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May 20, 2006

Dispute over authenticity of Ka’bah cover at London Auction House

Former Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, Yousuf Bhailock, believes that he was mislead into successfully bidding for a Kiswah (curtain) from the Ka’bah in Makkah, on sale at Bonham’s auction house in London last month, The Muslim News exclusively reports.

Bhailock told The Muslim News that he purchased the Kiswah for £240,000 on “good faith” that it had adorned the Ka’bah but that doubts about the authenticity were raised in the light of so many Kiswah appearing at other auction houses in London.

In view of this, he arranged for Professor Huyla Tezcan, the curator of the Textile Department at Topkapi Palace Museum to fly to London from Turkey to verify its authenticity before paying.

“The world’s leading expert confirmed that the Kiswah was a contemporary copy,” the former MCB Secretary General said. “It is not an original piece, it is a copy which has not been on the Holy Ka’bah,” he said.

He said that the Professor also checked three other Kiswah at another auction house and that two of them also could not be confirmed as authentic and have been withdrawn from sale. The third was said to be in such a deteriorated state that it was difficult to verify.

But Bonhams insist that the article, presented as Lot 184 in an Indian and Islamic Sale on April 6, was “correctly described in the catalogue.” It also lists the article as being sold.

“It was independently authenticated by two leading experts. We have absolutely no doubt that Lot 184 is as described,” a spokesman for the auction house told The Muslim News.

The catalogue describes Lot 184 as: “The external Curtain of the door of the Ka'ba (Burqa') ordered by the Ottoman Sultan Selim III son of Mustafa III (reigned 1789-1807) in the year AH 1220/ AD 1805.”

Bonhams were unwilling to discuss the sale any further, insisting that the article was not been withdrawn by the vendor, who is believed to come from Dubai.

“We have nothing to add at this stage as it may be subject to litigation,” the spokesman said.

But Bhailock is also adamant that as far as he is concerned the issue is closed, and is prepared to defend his refusal to pay for the Kiswah if the matter is taken to court.

For further information contact us on 020 7608 2822 or 077 68 241 325. Please acknowledge The Muslim News when using the press release

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