Mr Straw, Ladies and Gentlemen.
It seems to be becoming a bit of a habit - I keep being asked to come back and open new bits or restored bits of this wonderful museum for which, of course, we owe so much to my Great-Great-Great-Grandfather and -Grandmother.
It is always a joy coming here. As some of you may know, last year I was able to open the John Madejski garden, which has made a huge difference to this remarkable institution. Then I came only a few weeks ago to open Michael Hintze's wonderfully restored sculpture gallery. And now they have taken the risk of inviting me back here again to help unveil this new Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art. I am so thrilled to be able to do that.
There is never enough time to see all the things I want to see. They always say you should come back at another time - this is not always easy to achieve.
But seeing these great masterpieces of Islamic Art and craftsmanship, so beautifully and intelligently displayed, I think serves as a timely reminder of the huge debt we in the West owe to Islam. I think it is a debt too often ignored or forgotten today.
(And incidentally, I think we owe a great debt the all the team of designers and project managers, and goodness knows who else, who have put so much effort in to creating this newly restored gallery.)
Ladies and Gentlemen, in my own small way, I have been trying to acknowledge that debt which the West owes to Islam for many years.
One of the small ways in which I try to do it is through my School of Traditional Arts which now teaches Islamic crafts such as calligraphy, geometry and islimi alongside other sacred traditions such as icon painting, tile-making and woodwork and so on and so forth.
Encouragingly it has now helped establish programmes in other countries: in Jordan, in Egypt, it was going to be in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and, most recently, Afghanistan.
Through these programmes, young people are being taught craft traditions which were at great risk of dying out. They are producing new treasures in the manner of those which you can see in this fabulous gallery – and so sustaining a living tradition, as well of course, as a livelihood.
I think it is important perhaps to remember that the beauty of form, pattern and colour as manifested in Islamic and other traditional arts is not just aesthetically pleasing but representative of a more profound universal order - the point being that the intricate and subtle patterns of nature transcend the purely decorative realm and the embody a profound and timeless beauty.
So I have long hoped that those who treasure and collect Islamic and other sacred art will see, through this example, that their interest and support can sustain living traditions – that is the point - as well as celebrating ancient craftsmanship.
So this evening I am happy to acknowledge the huge debt we owe to Mohammed Jameel and his family. His generosity and vision, in endowing this Gallery and the “Palace and Mosque” exhibition around the world, inspires us all.
I have been greatly touched by his parallel support for the work of my School of Traditional Arts both here and overseas.
His endowment of this fabulous gallery is a wonderful memorial to the life and work of his parents. What more fitting tribute can a son give to his father and mother than to inspire future generations with the traditions that inspired them?
So Ladies and Gentlemen, it gives me nothing but the greatest pleasure to declare the Jameel Gallery of Islamic Art at the Victoria and Albert Museum open.