In Britain today, Islam in its original essence is not to be found in mosques or Muslim schools, but on the first floor of the British Museum. There, the Albukhary Islamic gallery, newly opened to the public, dazzles visitors and defies every certainty promoted by today’s hardline Muslim activists. This spectacular exhibition of objects from across continents and centuries shows us a history of continuity of civilisations, coexistence of communities. It offers a compelling corrective to current popular notions of Islam as an idea and a civilisation.
Too often, we assume that Islam’s arrival on the world stage involved some violent break with the past that brought forth a new Muslim civilisation. The artefacts, coins, pottery and tiles on display here from the British Museum’s own collection from the 7th century onwards reveal a different and more accurate history.