No one can deny that today, there are distressing and even dangerous tensions between the Muslim world and the West. With its history and cultures, and indeed its different interpretations of Islam, the Muslim world is still little known in the West, as are its contributions to global cultural heritage and patrimony. This lack of knowledge is a dramatic reality which currently manifests itself in a particularly serious way in many Western democracies, through widespread attitudes and approaches to Muslim societies and countries. Be that as it may, the two worlds, Muslim and non-Muslim, Eastern and Western, must, as a matter of urgency, make real efforts to get to know one another better, for I fear that what we have is not a clash of civilisations, but a clash of ignorance on both sides.

I am particularly pleased that the Martin-Gropius Bau is hosting this exhibition of highlights of the Aga Khan Museum collection of artworks from the Islamic world. This historical building, which survived the darkest turbulence of twentieth century Europe, and which was for decades at the dividing line of the city, is today the host of countless major art exhibitions, both German and international, shown in Europe and worldwide.

The exhibition presented here shows some highlights of what will be, in a few years’ time, the nucleus of the permanent exhibition of Islamic art of the future Aga Khan Museum in Toronto. This museum, which has been designed by the renowned Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, and of which a model can be seen in the exhibition, is conceived primarily as an educational institution in the field of Islamic art and culture, a specific institution the likeness of which does not yet exist on the North American continent.

Germany, and Berlin in particular, is a living example of the cultural and ethnic pluralism which has resulted from the last decades of its history. It has become a destination of the hopes of people from many nations, all over the world, of which a large part are Muslims.

Germany, and Berlin in particular, is a living example of the cultural and ethnic pluralism which has resulted from the last decades of its history. It has become a destination of the hopes of people from many nations, all over the world, of which a large part are Muslims. They came here seeking to work in a stable, democratic society, and were made welcome. Today they are valued and contribute positively to the collective well-being of the country.

Germany has always had admiration and interest in the universality and plurality of culture. As a result, an exceptional range of artworks can be seen in its museums, including the wonderful Museum of Islamic Art of Berlin. This exhibition has no intention of competing with the treasures you have here; on the contrary, my wish for the Berlin public is that this exhibition should be a complement, an additional discovery. It should work in synergy with the Museum of Islamic Art to try and bring a spotlight onto its richness and variety, its geographic diversity, and its artistic accomplishments.

No one can deny that today, there are distressing and even dangerous tensions between the Muslim world and the West. With its history and cultures, and indeed its different interpretations of Islam, the Muslim world is still little known in the West, as are its contributions to global cultural heritage and patrimony. This lack of knowledge is a dramatic reality which currently manifests itself in a particularly serious way in many Western democracies, through widespread attitudes and approaches to Muslim societies and countries. Be that as it may, the two worlds, Muslim and non-Muslim, Eastern and Western, must, as a matter of urgency, make real efforts to get to know one another better, for I fear that what we have is not a clash of civilisations, but a clash of ignorance on both sides.

Insofar as civilisations manifest and express themselves through their art, museums have an essential role to play in facilitating respect and appreciation of social structures, values and faiths …

Insofar as civilisations manifest and express themselves through their art, museums have an essential role to play in facilitating respect and appreciation of social structures, values and faiths that are an integral part of the societies which produced the art, thereby ensuring that whole populations are given the opportunity to understand each other, using new, modern methods imaginatively and intelligently.

It is my hope that this exhibition will bring to the Berlin public a better understanding of the Muslim world. The works of art which we can see here speak for themselves. They express the values of tolerance and pluralism, specific to the Muslim world and related to its ethnic, linguistic and social diversity throughout its history, and are important witnesses today.

His Highness the Aga Khan IV

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