Baghdad is one of the greatest historic cities of our globe and therefore what was there [and lost in the war] was totally irreplaceable…. [T]here are few cities in the Islamic world (than Baghdad and Damascus) that you could damage which would be more painful [to Muslims].

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Interviewer: Penny MacRae in New Delhi

The Aga Khan, spiritual head of the world’s 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims, said on Saturday survival of an interdependent globe hinged on people showing tolerance of the cultures, values and faiths of others. Prince Karim Aga Khan, speaking to Reuters in an interview in the aftermath of the Iraq war, said the need for better cross-cultural understanding had never been greater at what he called a

clearly a defining moment in world history.

Tolerance of other cultures, values and faiths was

essential to the very survival of an interdependent world

and education was a crucial tool in achieving this, said the Aga Khan, a wealthy philanthropist and a key force in preserving Islamic cultural history.

Pluralism is no longer simply an asset or a prerequisite for progress and development — it is vital to our existence.

The Aga Khan said action should have been taken to stop looting of Iraq’s priceless antiquities after Saddam Hussein was ousted.

Baghdad is one of the greatest historic cities of our globe and therefore what was there was totally irreplaceable.

The Aga Khan, considered the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammad, said the danger to Iraq’s ancient treasures was

raised as a risk before the war was launched.

During the wave of looting that swept Baghdad after Saddam was toppled, mobs plundered the national museum without any intervention by U.S. troops. Police say some of the ransacking may have been the work of criminal gangs. U.S. scholars said they had warned U.S. officials in the months leading up to the war to take steps to protect Iraq’s artefacts that date from the earliest civilizations….

The Aga Khan, an Islamic scholar, said he feared

the same thing would happen

if Damascus was attacked, adding

there are few cities in the Islamic world (than Baghdad and Damascus) that you could damage which would be more painful

to Muslims.

The Aga Khan, who heads a worldwide network of charities and businesses and generally shuns publicity, spoke to Reuters at the end of a six-day visit to India during which he met members of the country’s Ismaili community.

SOURCES

  • Reuters, 19 April 2003
  • Text (secondary source): ismaili.net

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