An informed CPO reader who has lived in the Islamic world found this statement attributed to the Turkish Minister of Culture not only bizarre, but potentially offensive to Muslims:
“Artifacts, just like people, animals or plants, have souls and historical memories,” said Turkey’s culture minister, Ertugrul Gunay. “When they are repatriated to their countries, the balance of nature will be restored.”
The belief that objects are somehow sacred and that they possess "souls" would be considered idolatry in Islam. Only God can endow a creature with a soul and only living creatures are so endowed.
As a statement of official position from a secular, but nonetheless Islamic country run by an Islamicist party-- the AK-- this is deeply shocking. As a parroting of the overwrought SAFE line - perhaps not so much.
Was the Turkish Minister of Culture just playing to fringe elements within the archaeological lobby that have been supportive of Turkey's aggressive repatriation demands? Does he really believe artifacts have "souls?" If so, I suggest he make the same statement to a Turkish newspaper, and then see what reaction he receives.
And frankly, doesn't such talk just give ammunition to fanatic Islamic militants who have smashed antiquities in the name of stamping out idolatry?