10 January 2008

Art as a Mirror of Culture

“Art is the mirror of a culture and its world view. There is no case to which this statement more directly applies than to the art of the Islamic world. Not only does its art reflect its cultural values, but even more importantly, the way in which its adherents, the Muslims, view the spiritual realm, the universe, life, and the relationships of the parts to the whole.” Art historian Professor Elisabeth Siddiqui writes these words in Arabic journal Al-Madrashah Al-Ula.

Conflict as an Aesthetic Problem
The Arab conflict with Israel is an aesthetic problem that calls for a shift in perception. Islamic art teaches Arabs to see their world as a continuous geometric pattern that extends across North Africa and the Middle East. They see Israel as a blemish that disrupts the pattern. It is viewed as an alien presence that they have continually tried to eliminate through war, terrorism, and political action.

Perceptual Shift and Fresh Metaphor
A perceptual shift that can lead to a genuine peace can be derived from Islamic art and thought. In Islamic art, a uniform geometric pattern is purposely disrupted by the introduction of a counter-pattern that demonstrates that human creation is less than perfect. Only Allah creates perfection. Rug weavers from Islamic lands intentionally weave a patch of dissimilar pattern to break the symmetry of their rugs.

Israel's Existence as Allah's Will
Shaykh Abdul Hadi Palazzi, Iman of the Italian Muslim community who holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Sciences by decree of the Saudi Grand Mufti, writes, “The idea of underlying the Divine infinitude and the human fallacy by including some ‘voluntary defects’ in works of art is common in Islamic art, and extends to tapestry, painting, music, architecture, etc.” Peace will come from a fresh metaphor in which the Arabs see Israel’s existence as Allah’s will. A shift in viewpoint where Israel is perceived as the necessary counter-pattern in the overall pattern of the Islamic world will usher in an era of peace.

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