Haider Shahbaz in Jadaliyya:
Interest in Islamic art—a label that became popular in Western museums after World War II—has substantially increased since 11 September 2001. Some of the biggest and wealthiest museums in Europe and North America, including The Louvre, Benaki Museum, Metropolitan Museum of Art, British Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, have expanded, renovated, and highlighted their collections of Islamic art. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s collection of Islamic art, which began purchasing works in 1973, has seen major acquisitions since 9/11. Middle Eastern museums have also joined the race. The Kuwait National Museum and the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha have become major competitors in this market. The controversial openings of Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and Louvre Abu Dhabi are scheduled for the next few years.
All these museums hope to boost profits in the tourism and culture industries by playing on a renewed fascination with Islam. Moreover, they hope to introduce visitors to a softer, more tolerant side of Muslims by educating them about the history and culture of regions that have become associated with war and religious fundamentalism. As Sophie Makariou, head of the Louvre's Islamic art department, said, “I like the idea of showing the other side of the coin.”
Unfortunately, such gestures are still unable to move beyond two sides: the inevitable binary of the good, cultured Muslim and the bad, terrorist Muslim.