31st March 2009
Go to any great world museum. Look at the Western riches. Look at the Asian art. Look at the pre-Columbian art of the Americas. Look at the rooms full of pre-Islamic artifacts from Egypt. Look at the African masks. Look at what was produced in Polynesia. Look, look, look. And then look at the pitiful room or two of so-called “Islamic art” which consists, usually, of some ceramics with what is Arabic calligraphy. But if you recognize the motifs, or can read the writing, you can sometimes detect the fact that the stuff was produced in lands where Muslims ruled, but from the Christian or Jewish imagery, not necessarily by Muslims. Aside from Qur’anic calligraphy and mosque architecture (the building itself based on the Byzantine squinch), what is there in the way of Islamic art? This is not to dismiss what there is, but compared to what non-Islamic societies produce, it is undeniably paltry. And this should not be surprising to anyone, keeping in mind the vast destruction of art and monuments that has taken place wherever Islam has gone.