Below the featured items is a random selection of His Highness the Aga Khan's speeches & interviews.

Featured Item  »»  Global Centre for Pluralism Headquarters’ Opening Ceremony (Ottawa, Canada)

Let me emphasise a point about the concept of pluralism that is sometimes misunderstood. Connection does not necessarily mean agreement. It does not mean that we want to eliminate our differences or erase our distinctions. Far from it. What it does mean is that we connect with one another in order to learn from one another, and to build our future together. Pluralism does not mean the elimination of difference, but the embrace of difference. Genuine pluralism understands that diversity does not weaken a society, it strengthens it. In an ever-shrinking, ever more diverse world, a genuine sense of pluralism is the indispensable foundation for human peace and progress. From the start, this has been a vision that the Ismaili Imamat and the Government of Canada have deeply shared.

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Featured Item  »»  Ismaili scholars at the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS) and elsewhere cite NanoWisdoms in published works

Four years ago, today, the NanoWisdoms Archive of Imamat Speeches, Interviews and Writings was given special permission by Aiglemont to publish His Highness the Aga Khan’s speeches. One key objective and reason for establishing the Archive was to create a comprehensive and authoritative, professional reference resource of the Aga Khan’s wisdom for scholars. It is, therefore, with great satisfaction and pride that we can announce today that the Archive has started to achieve this objective and is now being cited as a source in academic papers and books published by respected Ismaili scholars — including those from the Institute of Ismaili Studies, Carleton University and Sacred Web. While at Harvard University, the Archive was even listed as a resource for a graduate level course on Ismailism.

Below we provide a summary of some of these citations as well as the scholars’ comments about the NanoWisdoms Archive, which they describe as “indispensable,” “invaluable,” an “absolute necessity,” “fantastic,” “unique,” “professional” and “the best resource to conduct research into the speeches, interviews and writings” of the Aga Khans.

These recognitions and accolades, by the Ismaili academic community, are tangible demonstrations of their confidence in the Archive, confirming it as an invaluable and unique resource which all — especially Ismailis — may rely on with confidence. The recognitions are also an indisputable validation of the importance of the project for the community and why we view them as our most important achievement to date.

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H.H. The Aga Khan Platinum Jubilee Hospital Opening Ceremony (Nairobi, Kenya) ·· incomplete

[F]rom the initial phase of the project would come a major contribution to the medical services of East Africa, but it is from the improvement of the communities health, the training of nurses and doctors that my spiritual children will find their greatest reward.

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Mildred F. Schmertz Interview, ‘The Past and Future of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture: Reflections on the First Twenty Years’ (Paris, France)

In the work we have been doing, and I hope will be doing in the future, there is nothing absolute. The built environment is changing every day, societies are changing, tastes are changing, knowledge is changing, needs are changing, nothing is definitive and final.

I think that what the Award has succeeded in doing, at least I hope it has, is to launch and legitimise a process of questioning, of inquiry — what do we know, what are the inherited competencies, what are the new competencies we need in order to manage this process of change as effectively as possible. I believe that the idea of questioning is much more widespread now in Islamic societies than it was twenty years ago. One of the roles of the Award is to premiate projects that embody good answers to the questions of the time and place.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Lisbon, Portugal) ·· incomplete

[T]he agreement that was signed during this visit [to Portugal], concerning collaboration in the diplomatic field, is a very, very important agreement.

For an institution of faith to enter into a formal, diplomatic relationship is extremely important in the sense that that agreement has to function within the faiths of both communities.

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Closing Remarks, Expressions of Islam in Buildings Seminar, ‘Faith, Tradition, Innovation, and the Built Environment’ (Jakarta and Yogyakarta, Indonesia)

I have often heard it said, and I think that it is an undercurrent of aspiration widely held in the Islamic world, that it will regain its position of universal recognition. But I think that if that is one of our concerns, we have to be honest about the fact that in order to achieve that, we have to attain political, economic, social, and cultural standards no lower than those of the industrialised world. We will have to accept to be measured by their standards. And after having been measured by their standards, we will have to excel. In order to achieve that, I think we have to accept that it would be a long and demanding course …

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Interview/Round Table Discussion with the German Press following the 2005 Die Quadriga Prize award ceremony (Berlin, Germany) ·· incomplete

[Translation] Islam and terror have not the slightest thing in common. Islam does not teach terrorism any more than Christianity or Judaism. He who blows himself and others up is a criminal and cannot claim to be a servant of God, praise be to Allah. The world religion of Islam teaches peace, compassion and tolerance….

The West must move away from the idea of wanting to transpose its vision of democracy identically into the Islamic world. This cannot work. The West cannot simply erase 1400 years of Muslim history. Islam is by no means a contradiction to democracy, quite the contrary.

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Keynote Address to the Annual Conference of German Ambassadors (Berlin, Germany)

I would like to focus today on what I believe are three essential pre-conditions for the successful transition of the poorest areas of the world into modern, peaceful societies. They are:

  • First, stable and competent democratic governance;
  • Second, an environment that respects and encourages pluralism;
  • And third, a diverse and engaged civil society.

In my view, these must be critical components of any global development policy. Not only are they mutually reinforcing, they also permit developing societies to gradually become masters of the process and to make that process ultimately sustainable.

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Acceptance Remarks and apres speech Conversation with the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson — Accepting the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship (Toronto, Canada)

These are just a few thoughts as I look to the future of Global Citizenship. The challenges, in sum, will be many and continuing. What will they require of us? A short list might include these strengths: a vital sense of balance, an abundant capacity for compromise, more than a little sense of patience, an appropriate degree of humility, a good measure of forgiveness, and, of course, a genuine welcoming of human difference. It will mean hard work. It will never be completed. But no work will be more important….

I have been very impressed since 1957, in developing countries, when elections had to be held or were held in circumstances where you would assume that the population didn’t have access to the information they would’ve, in our view, needed to express themselves rationally and competently. Well, I got it wrong. They are very, very wise. Public wisdom is not dependent on education.

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Paris Match Interview (5th), Caroline Pigozzi (Paris, France)

[Google translation] This magnificent heritage deserved a public-private partnership and specific joint program. My experience of social issues, philanthropy and the fact that I live in the area have prompted various actors ask me to be the president of the Foundation for the Protection and Development of the Chantilly Domain, to manage and restoring the side of the Institut de France in which he will return in 2025.

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Aljazeera Interview, Daniel Lak (Toronto, Canada) ·· incomplete

It’s an extraordinary phenomenon that there’s this enormous knowledge gap and I think it’s the duty of everybody, myself included, to try to fill in that knowledge gap.

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Maternal, Newborn and Child Health Summit (Toronto, Canada)

[The Aga Khan Development Network’s] experience has been considerable. But what have we learned from it? Let me share a quick overview.

First, I would underline that our approaches have to be long-term. Sporadic interventions produce sporadic results, and each new burst of attention and activity must then start over again. The key to sustained progress is the creation of sustainable systems.

Second, our approaches should be community-oriented. Outside assistance is vital, but sustainable success will depend on a strong sense of local “ownership”.

The third point I would make is that our approaches should support the broad spectrum of health care. Focusing too narrowly on high-impact primary care has not worked well — improved secondary and tertiary care is also absolutely essential.

Our approaches should encourage new financial models. Donor funding will be critical, but we cannot sustain programmes that depend on continuing bursts of outside money….

Our approaches should also focus on reaching those who are hardest to reach. And here, new telecommunications technologies can make an enormous impact….

Our approaches should be comprehensive, working across the broad spectrum of social development. The problems we face have multiple causes, and single-minded, “vertical” interventions often fall short. The challenges are multi-sectoral, and they will require the effective coordination of multiple inputs. Creative collaboration must be our watchword. This is one reason for the growing importance of public-private partnerships.

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The Sunday Times Interview, Part II, Nicholas Tomalin, ‘Our Future in Africa’ (London, United Kingdom)

For the future, have you made any basic decisions where Ismaili communities should develop? There are only a certain number of areas in the world where a Muslim group can live with its own traditions. In Western Europe our habits are either misunderstood or totally ignored; [Y]ou can see that Africa, with all its dangers, has tremendous potentiality. I have intense respect for the African; I think in a number of years we’ll find he has brought something new to political concepts. We will make a major effort in that continent….

Do you find left-wing political attitudes are a danger to your Faith? In the Faith itself, every man is equal. So long as this is the dominant element a left-wing attitude is not going to get a strong grasp. What does happen, and this is a danger, is that the left-wing attitudes tend not only to destroy the Faith of a man towards his religion but also the respect of one individual towards another. When the Faith is broken down everything goes with it: the family, society, the individual, the intelligence.

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Banquet Hosted in Honour of the President of Uganda (Kampala, Uganda)

I believe the people of Uganda can give to the world, in the years ahead, the gift of a vibrant example as a society which has overcome the worst experiences of past intolerance and embraced the abundant promise of a pluralistic but united future.

If one key to unlocking the potential of Uganda, and of all of Africa, is a spirit of pluralism, then another key should be a commitment to excellence. There was a time, earlier in my Imamat, when mediocrity was considered tolerable here because it was “good enough for Africa”. I remember my apprehension at the time, my concern that among all the goals that were set for Africa in those days, the achievement of normal world-class standards was not seen as realistic.

But in the rapidly globalising world of the 21st century, the progress of every country and continent will depend on its ability to meet universal standards. To settle for less is an increasingly dangerous decision. This commitment to achieve global norms, and even to excel, can wisely begin with a nation’s educational institutions and the preparation of our future leaders.

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Statement at the London Conference on Afghanistan (London, United Kingdom)

Much focus over the years has centred heavily on the capital, Kabul, and the central government. Insufficient attention has been paid to the real impact of the generous investments made by donor countries. Do enough Afghans perceive these investments as improving their quality of their life? It is vitally important to demonstrate that local governments and local actors working together with local communities can meet pressing needs. We know too well from experience in Afghanistan and elsewhere that nefarious elements gain the upper hand when there is a gap between the promise of state-supported services and their tangible delivery on the ground. Results change minds, not rhetoric. AKDN’s involvement in national programmes, such as the National Solidarity Programme, which place directly the onus of meeting development needs and setting priorities on communities, is showing remarkable progress, speaking to the entrepreneurial vigour of Afghans.

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Foreword to the Daily Nation 50th Anniversary Special Supplement, ‘After 5 decades, the future depends on ability to adapt’ (Nairobi, Kenya)

My own role in the Nation Media Group has also evolved considerably. Seven years ago I gave my personal shares in NMG to the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) — the economic development arm of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). The move not only gave NMG a new source of corporate strength but it also anchored the company in a broader development philosophy designed to bring excellence and best practices to societies in the developing world. It also allowed NMG to benefit from the Network’s significant experience in East Africa.

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Dinner hosted by President of Burkina Faso (Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso)

[Google translation] Formal links with the Imamat West Africa dates back to 1960 when a young Imam, I had the opportunity to visit several countries in the region. At the time, this country was called Upper Volta. But our informal links back to a much longer time since historians speak because of trade in the 12th century between the scholars of the University of Sankore in Timbuktu and al-Azhar university institute founded in Cairo in early 10th century by my ancestor, Imam-Caliph al-Muizz Fatimid. So Mr. President, our reports are very very old.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Luncheon (Singapore) ·· incomplete

You can always achieve results over a long period of time, but every time you do that you damage a generation and every time you move more quickly you bring hope to an earlier generation. This is the reason for which, this notion of time, is so important in my mind and I believe now is well shared by the Jamati leaders around the world.

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Irish Times Interview, Alison Healy, ‘Jubilee for an imam among equals’ (Maynooth, Ireland) ·· incomplete

He is interested in the current debate on whether the hijab, the Muslim headscarf, should be worn in Irish schools and cautions against the issue being used to create division. “My own sense is that if an individual wishes to associate publicly with a faith, that’s the right of that individual to do that, whether he’s a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim. That is, to me, something which is important.” But he says that people should not be forced to wear the hijab. “To go from there to an imposed process by forces in society, to me is unacceptable. It’s got to be the choice of the individual who wishes to associate with his faith or her faith. I have great respect for any individual who wants in the right way to be associated with his own faith. I accept that totally and I would never challenge it.”

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Alamshar’s Irish Derby and Ascot Victories (United Kingdom)

I am very pleased indeed! Alamshar and Dalakhani both had logical reasons to run in the Irish Derby and before that race I did say that I was aiming Alamshar at this race. Dalakhani is having an autumn campaign. The two horses had a programme that was going to clash in the Irish Derby but probably not after that but who knows…. Good horse’s programmes need to be developed race by race and that is what I am trying to do. It does bring back memories of Shergar’s victory in this race. What is exciting is the continuation of the breeding stock which is able to produce horses and of course this horse goes back to Mumtaz Mahal.

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Inauguration of the Naryn Campus of the University of Central Asia (Naryn, Kyrgyzstan)

Students of world history remind us how Central Asia, a thousand years ago, “led the world” in trade and investment, in urban development, in cultural and intellectual achievement. This was the place that leading thinkers from around the known world would look to for leadership. What were the latest breakthroughs in astronomy or mathematics, in chemistry or medicine, in philosophy or music? This was the place to find out. This region is where algebra got its name, where the earth’s diameter was precisely calculated, where some of the world’s greatest poetry was penned.

Why did this happen then? Why did it happen here? Above all, I would suggest, it was because of the quality of “openness.” By that I mean openness to new ideas, openness to change, and openness to people from many backgrounds and with a variety of gifts. The people of the cities here, even all those centuries ago, joined hands with the people of the steppes, and together they reached out to people who were far, far away. That kind of openness can again be the key that unlocks the doors to the future.

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Address to the Conference on Afghanistan (London, United Kingdom)

Our financial pledge of $75 million in 2002 has been exceeded by 60 per cent and along with our donor, lender and investor partners, we have mobilised just under $400 million for the reconstruction of Afghanistan….

[D]evelopment is only possible when the community is engaged at the grassroots level and is given the ways and the means to take responsibility for its own future. This means building the capacity of civil society institutions as well as tapping into the wellspring of individual initiative …

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