Entries with content relating to ‘History (Political)’, in chronological order.

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ZDF (heute.t-online.de) Interview (1st), Peter Frey (Berlin, Germany)

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.

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2003 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

[AKU] must continue to expand its programmes of research. The true sign of maturity and excellence in a university is its ability to contribute to the knowledge of mankind, in its own society and beyond. It is equally essential that its faculty be challenged, as a matter of university policy, to expand the boundaries of human knowledge. Any vestige of dependence is cast off, any suspicion of a young scientist or scholar that he or she may sacrifice intellectual excitement by leaving the West is allayed, when a university becomes known for generating new ideas, making new discoveries and influencing events….

Much AKU research, however, will focus on pressing issues of public policy. This naturally follows the precepts of Islam, that the scientific application of reason, the building of society and the refining of human aspirations and ethics should always reinforce one another…. So important is this growing research capacity and informed discourse with policy makers, that the university must strengthen its public policy commitment…. AKU will pledge its energies and imagination to advancing effective public policy.

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Spiegel Online Interview (1st), Erich Follath, ‘Only those who help people serve God’ (Germany)

[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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Globe and Mail Interview (3rd), John Stackhouse and Patrick Martin (Toronto, Canada)

I have to tell you this is my own direct experience, many, many of these situations [of conflict] can be avoided [if] addressed in good time. Many of them. And I really assure you that this is the case. These pockets of extreme poverty, of frustration, of fear of some of these minorities, can be addressed by a direct, focused programme to bring them back into civil society so that they understand that they are not isolated and thrust outside the context of national mainstream.

And it is amazing how much can be done if you will go in with economic support, social services, dialogue, bringing communities together, focusing on hope in the future rather than looking backwards in despair. That looking backwards in despair is probably one of the most divisive forces that you will ever find in Third World countries….

I think that when you look at the development process, its strength is based on the people’s will to work for themselves. That’s clear. And we’ve seen that.

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CNN Interview, Judy Woodruff (USA)

I think there is a much better understanding of the sensitivity of these conflicts and how they become internationalised, how they go far beyond the frontiers of the area. I’m thinking of places like Sri Lanka, and I’m thinking even Northern Ireland. It’s not just the Islamic world. It’s these conflict situations which pollute and the disease just grows and grows and grows. And I think the lesson is that the civilised world today has to be a lot quicker to go into those areas and try to find workable solutions.

I am talking about diplomatic and economic solutions. Many, many of [these] issues or these areas are caused by communities who feel victimised who feel they are unable to achieve justice and so they turn to rebellion. Armed rebellion. And many of them really have historical roots. If you look at the Philippines, that situation’s been there since the mid-60s. You look at Kashmir, you look at the Middle East, you look at Northern Ireland — these are all situations which have been there for much too long, in my view.

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Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International Interview (Aleppo, Syria and Lebanon)

[Translation] Why is it that we have that impression — and it’s good, I think it is an advantage — that they [the Ismailis] are more modern, modern in the Western sense?

I think that it comes to the same question we discussed previously. Let’s go back. How did the Westerners learn about culture, about Greek philosophy? How did they learn it? They searched amongst philosophers, scientists, theologians. They went looking amongst the Muslim intelligentsia of that time, for translations, which had disappeared from their original state and, the Muslim world became a world of transition so that the West relearned its own history.

All right! What is happening today? I am saying to myself, that the Muslim World, at least the Ismaili community, we should not live outside the realities of our world. On the contrary, we have to absorb them make them work for us and to our advantage. And if there are organisational systems in the human society that work well today, or at least better than others, we would lack intelligence, not to say more, not to see what we can learn, what we can integrate, what we can remodel. Because we do not have to take everything. We should take what helps us. And that’s where that relation with the West looks important to me. One does not lose his identity; one does not lose his religion …

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Corriere della Sera Interview, Massimo Nava, ‘I am amazed by the ignorance on Islam’ (Italy)

[Translation] In fact, in the Shiite credence, one exalts the value of the intellect, of the spiritual guide, therefore of interpretation. But Western thought tends to confuse the bond between spirituality and secularism with a sort of compromise between State and Church. These are different levels, which involve the individual and the community in which one lives, not the political authority of the State. The Qur’an prohibits judging the way in which another Muslim practises faith, but it also prohibits the enforcement of a religious practice or of a faith.

In the world of Islam, which is nearly a fifth of the Earth’s population, there are significant examples of religious practices which conform to a moral concept of the faith. The Qur’an edicts the ethics of responsibility as an obligation for those who have civilian authority, to enhance the well being and the development of their community. This is something which the Taliban have not done and it is because of this that their regime condemns itself. In these conditions, Islam even says that trust in authority must be denied.

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Pranay Gupte Interview (United States, United Kingdom) ·· incomplete

In the long run, the question is what is the context in which human society will function and the Islamic community will function? And I think the whole notion of relevance is a massively important issue. It’s going across all faiths. Not just the Islamic faith. Not just the Islamic interpretation. It’s going across all faiths today. There is a clear search for ethical contexts. And my sense is that could be a little bit of a reaction to maybe some of excesses in the material context.

You know, it’s clear that uncontrolled freedom becomes license. It’s an issue that keeps coming up all the time. And it’s one which needs very, very deep reflection. Very deep reflection. It’s probably the most challenging issue that I have to address today. More so since the life sciences have evolved, since communications have evolved.

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Wall Street Journal Europe Interview, Philip Revzin (France) ·· incomplete

[Tajiks] are educated, sophisticated people who suddenly found they had no economic base left. The economic underpinning of society had literally collapsed. It had turned into a barter economy….

Most Ismailis in Central Asia live in isolated villages at high altitudes with poor communications. I hope there will be some possibility to develop some regional plans (that might encompass that part of China). I’m hoping that in time political and social relations might be such that these people could move more freely across frontiers that are in any case pretty ill-defined.

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Commonwealth Press Union Conference Keynote Address, ‘The Spirit of Creative Encounter’ (Cape Town, South Africa)

[T]he spirit of Creative Encounter [between cultures] will never become a dominant force in our world without the strong and effective leadership of the information media. How can the press best contribute to a spirit of Creative Encounter — here in Africa and around the world? One simple requirement towers above all others: the ability to respect that which is truly different, to understand that which we do not embrace. It is not as easy as it sounds. For it means much more than tolerance and forbearance. The word sensitivity is one of the most overused words of our time — and one of the least honoured. Why? Because sensitivity is too often seen as an emotion which can simply be willed into existence by a generous soul.

In truth, cultural sensitivity is something far more rigorous, something that requires a deep intellectual commitment. It requires a readiness to study and to learn across cultural barriers, an ability to see others as they see themselves. Cultural sensitivity is hard work….

[T]three specific challenges which I believe the media must meet or obstacles it must overcome if it is to foster a spirit of Creative Encounter. The first is the imperative need for expanded expertise, for a higher level of professional knowledge…. The second challenge is equally demanding. It has to do with the goals we set for ourselves, and the need — as we set those goals — to rise above a domineering profit motive…. The third of the media challenges I would discuss today is the need to balance concerns about press freedom with a greater emphasis on press responsibility. In my view, we are sometimes too preoccupied with the rights of the press as an independent social critic — and we pay too little attention to the obligations of the press as an influential social leader.

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‘A Bridge of Hope’ published in Brown University Alumni Magazine (Providence, Rhode Island, USA)

[I]t must be made utterly clear that violence is not a function of the Islamic faith. That misperception, fostered and fuelled by the news media, is wrong and damaging. The myth that Islam is responsible for the wrongdoing of certain Muslims may stem from the fact that for all Muslims, the concepts of Din and Duniya — Faith and World — are inextricably linked, more so than in any other of the world’s monotheistic religions. In a perfect world, all political and social action on the part of Muslims would be pursued within the faith’s ethical framework. But this is not yet a perfect world. The West, nonetheless, must no longer confuse Islam’s link between the spiritual and the temporal with a conflation of church and state.

With the deaths of Kings Charles I of England and Louis XVI of France, Western culture began a process of secularisation that grew into present-day democratic institutions and lay cultures. Islam, on the other hand, never endorsed any political dogma, so the secularisation that occurred in the West did not take place in Muslim societies. What we are witnessing today, in certain Islamic countries, is exactly the opposite evolution: the theocratisation of the political process. The Islamic world is far from unanimous on the desirability of this shift.

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Brown University Commencement Ceremony (Providence, USA)

From the seventh century to the thirteenth century, the Muslim civilisations dominated world culture, accepting, adopting, using and preserving all preceding study of mathematics, philosophy, medicine and astronomy, among other areas of learning. The Islamic field of thought and knowledge included and added to much of the information on which all civilisations are founded. And yet this fact is seldom acknowledged today, be it in the West or in the Muslim world, and this amnesia has left a six hundred year gap in the history of human thought….

Little of what was discovered and written by Muslim thinkers during the classical period is taught in any educational institutions. And when it is, due credit is not given. This gap in global knowledge of the history of thought, and the faith, of a billion people is illustrated in innumerable ways, including in such diverse worlds as that of communication and of architecture. Our cultural absence in the general knowledge of the Western world, partially explains why your media sees Islamic world and its thought as an ideological or political determinant in predominantly Muslim cultures, and refers to mere individuals affiliated with terrorist organisations as Muslim first and only then by their national origin or ideological or political goals.

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Paris Match Interview (2nd), Caroline Pigozzi (Paris, France)

[Translation] Who in your mind are the strongmen of the Muslim world of tomorrow?

First of all, those who represent serious politics and economic courage among whom I name the Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, the King Hussein of Jordan, the King Hassan of Morocco, or even the President Suharto of Indonesia, the Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamed of Malaysia or President Akaev of Kyrgyzstan.

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Paris Match Interview (1st), Caroline Pigozzi and Jean-Claude Deutsch (Paris, France)

[Translation] Your Highness, 49th Imam, descendant of Prophet Muhammad, you are the spiritual leader of the Ismailis, a Shia movement of 15 million Muslims. Could we say that you are their pope?

My role as Imam has nothing in common with that of John Paul II, because the pope is elected by a college of cardinals, while the office of the Imam of the Ismailis is a hereditary one. In Islam, contrary to the Catholic Church, there is no clergy in the sense of people having an exclusively religious career. In contrast with the Christian tradition, Islam does not separate the temporal from the spiritual. My duty, in following the example of my predecessors, is to guide the Ismailis, not only in the present time, but also in the daily practise of Shia Islam. This requires me to analyse their level of existence in liaison with their geographic location. The Imams have always had the overall responsibility of living within their time and therefore, before anything else, adapting….

[Translation] What does the Aga Khan, a Europeanized Muslim, think about the debate on the wearing of the Islamic scarf in France?

How do you expect me to forbid someone from openly associating themselves with their religion? The law today is acting on the form, not the underlying significance of this practice. One should not impose oneself in an aggressive manner, but should live serenely within one’s faith. If pressuring someone to change their beliefs is considered offensive, why should someone change their beliefs just because these beliefs consist of a free individual right? The separation of religion and state implies multiculturalism before anything else.

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Massachusetts Institute of Technology Commencement Ceremony, ‘Encounters’ (Cambridge, USA)

The religious diversity of Islam is important, and misunderstood by most non-Muslims…. But, for many in the West, the first awareness that there were two major branches of Islam — Shia and Sunni — came only with the Iranian revolution. That represents a superficiality of understanding that would be as though we Muslims only just learned that there were two branches of Christianity — Protestant and Catholic — and had no understanding of the Reformation, the authority of the Church or the ideas that led to the proliferation of Protestant sects in the 16th and early 17th century. Or as though we thought that most Americans were Branch Davidians.

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Pakistan Television Corporation Interview (Karachi, Pakistan)

I think in terms of, let us say, the philosophical environment in which an individual lives, there is no doubt that the faith of Islam places the individual in society in the world in which he lives, in a position where he is not in conflict with his time and he is not in conflict with science and technology of his time. The eternal values of Islam are such that whether the man lived a hundred years ago or lives a hundred years from now, he is always in his correct position. There is no conflict. So in terms of the humanistic, permanent values of a faith, I would say that obviously Islam puts an individual in a very privileged position….

I would like [the] essence of the faith to be more predominant in everyone’s life. Go back to the origins of Islam. It was a faith practised in a land with no physical frontiers. The concept of the modern state is not really an Islamic concept. Islam was a brotherhood, is a brotherhood…. [T]he generosity of people’s attitudes towards their brothers around the world…. Secondly, living in the context of the moral discipline of Islam, I think, is important because living in a society where freedom eventually becomes equated with license, is not what I would want.

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Pakistan and Gulf Economist Interview, Aftab Ahmad Khan, ‘Aga Khan’s Three-point Strategy for Third World’ (Karachi, Pakistan)

How would you comment on the notion popularised by Western critics that scientific and technological progress is incompatible with the practice of Islam?

I think that’s one of the most offensive things that can be said about Islam and I take issue with it in every way. In the first place, to say that science in the modern age is incompatible is the same as saying that Islam is the faith of the past and that is totally unacceptable. In the second place. Islam’s message contains a central theme which is the total power of Allah and therefore my conviction is that the discoveries which the human mind can make are really simply a minute perception of Allah’s creation and I know no scientist in any domain who has been able to answer the ultimate question. So, from my point of view, Islam is a faith which cannot be relegated to the past. The message of Islam with regard to Allah’s power and His creation is essential to our faith. We have every day evidence of that and we must be thankful.

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BBC Radio 4 Interview, Michael Charlton (London, United Kingdom)

Well, in what matters then do you specifically intervene? What is your influence and authority?

Long term, long term social programming, long term economic programming, educational development, health, housing, the direction for institutions to go in …

The role of the Imam is to listen — not to talk. There is a big difference in the sense that members of the community must inform me, must tell me what is of concern to them. I do not run a government.

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