French President Francois Hollande on Tuesday condemned the “unfathomable stupidity” of radical Islamists who attack precious heritage with “unfair” claims to represent the whole of Islam.

Inaugurating the new Islamic art galleries of the Louvre Museum in Paris, Hollande declared: “There is not one but many Islamic civilizations, all refined, all radiant.” Citing the recent destruction of historic mausoleums in the northern Malian town of Timbuktu, the French leader declared that the plundering of heritage anywhere was “an attack on all civilizations”. The more than 2,500 works of art on display in the Louvre’s new two-storey glass pavilion represented civilizations that were “older, more alive, more tolerant than those who claim unfairly to speak in their name,” said Mr. Hollande.

They were also proof that “the best weapons to fight against fanaticism that claim to adhere to Islam are to be found in Islam itself,” he said.

Mr. Hollande rejected the notion of any clash between the West and Islam.

“Civilizations are not blocs that ignore each other or that clash.” All visitors to the Louvre would discover “a part of themselves” in artworks spanning the entire cultural breadth of Islamic world, from Spain through to India, he said.

Measuring nearly 3,000 square metres, the pavilion is the biggest architectural project at the Louvre since it was endowed with a glass pyramid in 1989 and was made possible by support from sponsors including Morocco’s King Mohammed VI and the Emir of Kuwait.

The pavilion opens to the public on Saturday.

More In: International | News