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.

 
Youtube version

 
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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BBC Radio 5 Interview, Mick Fitzgerald, ‘The Shergar Story’ (London, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

I’ve seen that film [of Shergar's Epsom win] I don’t know how many, tens or hundreds of times. I keep trying to analyse where this remarkable performance came from and every time I see the film, I feel that I have learned something…. I had watched quite enough races to be able to determine what the jockey probably was feeling, how the horse was going, and when he came around Tattenham Corner, I couldn’t believe my eyes, frankly…. His victory was, as we all know, up to this point in time, unique. But I think I had two things that I found stunning — one was the ease with which that horse moved and second the fact that during the finishing straight, he just kept going away, going away, going away. That was really, I think, remarkable.

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Remarks introducing Kofi Annan, The Global Centre for Pluralism’s Second Annual Lecturer (Ottawa, Canada)

In welcoming Kofi Annan this evening, I want to emphasise what his personal example has meant to all of us. He has truly been an inspiration, demonstrating the power of patience and persistence, of a willingness always to listen and a refusal to give up hope….

As Kofi Annan has taught us, pluralism requires constant dialogue, a readiness to compromise, and an understanding that pluralism is not an end in itself, but a continuous process.

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Eighth Aga Khan Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (The Citadel, Aleppo, Syria)

Many Muslims today, of which I am one, carry with them a memory of the historical achievements of Islamic civilisations. What is the significance of this historical memory for the Ummah in the contemporary world with its many and varied challenges? How can we look back and reinvigorate aspects of it, and what level of significance should be accorded to it? Since there is this general feeling that something has been lost, it is critical to look back in order to look forward. This is the debate that must occur, in which there must be broad participation on a basis that, like that used in the Award, provides freedom for full exchange. The goal should be to turn this great resource into an intellectual trampoline to generate ideas for building the future productively and constructively in terms that will be meaningful and beneficial for Muslims generally.

Some progress was made at an Award seminar on understanding the specifics of such a process with respect to expressions of Islam in contemporary architecture which I offer as an example, because it illustrates the level at which the process of questioning and deliberations must take place. Two lessons emerged from the discussion. One is that the technical issues of the built environment cannot be considered in isolation from the cultural and spiritual values of a society. The second is that these values have to be related at one and the same time to the historical traditions of Islam, in all their diversity, and to the fresh challenges posed by the opportunities and needs for living in the modern world.

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Le Parisien Interview, Gilles Maarek, ‘Chantilly est un géant qui se réveille’ (Paris, France)

[Google translation] When I was asked to participate in the rescue of the racetrack [at Chantilly], I immediately thought it would be possible to improve the entire area. There were several agencies that were involved in this wonderful site, but the components were neither organized nor productive. We created the Foundation for the preservation and development of the field of Chantilly in 2005, excellent example of partnership between public and private funds. Since then, new castle rooms were opened, and themed tours of the park created. The renovation of the racetrack is now complete.

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Luncheon hosted by Governor and First Lady of Georgia (Atlanta, Georgia , USA) ·· incomplete

Georgia is making very, very serious, intelligent commitments to developing forces in the Knowledge Society. When we work in the developing world, we are trying to build new institutions, and our most difficult thing to achieve is to enter that Knowledge Society. And entering into that Knowledge Society is a question of people. It’s not only a question of money, it’s institutions working with institutions.

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Institute of Ismaili Studies and University of London’s Institute of Education joint Graduation/Award Ceremony (London, United Kingdom)

The Islamic world, as we all know, is being compelled to face two challenges at the same time. That of dealing with the Islamic countries’ own indigenous problems, and that of adapting to twentieth century Western technology to those countries’ development needs. How we meet these challenges will condition our ability to make progress both within our own context and in the context of the world as a whole.

Education is crucial to this, because education determines people’s approach to the widest problems facing civilisation. Both my grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, who created the basic structure of the Aga Khan institutions, and I myself, in building on that structure, have been deeply aware that education is the key to such widely ranging endeavours as creating a modern economy; as adapting the system of Islamic jurisprudence to present day conditions; as improving the role and status of women in society; as creating a physical environment of buildings which are sympathetic to Islamic culture and tradition. Education is the key to all this and more. It is fundamental to rural progress. It will equip the youth of Islam for the future, whether at village level, in nations, or in the Ummah as a whole. This is why the traditional educational patterns which we have inherited need to be analysed and, where necessary, re-structured.

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Visit to Earthquake-Hit Areas of Pakistan (Muzaffarabad, Pakistan)

The Aga Khan expressed his solidarity with the people of Pakistan in this most difficult and challenging period. He commended the relief efforts of the Government of Pakistan and the Pakistan Army for their commitment to reconstruction and rehabilitation. He expressed the need to work in partnership and the need to construct seismic proof housing, adding:

“I hope the experience gathered here and the lessons learnt will be useful in similar efforts in the future, not only in the region but also in countries of Central Asia.” “We are with you during this sad episode in your lives, and will do what we can to help you. Looking ahead, it is important that the structures are rebuilt keeping the seismic nature of the region in mind.”

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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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Address to the National Building Museum’s Scully Seminar/Symposium (Washington D.C., USA)

I profoundly believed that architecture is not just about building; it is a means of improving people’s quality of life…. I am pleased that 28 years later, we have had some success in achieving our original goals [of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture]. We are gratified that so many others now are engaged in the cause. We have created a momentum that has become a self-sustaining and unstoppable force for change in the human habitat of the Muslim world. And I am most pleased the principles we have established are having an impact in much of the developed world as well.

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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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Alltex EPZ Limited Opening Ceremony (Athi River, Kenya)

AKFED [is] neither a charitable foundation, nor a vehicle for the personal wealth of the Ismaili Imam of the time. It is a for-profit, international development agency that, because of its institutional background and social conscience, invests in countries, sectors and projects, on criteria far different from those of a straightforward commercial investor. Investment decisions are based more on the prospects for better lives for the constituencies of people that will be impacted by the investments and their results rather than on bottom line profitability. AKFED does seek to generate profits, but they are entirely reinvested in future development initiatives….

The approach of the Imamat has always been to respond to the development challenges and priorities of the countries in which it is engaged…. It has often meant taking courageous but calculated steps to create opportunity in environments that are fragile and complex at the same time. For AKFED, this has frequently meant giving a lead where others might have feared to tread.

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Peshawar University Convocation Ceremony (Peshawar, Pakistan)

Material progress apart, I do not think it should ever be assumed that only the smaller, poorer nations are faced by apparently insoluble problems. Western Europe and North America possess much that can be envied. They also face social and moral conflicts which are far more daunting than known in Asia or Africa…. The pressure of an acquisitive society has made quite frightening demands on family life. Mothers with younger children go out to work in the millions. The juvenile crime rate soars upwards, homes are broken, and the family unit itself is undermined at its source.

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India Today Interview (1st), Aroon Purie (??, India)

As Imam of the Ismaili sect, I am in a position to adapt the teachings of the Qur’an to the modern condition. On the question of modernity the issue is essentially whether one is affecting the fundamental moral fabric of society or whether one is affecting the fundamentals of religious practice. As long as these two aspects are safeguarded the rest can be subject to adjustment.

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Acceptance Address – Honorary Doctorate, University of Ottawa (Ottawa, Canada)

The history of constitutions can be seen, as an oscillation between the two poles of centralisation and diffusion with new concentrations of power often amplifying the temptation to abuse, while new dispersions of power are often associated with stagnation, paralysis and even more opportunities for corruption. Arrangements that effectively balance power through a federalist approach, for example, are elusive. What is critical is that constitutional arrangements should respect inherited traditions, ensure fairness to minority communities, respond to rural as well as urban concerns and underwrite equitable opportunity for a better life. Reconciling the global and the local, the urban and the rural, the regional and the national, is a formidable challenge, one that calls for the best of our intellectual energies and consistent fine-tuning over time….

In much of the developed world, we have seen the emergence, over time, of two-pronged political structures where one party forms a government and the other constitutes the opposition. This arrangement can foster greater accountability and even a certain stability. But I have to say, I am increasingly sceptical about the emergence of such constructs in many developing countries. To the contrary, I suspect that a continuing multiplicity of widely differentiated parties will mean that some form of coalition government will become the norm.

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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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The Age Interview, Geoffry Barker, ‘Aga Khan: Enigma of East and West’ (Melbourne, Australia; Nairobi, Kenya)

You make no claim to be divine. But do you believe you are divinely guided?

Divinity is a very difficult thing to define in verbal terminology. Therefore I would object to anything which uses the term divine in my context. I have inherited an office and I seek to fulfil that office to the best of my judgement. To tell you what inspires that judgement … I don’t think any individual can answer that question. You seek within yourself that which tells you what is the right thing to do.

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Globe and Mail Interview (3rd), John Stackhouse and Patrick Martin (Toronto, Canada)

I have to tell you this is my own direct experience, many, many of these situations [of conflict] can be avoided [if] addressed in good time. Many of them. And I really assure you that this is the case. These pockets of extreme poverty, of frustration, of fear of some of these minorities, can be addressed by a direct, focused programme to bring them back into civil society so that they understand that they are not isolated and thrust outside the context of national mainstream.

And it is amazing how much can be done if you will go in with economic support, social services, dialogue, bringing communities together, focusing on hope in the future rather than looking backwards in despair. That looking backwards in despair is probably one of the most divisive forces that you will ever find in Third World countries….

I think that when you look at the development process, its strength is based on the people’s will to work for themselves. That’s clear. And we’ve seen that.

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Closing Remarks, Third Seminar, ‘Housing Process and Physical Form’, The Aga Khan Award For Architecture (Jakarta, Indonesia)

A major achievement of our seminar has been to highlight how very little is known of what is or might be appropriate housing for the Islamic world, and therefore appropriate for Muslims rather than for other peoples and cultures In talking about Islamic housing, we are not talking about housing for Muslims exclusively. We are talking about housing which reflects the culture of the majority of the people who live in any given country, and which therefore has an Islamic population but is in no way exclusively Muslim.

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Acceptance Address – Carnegie Medal for Philanthropy (Edinburgh, Scotland)

The achievements of the AKDN would not be possible without the tireless contributions of the global community of Ismailis that I lead, residing in Central and Southern Asia, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and North America. Our volunteers and contributors also include many thousands of others from multiple cultures and faiths around the world. They are united with us in our mission to help build capacity and dignity for individuals, to enable them to take control of their own development.

These volunteers include those who contribute to the governance of the 200 entities of the AKDN in more than 30 countries, many others who support co-operatives, craft guilds, village organisations and women’s groups, and still others who work closely with the vast array of grassroots civil society organisations that form the bedrock of our activities.

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