[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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