When I inquired as to what role can Islam play in promoting social peace, especially in a region like South Asia, the Aga Khan was unequivocal: “Social ethic is a strong principle in Islam and I think that Muslims would be well advised to respect that as a fundamental ethic of our faith and to live by that, which means that we have to be what I would call an empathetic society, a welcoming society, peaceful society, a generous society.”

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.

Interviewers

  • Max de Haldevang of Quartz
  • Jahanzeb Hussain of Dawn
  • Benoît Fauchet of Agence France-Pressed
  • Lee Keath of Associated Press (AP)
  • And one other, unknown, reporter

Quartz

The Aga Khan has chosen the promotion of pluralism–which he defines as “equity towards all peoples and backgrounds” — as one of the central themes of his Diamond Jubilee year. He argues that the countries his foundation works with are historically pluralist and suffer now from ethnic and religious divides stoked by colonialism. “I’m old enough to recollect colonial situations where colonial powers on purpose separated the ethnic groups in a given country in order to maintain rule,” he says. “That inherited situation needs to be dealt with.” …

Western banks don’t do enough to alleviate poverty, the Aga Khan says. “Financial institutions ought to be a great deal more open to social support–without threatening their own survival, obviously,” he says. …

“Climate change is a major threat to much of the developing world, and it needs to be looked at with great care,” the Aga Khan says …

Prince Karim argues that the global community has been ignoring these threats [of floods, drought, earthquakes, or mudslides], despite the knowledge that they will impoverish or kill many people. “I have been more than worried–I say sincerely–more than worried about situations where everybody, the local population, have known for decades that they are living at high risk and nothing was done about it,” he says. “It was never even discussed as part of the development process.” …

When asked about the demonization of Islam in the West, the Aga Khan speaks with (comparatively) stern words. “The nature of Islam is a faith of peace; it’s not a faith of conflict or social disorder,” he says. “[But it] has been used in a political process, or a part of a political process, for political goals.”

Dawn

As part of the buildup to his Diamond Jubilee, the Aga Khan gave an exclusive interview to a select group of journalists from different countries, including Dawn.

In his introductory comments, the Aga Khan laid out what he calls “the parameters within which religious institutions in the Muslim world can work,” namely that of trying to “improve the quality of life of the people of the community and those amongst them where the community lives, [by] eliminating unfairness, fraud, and giving families the opportunity to think that their future generations can live in an improved society.”

He outlined the need to “use material resources for these purposes which are required by the Muslim faith” and said that, for the Jubilee year, he hopes to lead his community to “identify various resources in the civil society in the countries in which [they] are engaged and support them in their mandate.”

The Aga Khan went on to say that “we need to accept today that any institution, any country, which has a pocket of weakness, is an institution or a country at risk” and that “we need to concentrate on eliminating the risk and the damage they have done to these countries.”

The leader of the Shia Ismaili community stressed that the basis we should be using to evaluate development initiatives is “public good,” for as long as we do that “we should be on the right side of logic.” In this regard, the Aga Khan was critical of the whole banking system that is “directed toward the notion of profit rather than the notion of social support.”

I asked him to address South Asia in particular, to which he replied that the “financial institutions ought to be a great deal more open to social support needs.” For example, “is micro-credit doing the job that people hoped it would be doing?” he asked.

“My view is no, it’s not because micro-credit helps certain demographics but it doesn’t affect the whole of the economy of a given country. There are many financial needs which are not addressed by financial institutions today, and I’m talking particularly about the medium-sized enterprises that are definitely, in my view, underfunded.”

Above all, however, the “major threat” facing South Asia and much of the developing world is climate change, which needs to be “looked at with great care to address the particular causes of the situation.” Tackling climate change is the “first issue” the Aga Khan said he would look at especially since he says he’s not “convinced that [much] is happening [in this regard] at the present time.”

Addressing climate change and providing access to economic resources have to be part of the plan to alleviate poverty, which has to be the “first priority for South Asia.”

Climate change is directly linked to the “quality of life,” especially “in the developing world” where there are a “number of situations where there’s not sufficient sustenance for ensuring an acceptable quality of life.”

The Aga Khan said that his “sense is that there has been very little global thinking about how we deal with issues of pollution, water availability, issues of unstable earth — all issues that are, in a sense, predictable.”

He said that he has “been more than worried about situations where everybody knew and have known for decades that they were living in high risk and nothing was done about it.”

An equally integral component of the Aga Khan’s mandate is pluralism. He emphasised the fact that the societies where his institutions work are “pluralistic and they have been pluralistic for many, many centuries.” He deplored the various “forces at play which have tended to separate these societies in separate ethnic and religious groups.”

When I inquired as to what role can Islam play in promoting social peace, especially in a region like South Asia, the Aga Khan was unequivocal: “Social ethic is a strong principle in Islam and I think that Muslims would be well advised to respect that as a fundamental ethic of our faith and to live by that, which means that we have to be what I would call an empathetic society, a welcoming society, peaceful society, a generous society.”

Commenting on the situation of Muslims in the West, the Aga Khan insisted that it’s “absolutely incorrect to try to move Islam out of the context of global monotheism,” since “Islam is an Abrahamic faith, it’s a monotheistic faith and most of the principles of Islam equate with the principle of other major global monotheistic faiths.”

He also pointed out that a “large percentage of the immigrants who enter the Western world come from the Muslim world. It’s an issue that needs to be dealt with empathy and care, and where it has been dealt with empathy and care — and I would give Canada as an example — you can see that the results have been welcomed.”

In his final remarks, the 80-year-old avowed that his institutions and partners would keep working to find “solid solutions” to the problems he highlighted. The Diamond Jubilee, he said, is a “remarkable opportunity to come together” to achieve these goals.

Associated Press (AP)

It is part of the mandate of the imam to “try to contribute to improving the quality of life of the community and those among whom the community lives,” the Aga Khan told reporters ahead of the jubilee.

He said Muslims should work on building an “empathetic, welcoming, peaceful and generous” society, which he called “a fundamental ethic of our faith.”

“All those are ethical principles of our faith, they’re very clear,” he said. “So it’s really a question of how we put those principles in place in governance and civil society.”

The focus should be on building quality of life and pluralism — meaning “equity toward all people and backgrounds,” he added. Muslim countries “have been pluralist for many centuries,” but various forces, including colonialism, have separated them by ethnic groups and sect, he said.

“We are in a period of history where I think that inherited situation needs to be dealt with,” he said.

Agence France-Pressed

ENGLISH TRANSLATION FROM FOREIGN LANGUAGE: We believe this interview or article was originally in French or English, however we regret that only an English translation from a foreign language is available. We would be very grateful if any of our readers who may have the original version in French or English, if any, would kindly share it with us. Please click here for information on making submissions to NanoWisdoms; we thank you for your assistance.

Richissime philanthrope, Karim al-Hussaini fête mardi les soixante ans de son titre d’Aga Khan, chef spirituel des musulmans chiites ismaéliens, avec la volonté d’amplifier ses activités caritatives, guidé par une “éthique sociale” au coeur de l’islam, dit-il dans un entretien.

“L’éthique sociale est un principe fort en islam. Et je pense que tous les musulmans seraient bien avisés de respecter cela, comme une éthique fondamentale de notre foi, et de vivre en conformité avec elle”, a expliqué Karim Aga Khan IV lors d’une interview téléphonique accordée à quelques médias, dont l’AFP, dans la perspective de ce “jubilé de diamant”.

Une “année particulière” au cours de laquelle l’Aga Khan fera d'”importantes annonces” concernant ses oeuvres, ont indiqué ses services….

“La nature de l’imamat, en islam, est à la fois théologique et laïque”, explique l’Aga Khan, qui y voit un “système de valeurs” unique. Pour lui, l’engagement de l’imam dans les matières profanes vise à “améliorer la qualité de vie des gens”….

L’islam n’est pas une confession “de conflit ou de désordre social, c’est une religion de paix”, observe-t-il. Il est instrumentalisé dans des situations “essentiellement politiques, mais qui sont présentées, pour diverses raisons, dans un contexte théologique. Ce n’est tout simplement pas correct”, estime-t-il.

Interrogé sur la défiance dans certains pays occidentaux à l’égard de l’accueil de migrants en majorité musulmans, l’imam ismaélien invoque un “manque de compréhension de ce qu’est l’islam”, religion “monothéiste dont les principes correspondent à ceux des autres grandes confessions”.

L’accueil de réfugiés nécessite “empathie et sollicitude”, relève l’Aga Khan, qui souligne l’exemple du Canada où les exilés sont les “bienvenus”.

L’Aga Khan voit comme premier défi la “réduction de la pauvreté”. Pour cela, il insiste sur la nécessité de lutter contre le changement climatique, “menace majeure pour le monde en développement”. Et celle d’améliorer l’accès aux “ressources économiques”, alors que “notre système bancaire est axé sur la notion de profit plutôt que le soutien social”, et que les “entreprises de taille moyenne” sont souvent “sous-financées”.

[Google translation] A rich philanthropist, Karim al-Hussaini celebrates the 60th anniversary of his title of Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of Shiite Muslims in Ismaili, with the desire to expand his charitable activities, guided by a “social ethic” in the heart of Islam , he said in an interview.

“Social ethics is a strong principle in Islam and I think that all Muslims would be well advised to respect this as a fundamental ethic of our faith and to live in conformity with it,” said Karim Aga Khan IV Of a telephone interview given to some media, including AFP, in the perspective of this “Diamond Jubilee”.

A “special year” during which the Aga Khan will make “important announcements” concerning his works, said his services….

“The nature of the imamat in Islam is both theological and secular,” says the Aga Khan, who sees it as a unique “value system”. For him, the Imam’s commitment in secular matters aims to “improve people’s quality of life”….

Islam is not a confession of “conflict or social disorder, it is a religion of peace,” he observes. It is instrumentalized in “essentially political situations, but presented for a variety of reasons in a theological context. It is simply not correct,” he said.

Asked about the lack of trust in some western countries with regard to the reception of mainly Muslim migrants, the Ismaili imam invokes a “lack of understanding of what Islam is”, a “monotheistic religion” whose principles correspond to Those of other large confessions”.

Reception of refugees requires “empathy and solicitude,” says the Aga Khan, who highlights the example of Canada where exiles are “welcome”.

The Aga Khan sees the “poverty reduction” as the first challenge. To this end, he stressed the need to combat climate change, “a major threat to the developing world”. And that of improving access to “economic resources”, while “our banking system is focused on the notion of profit rather than social support”, and that “medium-sized enterprises” are often “underfunded”.

SOURCES

POSSIBLY RELATED READINGS (GENERATED AUTOMATICALLY)