Posted: Tue Jul 15, 2008 8:23 am Post subject: OUTSTANDING PORTUGAL!!
I was indeed very joyous to note the following:
1. Many many people made it to Lisbon (despite the extremely late announcement). It was good to see the sacrifices and troubles that many of my fellow brothers & sisters took to come increase the splendour of Mowla´s Jubilees.
2. Our beloved Mowla was given a heartwarming welcome upon His arrival in Lisbon, including a dignified Guard of Honour and a mile-long avenua of Jamati members donning red and green caps and happily waving the My Flag and the Portugese Flag. Well done for this!
3. Good etiquette observed by my brothers and sisters at Mowla´s hotel (The Ritz). All jamati members obeyed instructions of the security, stood where asked and generally showed great cooperation. Our beloved Mowla responded to this through broad smiles, nods and/or waves everytime He entered and exited the lobby of the hotel. Here I must point out that our leaders made it very clear that jamat should not have been at the hotel at all, and should have awaited the darbar. They intimated that the jamat´s presence at the hotel was an invasion of Mowla´s privacy. I disagree strongly. Mowla selected a public hotel as His residence during His stay in Lisbon. Members of jamat who were also residing at the same hotel took the benefit of Mowla´s entries and exits through the lobby. Whilst in keeping with the instructions of the security, this I felt was within etiquette. It would have been an invasion of privacy if anybody had gone upto Mowla´s floor or upto His suite or had approached Him or disturbed Him whilst He was passing through the lobby. This did NOT happen. Therefore it was not correct of our leaders to make such a fuss and to openly infer that jamats´presence in the lobby was annoying and upsetting Mowla. Anyway hardly anyone listened because as I said Mowla´s smiles, nods and waves directly belied the words of the leaders. Many shukhranas to our beloved Mowla for having given us this invaluable opportunity of residing with Him and great benefit of so many glimpses in the lobby over His entire stay in Lisbon.
4. Most outstanding darbar was held on 13th July which in history is a significant date as you all know. Everything was well organised. The volunteers were extremely courteous and cooperative and above all our beloved Mowla was extremely happy and jovial throughout (see previous blogs written by my fellow brothers and sisters about jokes cracked by Mowla on broccolli!) I am so pleased to note that jamat has now begun clapping during the lighter moments of Mowla´s farmans and as we all saw in London as well as in Lisbon, the clapping made Mowla even more jovial, spurring Him on to crack even more jokes. Well done jamat and keep it up!
5. Mowla was given an emotional goodbye. Jamat in full attendance both in the hotel lobby and at the airport. Mowla left full of smiles, nods, waves and blessings of Khudahafeez to the jamat.
Therefore all in all Portugal Jubilee was wonderful, the only black spot as usual being presented by our esteemed leadershipwho once again angered the jamat with their outright untruths and underhanded behaviour at the hotel. I wish with all my heart that they will change their ways, now that they have openly seen how their efforts were thwarted by Mowla Himself, smiling, noding and waving at the jamat that they were desperately trying to get rid off, and insisting on two ocassions to pass through the spots where the jamat was gathered rather than the routes indicated by the leaders, which ofcourse, were designed to make Mowla avoid and bypass the jamat. Moreoever, Mowla also mentioned in His farman that our faith is not a faith of pain, nor is it a faith of hatred, nor should it be a faith of anger......
Posted: Tue Jul 15, 2008 10:00 pm Post subject: Hazar Imam comment about the next visit.
I was told this by a number of people - in Lisbon, that one of the leaders asked Hazar Imam about his next programme - the next visit - and Hazar Imam responded by saying - Ask the Canadian Jamat they seem to know my plans better than I do.
Mawlana Hazar Imam addresses leaders gathered at a dinner hosted by the Jamati institutions of Portugal in his honour. Photo: Zahur Ramji
This morning the Jamat of Portugal, together with murids from around the world, gathered at Parque das Nações in Lisbon for Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee Darbar.
In the afternoon, Mawlana Hazar Imam met with the Minister of Social Solidarity, Vieira da Silva.
Later in the evening, the Jamati institutions of Portugal hosted a dinner in honour of Mawlana Hazar Imam.
Additional photos are available in the photo gallery. Further updates on Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee visit to Portugal will continue to be posted at TheIsmaili.org.
Saturday, 12 July 2008
Mawlana Hazar Imam and the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, D. José Policarpo, walk together through the gardens of the Ismaili Centre in Lisbon. Photo: Gary OtteThis morning Mawlana Hazar Imam visited the Ismaili Centre in Lisbon, where he received the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education, Mariano Gago. Later, Hazar Imam was joined by the Cardinal Patriarch of Lisbon, D. José Policarpo.
Following their meeting, Mawlana Hazar Imam and the Cardinal Patriarch witnessed the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Catholic University of Portugal (UCP) and the Aga Khan University (AKU) by the Rector of the UCP and the President of the AKU. Also present was the Minister for Culture, José António de Melo Pinto Ribeiro.
In the evening, Mawlana Hazar Imam, accompanied by Prince Rahim, hosted a reception at the Ismaili Centre for diplomats, leaders of government and civil society institutions in Portugal.
Also see the related press release and photos at the AKDN website.
first and foremost: Didar Mumbarakis to all. Next: our MHI has sent His
best loving blessings to you all, individually. Via this email, Anis and
I wanted to convey this to you as part of our duty and also will try to
give you the jist of His message to us.
The total number of murids in attendance was about 10 to 11,000. MHI
looked a little pensive in the beginning but soon became amazingly jolly
and happy. Some people remarked that they observed it seemed his hand
was hurting him as he was constantly rubbing it. We were rather far to
see that for ourselves.
His message was pretty similar for the most part. At the outset He
complimented and blessed the volunteers (who in our opinion have worked
very hard and have done a great job for so small a jamat) He said Islam
is not a religion of Anger or Hatred or Pain. It is a faith of Happiness
and he wanted us to be happy in our lives and smiles on our faces ALL
THE TIME. He reiterated the 3 pillars of this Golden Jubillee: to help
and care for the Aged, to fight poverty and to have better Imamat
Institutions in place, by the end of the Jub year, to build
He spoke with great emotion about His delight with the nazrana from the
jamat esp the TKN.....He wants best practices instituted everywhere. We
have never seen Him speak so fervently about the TKN and the need to
help the jamat and institutions globally.
He thanked the Portugesee Govt and was very happy that they had agreed
to an agreement to help and work with Islamic and Muslim issues as they
arose in the world from now on, to work with His Imamat and
Institutions. He spoke most warmly about Portugal and said this
understanding was remarkable given that Portugal was essentially a
Then he briefly mentioned the evils of Smoking and Drugs, next he became
very very jolly......he started to expound, in a very funny way to talk
about the benefits (as the doctors and dietiticians say) of eating
BROCOLLEE. He said this word with hand action and using an Italian like
accent. He remarked how short and stubby BROCOLLEE was and even had
whiskers. He said jokingly that it was an ugly vegetable but it might be
extraordinary if the winner of the Beijing Olympics in the 100 metre
sprint won not because of steroids but because of BROCOLLEE.
Admittedly, Anis and i have not been to many darbars but we would like
to convey to us that we have never seen MHI being so funny and have the
murids in ongoingly fits of real loud laughter.......it was amazing how
MHI used this one word or vegetable and using his fantastic language and
hands conveyed such fun and laughter to us.
He reminded us on the basic principles of our faith and that we should
take the name of Allah, Hazrat Ali and the Imams as prayer at any time,
not just when it was prayer time.
He said that the next 2 to 3 years would be economically difficult and
that we should use Wisdom and Foresight. That we should build
associations with others in similars businesses and professions and work
together rather than being INDIVIDUALISTIC.He said jokingly He wished we
would not be so INDIVIDUALISTIC However He said that there should be
fair exits for those who wanted to leave these groups and that the
proper papers should be in place to have this.
He spent lots of time with the large non Ismaili crowd outside....it was
extraordinary how much time He gave to talking to so many who had stood
outside the hall. He shook hands with many and joked with them
smilingly. They were reaching out to touch him and shake His hand. There
were not many sick and disabled in the corner of the hall and He walked
among them on His way out and stopped to bless one of them.
Once again mumbarakis to you all. We hope you have see this as you start
your day there today (its now 6 am in Calgary as we write this) and
smile and be happy as our beloved Bapa wants us to be.
THE Aga Khan, Imam of the Shia Ismaili Moslems, has visited Portugal at the formal invitation of the government.
The Aga Khan's five-day visit to the country, which ended last Tuesday, was part of a series of visits around the world to mark his Golden Jubilee year, the 50th anniversary of his becoming the imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Moslems, an ethnically diverse community whose members reside in more than 25 countries, including Portugal.
During his visit, the Aga Khan held meetings with President Cavaco Silva, as well as with the president of the parliament and the prime minister.
His schedule also included meetings with the United Nations High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations, the former president Jorge Sampaio.
On the second day of his visit, the Aga Khan signed an Agreement of International Co-operation between the Ismaili Imamat and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Portugal.
During the past 50 years, the Aga Khan has overseen the growth of one of the largest private development networks in the world.
The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) is engaged in a wide range of activities in various fields, including education, healthcare, rural development, and cultural and economic development.
These activities, which are undertaken in some of the world's poorest regions are aimed at the common good for all citizens, regardless of their race, gender or religion.
The work of the Aga Khan Development Network is well recognised internationally and is undertaken under the auspices of its nine agencies as well as in partnership with governments and many leading multilateral agencies.
In 2005, a protocol of co-operation was signed between the Ismaili Imamat and the Government of the Republic of Portugal. In the same year, the Aga Khan Foundation Portugal and the Patriarchate of Lisbon formalised a Partnership Agreement that provides the framework for co-operation in an innovative urban community support programme, designed to tackle social exclusion and urban poverty.
The Aga Khan University and the Catholic University of Portugal earlier signed an agreement of collaboration as part of their efforts to foster scholarly understanding between diverse cultures.
Posted: Tue Jul 22, 2008 9:41 am Post subject: Testimony from a family member
YAM and greetings to all in Nairobi.
Hope all is well down there now.
We had a very good darbar here. Bapa was really happy and cracked many jokes, especially about broccoli. I thought of all of you during the deedar and prayed to Bapa to bless you all as well. I will send you the farman when I get a copy.
Just want to share this one experience I had:
After the darbar, I was on duty outside, near the group of non-ismaili spouses who had been gathered a short distance away from Bapa’s car. Bapa spent about 20 to 30 mins in his lounge. When he came out, he was very very happy and all smiles. He stopped to speak to the Scouts who were lined up on the side. As he did this, he moved his hands about a lot and I could see he was really smiling. When he moved away, I saw a small purple flower in his hand. Maybe one of the scouts gave him. Bapa walked past his car to the non ismailis. Again he was really smiling as he walked along the entire group, stopping from place to place to speak to them. As Bapa came closer to where I was standing, I could hear the words “Have a happy day” and “Unity in your families”. Then Bapa came towards the end of the group, very close to my spot. I could see him very clearly now. This is the closest I have ever been to Bapa physically! I even saw the colour of his eyes. They are brown.
Infront of me was a man holding a little boy. Bapa took the child’s hand in his and smilingly asked the man if this was his child. The man nodded and Bapa smiled at the boy. Then Chairmansahib of Portugal introduced another man to Bapa and said something about him. Bapa shook his hand and said thank you, thank you, I really appreciate everything you have done. If you need anything, please ask the council. I guess he must have given some donations. Then there was a group of three people standing next to him. Bapa turned to them and laughingly asked if they had enjoyed the jokes about that ugly vegetable broccoli that everyone was always asked to have. They smiled and nodded. Then Bapa turned towards his car but suddenly turned back, came closer to them and smilingly gave them very many blessings for happiness and wished them the best and then said goodbye to them and mentioned that he would see them soon. Bapa turned and went to his car and a few minutes later the car started moving and he came closer to the window and waved to all of us with both hands.
Abdulbhai, this was really a very wonderful chance!! I had tears in my eyes. I was so excited and happy. I also went up to the three people and congratulated them and told them they were very lucky. To my surprise, I found out that they were ismailis from Kenya! They had come out of the darbar hall to search for a taxi and some of my fellow volunteers asked them to wait over here until Bapa’s car departed and then they would help find them a taxi. What a wonderful chance they got. No wonder they were jumping up and down with excitement. Afterwards, I realised that no wonder Bapa started talking about broccoli to them. He knew they were ismailis. But ofcourse, Bapa is all-knowing na? I say lakho lakho shukranas for the very rare opportunity he blessed me with. Anyway Abdulbhai, take care and give my regards to nani and all the others and share with them this wonderful experience I had. Also, see if you can locate these three people from Nairobi. They were so excited I couldn’t get any more information from them but there were two women and one man. It seemed they were a family.
Miss you all.
The Western world should accept that Islam does not separate the world from faith.
He considers himself a spiritual leader as opposed to a powerful businessman. He is interested in fighting poverty by promoting self-sufficiency to people and culture. He believes that calling upon faith in conflict situations affects all religions. The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims, 71 years of age, rarely gives interviews. During his passage through Lisbon , some days ago, he spoke to P2.
By António Marujo and Faranaz Keshavjee
Courteous, ever smiling, those who are close to him say he is demanding. That is what happens in the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a group of agencies working in fields such as micro-finance, rural development or even in lucrative sectors such as tourism, aviation, banking or industry. Shah Karim Al-Husseini. Aga Khan IV, as he designated by the Ismailis, took on the role of 49th hereditary Imam of the Time (since Prophet Muhammad), on July 11th 1957.
He was in Portugal , some days ago, to mark the conclusion of his Golden Jubilee.
PÚBLICO - Within the religious context, the term "your sanctity" is used when addressing a religious leader. Such is the case of the Pope or the Dalai Lama. In your case, Your Highness is...
AGA KHAN - yes, it is a secular title...
....you are invited by Governments, you have a diplomatic statute, you are known for your personal wealth...
....from what people say about my personal wealth. I can assure you that they do not have access to my accounts. I can also say that, if at any given time, the banks would lend me money based on what the news reports say, I would be very rich! (laughs). However, I could not compete with Mr. [Bill] Gates in this area, I can assure you.
Are we looking at powerful businessman or a religious Muslim leader?
No, I have nothing to do with entrepreneurship; in Islam, an Imam, whether Shia or Suni, has responsibilities, firstly for the safety of the community; secondly, he is responsible for the quality of material life, for the daily lives. The nature of Imamat is, therefore, of becoming involved in activities which will have a direct impact on the quality of people's lives.
If this work is undertaken under the name of Aga Khan it is undertaken in the name of the Imamat and not under the Aga Khan's personal name. I have undertaken some personal initiatives is several companies, but do not hold anything which may have resulted from them, because I have other issues which I am concerned with.
Don't you really have anything?
The only thing which is still private is a long tradition in the organisation of horse racing and horse breeding, which my children have given continuity to. But I am not, or ever will be, an entrepreneur.
I am the sole shareholder of the Aga Khan Development Network, but I never withdraw dividends, because the objective is to serve from the resources, and not to make them personal. The notion that an institution carrying the name Aga Khan is personal is incorrect. Whether it be a University, a school or a project in the field of micro-finance.
In 1976, you mentioned that Prophet Muhammad understood the importance of new solutions for the daily lives that would not affect the principles of Islam. Does this motivate the undertakings of the AKDN?
Definitely. Firstly, the notion of dealing with poverty. Islam has a group of very strong orientations on how to help people, which is different (no more or less better) from the Christian world. For example, in Islam, we do not use the terms philanthropy or charity [as in Christianity].
Islam says that the best form of charity, to use the term, is by helping people to become self-sufficient. It is to give in such a way that the person becomes master of one's own destiny. This is a very clear affirmation to all Muslims, and it underlies our health programmes, education...it is helping people to help themselves. The same is applicable to micro-finance. Whatever the need of the poor, one should help to resolve it. One does not specify material poverty, disease, or divisions within the family.
Does daily life carry the same importance as eternal life?
In Islam, they are the same thing. One cannot separate faith from the world. This is one of the greatest difficulties that the non-Muslim world has, because the judaic-christian societies developed with that notion of separation. For the Muslims, that separation is not possible. We are expected to live our faith every day, in every hour.
One of the difficulties that we are facing in the Muslim and non-Muslim worlds, is the articulation of the difference in values in a comprehensive form. However, this does not mean that we are in conflict. They are just different values.
One of the differences is laicality, debated in countries such as as Portugal , Turkey , France . For many, faith should remain confined to a private space. You mentioned that Islam doesn't separate faith from the world. How do you perceive this notion?
I would like the non-Muslim societies to accept the values of Islam. If Islam says that we do not separate the world from faith, the Western world should accept that. I would go further and say: it is a wonderful way to live! It is an extraordinary blessing to be able to live our faith everyday! Making ethic the way in which you live your daily life, and not only in occasions such as death, a marriage or a birth.
I am not criticising anyone. I am saying that secular society, by the nature of secularity and the demands of time, provokes in people the need to first place the world and faith after. This is not a part of Islam.
Upon receiving the Award for Tolerance from the Tutzing Evangelic Academy , in Germany , you stated: "Instead of shouting at one another, we should listen to each other and learn from each other". You said that "fear is the source of intolerance". In spite of your words and those of several religious leaders, many believers do not listen to this message. What is yet to be done?
There will always be limits in inter-religious dialogue, when religions, in their essence, cannot attain a consensus above a common platform, when proselytism is, therefore, worth more. There are several forms of proselytism and, in several religions, proselytism is demanded. Therefore, it is necessary to develop the principle of a cosmopolitan ethic, which is not an ethic oriented by faith, or for a society. I speak of an ethic under which all people can live within a same society, and not of a society that reflects the ethic of solely one faith. I would call that ethic, quality of life.
I have serious doubts about the ecumenical discourse, and about what it can reach, but I do not have any doubts about cosmopolitan ethics. I believe that people share the same basic worries, joys, sadness. If we can reach a consensus in terms of cosmopolitan ethics, we will have attained something which is very important.
The Qu'ran has a very important ayat [verse], in which God says: "I have created you" - "you" means mankind - "male and female, from one sole, only one soul". This is the most extraordinary expression on the unity of the human race. It is within this context that we must work.
In Lisbon , a couple of weeks ago, Rabi René Sirat suggested a sort of G8 of religious leaders. Could this be a good idea, for the progress of inter-religious dialogue?
Inter-religious dialogue, yes, but I would prefer that it be based upon a cosmopolitan ethic. It would have to include non-believers. Because I am talking about human society and I cannot judge an individual's belief at any given time, in his life or mine. My experience is that belief is not necessarily constant; it varies according to age, to one's circumstances and the family in which one was educated.
In religions such as Islam or Christianity, torment and pain are a part of faith. In Shiism and other Muslim groups, martyrdom has thus been viewed. How must one live Islam?
We should firstly look at the notion of martyrdom which has been expressed, in all religions, as an individual's effort to defend is faith. Martyrdom is the response to an attack - here, you had the Inquisition, for example... I do not believe that currently Islam is under attack. There are primarily political and not theological issues, which were bred from political conflict, and were afterwards connected to religious aspects. And that is true for Northern Ireland or the Middle East .
Islam is different. If we are happy, as Muslims, we should thank God for our happiness. God reflects his presence, not only through suffering in human life, but through happiness, through friendship. There is no requisite that says a Muslim cannot be a happy person. One can find expressions of happiness in the Qu'ran, we do not, in any way, face happiness as unreligious.
The Ismailis are known as a very generous community in material terms. However, during these Golden Jubilee celebrations, you have introduced the notion of Time and Knowledge. What is it about?
In Shia Islam, intellect is a key component of faith. Intellect allows us to understand the creation of God. We live in a world in which there is increasingly more information that people can employ. The question is, how we access it and how we employ it. In many countries in which we work, in Africa and in Asia , there is a colonial history, and they are facing difficulties in overcoming that history to the history of today and the objectives for tomorrow.
One of the ways to solve the problem is through institutional and human enablement, so that society can create its own knowledge base, through universities, research, etc. Sharing time and knowledge is saying that I will make available the knowledge that I have to those people who, otherwise, would not have access to it. One would make it available in such a form that this knowledge could be employed in building capacities for the future, which can happen in many different forms: joint research, teachers teaching in a school over a couple of years in order to increase the quality in teaching mathematics, financial institutions that develop products for micro-finance.
Do you restrict the concept to these fields?
I would like to see the employment of time and knowledge in areas which we desperately need. One of these is government. The constitutionality of the developing world is one of the fundamental weaknesses. We see this is Africa, in Asia : the constitutions were built in such a way that they do not correspond to the demographical structures or to the political structures of these countries. And governments are suffering from increasing difficulties.
These are areas that we desperately need, in order to promote good governance, the quality of medicine or education. During the 50's and 60's, we faced a conflict of dogmas, between the Soviet empire's communism and the West's capitalism. The debate about development was developed around numbers.
As in, for example?
One would ask: how many people had access to education or health services. No one wondered whether the teaching was so bad that it became useless. Or whether healthcare was so horrible that people were paying for treatments they should never pay for. Or where the best minds were going, who was leaving their country because there weren't institutions concerned with quality. One of the things we want to do in AKDN, is try to build quality in our institutions [see P2 days 6, 8, 10, 21 July].
The late (Pakistani President) Zia ul-Haq, when delivering the letter for the Aga Khan University , only demanded three conditions. One of them was: "Give Pakistan a medical science faculty where the graduates obtain degrees that are worldly recognised." A country with 140 million inhabitants had courses in medicine that were not recognised anywhere else.
In Paris , during the month of June, you mentioned a notion of habitat from a cultural point of view and in benefit of the poor. Is culture, as a synthesis of all the dimensions in life, more important than the economy, which has been attributed so much value?
Culture has a very important impact in people's perception about the legitimacy of pluralism. We can see that in many recent crisis in Africa and Asia , when there were conflicts amongst the communities, one of the main targets were the cultural expressions of those communities...
As in the Buddhas of Bamiyan, in Afghanistan ...
....culture is perceived as the property of a given community. If we protect the pluralism of cultures, we are protecting the notion that pluralism is a part of human society and of our history.
One of the first things that the poor do, from the moment in which they can save, even in small quantities, is to spend their savings in the betterment of their habitat. They put metal roofs on African huts, they consolidate the buildings in urban peripheries. The habitat's quality is an indicator of the quality of life.
One of the major problems is knowing whether the progress in the quality of the habitat is technically safe and intelligent. In many cases, it is technically unsafe, because people do not understand how one progresses from an unintelligent habitat to an intelligent one. You can observe this in the coastal areas of Africa and Asia, or in the seismic regions of Asia . Although habitats vary, they do not contemplate technical changes as they should.
So, culture is important?
Yes, culture is important. People invest in their habitat as an example of the quality of life. And, yes, there are enormous problems in changing the habitat whilst quality of life. I am very frustrated: if I look at the map of the Islamic world, there is a massive concentration of Muslims in the most seismic regions in the world. But what do we learn? Can we make people live differently? Can they build differently? Can they can move from high risk areas and valleys to low risk areas?
In Professor Daftary's book about the history of the Ismailis [edited by the Catholic University ], he writes that Sunni Islam is responsible for the notion that Islam is monotheistic (monolithic?). We know that Islam is plural, but what is specific about Ismailism?
It is part of the Shia tradition, and not Sunni. It also has a living Imam, who is the Imam of the Time, as opposed to other Shia traditions, which presently do not have a living Imam. Thirdly, it has a very international community, with its own pluralism. We have traditions which co-exist with this time, but with different histories: that of Central Asia, of Pakistan , and the Indian sub-continent, of Syria ... Therefore, we have to bring them together: we teach our faith in seven different languages because of this pluralism.
However, in the Islamic world, as in the Christian world, there have existed attempts of normativism - that is, the imposition of a unique perspective within the ummah [community of believers]. That has been rejected since the time of the Prophet, because he himself acknowledged that, in his time, diversity in the interpretation of faith already existed. If you read the hadith [teachings of the Prophet], you will note that he was called upon many times, by the members of the Muslim community, to interpret the Qu'ran or a specific ayat.
Then, there can be various interpretations?
The diversity in interpretation is something that is inherent to human society. The attempt to normativise has a very little chance to succeed and it would be unethical to the essence of Islam. There is a very famous ayat in the Qu'ran that says: "To yourself, your faith. To myself, my faith." There is a great debate about whether this ayat refers to the intra-Muslim relationship or to the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslims. But the ayat is there!
In many occasions, the name of God is used for certain acts of violence. Why don't religious leaders speak out about these situations?
We do it. In societies where a particular vision is being imposed, we have contributed for that not to occur. But we do act, we just don't mention that we did this or that. We are a discreet community, it is one of our traditions.
The use of faith in a conflict situation unfortunately affects all religions. In India there are Hindus fighting against Muslims, in Northern Ireland there are Catholics fighting against Protestants, In Afghanistan, Shias against Sunnis. Unfortunately, it is a part of faith; better yet, they are emanations of faith. Personally, I would prefer it if pluralism was valued, instead of fighting it.
What can one do to overcome conflict?
Where conflict exists, one must procure a mediated solution. Everything we do should be in the sense of preventing situations from becoming conflicts. However, there are cases where the forces in action are out of our control. These forces are fear, insecurity, communities who think they are at risk and therefore react, out of fear.
There is a second reason: the iniquity of society. There are desperately poor isolated communities. They look for solutions, but always accuse those who they understand as the reason for their despair. What we do, is anticipate where these forces may become dangerous, by trying to overcome the problem of extreme poverty and of despair. We have done it and, in some cases, we have succeeded.
Faith is sometimes used to justify war, but in most cases faith is not the cause, there are other forces, to which faith is added. When that happens, it is much more difficult to overcome.
In Islam, as in Christianity, the role of the female has been debated. There are people who say that they would like to see your daughter, Princess Zahra, as the next Imam. However, tradition claims it has to be the eldest son...
As far as I know, there is no Muslim community in history that has had a woman as Imam.
In that case, we can never see a woman as Imam?
Absolutely not. However, women in our society are capable of developing a leadership role. Zahra studied at Harvard, has worked in the sense of helping to create capacities in various parts of the world. She is the first woman in my family with a university education, and I would hope that the future generations will refer both to men and women.
I do not want you to perceive that women are not valued. Women are very, very valued. If you look at the history of Islam, Khadija, the Prophet's first wife, had an extremely important role, both in his spiritual life, as in his worldly life.
How are the projects which you have launched in Portugal ? Can we expect to have, in Lisbon , a school of excellence as part of your network of academies?
Portugal is a very important country...
Is that why you have come to celebrate your Golden Jubilee?
I have been to several other places. But Portugal has very important factors: in the Portuguese society, pluralism is a social construction which functions and that is relevant in any society, whether it be industrial or of any other kind. Secondly, there is a political wish to recognise the structures of faith and to give them an appropriate role in society.
The third reason is that Portugal has an extraordinary history and the country understands pluralism. The majority of Portuguese history has been its involvement in pluralism over centuries, in your history there is an acceptance of difference. What we now want to do with Portugal is to reflect over issues which we want to deal with in the future.
And what are they?
One of them is the relation between Europe , or the Western world, with the rest of the Muslim world, to do everything we can to work together and to enable mutual understanding. An institution such as the Academy would bring people together in a pluralistic education, with curricular contents that would not necessarily be part of the standard education in Portugal . Therefore, we work with the International Baccalaureate, to which other contents which we deem necessary are added.
We also want to build bridges, from the Portuguese institutions, to build civil society outside of Portugal . We have to look at the decades of governing fragility in Asia and in Africa , and probably elsewhere. One of the most creative forms of corresponding to this frailty is by building a civil society.
If you look towards Bangladesh today, the country has a very fragile government, but has progressed because civil society institutions are working. If you speak with Koffi Annan and ask him what are the resources that he was able to mobilise in Kenya , to unite [the Prime Minister Raila] Odinga and [President] Kibaki at the same table, he will tell you: civil society was the most powerful force.
And can Portugal help?
The majority of developing countries cannot build civil society as rapidly as would be desirable. Therefore, we have to get hold of it from everywhere we can. Portugal has a solid civil society! You are humble with that respect, but you shouldn't be.
We are very honoured and proud by the fact that the Portuguese government and its institutions want to work with us. We will do everything that is possible to establish this partnership. I believe it may even become a case study for other countries. You are very creative in relation to your perspectives for the future.
That is a great responsibility.
You know, that the smaller we are, the greater are our responsibilities. And this is true for the communities, it is true for the countries...
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