Hundreds of visitors thronged the Albukhary Foundation Gallery of the Islamic World at the British Museum in Bloomsbury here to catch a glimpse of the Malaysian Prime Minister.
Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s visit to the museum was part of the itinerary during his three-day working visit to Britain.
The Malaysian premier spent about one hour exploring the gallery, with the museum’s deputy director Jonathan Williams explaining the awe-inspiring historical artefacts that reflect Islam’s glorious heritage.
He was greeted by museum officials, Malaysian High Commission officials and the children of businessman and philanthropist Tan Sri Syed Mokhtar Albukhary – Sharifah Sofia and Syed Danial.
Accompanying him were Foreign Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah and Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.
The Albukhary Foundation Gallery is helping British Museum to redisplay its important collections on Islamic heritage and reflect the connections between the cultures of Islam and the ancient world on the one hand, and the cultures of the Mediterranean world and Europe on the other hand.
The foundation, which is an international non-profit charity organisation that focuses on social development, was established by Syed Mokhtar.
The British Museum, set up in 1753 as the first public national museum of the world, owns among the most comprehensive permanent collection, totalling some eight million works, many of them sourced during the height of the British empire.
Separately, Syed Saddiq told the Malaysian media here that Dr Mahathir was probably the “only world leader” given the honour to speak at both the Oxford Union and Cambridge Union forums.
He said Dr Mahathir, who had addressed Oxford Union in January this year, would deliver a talk entitled “Democracy in Malaysia and South-East Asia” at Cambridge Union.
“It will be a historic day. He will represent the Malaysian leadership and Asean. There is nothing stopping Dr Mahathir from speaking his mind,” he said.
Both unions are debating societies with the members coming from the respective prestigious universities – Oxford and Cambridge.
When asked on the closed-door meeting with Malaysian students’ representatives from the United Kingdom and Eire (Ireland) Council (UKEC), Syed Saddiq praised them for their boldness in taking up issues affecting them and Malaysia with the premier.
Syed Saddiq said UKEC representatives had voiced out their concerns over stagnant wages, limited employment opportunities and the deep divide between the T20 (top 20) and B40 (bottom 40) groups within the bumiputra community.
Syafiq Akmal Mohd Hussein, a member of UKEC’s executive council, said Dr Mahathir was attentive to their concerns.
He said the prime minister wanted them to study hard and bring back the knowledge and good values that they had acquired for nation-building.
“He cited Japan as an example where hard work and good values are needed in developing a nation,” said the second-year electrical and electronics engineering student at Imperial College London.