It has been said: If you want to kill a civilization, kill its history.
Kill its arts.
Kills its memory of itself.
You would think someone is trying to kill the collective memory of Islamic civilization.
This morning, Egyptians woke up to horrific news of devastating blasts in the venerable Museum of Islamic arts in Cairo.
This museum, a treasure-trove of irreplaceable Islamic artificats, is widely regarded as among the most precious of Islamic collections, housing over 2,500 dispalyed artifacts from the 7th to the 19th century.
Watch this video to get a sense of the importance of this museum, and its recent expensive renovations.
In addition to ceilings having been destroyed and glass cases broken, several important artifacts have been reported destroyed.
These included the minbar (pulpit) of Sayeda Ruqaya, dating from the Fatimid era (909 to 1171).
The explosions also damaged the adjacent Dar al-Kutub Museum, which is the largest collection of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish manuscripts in Egypt.
The assault on museums and libraries sadly has far too frequent echoes: from the destruction of the Iraqi national museums (where the American troops protected every last oil field but not the ancient heritage of humanity), from the Serbian assault on Sarajevo’s library, and from the Islamist attack on manuscript collections in Mali.
This is a hatred of arts, of beauty, of knowledge, of our collective human wisdom.
The breakdown of the Arab Spring in Egypt (and elsewhere) has had catastrophic consequences in Egypt, in Syria, and elsewhere. Sometimes an object is raised: “Why are you upset about the destruction of a museum when there are human lives being destroyed?”
It is not an either/or thing.
These museums contain not “things”, but the very memory of we as human beings.
Museums contain a record of who we have been, how we became who we are, and perhaps, dreams of who we hope to become. It is not things destroyed, but the echoes, traces, and dreams of we humans.