Dr M: Islamic Arts Museum reflection of Islam’s highs and lows

Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary attend the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia’s 20th anniversary celebrations in Kuala Lumpur December 14, 2018. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Al-Bukhary attend the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia’s 20th anniversary celebrations in Kuala Lumpur December 14, 2018. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 14 — Marking the 20th anniversary of the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia (IAMM), Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said it stands as a reminder of the achievements of the Muslims and the Islamic civilisation as well as how they could slip down the road.

The prime minister noted that in setting up the museum, it was not merely to glorify the Islamic past or intended to look down at other civilisations.

He said exhibitions at the museum should serve as a reminder of how Islam reached the pinnacle of its glory and became a global phenomenon and that, at its height, Islamic knowledge and sciences provided the light to the darkness in the western world.

“These exhibitions should also remind us of how Muslims have deviated and slipped off the track, withdrawing into a cocoon in the name of the religion.

“Muslims should then reflect on the works and artefacts that the worldly attitude and the thirst for all types of knowledge and sciences that made the religion and Muslims great,” he said when addressing IAMM’s anniversary celebration as well as the 40th anniversary of the Albukhary Foundation, at the museum here today.

Dr Mahathir admitted that he had a personal attachment to the museum, having kept a close watch on its development — from its ground-breaking day in 1997 to its launch in 1998.

He said the museum’s management had proven to have a knack for identifying important contributions of Muslim scholars, craftsmen and patrons, and their innovations in exhibiting the artefacts and works had attracted locals and people from abroad.

“The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia has indeed carved a name alongside other renowned and earlier established Islamic museums and galleries around the world, becoming an educational hub for researchers and a haven for art lovers and enthusiasts,” he said.

In no small way, he said, the museum had been able to share with the world the beauty of Islamic arts and culture, provided insights on how Islam was spread, its philosophy, its contribution in science and technology, medicine, mathematics and other contributions to global intellectualism.

“In essence, this museum has managed to provide a reflection of Islam as ‘ad-deen’, a way of life and what made it able to spread and embraced by different citizens of the world,” Dr Mahathir said.

The prime minister said the government was committed to supporting the endeavours pursued by local museums, including the IAMM.

“I’m aware of the difficulties faced by the curators in sourcing exhibition materials, especially when they involve other nations and foreign authorities. Wherever possible, the government is prepared to assist,” he said.

At today’s event, Dr Mahathir also opened the Albukhary Foundation Scholar’s Library at the museum which has a collection of more than 20,000 volumes of books and journals sourced from all over the world.

Coming in different languages and being multi-disciplinary, the volumes cover the fields of Islamic arts and architecture, history, religion, bibliography, library science, language and literature, as well as with an emphasis on philosophy, science, medicine, sociology, anthropology, military sciences and technology.

The new facility also has a dedicated section of rare and limited-edition publications with printed books that go as far back as the as early 17th century.         

“It is, I am also told, to be the largest and most comprehensive museum library in South-east Asia and its primary mission is to support the study and research of the museum’s collection,” he said. — Bernama