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

Featured Item  »»  Full Event Video: Aga Khan Museum and Ismaili Centre, Toronto, Opening Ceremonies

On Friday, September 12, 2014, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, in the presence of the Aga Khan, performed the the Opening Ceremonies of the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. Like the Aga Khan’s address to the Canadian Parliament, we are sure this event will also go down as one of the signature events of this Imamat.

For the tens of thousands Ismailis in North America, and around the world, who were unable to watch the event live, it is our great pleasure to be able to bring you the full video of the 3 hour 20 minute webcast — unedited, from start to finish — together with a time index schedule to let you jump directly to any segment of interest.

Words cannot capture the dignity, the soul stirring, awe inspiring grandeur and majesty of the ceremonies, nor the stately presence of the buildings, and so we will not attempt to offer any. It was a proud moment not only to be an Ismaili, but to just be a member of the human race moved beyond words, witnessing an inspired vision, executed with flawless precision in every aspect, come to life.

 
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Vimeo version if Youtube is not available to you (lower resolution)

 
Schedule (click on the time to play that segment)

NOTE: The time links below do not work on i-Pads.
NOTE: The time links below do not work for Vimeo, but the times are the same.

00:00:00 Introduction for the Opening Ceremony of the Ismaili Centre
00:04:45 Video about the Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum
00:10:30 Live performance from the Museum and guest arrivals at the Ismaili Centre
00:23:00 The Aga Khan and his party arrive at the Ismaili Centre
00:26:03 Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper arrives at the Ismaili Centre
00:29:40 The Aga Khan, his family and Prime Minister Harper enter the hall
00:30:48 Canadian National Anthem
00:33:04 Recitation from the Qur’an (2:255) followed by translations
00:38:25 The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, delivers his address; TEXT
00:46:37 His Highness the Aga Khan delivers his address; TEXT
01:07:47 Commemorative plaque unveiling for the Ismaili Centre
01:08:37 Conclusion of the the Opening Ceremony; Prime Minister Harper, the Aga Khan and his party depart for a private tour of the Centre
01:12:49 The tour party enters the jamatkhana prayer hall
01:17:23 Observing the live choir and photographic tour of the Ismaili Centre’s interior
01:23:50 Video about the other Ismaili Centres
01:35:37 Photographic tour of the Ismaili Centre’s interior continues over live choir
01:39:02 Prince Rahim, Prince Hussain and Princess Salwa on the Ismaili Centre terrace
01:41:28 Prime Minister Harper, the Aga Khan and Prince Amyn on the terrace; Press photo shoot
01:47:41 The tour party leaves the Ismaili Centre for the Aga Khan Museum, via the Aga Khan Park
01:51:17 The tour party arrives at the Aga Khan Museum for the ribbon cutting ceremony
01:54:17 The tour party makes its way to the auditorium to live music in the courtyard
01:56:53 The tour party enters the auditorium for the Opening Ceremony; Canadian National Anthem
02:00:58 Introduction for the Opening Ceremony of the Aga Khan Museum
02:01:48 Recitation from the Qur’an (4:174-175) followed by translations
02:06:47 Prince Amyn delivers his address; TEXT
02:23:46 The Honourable Shelly Glover, Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, delivers her speech; text not yet available
02:32:44 Commemorative plaque unveiling for the Aga Khan Museum
02:33:35 Conclusion of the the Opening Ceremony; Prime Minister Harper, the Aga Khan and his party depart for a private tour of the Museum to music in the courtyard
02:35:53 The tour party enters the Bellerive Room
02:41:25 The tour party enters and tours the Museum’s exhibition halls, proper
03:18:43 Memories from an historic day

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Featured Item  »»  Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony (Toronto, Canada)

It is not so often that we have an opportunity of this sort — to come together in a beautiful setting, in a wonderful spirit of friendship, and to dedicate such a splendid architectural accomplishment….

When I mentioned that our planning for this complex began 18 years ago, some of you probably wondered how people sustained their enthusiasm through such a long process. Yes 18 years! My response is to say that throughout these 18 years, we have been inspired by a great sense of common purpose, as we have sought to create places and spaces of true enlightenment. And, in doing so, we have also been strengthened by a pronounced spirit of friendship. And what a joy it is to celebrate that spirit, at a time when so much of the world’s attention is focused on climates of belligerence.

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Opening Remarks, Ninth Seminar, ‘The Expanding Metropolis: Coping with the Urban Growth of Cairo’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Cairo, Egypt)

[T]he poor can display considerable ingenuity in improving their own environment and in utilising locally available materials. I was delighted when Hassan Fathy’s work of a lifetime in this direction, reflecting his profound understanding of the virtues and possibilities of vernacular architecture, was recognised by the Chairman’s Award in 1980. People are the Islamic world’s greatest single resource. If we are to harness their latent abilities then we have to understand ordinary citizens’ aspirations — which may be far removed from architectural or planning ideals — and we have to persuade them of the value of what we are attempting to do. But, I ask again, are we starting from the correct premise? Have we successfully identified our long-term objectives?

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The East African Interview, Peter Mwaura, ‘How East Africans can build one common destiny for and by themselves, step by intelligent step’ (Nairobi, Kenya)

[W]e are looking at quality of life indicators — indicators that are not the same as those of the World Bank, indicators we have tried to develop through our own experience. We are looking at things like security, longevity, disposable income, access to education and employment. We are looking at what really affects people’s attitudes to their own understanding of quality of life. We did discover that communities around the world don’t have the same value systems. They will interpret their own qualities of life very differently from one part of the country to the other….

Imams around the world have businesses, not just the Shia Ismaili Imam. We do not see a conflict and indeed if we lived in an attitude of conflict, I don’t believe we would be living within the ethics of Islam. Islam doesn’t say that a proper practice of the faith means you have to ignore the world. What it says is: Bring to the world the ethics of your faith. If you have wealth, use it properly. But the actual ownership of wealth is not in any way criticisable unless you have acquired it through improper means or you are using it for improper purposes. It is seen as a blessing of God. So this whole notion of conflict between faith and world is totally in contradiction to the ethics of Islam….

Creating energy can be a source of environmental damage. The question is what is the most cost-effective way of creating this energy with minimum damage. I believe the partners in Bujagali have gone through massive environmental analysis and come to the conclusion that this is one of the least environmentally damaging initiatives in East Africa, because it impacts a very, very small area of land and a small percentage of the population, who were all relocated in good conditions. I have seen situations where energy has been produced by windmills, by solar batteries and the damage that they have done to the environment is simply incredible. Because these types of energy creation don’t work everywhere. And when they don’t work, they get written off in three years but nobody pulls them down. So they stay there and they are awful. We still don’t really know a great deal about the technology of these new energy sources.

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Address at the launch of the Sorbonne’s New Series on Islam (Paris, France)

His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims, today expressed the hope that more initiatives such as well-researched publications, exhibitions and scholarly exchanges by academic and cultural institutions in the West, “could help deepen public understanding of Islam and its intellectual and artistic heritage.”

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Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony (Burnaby, Canada)

The Ismaili community has sought to create a building here which is both Islamic in its architectural inspiration and of a quality to enhance the overall distinction of Burnaby. The Jamatkhana is designed to be a social and cultural centre, as well as a place of congregation. It expresses the Ismailis’ desire to give of their best to the cultural and economic fabric of Canada. They are proud that it symbolises their commitment both to this country’s future and their ancient heritage. Nor is there any dichotomy in this dual aim. Muslims believe their faith is not for one time, but for all times and so there cannot be conflict between tradition and modernity.

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First Aga Khan Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (Shalimar Gardens, Lahore, Pakistan)

We may well ask whether the premiated projects truly represent the great traditions of Islamic architecture. There are no mosques among them, no madrasah, no palace, no garden, no mausoleum, none of the monuments which are visited by millions of tourists, cherished by those who live near them, and utilised by historians to define the Muslim past. The paradox, however, is more apparent than real.

For, great though the celebrated monuments of the past are as works of art, they were only part of the built environment of the past. They were the creations of great and wealthy patrons, often made no doubt for the use and the pleasure of the masses but rarely lacking in personal or dynastic vanity. All too frequently the settings developed by the masses themselves have been lost or changed out of recognition.

In the contemporary world, the Awards have recognised that other part, perhaps now much more important than in the past, the part of the common man creating for himself and his neighbours a setting for life and health, preserving and utilising what nature has created, developing ways to maintain his identity rather than accepting the elephantine massiveness of so much of today’s world.

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Aga Khan Development Network and European Commission (EU) ‘Joint Declaration’ Signing Ceremony (Brussels, Belgium)

Our Joint Declaration represents a commitment to go beyond our common concerns about poverty and the need to improve living conditions in the developing world. We now look to enhancing our two-decade long partnership to contribute towards creating stability, mitigating conflict, fostering greater social inclusion and enabling equitable and sustainable human development.

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School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, Commencement Ceremony (New York, USA)

[D]emocratic institutions have not lived up to their potential. In both the developed and the developing world, the promise of democracy has too often been disappointed. For many centuries, enlightened people have argued that democracy was the key to social progress. But today, that contention is in dispute.

Our challenge is not to find alternatives to democracy, but to find more and better ways to make democracy work. In responding to that challenge today, I would like to make four observations — four suggestions for addressing our democratic disappointments and advancing our democratic hopes…. [F]irst, the need for greater flexibility in defining the paths to democracy; secondly, the need for greater diversity in the institutions which participate in democratic life; thirdly, the need to expand the public’s capacity for democracy; and finally, the need to strengthen public integrity, on which democracy rests.

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‘A Life in the Service of Development’ published in Politique Internationale (Paris, France)

Practically no countries [sic] in Asia, Africa or the Middle East have a political landscape rooted in a strong two-party system as do many Western democracies. The probable consequence is that in many if not most countries of the developing world, coalition government will be omnipresent in the decades ahead. Yet few of these countries have any established experience with coalition governance (this is true of even the most powerful countries of the industrialised world). This critical challenge will become even more complex in countries where functioning compromises must be found between secular and theocratic forces.

A possible common ground could be found if all the political forces accepted over-arching responsibility to nourish a cosmopolitan ethic among their peoples. This would be an ethic for all peoples, one that offers equitable and measurable opportunities for the improvement of their lives, measured in terms of their own criteria for quality living. Clearly, different peoples will have different visions about a desirable quality of life, in urban versus rural areas, for example.

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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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Acceptance Address – 2009 Nouvel Economiste Philanthropic Entrepreneur of the Year Award (Paris, France)

The goal [of AKDN's strategy] is clear: the aim is to create or strengthen civil society in developing countries. This single goal, when it is achieved, is in fact necessary and sufficient to ensure peaceful and stable development over the long term, even when governance is problematic…. The essence of our development strategy is thus to create these where they are lacking or need to be reinforced….

The various organisations within the AKDN fall into two categories which both share the same goal of supporting development: commercial companies (grouped together into the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development, known as AKFED) and those non-profit enterprises which I call “para-companies,” that work toward social or cultural goals. The reason for this dual structure is that civil society cannot emerge solely by starting businesses or solely by building hospitals, schools and universities or cultural facilities….

Para-companies are designed to be economically independent…. [They are] conceived to produce a surplus to ensure their survival and development as long as an entrepreneurial philosophy underpins the creation process and later the day-to-day management. This notion of surplus, it should be pointed out, in no way conflicts with the non-profit status of para-companies.

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2003 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

[AKU] must continue to expand its programmes of research. The true sign of maturity and excellence in a university is its ability to contribute to the knowledge of mankind, in its own society and beyond. It is equally essential that its faculty be challenged, as a matter of university policy, to expand the boundaries of human knowledge. Any vestige of dependence is cast off, any suspicion of a young scientist or scholar that he or she may sacrifice intellectual excitement by leaving the West is allayed, when a university becomes known for generating new ideas, making new discoveries and influencing events….

Much AKU research, however, will focus on pressing issues of public policy. This naturally follows the precepts of Islam, that the scientific application of reason, the building of society and the refining of human aspirations and ethics should always reinforce one another…. So important is this growing research capacity and informed discourse with policy makers, that the university must strengthen its public policy commitment…. AKU will pledge its energies and imagination to advancing effective public policy.

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Architectural Record Interview, Robert Ivy (New York, USA)

There are many, many interpretations of Islam within the wider Islamic community, but I think one on which there is greatest consensus, is the fact that we are trustees of God’s creation, and we are instructed to seek to leave the world a better place than it was when we came into it.

Therefore, the question is: What is a “better place”, in physical terms? And that “better place”, in physical terms, clearly means trying to bring values into environments, buildings and contexts, which make the quality of life better for future generations than it is today. I think that is the interrelationship that exists between a Muslim and the precepts on which he or she works, in terms of intervening in the physical environment.

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Dalakhani’s victory at Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe at Longchamp (Paris, France)

He has got to be an outstanding horse, as a two-year-old, as a three-year-old and over all distances and all goings. He has speed, he has stamina. He has everything…. If he hadn’t have been beaten by Alamshar in the Irish Derby, he would be unbeaten, but they are two very good horses…. He is a beautiful mover. I was worried about the ground as he hadn’t won on it since he was a two-year-old, but he proved he could handle anything…. It is always difficult to make comparisons between horses. This horse possesses a concentration of unusual talents…. That is what gives him the ability to accelerate when he needs to accelerate, to follow a pace when he needs to do that, and to handle all goings equally…. Breeding is the basis of what my family has been doing for generations and this win puts him among the best.

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‘His Royal Highness the Aga Khan National Park’ Opening Ceremony (Bamako, Mali)

Today, parks meet the needs of many city-dwellers wanting to relax in a natural environment. This explains the success among local communities of parks already created by AKTC. Experience shows that these urban parks are a vital public facility, frequented by city-dwellers in their hundreds of thousands. The Cairo park, for example, now receives more than 2 million visitors a year….

The National Park of Mali is also one of the largest urban parks on the African continent, and a remarkable achievement in several respects:

  • it preserves an ecosystem of priceless value with the arboretum dating from the 1930s, which includes the most beautiful species of trees and is today shown in its full glory once again;
  • it expresses a new landscape architecture, harmoniously combining the characteristics of a botanical garden that had fallen into disuse with a contemporary planning concept for public parks in major cities;
  • it includes a garden of medicinal plants, reflecting Mali’s ancestral knowledge in this field;
  • the architecture of the buildings and entrance gateways, of the restaurant and the sports centre, is distinctively contemporary, while displaying its African roots in the use of traditional materials combined with advanced technologies, especially in the roofs and the technical services. This is the work of Diébédo Francis Kéré, an Aga Khan Award for Architecture recipient in 2004 …

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Opening Remarks, Sixth Seminar, ‘The Changing Rural Habitat’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Beijing, People’s Republic Of China)

Somehow ways have to be found to make the countryside itself a more desirable place to live in, which in turn demands an ability to earn more and to save enough, as individuals or families or communes to begin the process of self-generated economic growth and thus social well-being. The Aga Khan Award for Architecture seeks to identify and premiate all successful efforts in the resolution of man’s built environment, and clearly the fate and future of the rural habitat must be of prime concern to us….

Unless change takes account of rural life in all its aspects, unless it respects the past and the heritage of rural areas and peoples, unless it recognises the intricate ties between the physical and the social environment, it will fail to achieve planning and developing goals for each nation. It will also fail to provide attractive alternatives to migration and thereby fail to stem the tide of people flooding into the cities adding to the already almost insurmountable social problems the urban areas are facing.

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Introduction to ‘Geographies of Islam’ (Toledo, Spain)

“Convivencia” — the Spanish word for living together harmoniously — is not a simple concept. It is, of course, the term used to describe the co-existence of different faiths in medieval Spain. The code of “convivencia” was about tolerance and much more. In Toledo, Córdoba and Granada it implied mutual respect as well as an appreciation of science and scholarship, and of different traditions. The acquisition of knowledge was not an end in itself, but rather a way to understand the beauty of God’s creation.

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The Aga Khan Agency For Microfinance 2005 Annual Report: Inaugural Statements (Geneva, Switzerland)

The Aga Khan Development Network agencies have been involved in micro-credit for more than 60 years. During that time, a variety of institutions offering a range of products tailored to specific needs have been established in many countries…. We have also extended loans for education and health care, which we believe can be important ways to break down the barriers to access to those services for the poor. It is important to note that the issue is not only the provision of services, but making them accessible to the poor….

We must be prepared to bank good character, good ideas and the willingness to work hard. If we do bank those attributes, micro-finance can be a formidable tool for poverty alleviation in large parts of the developing world. Its versatility allows it to be adapted to the needs and circumstances of the poor in urban and in rural environments. I am convinced we have only begun to tap into its potential.

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Interview with an unidentified media outlet, #2 (Cairo, Egypt) ·· incomplete

[Darb Al-Ahmar] was one of the poorest areas of Cairo. An area where social development had no horizons whatsoever therefore, you had more and more people coming in because these historic cities are transit areas very often for newly urbanised populations so you get more and more degradation. So we wanted to try and make sure the population in this area saw a strong economic future for themselves so there was no temptation to leave.

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Restored Humayun’s Tomb Gardens Opening Ceremony (New Delhi, India)

In the troubled times in which we live, it is important to remember, and honour, a vision of a pluralistic society. Tolerance, openness and understanding towards other peoples’ cultures, social structures, values and faiths are now essential to the very survival of an interdependent world. Pluralism is no longer simply an asset or a prerequisite for progress and development, it is vital to our existence. Never perhaps more so than at the present time, must we renew with vigour our creative engagement in revitalising shared heritage through collaborative ventures such as the project we are inaugurating today.

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Darwaz Bridge Opening Ceremony (Darwaz, Tajikistan; Darwaz, Afghanistan)

The [Tajikistan/Afghanistan AKDN sponsored] bridges carry lessons important for all of us working in mountain environments, which is, that small investments in critical infrastructure enable people to come together, to work together, and to gain better use of economic and social opportunity.

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