Veronika Hofer Documentary and Interview, ‘His Highness the Aga Khan: A Life’s Work’ (France, Germany) ·· missing
- 11 December 2011
- Sources: Primary
Contents of the ‘Germany’ category in chronological order.
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.
[As] a Muslim we don’t make the divide between faith and life in the same way as parts of the Christian world do, not all of it but there are large parts of the Christian world which make that divide. We don’t make that divide. Islam doesn’t allow you to make that divide. You reflect your belief, your faith in the faith of Islam, not only by your attitude to the faith itself but to the society in which you live — to poverty, to the family, to ethics in your civil behaviour. It’s part of your everyday life. You live the faith. And I think that’s why many, many Muslims, not me but others, including myself, define the faith as, a way of life because it is a way of life. [Emphasis original]
It is appropriate that the word “Regional” is at the centre of our deliberations on Central Asia. The countries are diverse in many ways — and the development approaches there must be sensitive to divergent requirements. But these countries also have a common historical experience, including several centuries of shared Islamic heritage. Each of them has faced the need to build new political and economic institutions following the breakup of the Soviet Union. And, as the EU Strategy document emphasises, each of them can only optimise their development through a regional approach.
In this respect, the Central Asian experience parallels the European experience. In Europe, too, the end of the Cold War demanded new political and economic structures and it is striking how quickly Europe is now reaching out to Central Asia — offering, among other things, the great gift of a powerful regional example. Among other things, the European example demonstrates that a healthy sense of national identity need not be a barrier to constructive regional engagement….
The key to building partnerships, whether they are among social sectors or among countries, is a profound spirit of reciprocal obligation — a readiness to share the work, to share the costs, to share the risks, and to share the credit. In the end, what it will require most in Central Asia, as it has in Europe, is a spirit of mutual trust.
Does Islam have a problem with reason? Not at all. Indeed, I would say the contrary. Of the Abrahamic faiths, Islam is probably the one that places the greatest emphasis on knowledge. The purpose is to understand God’s creation, and therefore it is a faith which is eminently logical. Islam is a faith of reason…. I am not opposed to secularism as such. But I am opposed to unilateral secularism where the notions of faith and ethics just disappear from society.
What are the root causes of terrorism? Unsolved political conflicts, frustration and, above all, ignorance. Nothing that was born out of a theological conflict…. Take away the causes of extremism and extremists can come back to a more reasonable political agenda. That change to me is one of the wonderful things about the human race.
President Yuschenko comes from a family of educators and he himself won academic distinction in the field of economics and finance. He developed the vital gift of a specialised expertise and he then devoted that expertise to the service of his country, helping to create its independent economy, its financial institutions, its new national currency, and its Central Bank. As the young leader of that Bank, he won the Global Finance award in 1995 as one of the world’s top five Central Bankers. He went on to serve as Prime Minister as his country continued its economic progress.
Viktor Yuschenko became an expert in the ways that complex institutions work — reconciling a pluralism of perspectives with a unity of purpose. It has been suggested that his personal passion for bee-keeping — a family tradition for generations — has been a continuing reminder from nature of how the harmony of a community can flourish when strong institutional habits respect a variety of social contributions.
There is a human impulse it seems — fed by fear — to define “identity” in negative terms. We often determine “who we are” by determining who we are against. This fragmenting impulse not only separates peoples from one another, it also subdivides communities and then it subdivides the subdivisions…. But the human inclination to divisiveness is accompanied, I deeply believe, by a profound human impulse to bridge divisions. And often the more secure we are in our own identities, the more effective we can be in reaching out to others.
If our animosities are born out of fear, then confident generosity is born out of hope. One of the central lessons I have learned after a half century of working in the developing world is that the replacement of fear by hope is probably the single most powerful trampoline of progress. Even in the poorest and most isolated communities, we have found that decades, if not centuries, of angry conflict can be turned around by giving people reasons to work together toward a better future — in other words, by giving them reasons to hope. And when hope takes root, then a new level of tolerance is possible, though it may have been unknown for years, and years, and years.
Tolerance which grows out of hope is more than a negative virtue, more than a convenient way to ease sectarian tensions or foster social stability, more than a sense of forbearance when the views of others clash with our own. Instead, seen not as a pallid religious compromise but as a sacred religious imperative, tolerance can become a powerful, positive force, one which allows all of us to expand our horizons and enrich our lives.
[Translation] Islam and terror have not the slightest thing in common. Islam does not teach terrorism any more than Christianity or Judaism. He who blows himself and others up is a criminal and cannot claim to be a servant of God, praise be to Allah. The world religion of Islam teaches peace, compassion and tolerance….
The West must move away from the idea of wanting to transpose its vision of democracy identically into the Islamic world. This cannot work. The West cannot simply erase 1400 years of Muslim history. Islam is by no means a contradiction to democracy, quite the contrary.
I am fortunate to lead an international community with a strong social conscience. Bridging North and South, East and West, the Ismailis have a long tradition of philanthropy, self-reliance and voluntary service. Wherever they live, they faithfully abide by the Qur’anic ethic of a common humanity and the dignity of man. They willingly pool knowledge and resources with all those who share our social ethic to help improve the quality of life of less fortunate men, women and children.
This is the impulse that drives the Aga Khan Development Network, the AKDN. To understand this dimension of the religious office I hold, one must appreciate that Islam encompasses both the spiritual and the secular. This unity underpins an unrelenting effort towards an equitable order, where the vulnerable are helped to regain the dignity of self-fulfilment.
I see no conflict between the faith of Islam and democracy. There was a consultation process. The consultation process occurred in the Muslim community at the time and two notions were retained. One was consultation and the other was hereditary continuation of religious authority, as well as secular authority. The second issue that occurred, is [that] it was consultation to achieve what? To achieve the best qualified people to lead the community.
Now I think that democracy is founded on those two concepts. It’s founded on the concept of consultation and it’s founded on the concept of consultation for the purpose of merit — of finding the people best qualified to lead. So I see no conflict at all if I go back to the original construct of the Muslim community and how they dealt with the issues of leadership.
Pluralism must become part of a society’s ethical and institutional framework including the structures of government. A fundamental requirement, therefore, is investment in sustainable public and private institutions as well as in future leadership rooted in those societies…. Pluralism is essential to successful development as it offers a practical means of managing diversity, mitigating conflict, fostering social inclusion and laying the foundation for equitable human development: all fundamental values and principles of the German development policy.
I would like to focus today on what I believe are three essential pre-conditions for the successful transition of the poorest areas of the world into modern, peaceful societies. They are:
- First, stable and competent democratic governance;
- Second, an environment that respects and encourages pluralism;
- And third, a diverse and engaged civil society.
In my view, these must be critical components of any global development policy. Not only are they mutually reinforcing, they also permit developing societies to gradually become masters of the process and to make that process ultimately sustainable.
From what I can see [in Afghanistan], I would sense immense relief. Relief after decades of conflict, of poverty, of extremism and these are people who are tired and they are looking for a new future. And I think that is the greatest sense I have of what’s happening and it’s upto the international community, the Afghans, organisations such as mine, to turn this fatigue into a process of hope.
Social and economic reconstruction must be based first on the engendering of hope and trust in new, realistic opportunities [and the need to] build for the continuity of such efforts by the beneficiaries themselves.
[Google translation] I do not deny that in some defects in the Muslim world’s political leaders are in. But I refuse, the American model as a panacea to see the democracy that we just prescribe the developing world, and everything will be fine. Government forms carry within them the seeds of failure, especially if they are rooted in the population and not be accompanied by constitutional one — not even democracy. What we need is the open debate about the best way.
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