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

Featured Item  »»  2015 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Nairobi, Kenya)

As we expand our work in Kenya, one of our highest priorities is to achieve international standards of healthcare especially for non-communicable diseases, such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Another special focus will be neuro-science, where the promises of stem cell technology must be brought massively and competently to Africa. Our overall plan is for a nationally integrated health system, built on the strong foundations already in place at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi. And our overall goal can be simply stated: we believe that no Kenyan should have to leave the country to seek quality medical care.

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Featured Item  »»  FULL EVENT VIDEO: 2015 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Kampala, Uganda)

As part of the commemorations to mark the Aga Khan University’s the 15th anniversary in the region, His Highness the Aga Khan, Chancellor of the Aga Khan University, presided over the 2015 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony in Kampala, Uganda, on Thursday, February 26, 2015. His presence also marked his first visit to the three East African campuses of the University for a convocation ceremony.

For the tens of thousands Ismailis in North America, and around the world, who were unable to watch the live webcast, it is our great pleasure to be able to bring you the AKDN video of the webcast — unedited, from start to finish.

Featured Item  »»  FULL EVENT VIDEO: 2015 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

As part of the commemorations to mark the Aga Khan University’s the 15th anniversary in the region, His Highness the Aga Khan, Chancellor of the Aga Khan University, presided over the 2015 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on Tuesday, February 24, 2015. His presence also marked his first visit to the three East African campuses of the University for a convocation ceremony.

For the tens of thousands Ismailis in North America, and around the world, who were unable to watch the live webcast, it is our great pleasure to be able to bring you the AKDN video of the webcast — unedited, from start to finish.

Click here to read His Highness the Aga Khan’s speech.

Featured Item  »»  2015 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

As we look to the future, I am increasingly impressed by one overriding insight. It reflects the vast flow of information that has come my way as I have watched the ups and downs of the developing world. More and more, I am convinced that the key to improving the quality of human life, both in places that are gifted with good governments and in places that are not so fortunate, is the quality of what I describe as Civil Society. By Civil Society I mean that array of institutions which are neither public, nor profit driven, but which are motivated by voluntary commitments and dedicated to the public good. They include, for example, institutions dedicated to culture, to public information, to the environment and to religious faith. And they include, very importantly, the fields of health and education in which you are so centrally involved. A healthy Civil Society is a meritocratic one, where ethics are honoured, and excellence is valued.

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CNN Interview, Judy Woodruff (USA)

I think there is a much better understanding of the sensitivity of these conflicts and how they become internationalised, how they go far beyond the frontiers of the area. I’m thinking of places like Sri Lanka, and I’m thinking even Northern Ireland. It’s not just the Islamic world. It’s these conflict situations which pollute and the disease just grows and grows and grows. And I think the lesson is that the civilised world today has to be a lot quicker to go into those areas and try to find workable solutions.

I am talking about diplomatic and economic solutions. Many, many of [these] issues or these areas are caused by communities who feel victimised who feel they are unable to achieve justice and so they turn to rebellion. Armed rebellion. And many of them really have historical roots. If you look at the Philippines, that situation’s been there since the mid-60s. You look at Kashmir, you look at the Middle East, you look at Northern Ireland — these are all situations which have been there for much too long, in my view.

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Visit to review Aga Khan Academy construction (Mombasa, Kenya)

Africa and the developing world can help create centres of educational excellence that will at the same time, be international and indigenous, and that will help mould young men and women from all walks of life and all parts of the world into the leaders of tomorrow.

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Globe and Mail Interview (1st), Stanley McDowell, ‘The Aga Khan: A Man of His Time’ (Toronto, Canada) ·· incomplete

My impression is that the fundamental cause (of economic slippage in the Third World) is the lack of political consistency and stability. Are we talking about free enterprise? Are we talking about socialism? Are we talking about Marxism? … No matter what these countries do, unless they have underground wealth — not just oil but ores, diamonds, uranium — or are able to harness in efficient manner their very cheap labour to an industrial machine, they can’t overcome their problems. And an industrial machine requires access to capital, either self generated or invested from abroad. So no matter how you approach it you can come back in the end to the requirement of political stability and a climate attractive to investment.

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The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Foundation Stone Ceremony (Ottawa, Canada)

The Delegation will serve a representational role for the Imamat and its non-denominational, philanthropic and development agencies which constitute the Aga Khan Development Network — the AKDN. An open, secular facility, the Delegation will be a sanctuary for peaceful, quiet diplomacy, informed by the Imamat’s outlook of global convergence and the development of civil society. It will be an enabling venue for fruitful public engagements, information services and educational programmes, all backed up by high quality research, to sustain a vibrant intellectual centre, and a key policy-informing institution….

The building will be a metaphor for humanism and enlightenment and for the humility that comes from the constant search for answers that leads inevitably to more questions…. An epitome of friendship to one and all, it will radiate Islam’s precepts of one humanity, the dignity of man, and the nobility of joint striving in deeds of goodness.

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Government of Canada announcement to partner in the Global Centre of Pluralism (Ottawa, Canada)

Canada has for many years been a beacon to the rest of the world for its commitment to pluralism and for its support for the multicultural richness and diversity of its peoples. Canada has embraced pluralism as a foundation for strength and growth. Therefore, I am extremely pleased that the Government of Canada under Prime Minister Paul Martin’s leadership has joined us in this important global venture.

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Connoisseur Magazine Interview, Paul Chutkow, ‘The Aga Khan’s Vision’ (London, United Kingdom)

I think the second thing the award has done has been to bring together not only architects, but also thinkers, sociologists, archaeologist, economists. The award has demonstrated that a good building isn’t only a structure. A good building has an impact on people’s perception of their cultural heritage. It has an impact on social balance or imbalance….

Yes, I do [see architecture as an instrument of social change]. I would prefer to call it an instrument for improving the quality of life. And I think you put your finger right on it. I genuinely believe that generations that are born, brought up, and live in better-quality surroundings have a different outlook on life. Architecture is, in my view, a method of creating development, well-being. And I think architecture, if it goes wrong, can be a source of conflict or destabilisation.

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Golden Jubilee Inaugural Ceremony (Aiglemont)

In a world where quality of life is increasingly measured in material terms there is risk that the essential value system of Islam will be eroded, or even threatened with disappearance. Political situations with a theological overlay are also causing disaffection or antagonism between communities of the same faith, and even more so amongst different faiths.

At the centre of this turbulence is Islam. We cannot let this continue. On the other hand, the sheer scale of the problem, added to its complexity, make it an issue which the Ummah, in its entirety, can better address, rather than individual schools of interpretation within it. It will be essential that while respecting their individual identities, various tariqahs within Islam should collaborate to articulate the common social and moral principles of our Islamic value system…. Islam is a faith of tolerance, generosity and spirituality…. Where we can build bridges with other tariqahs around a common Muslim cosmopolitan ethos, we should make this endeavour.

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

Allow me to highlight four areas for consideration [vis a vis Afghanistan's development]:

First, we must focus on inclusive economic participation….

Second, we must accelerate human resource capacity creation from early childhood to tertiary education, including in particular, market-relevant skills development and vocational training….

Third, women’s participation in society is vital to ensure an improved quality of life….

Fourth, we recognise the importance of regional cooperation and trade. This requires stabilising Afghanistan’s frontiers….

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State Luncheon (Zanzibar, Tanzania) ·· incomplete

During an official luncheon hosted by Zanzibar’s President His Excellency Abeid Amani Karume, [the Aga Khan] described Zanzibar as a “cultural jewel” and expressed readiness to invest in rehabilitation of the Island’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, concentrated in the Old Stone Town.

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Address at the ‘Musée-Musées’ Round Table Conference, Louvre Museum (Paris, France)

[The Islamic world’s view of its own future] is a world split into two tendencies: on the one hand, modernisers and believers in progressive change, on the other, traditionalists who might even be described as hidebound…. In this context, we thought it essential, whichever choice Muslim populations may indicate to their governments, to clarify certain aspects of the history of Muslim civilisations in order that today’s two main tendencies, modern and traditional, can base their ideas on historical realities and not on history that has been misunderstood or even manipulated….

[T]he Muslim world has always been wide open to every aspect of human existence…. The Qur’an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God’s creation. Our collection seeks to demonstrate the openness of Muslim civilisations to every aspect of human life, even going so far as to work in partnership with intellectual and artistic sources originating in other religions….

While some North American museums have significant collections of Muslim art, there is no institution devoted to Islamic art. In building the museum in Toronto, we intend to introduce a new actor to the North American art scene. Its fundamental aim will be an educational one, to actively promote knowledge of Islamic arts and culture. What happens on that continent, culturally, economically and politically, cannot fail to have worldwide repercussions — which is why we thought it important that an institution capable of promoting understanding and tolerance should exist there.

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Brown University Commencement Ceremony (Providence, USA)

From the seventh century to the thirteenth century, the Muslim civilisations dominated world culture, accepting, adopting, using and preserving all preceding study of mathematics, philosophy, medicine and astronomy, among other areas of learning. The Islamic field of thought and knowledge included and added to much of the information on which all civilisations are founded. And yet this fact is seldom acknowledged today, be it in the West or in the Muslim world, and this amnesia has left a six hundred year gap in the history of human thought….

Little of what was discovered and written by Muslim thinkers during the classical period is taught in any educational institutions. And when it is, due credit is not given. This gap in global knowledge of the history of thought, and the faith, of a billion people is illustrated in innumerable ways, including in such diverse worlds as that of communication and of architecture. Our cultural absence in the general knowledge of the Western world, partially explains why your media sees Islamic world and its thought as an ideological or political determinant in predominantly Muslim cultures, and refers to mere individuals affiliated with terrorist organisations as Muslim first and only then by their national origin or ideological or political goals.

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Address to both Houses of the Parliament of Canada in the House of Commons Chamber (Ottawa, Canada)

When the clashes of modern times have come, they have most often grown out of particular political circumstances, the twists and turns of power relationships and economic ambitions, rather than deep theological divides. Yet sadly, what is highly abnormal in the Islamic world gets mistaken for what is normal. Of course, media perceptions of our world in recent years have often been conveyed through a lens of war. But that is all the more reason to shape global conversation in a more informed direction. I am personally aware of the efforts the Prime Minister has made to achieve this. Thank you, Prime Minister….

Perhaps the most important area of incomprehension, outside the Ummah, is the conflict between Sunni and Shia interpretations of Islam and the consequences for the Sunni and Shia peoples. This powerful tension is sometimes even more profound than conflicts between Muslims and other faiths. It has increased massively in scope and intensity recently, and has been further exacerbated by external interventions. In Pakistan and Malaysia, in Iraq and Syria, in Lebanon and Bahrain, in Yemen and Somalia and Afghanistan it is becoming a disaster. It is important, therefore, for non-Muslims who are dealing with the Ummah to communicate with both Sunni and Shia voices. To be oblivious to this reality would be like ignoring over many centuries that there were differences between Catholics and Protestants, or trying to resolve the civil war in Northern Ireland without engaging both Christian communities. What would have been the consequences if the Protestant-Catholic struggle in Ireland had spread throughout the Christian world, as is happening today between Shia and Sunni Muslims in more than nine countries? It is of the highest priority that these dangerous trends be well understood and resisted, and that the fundamental legitimacy of pluralistic outlooks be honoured in all aspects of our lives together, including matters of faith.

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Dushanbe Serena Hotel Foundation Stone Ceremony (Dushanbe, Tajikistan)

The Aga Khan spoke of “a long-term commitment to a process of tourism development that can have deep and lasting benefits for Central Asia.” … The Aga Khan also explained the Serena concept as going beyond providing services, creating employment, setting quality benchmarks and generating urban renewal to include “developing human resources, elevating corporate ethics, practising good citizenry and inspiring public confidence.”

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Closing Remarks, Eleventh Seminar, ‘Architecture of Housing’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Zanzibar, Tanzania)

I wish to express my admiration to the Government of Zanzibar for having taken the initiative to sustain and enhance and support the Stone Town. This is an exciting initiative, one which I would hope to see replicated with success throughout the Islamic world. The restoration of these historic cities should not be an exercise exclusively in cultural continuity but an exercise in economic rehabilitation and the provision of new economic opportunities for people who did not have that opportunity before.

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Closing Remarks, Fourth Seminar, ‘Architecture as Symbol and Self-Identity’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Fez, Morroco)

This seminar has been extremely helpful in providing the Steering Committee, and therefore me, with an understanding of the symbols of the city. I am not sure any one of us has a full understanding of what will be the symbols and the signs of the future generations that will lead the Islamic world. Mr. Soedjatmoco spoke of an Enabling Environment; I think this is quite correct. We are living through a time of passive disabling and must now seek to reverse that trend. My suspicion is that that will be done by the generation to which I have just referred, which today comprises more than fifty percent of the world’s Muslims.

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Inauguration of First Microfinance Agency – Premiere Agence de Microfinance (Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso)

We hope to bring to areas that are amongst the poorest and least served, our experience of strengthening communities living in other high mountain regions with similar economic and ecological environments. As in those other regions, we see this as a long-term initiative whose success will be determined by the commitment of the beneficiary population and the continued collaboration of the government.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Damascus, Syria) ·· incomplete

I would like you to know that this visit has brought me great happiness and it will remain in my memory for many, many, many years to think of the happiness I have had in this historic country, with these historic links to our Jamat for centuries and centuries.

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Pranay Gupte Interview (United States, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

In the long run, the question is what is the context in which human society will function and the Islamic community will function? And I think the whole notion of relevance is a massively important issue. It’s going across all faiths. Not just the Islamic faith. Not just the Islamic interpretation. It’s going across all faiths today. There is a clear search for ethical contexts. And my sense is that could be a little bit of a reaction to maybe some of excesses in the material context.

You know, it’s clear that uncontrolled freedom becomes license. It’s an issue that keeps coming up all the time. And it’s one which needs very, very deep reflection. Very deep reflection. It’s probably the most challenging issue that I have to address today. More so since the life sciences have evolved, since communications have evolved.

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Conference on Indigenous Philanthropy (Islamabad, Pakistan)

The Qur’an, the Hadith, the sayings of Hazrat Ali, and many scholarly sources make numerous references to the forms and purposes of philanthropy. Human dignity — restoring it, and sustaining it — is a central theme. Enabling individuals to recover and maintain their dignity as befitting their status as Allah’s greatest creation, is one of the main reasons for charitable action. There is dignity in the individual’s ability to manage his or her destiny. That being the case, the best of charity, in Islamic terms, can go beyond material support alone…. This means that multi-year support for institutions that enable individuals to achieve dignity by becoming self-sustainable, holds a special place amongst the many forms of charity in the eyes of Islam.

There is another precept found in the Qur’an and Islamic philosophical texts of great significance that is particularly relevant in this context. It is the emphasis on the responsibilities placed upon those charged with the management of philanthropic gifts and the institutions supported by them. The duty of responsible stewardship is very clear, a concept that can be equated to the notions of trust and trusteeship in today’s international legal terminology. The obligation to maintain the highest level of integrity in the management of donated resources, and of the institutions benefiting from them, is grounded in our faith.

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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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