‘Islam, It’s Also Our History!’: EU Funded Exhibition Opens in Brussels



For months after the Brussels extremist attacks of 2016 it seemed an exhibition on Islam’s legacy in Europe might never open in the city. At first, the creators and city officials felt the time wasn’t right, and then they struggled to find a location willing to host a show certain to be seen as controversial by some.

But the “Islam. It’s Also Our History” exhibition at the city-owned Vanderborght Building finally managed to open last week and is telling its story of a long Islamic presence on European soil that has shaped Western culture in areas ranging from medicine, philosophy and architecture to diplomacy, language and food.

“We want to make clear to Europeans that Islam is part of European civilization and that it isn’t a recent import but has roots going back 13 centuries,” said Isabelle Benoit, a historian with Tempora, the organization that designed the exhibition.

Funded by the European Union and Belgian authorities, the show was conceived many years before the deadly Paris attacks of 2015 were carried out by a Brussels-based extremist cell and the March 2016 attacks that killed 32 people in Brussels itself.

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