Entries with content relating to ‘Society (Modernity & Tradition)’, in chronological order.

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Aga Khan Park Opening Ceremony (Toronto, Canada)

The Park and its Gardens can serve as a symbol of “connection” in other ways as well. Among them are rich connections across time linking us to the past. The Garden has for many centuries served as a central element in Muslim culture. The Holy Qur’an, itself, portrays the Garden as a central symbol of a spiritual ideal — a place where human creativity and Divine majesty are fused, where the ingenuity of humanity and the beauty of nature are productively connected. Gardens are a place where the ephemeral meets the eternal, and where the eternal meets the hand of man.

The tradition of Islamic Gardens places an emphasis on human stewardship, our responsibility to nature and to protect the natural world. We see that principle expressed in the disciplined use of geometric form — framing the power and mystery of nature. And, of course, the Garden of ancient tradition, like the Garden here today, is a place where — whatever difficult moments may come our way — we can always find, in the flow of refreshing water, a reminder of Divine blessing.

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Amir Aqsunqur Mosque Inauguration (Cairo, Egypt)

Through revitalisation of the sort we celebrate today, we hope to preserve an extraordinary panorama of Islamic history, from the Fatimid Caliphs to the present. At a time when fractures in the unity of the Ummah are so highly visible, I see such projects as particularly hopeful. They are important symbols for the identity of all Muslims, sources of pride for the entire Ummah. And finally I would like you to know that a young Muslim walking here in the 22nd century will be able to feel the pull of his or her own history, even in a radically transformed world. And let us be reminded, too, that in undertaking this work, we are not only attending to our own Islamic heritage, but also preserving an essential part of the patrimony of all humankind. I can say to you today that the potential power of Islamic cultures is such that the Ummah is capable of achieving global recognition for its amazing heritage of unique spaces and buildings.

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‘Prospecting the Past, Inspiring the Future’, Preface to ‘The Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme: Strategies for Urban Regeneration’ edited by Philip Jodidio (Aiglemont)

My effort to defend the value of culture, through the Aga Khan Development Network, and specifically through its dedicated agency, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, focuses its activities in four main areas: the Aga Khan Historic Cities Programme; the Aga Khan Award for Architecture; the Aga Khan Music Initiative; and Museum Projects.

These activities, which are themselves subdivided into a number of subsidiary programmes in many countries, obey four key principles. Firstly, they seek to increase the beneficiaries’ independence, to involve local communities, and to secure the support of public and private partners. Secondly, they are carried out in poor environments where there are considerable centrifugal, sometimes even conflicting, forces at play. Thirdly, they are designed to have maximum beneficial impact on the economies of the populations involved and their quality of life in the broadest sense of the term. Finally, they are planned in the long term, over a period of up to twenty-five years, enabling them to become self-sufficient both financially as well as in terms of human resources.

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CNN Interview, John Defterios, ‘The Healthy Speed of Change’ (Doha, Qatar) ·· incomplete

The general goal of the Aga Khan Development Network, as system of agencies, is to assist in the construction of civil society. Over the past 50 years we have come to the conclusion that the strength and quality of civil society is the greatest guarantor of processes of positive change….

I think the issue is not only the differences in quality of life — there are many other criteria and one of the ones we’re most exposed to, as a network of institutions, is what is healthy speed of change? Because you can move to fast. It’s not only addressing a form of paralysis of development and extricating yourself from that frozen situation, it’s also that societies just don’t change that quickly and if you force them to change quickly, you’re going to run into another set of problems.

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2010 Aga Khan Award for Architecture Prize Ceremony (Doha, Qatar)

As we look to the future, let me mention four principle areas of concern: the Islamic environment of our work, its relevant constituencies, the shifting social and economic scene, and the impact of new technologies….

Why should we emphasise an Islamic approach to architecture? Our Master Jury, in responding to this question, has described how global forces now threaten the values of “memory, heritage and belonging,” and how the built environment can help meet that challenge….

The unity of the Ummah does not imply sameness. Working in an Islamic context need not confine us to constraining models. Nor does respecting the past mean copying the past. Indeed, if we hold too fast to what is past, we run the risk of crushing that inheritance. The best way to honour the past is to seize the future. In sum, an Islamic architectural agenda involves a dual obligation — a heightened respect for both the traditions of the past and the conditions of the future.

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ZDF (Enterprises) Interview (2nd) for the documentary ‘Islam and the West’, ‘Morgenland’ (‘Orient’) (Germany) ·· incomplete

[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]

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Address to the Avignon Forum ‘The value and importance of cultural diversity and its role in promoting peace and development’ (Avignon, France)

In a world that claims to be globalised, there are some who might regard cultural standardisation as natural, even desirable. For my part, I believe that marks of individual and group cultural identity generate an inner strength which is conducive to peaceful relations. I also believe in the power of plurality, without which there is no possibility of exchange. In my view, this idea is integral to the very definition of genuine quality of life….

I want to talk to you today about my efforts to defend these cultures, through the Aga Khan Development Network, and specifically through its dedicated agency, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture. [The Trust’s activities] obey three key principles:

  • to increase the beneficiaries’ independence,
  • to involve local communities, and
  • to secure the support of public and private partners.

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AFP Interview (Aleppo, Syria) ·· incomplete

In the Judaeo-Christian world, charity is a notion which evokes generosity with nothing in return. In Islam, the ‘best of charities’, but not the only one, is to help the poor be self-sufficient…. I was born with Islamic ethics, in a Muslim family. There is nothing wrong with being well off as long as money has a social and ethical value and is not the object of one’s own greed. That is why I wanted to set up institutions that can manage everyday problems based on Islamic values.

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Syrian TV Interview, Reem Haddad (Aleppo, Syria)

Your Highness, is there a message that you would like to leave the Syrian people?

Well first of all, the respect and admiration that I have for Syria in its historic role within the Ummah. Secondly the notion that progress does not mean occidentalisation. Progress in the Ummah means moving forward in quality of life, but not giving up your identity, not giving up your value systems. Indeed our values systems are massively important for the future. [Emphasis original]

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Aleppo and Masyaf Citadels, and the Castle of Salah ad-Din, Opening Ceremony (Aleppo, Syria)

The background to this initiative is very simple. The background is to illustrate to the peoples of our world the history of the civilisations of the Ummah. We don’t do enough to illustrate to the peoples of our world the greatness of the Islamic civilisations, of the cultures of the past. And because they don’t know, they don’t know our history, they don’t know our literature, they don’t know our philosophy, they don’t know the physical environment in which our countries have lived. They view the Ummah in terminology which is completely wrong. And I personally feel that this is a matter of the greatest importance.

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Acceptance Address – Installation as a Foreign Associate Member of the Académie des Beaux-Arts, Kenzo Tange chair at the Institut de France (Paris, France)

[Google translation]: [Kenzo Tange] founded the “Tange Laboratory”, in which he will advise young architects whose Sachio Otani, Takashi Asada, Taneo Oki, Kisho Kurokawa, Arata Isozaki and Fumihiko Maki. The last two are well known to me. Arata Isozaki was the architect chosen by the University of Central Asia, which I am the chancellor, to build the three campuses of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan. As Fumihiko Maki, is the designer of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto and the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa.

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Preface to ‘The Aga Khan Museum’ by Philip Jodidio (Aiglemont)

It is important to note that what happens in North America, culturally, economically and politically, cannot fail to have worldwide repercussions — which is why the Museum will aim to contribute to a deeper understanding among cultures and to the strengthening of cultural pluralism: essential to peace, and to progress, in our world.

The developing political crises of recent years, and the considerable lack of knowledge of the Muslim world in many Western societies, are surely related. This ignorance spans all aspects of the peoples of Islam: their pluralism, the diversity of their interpretations of the Qur’anic faith, the chronological and geographical extent of their history and culture, as well as their ethnic, linguistic and social diversity….

This lack of knowledge manifests itself in a particularly serious way in Western democracies, where the public is often ill-informed about the Muslim world — an ignorance which then impacts the formulation of national and international policy vis-a-vis the Muslim world.

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Address at the ‘Musée-Musées’ Round Table Conference, Louvre Museum (Paris, France)

[The Islamic world’s view of its own future] is a world split into two tendencies: on the one hand, modernisers and believers in progressive change, on the other, traditionalists who might even be described as hidebound…. In this context, we thought it essential, whichever choice Muslim populations may indicate to their governments, to clarify certain aspects of the history of Muslim civilisations in order that today’s two main tendencies, modern and traditional, can base their ideas on historical realities and not on history that has been misunderstood or even manipulated….

[T]he Muslim world has always been wide open to every aspect of human existence…. The Qur’an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God’s creation. Our collection seeks to demonstrate the openness of Muslim civilisations to every aspect of human life, even going so far as to work in partnership with intellectual and artistic sources originating in other religions….

While some North American museums have significant collections of Muslim art, there is no institution devoted to Islamic art. In building the museum in Toronto, we intend to introduce a new actor to the North American art scene. Its fundamental aim will be an educational one, to actively promote knowledge of Islamic arts and culture. What happens on that continent, culturally, economically and politically, cannot fail to have worldwide repercussions — which is why we thought it important that an institution capable of promoting understanding and tolerance should exist there.

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2007 (10th) Aga Khan Award For Architecture Presentation Ceremony (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia)

If ignoring the past was a problem on one side, then the opposite danger was an exaggerated submission to the past, so that some creations and creators became prisoners of dogma or nostalgia. There is a danger, in every area of life, everywhere in the world, that people will respond to the hastening pace of change with an irrational fear of modernism, and will want to embrace uncritically that which has gone before. The Islamic world has sometimes been vulnerable to this temptation — and the rich potential for a new “Islamic modernism” has sometimes been under-estimated.

The Aga Khan Award was designed, in part, to address this situation, encouraging those who saw the past as a necessary prelude to the future and who saw the future as a fulfilling extension of the past. In my view, a healthy life, for an individual or a community, means finding a way to relate the values of the past, the realities of the present, and the opportunities of the future. The built environment can play a central role in helping us to achieve that balance.

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Philip Jodidio Interview (2nd) published in ‘Under the Eaves of Architecture’, ‘The Processes of Change’ (London, United Kingdom)

The vast majority of buildings in the developing world are not “architectured” buildings in the sense of the Western profession. That does not mean that quality buildings do not happen. They happen through a whole series of different processes, and not just the architectural process. The inherited knowledge of builders is remarkable. There is a whole body of inherited knowledge in developing countries, and in the Islamic world in particular, which is not driven by Western definitions of architecture.

When the Award started, the question arose about whether we were talking about that small window of “architectured” buildings in this enormous environment or whether we were talking about the whole process of change of that environment? … Very early on there was consensus that the Aga Khan Award could not be just for “architectured” buildings, it had to be an award for quality buildings no matter what the process of their creation…. The Award was very definitely an initiative to recognise the processes of building quality….

I think that the Award must evolve. Institutions that do not evolve tend to get marginalised. There are needs ahead of us which must be addressed by the Award. The biggest concern I would have is to recognise the processes of change, and to be certain that the Award plays an appropriate role in working with those processes so that they are not exclusive of quality in design or environmental concerns.

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American University in Cairo Commencement Ceremony (Cairo, Egypt)

At various times in world history, the locus of knowledge has moved from one centre of learning to another. Europe once came to the Islamic world for intellectual enrichment and even rediscovered its own classical roots by searching in Arabic texts. Astronomy, the so-called “Science of the Universe” was a field of particular distinction in Islamic civilisation, in sharp contrast to the weakness of Islamic countries in the field of Space research today. In this field, as in others, intellectual leadership is never a static condition, but something which is always shifting and always dynamic….

[Today] in keeping with our past traditions, and in response to our present needs, we must to [sic] go out and find the best of the world’s knowledge wherever it exists. But accessing knowledge, is only the first step. The second step, the application of knowledge, is also demanding. Knowledge, after all, can be used well or poorly, for good or evil purposes. Once we have acquired knowledge, it is important that the ethical guidelines of faith be invoked, helping us apply what we have learned to the highest possible ends. And it is also important that those ends be related to the practical needs of our peoples.

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2005 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

Many countries, nations at widely diverse stages of economic and social development, are expressing grave doubts about the effectiveness of their systems of education to develop the intellectual and moral talent they need to function in the modern world — and to engage all levels of their societies.

This vital work in education must be highly sensitive to local conditions, gain the confidence of parents and children and communities and draw upon the best research into brain development, nutrition, and learning theory. But it must also grasp the role and the importance of local values, for educational change is also a deeply moral enterprise. It will only flourish as part of a revitalisation of our societies.

A great risk to the modernisation of the Islamic world is identity loss — the blind assumption that we should give up all our essential values and cultural expressions to those of other civilisations.

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Message to The International Islamic Conference (Amman, Jordan)

Our historic adherence is to the Jafari Madhhab and other Madhahib of close affinity, and it continues, under the leadership of the hereditary Ismaili Imam of the time. This adherence is in harmony also with our acceptance of Sufi principles of personal search and balance between the zahir and the spirit or the intellect which the zahir signifies.

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The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Foundation Stone Ceremony (Ottawa, Canada)

The Delegation will serve a representational role for the Imamat and its non-denominational, philanthropic and development agencies which constitute the Aga Khan Development Network — the AKDN. An open, secular facility, the Delegation will be a sanctuary for peaceful, quiet diplomacy, informed by the Imamat’s outlook of global convergence and the development of civil society. It will be an enabling venue for fruitful public engagements, information services and educational programmes, all backed up by high quality research, to sustain a vibrant intellectual centre, and a key policy-informing institution….

The building will be a metaphor for humanism and enlightenment and for the humility that comes from the constant search for answers that leads inevitably to more questions…. An epitome of friendship to one and all, it will radiate Islam’s precepts of one humanity, the dignity of man, and the nobility of joint striving in deeds of goodness.

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DD TV (Delhi Doordarshan) Interview, Rajiv Mehrotra (New Delhi, India) ·· incomplete

I think one of the specifics of Islam is that you live your faith. And you are not one day in your faith and the next day out of your faith. It is a permanent presence. It is a presence which brings you happiness. It brings you objectives in life and therefore, I don’t think that one can make this sort of dichotomy. It is a permanency of thought, of attitude, of ethics…. It’s not that if you are in a meeting on a given issue, that you forget that behind these decisions you are taking are the ethical principles of your faith. And they have to be there all the time. Whatever you do….

[Democracy] is a form of government is now becoming very prevalent. But it doesn’t mean that it is necessarily good government. It doesn’t mean that it is necessarily government which is effective for the people that it is supposed to serve…. But the bridge between the notion of a modern democracy and issues of public consultation, meritocracy, these are all issues which bridge Islamic ethics and modern governance. And that is a very important area which I have been working in.

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