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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Dinner hosted by the Governor and First Lady of Texas (Austin, Texas, USA)

The American ethic and ideal — the Texan ethic and ideal — has always been one of openness to others and openness to the future. It is an ethic of opportunity, which the Ismaili Community deeply shares. This commitment to opportunity is exemplified in the vitality of your diverse multi-ethnic society. It is rooted in a deep respect for the individual human being independent of one’s background or origins.

The Governor has cited words from the Qur’an about the affinity of our religious commitments. The teachings of the Qur’an, like those of the Bible, also resonate with the words that rang out from Philadelphia in 1776: affirming that “all men are created equal, and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” Those words express our common ideal….

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Address to the International Press Institute, 54th General Assembly (Nairobi, Kenya + [Israel, Jordan, Pakistan])

There is one other front on which the battle must be waged, however, and it has to do with media owners and managers. Too often, those who set the media agenda see it primarily as a business agenda. Too often the measure of media success is simply financial profit. I think this attitude is wrong — it often makes for manipulative media, distorting and misleading in a narrow pursuit of readers and ratings. It means that journalism is subordinated to entertainment, and that the need to inform must yield to the need to please.

Responsible and relevant reporting is not the priority in that business model. Instead, the power of the press is used to turn traditional value systems on their heads; to take what is really quite unimportant and to make it seem very important, to take what is trivial and to make it seem titillating. In that context, what is most truly significant must yield to what is most readily saleable. The damage that can be done by such distorted journalism is especially heavy in Africa, offending African value systems, distracting African energies and mis-serving African development. Manipulative journalism is not merely a nuisance here, it can have destructive power. Yet journalism at its best can be a strong pillar in building Africa’s future. [Emphasis original]

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‘Closing Africa’s journalism deficit’ published in Jerusalem Post, Jordan Times, Daily Times (Israel, Jordan, Pakistan)

Respect for press freedom grows out of a respect for pluralism as a cornerstone of peace and progress. Pluralism implies a readiness to listen to many voices — whether we agree with them or not — and a willingness to embrace a rich diversity of cultures. When our diversity divides us, the results can be tragic, as we have seen in Rwanda, the Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Sudan. But when we welcome diversity — and the debate and dissent that goes with it — we sow the seeds of stability and progress.

But there is a second important media-related question today concerning the adequacy of journalistic knowledge in an increasingly complicated world. Africa’s leaders appear to have serious misgivings about the depth of that knowledge, and genuine doubts about the breadth of understanding that many journalists bring to difficult issues. Clearly, deeper and broader knowledge will be crucial to the future of African journalism.

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Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications Foundation Stone Ceremony (Nairobi, Kenya)

Let me mention just five of the most important ways in which the School, we hope, will be truly distinctive….

In the first place, the School will work on the newest frontiers of media technology, with state-of-the-art equipment and innovative pedagogies … This does not mean that we will ignore old skills and values. Our core concern must always be the ability of our students to think critically and creatively, to pursue the truth ethically and responsibly, and to articulate ideas clearly and vividly….

The second distinctive emphasis of our School will be its sharp focus on the singular challenges facing media in the developing world. This will mean exploring local and regional realities in all of their complexity….

A third special element of the School will be one of the first programmes in this region in the field of Media Management. In my view, the quality of media depends not only on those who produce the content — writers and artists and editors — it also depends on those who manage media enterprises and on the proprietors who own them….

A fourth distinctive dimension of the Graduate School of Media and Communications will be interdisciplinary study. The new School will work closely with other faculties of the Aga Khan University so that media students can deepen their knowledge in fields such as health, economics, political science, religion, and environmental studies….

Fifth and finally, we like to say that our School will be demand-driven which means that it will be flexible, evolving with the changing needs of both our students and their eventual employers.

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Associated Press Interview on the ‘Aga Khan Express’ (Sultanabad, Pakistan) ·· incomplete

INCOMPLETE: We regret that from this interview, only limited portions made public by the reporter are available below. We would be very grateful if any of our readers who may have the complete transcript would kindly share it with us. Please click here for information on making submissions to NanoWisdoms; we thank you for your assistance.

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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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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Nairobi, Kenya) ·· incomplete

[I]f we have moved forward in various parts of the world, it is thanks to the leadership of the jamat. And I would like you to take these remarks to heart. Think about them because they’re said not only for today, they’re said for the past and they’re said for the future….

I wanted to tell you [that] your leadership [which] you may think of as African leadership but it isn’t. It’s become global leadership. What you have learnt and taught and are doing is now replicating itself around the world. And that is a magnificent gift that you have given from Africa to other parts of the world.

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Ismaili Centre Opening Ceremony (Dushanbe, Tajikistan)

The Tajik Ismaili community has roots in this region that extend back more than a thousand years, as long ago as the second century of Islam. The community holds a recognised and admired position in the history of human endeavour here, contributing some of the greatest names in the fields of theology, philosophy, poetry and the sciences. This new Centre will be a place for looking back on that rich and powerful history in grateful and solemn remembrance. It will be a place, as well, for peaceful contemplation of the spirit, and of the world, as we live our lives in the present moment. And it will be a place to think about the future and how this profound heritage can shape and inform tomorrow’s world. This Centre aspires to give physical form and spiritual space for pursuing all of these objectives….

The Holy Qur’an calls upon Muslims to compete in good works, and just as the Ismailis have done for centuries in this lovely land, we will uphold that responsibility in service to the Tajikistan of today and tomorrow.

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Preface to ‘Treasures of the Aga Khan Museum: Arts of the Book & Calligraphy’ (Istanbul, Turkey)

I am very grateful to the Sakip Sabanci Museum, and to the Chairman of its Board, Ms Güler Sabanci, for hosting this presentation of treasures of the future Aga Khan Museum’s collections …

The choice was made to focus on the arts of the book and calligraphy, themes which have been central to Islamic culture for close to fifteen hundred years. They are the core of the future Aga Khan Museum’s collection, and the works on parchment and paper shown here are complemented by a range of objects (metalwork, ceramics, wooden beams, textiles, jewellery, etc.) bearing examples of fine epigraphy, both Qur’anic and poetic.

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Preface to ‘Cairo, Revitalising a Historic Metropolis’ by Stefano Bianca and Philip Jodidio (Aiglemont)

We stand today confronted with starkly different visions of the future of historic cities. At a time when our heritage, the anchor of our identity and source of inspiration, is being threatened with destruction, by war and environmental degradation, by the inexorable demographic and economic pressures of exploding urban growth, or by simple neglect, there can be no doubt that it is time to act. Will we allow the wealth that is the past to be swept away, or will we assume our responsibility to defend what remains of the irreplaceable fabric of history? My answer is clear. One of our most urgent priorities must be to value, and protect, what is greatest in our common heritage. Breathing new life into the legacy of the past demands tolerance, and understanding and creativity beyond the ordinary.

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

In the seamless web we call national development, housing is only one factor influencing the quality of human life. But how vital it is to health and human safety, still more fundamentally, the state of a person’s home touches deep chords in the human spirit.

It can make him proud or ashamed; give him light and a sense of hope or deepen his despair. It is his statement to his children and to the world about his control over his life, and his aspirations for the future. It is not too much to say that to the extent a man is a householder, he is also a citizen, with a permanent interest in the stability and progress of his country. Still more important, housing has historically been created by families. The African or Asian village, like most other traditional settlements, is not an abstraction, but an architectural expression of a social reality, the way people relate one to another — often as an extended family. These settlements reflect human bondings and community spirit. They can foster families and their ties to other human beings; or they can express human alienation as the extended family disaggregates….

[C]onfronted by the appalling magnitude of the problem of inadequate housing — estimates that one-fifth of the human race is without decent housing, of whom one hundred million do not even have a roof over their heads — one must avoid the trap of the mass solution. Government resources and political commitment to a solution are indispensable: but they will be effective only to the extent that they mobilise as part of the solution the people for whom housing will not be merely shelter but a source of community and of a better life. This will take infinite care and powerful imagination, for the institutional models will vary with regions and cultures, but I deeply believe there is no substitute for them.

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Statement at the Kabul Conference on Afghanistan (Kabul, Afghanistan)

AKDN is of the view that investing in the institutions of civil society and in their capacity to deliver services deserves far greater priority, attention, support and resources than has hitherto been the case, even as investments in rebuilding the State’s institutions continue. Civil society institutions are best able to take into consideration, to reflect, specific provincial or local political situations and socio-economic needs and opportunities. They are well placed to ensure that progress is both public and transparent, that good governance is observed as the norm, just as they are the best tools for ensuring better impact and for hastening visible socio-economic development.

There is need for a sub-national governance structure that is clear, efficient and transparent. There is no reason why planning or programming at the provincial or local level need either contradict or undermine central authority. On the contrary, bankable programmes need to be evolved and implemented that are synchronised with sub-national governance and policy and with the reintegration programme….

There needs to be a willingness to support small-scale and medium-level investments in the short term that may not immediately be considered financially sustainable by conventional measures, but which experience demonstrates are necessary to achieve medium to long-term returns and benefit.

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Jeune Afrique Interview (1st), Anne Loesch, ‘Prince of Islam and businessman’ (Paris, France)

[Google translation] One last question: how do you see the future? The future of the Third World?

[Google translation] With optimism. In twenty years, no country is bound water. It will reduce the level of the sea. There will be far fewer medical problems: we will track it will cure all these diseases are still rampant. I trust in progress. We are moving towards an era of sophistication unimaginable. The total for each government is to understand how our time is moving, whether to follow suit.

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International Conference on Reconstruction Assistance to Afghanistan (Tokyo, Japan)

His Highness the Aga Khan would like to announce today a multi-year financial commitment, which will be no less than U.S. $75,000,000, to enable the Aga Khan Development Network to conceptualise and implement a recovery, reconstruction and long-term development programme that will span many regions of the country. It will range in scope from agriculture-based rural development; food and seed security; rehabilitation of capital infrastructure; to the provision and upgrading of health and education services from the primary to the tertiary levels; institution and capacity building especially at the community-level; and the restoration of the cultural heritage for social inclusion. In this task, we will draw on our long experience, going back some 25 years, of the neighbouring region, including post-conflict Tajikistan, and the extreme poverty and inter-communal tensions of the isolated mountain regions of Northern Pakistan In all these areas, we will continue to work closely with other members of the international community.

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Centro Ismaili, Lisbon, Opening Ceremony (Lisbon, Portugal)

Although my faith and office place upon me a distinctive perspective and role, I am most certainly not alone in my concern about the pace and direction of change at this moment in history. In recognition of the critical problems of human welfare confronting today’s world, and the role faiths can play in contributing to their resolution, Dr. George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Mr. James D Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, convened a Dialogue on “World Faiths and Development” earlier this year. Leaders of nine world faiths participated: Baha’i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Sikh and Tao.

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2000 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

The Institute of Islamic Civilisations in London will give expression to our University’s Islamic character, in an international context. Its programmes are quite distinctive. IIC will create an index of published works on Islamic civilisations in various languages, write abstracts and translate them into the major scholarly languages, and distribute the abstracts globally on the World Wide Web. This unique facility, which would enable many experts around the world to access each other’s work for the first time.

The second activity involves the engagement of scholars and thinkers in thematic research on issues that affect contemporary societies that have escaped systematic attention in Muslim environments. Participants trained in both traditional and contemporary intellectual traditions, would take part in a given project through periods of residence at IIC and over the Internet, and results will be made available on the World Wide Web.

An education programme on Islamic civilisations would be the third area of activity. It would develop materials and curricula for the various units of AKU, other institutions in Aga Khan Development Network, and a broad range of institutions from schools to higher education, in Muslim and other societies. IIC would also organise short courses and seminars around themes, or for specialised groups such as diplomats, journalists, and businessmen. A more formal post graduate programme designed to engender a critical humanistic approach to the study of Islamic civilisations will follow.

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Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, Residential Campus, Foundation Stone Ceremony (Mombasa, Kenya)

[A new] World Bank study confirms a central tenet of our Academies planning, our confidence in the value of a residential campus. We believe that students draw valuable life lessons not only from learning together but also from living together — especially if the mix of students is broadly diversified. The laying of this cornerstone symbolises this commitment to a residential experience. In addition, we are also committed to building an international network of similar schools so that those who are enrolled on any one campus will also be able to be study at other Academy sites….

As world affairs have been steadily transformed by the process of globalisation, the ability to command and control has become less important than the ability to anticipate, connect and respond. And educational institutions which can instill and enhance those capacities have become essential to effective development.

Educating effective future leaders is a high responsibility…. We must rise above the antiquated approaches of earlier days and instead infuse our students with what I would call three “A’s” of modern learning — the spirit of anticipation, the spirit of adaptation and the spirit of adventure.

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Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Dhaka, Bangladesh) ·· incomplete

It has been an enormously happy visit. In many ways an inspiring visit because it has demonstrated how even a small Jamat can achieve outstanding results which are complex, which are necessary, but which, which your endeavours, your work, your unity … you can achieve results which are completely unexpected.

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PTV Interview, Imran Aslam, ‘A Vision of Hope and Faith’ (Karachi, Pakistan)

But I must tell you very frankly that there is absolutely no hidden agenda other than answering a critical national situation. I would say that this was not specific to Pakistan. Eastern Tajikistan, i.e. the mountain communities in the Pairs have lived the same difficulty. It’s admittedly in a different context because it was the context of the Soviet Union, but the reality is that mountain communities generally are poor, often invisible and isolated. So that’s the background and there is absolutely no hidden agenda. Sometimes I’ve been told that I’m being put forward as a person who wants a State or this sort of thing. I can tell you that idea has never crossed my mind. More than that it is an idea that if were put on the table would last in my view one millionth of a second — not more….

I think that this notion of indigenous culture and respect and enhancement of that culture — continuity with time, making it part of society’s vision — is something which is very, very important indeed and with [the] sort of internationalisation of communications, our societies are at risk and not only as was proven in architecture but is being proven today in entertainment and all the rest. So I hope very much that we can together enhance our own indigenous cultural expressions. They’re free. Export them. Export them in the English language in such a way that the world has direct access to our own expressions of culture.

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Takht Nashini (Enthronement) Ceremony (Mumbai, India)

The Ismailis have always prided themselves on their highly developed social conscience. Our faith teaches us that we have obligations far beyond our own or even our family’s interests….

By the way you conduct your daily lives, by the compassion you show to your fellow men and women, and above all by your faith in God, you will ultimately be judged.

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