Within the Ummah it is a recognised and established historic fact that communities have the right to their own interpretation of the Faith. Whether it is the interpretation of one branch of Islam or of the other, of Sunni or Shia, whether of one tradition within either of those branches, or of another, the right of interpretation belongs to each individual….

[It is] important to remember that such situations are not unique in history — the Inquisition in Spain was every bit as cruel and destructive as any case that one can imagine…. What is not acceptable is any attempt to impose a particular interpretation on an unwilling individual or population. The Holy Qur’an says that there shall be no compulsion in religion. What is even worse, is when such an imposition causes degradation of all civilised standards of human behaviour.

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After agreeing to a 10 year rural development programme, planning assistance, scholarships and training programmes to help launch the tourism industry, and the selection of Naryn, a city in the At Bashy mountain range, as the Kyrgyz campus for the recently established University of Central Asia, the Aga Khan addressed legislators of the two houses of the Kyrgyz Parliament on “critical issues brought to the forefront by the tragic events of September 11th.”

Within the Ummah it is a recognised and established historic fact that communities have the right to their own interpretation of the Faith. Whether it is the interpretation of one branch of Islam or of the other, of Sunni or Shia, whether of one tradition within either of those branches, or of another, the right of interpretation belongs to each individual.

Noting that over the years there had “been an effort to repress pluralism in all its forms,” the Aga Khan said that:

[It is] important to remember that such situations are not unique in history — the Inquisition in Spain was every bit as cruel and destructive as any case that one can imagine…. What is not acceptable is any attempt to impose a particular interpretation on an unwilling individual or population. The Holy Qur’an says that there shall be no compulsion in religion. What is even worse, is when such an imposition causes degradation of all civilised standards of human behaviour.

The Aga Khan went on to describe to senior Kyrgyz government officials, in various formal and informal meetings, his views on the development needs and potential of the countries of Central Asia, among them, Afghanistan, which, he felt would “need a process of reconstruction that the country cannot initiate itself.” He spoke of the logic of supporting and strengthening continued assistance to countries that set an example of “effective and competent management of statehood.”

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