The British Museum Is An Active Crime Scene

After visiting the British Museum today, I found it to be an exciting experience. It is always a pleasure to view the artefacts at the Museum each time I visit. The Egyptian and Islamic sections are two of my favourite sections. At one point, items that dated from the time of the prophet Mohammed PBUH were among the most beautiful artefacts in the Islamic section.

According to the website of the British Museum

“The Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic world represents an exciting new vision, displayed across two magnificent refurbished galleries at the heart of the British Museum. 

The British Museum’s Islamic collection comprises a broad and diverse spectrum of the material culture produced from the seventh century to the present day in the Islamic world, a series of regions stretching from West Africa to Southeast Asia. From archaeological material to contemporary art, from the paintings and vessels made for royal patrons to the evocative objects of daily life, this new Gallery brings together the stories of interconnected worlds across time and geography.”

The museum had one of the oldest Qurans dating from the time of the prophets some years ago. According to reports, the Quran is currently housed at the British Library.

Therefore, one must ask the ethical question, how did the British Museum acquire all these ancient artefacts? According to museum staff, items that are loaned will be displayed with a small display card indicating that they are on loan. There have been numerous allegations, including those made by activists, that the British Museum is a crime scene. Several artefacts have been stolen and looted from wars, conflicts, invasions and colonisations of countries.

In light of this, why are we displaying stolen goods in a museum? There are items in our possession that do not belong to us. 

A couple of years ago Geoffrey Robertson QC said: “The trustees of the British Museum have become the world’s largest receivers of stolen property, and the great majority of their loot is not even on public display.”

A spokesperson for the British Museum stated, “The British Museum acknowledges the difficult histories of some of its collections, including the contested means by which some collections have been acquired such as through military action and subsequent looting.”

As a result of this statement, the British Museum has admitted that artefacts were looted, but has not made any efforts to have them returned.

In my opinion The police should be called and these looters should be arrested.

A counter argument to the British theft of the artefacts has always been that they would have been destroyed had they not been stolen. However, how many items did the British have to steal? There must surely be a moral imperative to return these items to the country from which they were stolen or to request that they be borrowed from that country. Or will we continue to display stolen goods like criminals in the absence of that option?

Fragmentary wall-painting, Iraq, mid-800s

Several countries have requested the return of items that were stolen from their nation. It is therefore important that those items be returned to those who request them and that we do the right thing.

At its height, a quarter of the world’s population was under British rule. Many parts of the world, such as the Americas and Asia, were permanently changed by the British Empire.

There have been many mistakes in British history, from the wrongful invading of countries to the start of unnecessary wars to the colonisation of foreign countries. It is imperative that Britain do the right thing and be reminded of its mistakes.

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