC.

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For those who do attend the gallery, there are 2,500 objects on display, including mosaics from the Damascus mosque and a carved ivory box from 928.

In terms of architecture, the new wing has a big, flowing glass and metal roof (it looks kind of like a floating carpet).

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Related articles:

Zarqa Nawaz On What Inspired 'Little Mosque'

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