Contents of the ‘Collections’ category in chronological order.

State Banquet (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)

The commitment to cooperate is not only essential among peoples of different ethnic or religious backgrounds, or different classes, or philosophies. We must also build stronger bridges of cooperation between different sectors of social and economic leadership. I am pleased, for example, to be hearing more and more these days about “public/private partnerships. As we learn to work across the public/private dividing line, we can do things together we could never do separately….

I am pleased to announce the Aga Khan University’s decision to build a major new campus in East Africa — and to locate that campus in Arusha…. It is the biggest expansion step for the Aga Khan University since it opened in Pakistan almost 25 years ago. This new campus will be built over a period of fifteen years with a total investment of some 450 million dollars. It will include a new Faculty of Arts and Sciences and several graduate professional schools. It will be committed to teaching and research of world-class standards.

Read more »

Jamati Institutional Leaders Dinner (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania) ·· incomplete

And I am very excited by the prospects that I see ahead of our institutions in Africa and elsewhere, because I do genuinely feel convinced that the decades ahead can be very, very exciting for our Jamat world-wide if we are able to build in the various parts of the world where we are … continue to invest in intelligence, in knowledge, because that, after all, has been the sign of success throughout the history of the Ummah.

Read more »

Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, Residential Campus, Foundation Stone Ceremony (Mombasa, Kenya)

[A new] World Bank study confirms a central tenet of our Academies planning, our confidence in the value of a residential campus. We believe that students draw valuable life lessons not only from learning together but also from living together — especially if the mix of students is broadly diversified. The laying of this cornerstone symbolises this commitment to a residential experience. In addition, we are also committed to building an international network of similar schools so that those who are enrolled on any one campus will also be able to be study at other Academy sites….

As world affairs have been steadily transformed by the process of globalisation, the ability to command and control has become less important than the ability to anticipate, connect and respond. And educational institutions which can instill and enhance those capacities have become essential to effective development.

Educating effective future leaders is a high responsibility…. We must rise above the antiquated approaches of earlier days and instead infuse our students with what I would call three “A’s” of modern learning — the spirit of anticipation, the spirit of adaptation and the spirit of adventure.

Read more »

Commemoration of the 25th Anniversary of the Madrasa Programme (Mombasa, Kenya)

From the seed that was planted here in the Coastal Region some 25 years ago — when Bi-Swafiya Said received her grant from the Aga Khan Foundation — the East African Madrasa Programme has grown to include 203 pre-schools, with nearly 800 teachers, reaching some 30,000 households and serving more than 54,000 children. This is truly an inspiring story.

It is also important to note some additional distinctions concerning this programme. One is the Programme’s pluralistic, inclusive approach — embracing Muslim and non-Muslim children alike — and helping all of them to learn important lessons about diversity. Indeed, it is good to see that parents of different faiths are represented on the School Management Committees. It is striking that modern neuro-sciences have demonstrated that long before the age of 6, children are aware of the different cultural backgrounds amongst each other in their classes. It is thus before that age that pluralism can be instilled as a life value.

Read more »

State Banquet (Nairobi, Kenya)

Inter-governmental cooperation in many areas can be a key which unlocks the future in East Africa. This is why both the Imamat and the AKDN support the creation of new federal constructs in the region — including the concept of an East African Community. A federal concept simply means that governments will forge a united approach on matters which call for unity — and will operate in disparate ways when diverse approaches are better. To work of course, there must be a feeling of predictability as to who does what. And there must be a sense of equitable opportunity for all partners.

Federalism at its best need not be limited to governmental arrangements. Even as I commend the concept of a new East African Community on the political front, I would also encourage new region-wide approaches on the economic front, as well as in the civil society arena. Again, the dominant themes should be diversity, variety and experimentation — and an appropriate sharing of responsibilities.

History endorses the value of what I have called federal approaches — including the history of Islam — where some of the greatest chapters demonstrate how people who share a common faith can also embrace a broad diversity of local cultures.

Read more »

Faculty of Health Sciences of the Aga Khan University Inauguration Ceremony (Nairobi, Kenya)

[The Aga Khan University is] planning a number of new post-graduate schools in Pakistan and Eastern Africa, to meet important needs in both areas. Amongst these Graduate Schools will most probably be “Architecture and Human Settlement”, “Media and Communications”, “Tourism and Leisure”, “Management” and “Government, Public Policy and Civil Society”….

The central challenge of this new [Faculty of Health Sciences in Nairobi] will be to address the crucial health care priorities of the East African population — and indeed all of sub-Saharan Africa — from Sudan to Mozambique, from the Indian Ocean to the Atlantic.

The new Faculty of Health Sciences will educate future generations of professional leaders in the evidence-based practise of medicine. Emphasising both teaching and research, it will be accompanied by a major expansion of the Aga Khan University Hospital here, including a new Heart and Cancer Centre, which is scheduled to begin construction this year. What we envision here in the coming years is an institution of some 1,000 students and 175 faculty members, admitting students on a merit basis. Our new facilities, including a teaching hospital of 500 beds, will eventually occupy some 80,000 square meters. The total investment over the next fifteen years will be about 250 million dollars. When the project is complete, the Aga Khan University in Kenya alone will employ over 4,000 people.

Read more »

‘Tolerance a Religious Imperative’ published on newsweek.washingtonpost.com (USA)

[I]t is striking to me how many modern thinkers are still disposed to link tolerance with secularism — and religion with intolerance. In their eyes — and often in the public eye I fear — religion is seen as part of the problem and not part of the solution.

There are reasons why this impression exists. Throughout history we find terrible chapters in which religious conflict brought frightening results. When people speak these days, about an inevitable “Clash of Civilisations” in our world, what they often mean, I fear, is an inevitable “Clash of Religions.” But I would use different terminology altogether. The essential problem, as I see it, in relations between the Muslim world and the West is “A Clash of Ignorance.” And what I would prescribe — as an essential first step on both sides of that divide — is a concentrated educational effort….

Tolerance which grows out of hope is more than a negative virtue — more than a convenient way to ease sectarian tensions — more than a sense of forbearance. 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.

Read more »

Golden Jubilee Inaugural Ceremony (Aiglemont)

In a world where quality of life is increasingly measured in material terms there is risk that the essential value system of Islam will be eroded, or even threatened with disappearance. Political situations with a theological overlay are also causing disaffection or antagonism between communities of the same faith, and even more so amongst different faiths.

At the centre of this turbulence is Islam. We cannot let this continue. On the other hand, the sheer scale of the problem, added to its complexity, make it an issue which the Ummah, in its entirety, can better address, rather than individual schools of interpretation within it. It will be essential that while respecting their individual identities, various tariqahs within Islam should collaborate to articulate the common social and moral principles of our Islamic value system…. Islam is a faith of tolerance, generosity and spirituality…. Where we can build bridges with other tariqahs around a common Muslim cosmopolitan ethos, we should make this endeavour.

Read more »

L’Express Interview, Eric Chol and Christian Makarian, ‘The ethic of Islam rests on generosity’ (Paris, France)

[Google translation] It is necessary to constantly consider the relationship between the Ummah and the knowledge society. One realises that countries that have succeeded in reconciling both develop most quickly. On the other hand, those that reject or limit access to the knowledge society get left behind. My concept of Islam is a faith for all time, not backward looking.

In the Qur’an it is written that one must seek education to know Allah better, and share knowledge for the betterment of society. That is to say that in Islam, the links between faith and knowledge are very strong and we are constantly encouraged to learn. This is an extraordinary message for humanity.

Read more »

Masters of Public Affairs Programme, Institut d’Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po), Graduation Ceremony (Paris, France)

The question that must be asked, I believe, is not whether democracy is a good thing in the abstract, but rather how to help democracy perform better in practice. Do we really know what is going wrong? And why? Do we know what corrective steps should be taken? And by whom? These are massive questions, and I do not claim to know the answers. But I do believe that significantly more thought must be given to these issues, by the intelligentsia of our world, yourselves included….

As history demonstrates, so-called backward places can move forward over time. It is not unrealistic to plan for progress…. One of the reasons that I am more optimistic than some about the future of the developing world is my faith that a host of new institutions can play a larger role in that future. I am especially enthusiastic about the potential of what I call “civil society”….

Bringing a new sense of peace and order to [the complex situation of Islamic-Western relations] will require great subtlety, patience, understanding and knowledge. Sadly, none, I repeat none, of these requirements are sufficiently available amongst the main players today. There is clumsiness, not subtlety, there is impatience, not patience, there is a massive deficit in understanding and an enormous knowledge vacuum.

Read more »

Address to the Enabling Environment Conference (Kabul, Afghanistan)

The term “Enabling Environment” has two implications which I would underscore today. First, it reminds us that the conditions which enable progress can be extremely complex, that an entire “environment” of interacting forces must come together if development is truly to take root — and to take off.

Second — the term recognises that even the right environment is still only an enabling condition — not a sufficient one. Our conference title does not talk about an environment which “solves” or “cures” or “progresses” or “prevails” — but rather about an environment which “enables”. In the end, human progress must grow out of the human heart and soul. The environment enables — but it is the human spirit, guided and supported by the Divine Will, which eventually triumphs. What a sound Enabling Environment must do is to create a favourable framework in which human creativity can flourish….

Laying the State’s political foundation is a necessary first step for an Enabling Environment, but even effective government can take us only so far. And that is why we have been talking more in recent years about two other sectors: first, what I often call the role of “civil society” and, secondly, the capacities of the private sector.

Read more »

Preface to the book ‘Syria, Medieval Citadels Between East and West’ by Stefano Bianca (Aiglemont)

Such deep and abiding affinities [between Christendom and the Muslim world] demonstrate that so-called conflicts between East and West — whether past or present — are political or ideological constructs that have no real basis in deeper cultural and religious fact. Beyond and apart from the controversies highlighted by contemporary observers (and acerbated by modern nationalistic concepts originally alien to Islam) there has always been a tradition of cultural exchange, tolerance and mutual understanding — even during conflictual situations such as the invasion by the Crusaders. It is this ‘subterranean’ tradition of multicultural symbiosis and of tolerant pluralism, as exemplified by the cultural history of Syria, which needs to be brought to light again, in order to overcome stereotypical prejudices that aggravate any real or imaginary conflicts that may still exist.

Read more »

‘Splendori a Corte’ Opening Ceremony – An Exhibition from the Aga Khan Museum Collection (Parma, Italy)

This exhibition of artistic masterpieces from the Islamic world underlines that the arts, particularly when they are spiritually inspired, can become a medium of discourse that transcends the barriers of our day-to-day experiences and preoccupations. Many questions are currently being raised in the West about the Muslim world, with countless misconceptions and misunderstandings occurring between our contemporary societies. I hope that this exhibition will hold a special significance at a time which calls for enlightened encounters amongst faiths and cultures.

Read more »

Philip Jodidio Interview (2nd) published in ‘Under the Eaves of Architecture’, ‘The Process 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.

Read more »

2006 Aga Khan University Convocation Ceremony (Karachi, Pakistan)

If we judge from Islamic history, there is much to encourage us. For century after century, the Arabs, the Persians, the Turks and many other Islamic societies achieved powerful leadership roles in the world — not only politically and economically but also intellectually. Some ill-informed historians and biased commentators have tried to argue that these successes were essentially produced by military power, but this view is profoundly incorrect. The fundamental reason for the pre-eminence of Islamic civilisations lay neither in accidents of history nor in acts of war, but rather in their ability to discover new knowledge, to make it their own, and to build constructively upon it. They became the Knowledge Societies of their time.

Those times are over now. They are long gone. But if some people have forgotten or ignored this history, much of the Ummah remembers it — and, in remembering, asks how those times might be recaptured. There may be as many answers to that question as there are Muslims — but one answer which can be shared across the whole of the Ummah is that we must become full and even leading participants in the Knowledge Society of the 21st Century.

That will mean embracing the values of collaboration and coordination, openness and partnership, choice and diversity — which will under-gird the Knowledge Society, learning constantly to review and revise and renew what we think we know — learning how to go on learning. [Emphasis added]

Read more »

Kampala Serena Hotel Opening Ceremony (Kampala, Uganda)

Our intention is that the model we have adopted elsewhere in the region will also be applied here in this country — so that this major new hotel in the capital city can be followed, as soon as the necessary allocations are granted, by a quality circuit of new resorts and safari lodges in the Ugandan countryside. When that happens, a new East African travel circuit will be completed — featuring world class, state-of-the-art facilities, comprising a unique array of inspiring attractions, and offering a holiday experience “second-to-none”….

[O]ur goal is not merely to build an attractive building or to fill its rooms with visitors, but also to make a strategic investment which many private investors might be reluctant to make, but which promises to produce a magnificent multiplier effect as its impact ripples through the local communities….

AKFED is ready to take justified investment risks — to a greater extent than many other investors. We are ready to be patient investors, with a far-ranging vision. We are long-term players, maintaining our presence even during periods of economic or political turbulence.

Read more »

Ishkashim Bridge Opening Ceremony (Ishkashim, Tajikistan; Afghanistan)

In the recent past, in this region, bridges have opened at Tem, Darwaz and Langar. Like them, the Ishkashim Bridge is a concrete expression of cooperation amongst the Governments of Tajikistan and Afghanistan and the Aga Khan Development Network….

Each of the bridges I have mentioned has had a considerable moral and symbolic value, inspiring a spirit of confidence, progress and hope. But these projects also have a very concrete economic value, allowing for a substantial expansion of productive exchange. People in both countries are granted unprecedented access to markets beyond their immediate frontiers. Goods originating in Pakistan can now make their way to Tajikistan. Products from China now have a fast road transit to Afghanistan….

Links and meeting places created by the bridges do more than simply facilitate commerce. We exchange questions and answers. We trade in products, but we can also trade in ideas. Communities on each side of the border will know one another better and be better able to help one another grow, prosper and share the lessons of life.

Read more »

CBC Interview (3rd), One-on-One (1st) with Peter Mansbridge (Ottawa, Canada)

Baghdad is one of the great historic cities of the Islamic world. Iraq is not a new country. It’s part of the history of our civilisation. It’s been a pluralist country. Great philosophers, great historians, great scientists. Reverse the question again. What would the Christian world think if a Muslim army attacked Rome? I think there would be a general reaction in the Christian world, not just an Italian reaction….

Well, that [conflict, between the Shia and Sunni in Iraq,] was entirely predictable. Entirely predictable. There was nothing unpredictable. What you were effectively doing is replacing a Sunni minority government in a country that had a Shia demographic majority. And again, take the case out of its situation. What would happen — and I’m sorry to come back to this, but it’s important — if a Muslim army went into Northern Ireland and replaced one Christian interpretation by another? Imagine the fallout that that would cause in the Christian world itself.

Read more »

Funding Agreement for the Global Centre for Pluralism Signing Ceremony (Ottawa, Canada)

As Canadians know so well, the idea of pluralism is not a new one in this world. It has honourable and ancient foundations, including deep roots in Islamic tradition. What is new, today, is that society is globalised, intimately interconnected and extraordinarily interdependent. (1)

[Google translation] Many factors have contributed to this new order: the end of the Cold War, the advanced techniques of transport and communications, accelerated migration of peoples. But the impact of these forces is likely to intensify in the future. In my opinion, what we face now is a new and challenging period in human history, where the values and practices are more pluralistic secular just desirable — they have become absolutely essential — not only for the future of the world but also for our very survival.

Read more »

Spiegel Online Interview (2nd), Stefan Aust and Erich Follath, ‘Islam Is a Faith of Reason’ (Berlin, Germany)

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.

Read more »

Please answer our new poll, in the margin, and let us know why transcripts of the Imam's remarks are important to you. Thank you.