Friday, January 13, 2017

It’s harder than ever to teach Islamic art — but never more important

By Kishwar Rizvi
At prayer in the mosque, Damascus, Syria. April 27, 1908. Stereograph. (Library of Congress)
Teaching Islamic art and architecture can feel like walking through a minefield. Long before “war on terror” was a common phrase, the sites I lecture on were contentious, the evisceration of cultural heritage already underway. In my first class, on Islam’s holiest site, the Kaaba in Mecca, I couldn’t avoid showing images of the sacred monument overshadowed by towering hotels. The hardest segment is on Iraq; some years I skip the Abbasids, as I am unable to talk about the historic city of Baghdad or the holy shrines in Najaf and Karbala, popular pilgrimage sites that have been targeted in sectarian wars, without tears in my eyes. [link]