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Aga Khan Speech at Harvard on COSMOPOLITAN ETHICS

 
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 17, 2015 7:05 am    Post subject: Aga Khan Speech at Harvard on COSMOPOLITAN ETHICS Reply with quote

THE WEATHERHEAD CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

warmly welcomes you to the

SAMUEL L. AND ELIZABETH JODIDI LECTURE

His Highness the Aga Khan

on

CHALLENGES TO PLURALISM AND COSMOPOLITANISM TODAY


Date: Thursday, November 12, 2015, 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Location: Memorial Church, One Harvard Yard, Cambridge, MA 02138


Photo of His Highness the Aga KhanHis Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, a global, multiethnic community whose members comprise a wide diversity of cultures, languages, and nationalities. The Aga Khan succeeded his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, as Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims in 1957 at the age of twenty. He has emphasized the view of Islam as a thinking, spiritual faith: one that teaches compassion and tolerance and that upholds the dignity of man.
Since taking on his role, the Aga Khan has been committed to improving the quality of life of the most vulnerable populations, while emphasizing the need to uphold human dignity as well as respect for tolerance and pluralism. His Highness accomplishes this through the work of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a group of private, international, and nondenominational agencies working to improve living conditions and opportunities for people in specific regions of the developing world.
After the lecture there will be a conversation with Diana Eck – Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies; Member of the Faculty of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School; Fredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University.
This event is co-sponsored by the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program, Harvard University.
Please Note:

Admission is free. Tickets Required. Limit of 2 tickets per person. In person ticket distribution only at the Harvard Box Office starting Wednesday, November 4th.
We ask that all attendees be seated by 3:45 p.m.
This event will be live streamed


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2015 7:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

agakhanacademies.org/general/his-highness-deliver-distinguished-lecture-harvard


His Highness to Deliver Distinguished Lecture at Harvard

03 November 2015

On 12 November 2015 (approx. 4pm Boston time), His Highness the Aga Khan will deliver the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University, one of the university’s most distinguished lectureships. He is expected to speak on the challenges to pluralism and cosmopolitanism: The Cosmopolitan Ethic in a Fragmented World. It will be webcast live on the AKDN web site.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 03, 2015 7:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

"The Cosmopolitan Ethic in a Fragmented World"
His Highness the Aga Khan

Livestream of Harvard University's Jodidi Lecture
Thursday November 12, 2015 at 3:00 pm
Herring Hall 100, Rice University
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 04, 2015 8:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A Life’s Work Battling Religious Illiteracy

As prejudice toward Muslim Americans heightens, a Harvard professor welcomes the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of Shia Ismaili Muslims, and a champion of pluralism
NOVEMBER 2015

By Meg Murphy

Ali Asani is once again disheartened about the destruction of another cultural treasure as a result of narrow exclusivist mentalities taking root in nations all over the world. In the Middle East this exclusivism is associated with the upsurge of tribalism that threatens the very existence of nation-states. When the self-declared Islamic State recently decimated the iconic Arch of Triumph in Palmyra, Syria, Asani was horrified but not surprised. We are suffering a worldwide “clash of ignorances,” he said, as people of different faiths and cultural traditions fail to understand and engage positively with their differences and, instead, in their intolerance seek to eliminate difference by destroying “the other.”

Asani, a professor of Indo-Muslim languages and cultures at Harvard and a faculty affiliate at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, recently sat down for an interview about this dangerous global climate and his own influential academic work fostering literacy about Islam and Muslim cultures through the arts. Our conversation preceded the arrival of His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of Shia Ismaili Muslims. The Imam has been invited to deliver the Weatherhead Center’s prestigious Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture at Harvard. His ideas on pluralism and calls for the urgent need to foster better understanding between cultures have been a significant inspiration for Asani. The term “clash of ignorances” is drawn from the Aga Khan, a major advocate of the same peaceful reconciliation that Asani’s work in Islamic studies attempts to move us toward.

In his Harvard office, Asani was surrounded by floor-to-ceiling books, many by his favorite poet, the famous thirteenth-century Muslim Persian mystic Mawlana Rumi, whose stunning poetry is embedded in a framework of Islamic mysticism that draws on the Qur’an and the traditions of the prophet Muhammad. It has touched people from diverse backgrounds by universalizing experience because, as Asani said, such is the nature of poetry and, indeed, the arts.

Asani’s own teaching and scholarship draw on a broad range of disciplines, as he approaches the study of Islam as far more than theology and doctrines. His research focuses on Shia and Sufi devotional traditions, and many of his books examine the artistic expression of mysticism, such as Celebrating Muhammad: Images of the Prophet in Muslim Devotional Literatures (co-authored with Kemal Abdel-Malek) and also, Ecstasy and Enlightenment: The Ismaili Devotional Literatures of South Asia. Asani uses sound, visual, and literary arts to transcend ideological barriers and provide an opportunity to engage with different cultures. His approach was shaped by his mentor, Annemarie Schimmel, one of the twentieth century's most influential scholars of Islam. On the basis of her experiences living in different Muslim societies and studying their literatures and cultures, she believed passionately in drawing on the power of the arts to educate and transform. She was fond of quoting the German philosopher Johann Herder (d. 1803) who wrote “From poetry we learn about eras and nations in much greater depth than through the deceitful and miserable ways of political and military war-histories.”

In our conversation, Asani spoke about the overwhelming cultural and religious illiteracy in society today. To secure our future, we must change the ignorant ways in which people perceive and imagine each other, he said. Stereotypes and humiliating caricatures must be replaced by understanding and respect for different perspectives. Never has that mattered more than it does today, he said.

More...

http://wcfia.harvard.edu/publications/epicenter/november_2015

Events Details:

http://wcfia.harvard.edu/event/jodidi-2015

Tickets for this event have sold out! Watch the lecture live.

This event is co-sponsored by the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program, Harvard University.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 05, 2015 6:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote



Do not forget to follow the live webcast of H.H. The Aga Khan forthcoming Speech at Harvard on :


http://wcfia.harvard.edu/live?utm_content=buffer1e635&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 7:33 pm    Post subject: Press Release AKDN = 2015 Jodidi lecture Reply with quote

His Highness the Aga Khan Speaks at Harvard University on November 12

The Webcast has concluded.

Cambridge, MA, 12 November 2015 -- His Highness the Aga Khan delivered the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. Entitled “The Cosmopolitan Ethic in a Fragmented World”, his lecture covered the challenges to pluralism and cosmopolitanism.

The Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture provides for “the delivery of lectures by eminent and well-qualified persons for the promotion of tolerance, understanding and good will among nations, and the peace of the world.” Since its establishment in 1955, the lecture has featured heads of state, diplomats and international public figures, including a former secretary-general of the United Nations, past president of the World Bank, and the secretary general of the European Council.

After the lecture, the Aga Khan spoke with Diana L. Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies and Fredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society, Department of South Asian Studies, Harvard University. She is also a Member of the Faculty of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School, a Harvard College Professor, and Director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.sfchronicle.com/news/us/article/Muslim-leader-calls-for-more-understanding-6628300.php

Muslim leader calls for more understanding among cultures

November 12, 2015 Updated: November 12, 2015 3:49pm


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — A prominent imam speaking at Harvard University on Thursday rejected the notion of a fundamental "clash of civilizations" between the Muslim World and the West and called for greater cultural understanding.

The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of some 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims, told a packed audience that society must strive to be more "pluralist" and "cosmopolitan," meaning people should actively seek out difference and diversity and learn from it.

He said globalization should not mean the creation of a single, homogenized society where all differences are erased, but one where what we have in common and what makes us different is respected.

"In my view, the deeper problem behind any prospective clash of civilizations is a profound clash of ignorances. And, in that struggle, education will be an indispensable weapon," he told his audience at Memorial Church.

To Muslims, he issued a reminder that a central tenet of Islam is celebrating the "common humanity" among all the world's people. The Aga Khan is considered a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

"My hope is that the voices of Islam itself will continue to remind the world of a tradition that, over so many centuries, has so often advanced pluralistic outlooks and built some of the most remarkable societies in human history," he said.

Ismaili Muslims are a branch of Shia Islam with followers in Asia, Africa the Middle East and North America. The Aga Khan is their 49th imam.

In his speech, he also noted how technology has helped people become more interconnected but has made the world more fragmented.

"We have more communication, but we also have more confrontation," he said. "Even as we exclaim about growing connectivity, we seem to experience greater disconnection."

He also touched on his time at Harvard, where he had been a 20-year-old junior and a member of the university soccer team when he succeeded his grandfather to become imam in 1957. And he highlighted the work his international development organization, the Aga Khan Development Network, does to address poverty, health care and education in developing countries.

His talk Thursday, the university's Jodidi Lecture, was part of a series by Harvard's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 8:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jodidi lecture 2015

Photos from sfchronicle.com/news/us/article/Muslim-leader-calls-for-more-understanding-6628300.php#photo-8948985

San Francisco Chronicles

12 November 2015














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PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 8:32 pm    Post subject: Jodidi 2015 Speech by H.H. The Aga Khan Anecdote Reply with quote

"No, No, No! "said the Imam to the Security Guards. The Imam had just come out of the building after his Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University this 12th of November 2015. The security guard wanted to show to H.H. The Aga Khan, imam of the Ismailis the way to his car.

About 2 or 3 dozen Ismailis were waiting patiently in the light rain in a double line near the black Mercedes. It was a dark night, the night of the new moon, the Chhandrat.

"I want to talk to my people!" added the Imam with a decisive voice.

He walked to the end of the line, distancing himself from the car. The Imam said: "Come closer, come closer." The Murids (followers) gathered near the Imam.

Mowlana Hazar Imam asked: "Did you enjoy?" Yes Khudawind, answered some Murids.

The Imam's face was luminous, brightness in the night. The Imam was visibly excited. "I am very happy to see you here!"

Then The Imam gave a message to the Murids present around him; "Take My Affection and my Blessings to your families and Jamats. Tell them that I am thinking of them." After a pose, he added "Khanavadan!"

A teenage girl said "We love you!". Another one said "Congratulation!". A loud Salwat was heard. Someone asked "How is Princess?" The Imam replied gracefully, he said Princess Zahra was fine and she was glowing icon_smile.gif

He took the hand of a lady from Montreal. With a firm grip. Walked her to his car before letting her go. The car left with Prince Husain and Hazar Imam. The lady was emotional. Like the teenage girls. All were sobbing. It was a dark night but here was Light in our hearts.

The emotion was very strong. It was such a surprise to see how much the Imam was missing his Jamat and how much love he had for these Murids to put the security protocol to rest, to interact and give some time and talk to those who came to see him. Shukr Khudawind.


"No mountain, no river, no desert can stop the love of the Imam for his jamat"


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 12, 2015 9:02 pm    Post subject: Jodidi Lecture 2015 - Speech of H.H. The Aga Khan Reply with quote

theismaili.org/news-events/speech-samuel-l-and-elizabeth-jodidi-lecture-harvard-university

Speech by Mawlana Hazar Imam
The Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture
at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Thursday, 12 November 2015
“The Cosmopolitan Ethic in a Fragmented World”


Bismillah-ir-Rahman-ir-Rahim

Mark Elliott, Vice Provost
Michele Lamont, Director of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs
Ali Asani, Director of the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program
Diana Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion
Members of the Harvard Community
Distinguished Guests
Mawlana Hazar Imam delivering the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University on 12 November 2015.
Mawlana Hazar Imam delivering the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University on 12 November 2015.
Farhez Rayani
Thank you for your warm welcome.

It is indeed a great pleasure for me to return to Harvard and this wonderful campus. And it is a particular pleasure to be welcomed here by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program — two of the world’s leading forces for informed global understanding.

I am honored as well, to be giving the Jodidi Lecture for 2015, and to join the distinguished list of those who have given this lecture over the past 60 years. Believe it or not, the Jodidi Lecture actually was founded during my freshman year at Harvard — but I had nothing to do with that! I would note too, that the Harvard Center for International Affairs was also founded while I was a student here, although it did not yet have the illustrious Weatherhead name.

Now I must admit in all candor that I do not recall attending the Jodidi Lecture when I was an undergraduate, although I am sure I would have benefited from doing so! I was probably having too much fun at Wigglesworth or Leverett House to venture out to something so serious as the Jodidi lecture. On the other hand, I wonder what I might have thought if some seer had looked into a crystal ball and told me that some 60 years later I would actually be giving this lecture. I might have immediately transferred to Yale!

My ties to Harvard have been re-enforced in many ways through the six decades since my graduation, including the fact that my brother and my daughter also received their undergraduate degrees here at Harvard. And I was deeply gratified to come back to receive an honorary degree in 2008.

Whenever I return to Harvard I am impressed both with the wonderful qualities that have stayed the same over time, and also by some of the things that have changed. Surely one of the most notable changes has been the remarkable success in recent years of Harvard’s athletic teams all across the board: individual competition, team competition, women’s and men’s teams. Bravo Harvard!

Of course one cannot arrive in Cambridge this week without noticing that the football team — to mention just one example that remains undefeated again this year.

But it was not always that way. In fact, during the years that I was at Harvard, the football team never had a winning record.

Of course, I am referring here to the “American” football team. Coming from European schooling, what I called the football team is what you probably call the soccer team. And I must tell you that for the men’s soccer team, those were golden years at Harvard — including two Ivy League championships. Goodbye Yale! And I must also tell you, with all due humility, that I was a happy member of that championship team.

Now, you may have been wondering just what I have been doing over these past six decades since I left the Harvard playing fields. Let me begin by saying a word about that topic.

As you know, I was born into a Muslim family, linked by heredity to the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him and his family). My education blended Islamic and Western traditions in my early years and at Harvard, where I majored in Islamic History. And in 1957 I was a junior when I became the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims — when my grandfather designated me to succeed him.

What does it mean to become an Imam in the Ismaili tradition? To begin with, it is an inherited role of spiritual leadership. As you may know, the Ismailis are the only Muslim community that has been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from Prophet Muhammad.

That spiritual role however, does not imply a separation from practical responsibilities. In fact for Muslims the opposite is true: the spiritual and material worlds are inextricably connected. Leadership in the spiritual realm — for all Imams, whether they are Sunni or Shia — implies responsibility in worldly affairs; a calling to improve the quality of human life. And that is why so much of my energy over these years has been devoted to the work of the Aga Khan Development Network.

The AKDN, as we call it, centers its attention in the developing world. And it is from this developing world’s perspective, that I speak to you today. So what I will be referring to is knowledge that I have gained from the developing world of Africa, Asia, the Middle East. What I will be speaking about has little to do with the industrialised West.

Through all of these years, my objective has been to understand more thoroughly the developing countries of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and to prepare initiatives that will help them become countries of opportunity, for all of their peoples.

As I prepared for this new role in the late 1950s, Harvard was very helpful. The University allowed me — having prudently verified that I was a student “in good standing” — to take eighteen months away to meet the leaders of the Ismaili community in some 25 countries where most of the Ismailis then lived, and to speak with their government leaders.

I returned here after that experience with a solid sense of the issues I would have to address, especially the endemic poverty in which much of my community lived. And I also returned with a vivid sense of the new political realities that were shaping their lives, including the rise of African independence movements, the perilous relations between India and Pakistan and the sad fact that many Ismailis were locked behind the Iron Curtain and thus removed from regular contact with the Imamat.

When I returned to Harvard, it was not only to complete my degree, but I was fortunate to audit a number of courses that were highly relevant to my new responsibilities. So as an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to benefit from the complete spectrum of courses offered by this great university.

Incidentally, I must have been the only Harvard undergraduate to have two secretaries and a personal assistant working with me. And I have always been very proud of the fact that I never sent any of them to take notes for me at my class!

Harvard has continued to be a highly valued partner for our Network since this time. The University played a key role in developing the blueprint thirty years ago for the Aga Khan University — working first in the fields of medicine and nursing education, and now offering a broad variety of degrees on three continents. Another close Harvard relationship has involved the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture, launched here and at MIT in 1977.

My concern for the future of Islamic architecture grew out of my travels between 1957 and 1977 in countries with large Muslim populations. What I observed was a near total disconnect between the new built environment I encountered and Islam’s rich architectural legacy. There was no process of renewal, no teaching in architectural schools, no practices that were rooted in our own traditions. Except for the occasional minaret or dome, one of the world’s great cultural inheritances was largely confined to coffee-table books. It seemed to me that this state of affairs represented a monumental menace to our world’s cultural pluralism, as well as a dangerous loss of identity for Muslim communities.

The Aga Khan Programme for Islamic Architecture was one response to this situation, as was the creation of the Aga Khan architectural award, which also continues today.

Bringing the art and architecture of the Islamic world to be understood and admired in the West, as it had been in the past, was a goal that also inspired the creation, just one year ago, of the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto — the only museum in the western hemisphere devoted entirely to Islamic culture.

Today, the Aga Khan Development Network embraces many facets and functions. But, if I were trying to sum up in a single word its central objective, I would focus on the word “opportunity”. For what the peoples of the developing world seek above all else is hope for a better future.

Too often however, true opportunity has been a distant hope — perhaps for some, not even more than a dream. Endemic poverty, in my view, remains the world’s single most important challenge. It is manifested in many ways, including persistent refugee crises of the sort we have recently seen in such an acute form. And of course confounding new challenges continue to mount, such as the looming threat of climate change. My interest in climate change has been sharpened by recent studies linking it to the threat of earthquakes. This could be an issue in the high mountain areas of South Asia for example, where so many Ismailis live and are concentrated.

Sixty years ago as I took up my responsibilities, the problems of the developing world, for many observers, seemed intractable. It was widely claimed that places like China and India were destined to remain among the world’s “basket cases” — incapable of feeding themselves let alone being able to industrialise or achieve economic self-sustainability. If this had been true, of course, then there would have been no way for the people of my community, in India and China and in many other places, to look for a better future.

Political realities presented further complications. Most of the poorest countries were living under distant colonial or protectorate or communist regimes. The monetary market was totally unpredictable. Volatile currencies were shifting constantly in value, making it almost impossible to plan ahead. And while I thought of all the Ismailis as part of one religious community, the realities of their daily lives were deeply distinctive and decidedly local.

Nor did most people yet see the full potential for addressing these problems through non-profit, private organisations — what we today call “civil society.”

And yet, it was also clear that stronger coordination across these lines of division could help open new doors of opportunity. We could see how renovated educational systems, based on best practices, could reach across frontiers of politics and language. We could see how global science could address changing medical challenges, including the growing threat of non-communicable disease. We could see, in sum, how a truly pluralistic outlook could leverage the best experiences of local communities through an effective international network.

But we also learned that the creation of effective international networks in a highly diversified environment can be a daunting matter. It took a great deal of considered effort to meld older values of continuity and local cohesion, with the promise of new cross-border integration.

What was required — and is still required — was a readiness to work across frontiers of distinction and distance without trying to erase them. What we were looking for, even then, were ways of building an effective “cosmopolitan ethic in a fragmented world.”

This often meant working from the bottom up, learning to follow what was sometimes called “field logic.” Most of our initiatives began at a local, community level, and then grew into regional, national and international institutions.

As we moved forward, we learned a number of important lessons. We learned that lifting health and education services to world class standards was a global promise that could inspire local support. We learned to attack poverty simultaneously with multiple inputs, on a variety of fronts. We learned to work with effective partners — including the not-for-profit institutions of civil society. We learned to see our role as one of supporting the public sector, not competing with it. And we learned the importance of measuring carefully the outcomes of our efforts, and then applying that knowledge.

All of these approaches were facilitated by a determination to overcome linguistic barriers through a language policy that promoted better use of the national language, and network-wide English as a strong connecting tool.

And so our Network grew. Today it embraces a group of agencies — non-governmental and non-denominational — operating in 35 countries. They work in fields ranging from education and medical care, to job creation and energy production; from transport and tourism, to media and technology; from the fine arts and cultural heritage, to banking and microfinance. But they are all working together toward a single overarching objective: improving the quality of human life.

Meanwhile, in the Industrialised West, many things were happening that paralleled our AKDN experience. For one thing, an impulse for international cooperation was advancing in the late 1950s at an impressive pace. After half a century of violent confrontation, determined leaders talked hopefully about global integration. New international organisations and cross-border alliances blossomed. And Harvard University decisively expanded its own involvement in world affairs.

When the Jodidi Lectureship was established here in 1955, its explicit purpose (and I quote) was “the promotion of tolerance, understanding and good will among nations.” And that seemed to be the way history was moving. Surely, we thought, we had learned the terrible price of division and discord, and certainly the great technological revolutions of the 20th century would bring us more closely together.

In looking back to my Harvard days, I recall how a powerful sense of technological promise was in the air — a faith that human invention would continue its ever-accelerating conquest of time and space. I recall too, how this confidence was accompanied by what was described as a “revolution of rising expectations” and the fall of colonial empires. And of course, this trend seemed to culminate some years later with the end of the Cold War and the “new world order” that it promised.

But even as old barriers crumbled and new connections expanded, a paradoxical trend set in, one that we see today at every hand. At the same time that the world was becoming more interconnected, it also become more fragmented.

We have been mesmerised on one hand by the explosive pace of what we call “globalisation,” a centripetal force putting us as closely in touch with people who live across the world as we are to those who live next to us. But at the same time, a set of centrifugal forces have been gaining on us, producing a growing sense — between and within societies — of disintegration.

Whether we are looking at a more fragile European Union, a more polarised United States, a more fervid Sunni-Shia conflict, intensified tribal rivalries in much of Africa and Asia, or other splintering threats in every corner of the planet, the word “fragmentation” seems to define our times.

Global promise, it can be said, has been matched by tribal wariness. We have more communication, but we also have more confrontation. Even as we exclaim about growing connectivity we seem to experience greater disconnection.

Perhaps what we did not see so clearly 60 years ago is the fact that technological advance does not necessarily mean human progress. Sometimes it can mean the reverse.

The more we communicate, the harder it can sometimes be to evaluate what we are saying. More information often means less context and more confusion. More than that, the increased pace of human interaction means that we encounter the stranger more often, and more directly. What is different is no longer abstract and distant. Even for the most tolerant among us, difference, more and more, can be up close and in your face.

What all of this means is that the challenge of living well together — a challenge as old as the human-race — can seem more and more complicated. And so we ask ourselves, what are the resources that we might now draw upon to counter this trend? How can we go beyond our bold words and address the mystery of why our ideals still elude us?

In responding to that question, I would ask you to think with me about the term I have used in the title for this lecture: “The Cosmopolitan Ethic.”

For a very long time, as you know, the term most often used in describing the search for human understanding was the word “tolerance.” In fact, it was one of the words that was used in 1955 text to describe one of the objectives of this Jodidi Lecture.

In recent years our vocabulary in discussing this subject has evolved. One word that we have come to use more often in this regard is the word “pluralism.” And the other is the word “cosmopolitan.”

You may know that our AKDN Network, a decade ago, cooperated with the Government of Canada to create a new Global Centre for Pluralism based in Ottawa, designed to study more closely the conditions under which pluralist societies can thrive.

A pluralist, cosmopolitan society is a society which not only accepts difference, but actively seeks to understand it and to learn from it. In this perspective, diversity is not a burden to be endured, but an opportunity to be welcomed.

A cosmopolitan society regards the distinctive threads of our particular identities as elements that bring beauty to the larger social fabric. A cosmopolitan ethic accepts our ultimate moral responsibility to the whole of humanity, rather than absolutising a presumably exceptional part.

Perhaps it is a natural condition of an insecure human race to seek security in a sense of superiority. But in a world where cultures increasingly interpenetrate one another, a more confident and a more generous outlook is needed.

What this means, perhaps above all else, is a readiness to participate in a true dialog with diversity, not only in our personal relationships, but in institutional and international relationships also. But that takes work, and it takes patience. Above all, it implies a readiness to listen.

What is needed, as the former Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson has said, and I quote, is a readiness “to listen to your neighbour, even when you may not particularly like him.” Is that message clear? You listen to people you don’t like!

A thoughtful cosmopolitan ethic is something quite different from some attitudes that have become associated with the concept of globalisation in recent years. Too often, that term has been linked to an abstract universalism, perhaps well-meaning but often naïve. In emphasising all that the human race had in common, it was easy to depreciate the identities that differentiated us. We sometimes talked so much about how we are all alike that we neglected the wonderful ways in which we can be different.

One result of this superficial view of homogenised, global harmony, was an unhappy counter-reaction. Some took it to mean the spread of a popular, Americanised global culture — that was unfair and an assessment that was erroneous. Others feared that their individual, ethnic or religious identities might be washed away by a super-competitive economic order, or by some supranational political regime. And the frequent reaction was a fierce defense of older identities. If cooperation meant homogenisation, then a lot of people found themselves saying “No.”

But an either-or-choice between the global and the tribal — between the concept of universal belonging and the value of particular identities — was in fact a false choice. The road to a more cooperative world does not require us to erase our differences, but to understand them.

A responsible, thoughtful process of globalisation, in my view, is one that is truly cosmopolitan, respecting both what we have in common and what makes us different.

It is perhaps in our nature to see life as a series of choices between sharply defined dualities, but in fact life is more often a matter of avoiding false dichotomies, which can lead to dangerous extremes. The truth of the matter is that we can address the dysfunctions of fragmentation without obscuring the values of diversity.

A cosmopolitan ethic will also be sensitive to the problem of economic insecurity in our world. It is an enormous contributing factor to the problems I have been discussing. Endemic poverty still corrodes any meaningful sense of opportunity for many millions. And even in less impoverished societies, a rising tide of economic anxiety can make it difficult for fearful people to respect, let alone embrace, that which is new or different.

This problem has been compounded by the very advances that have long been the source of so much hope. I am thinking here for example about medical advances that have dramatically increased human longevity. People live longer, but they often find that they have outlived their resources.

The developing world is now facing a major challenge: how does it care for the elderly? Even in more developed societies, social changes have eroded some of the domestic support that once eased the burdens of the aging. How, we must all ask, will we manage the new challenges of longevity?

All of these considerations will place special obligations on those who play leadership roles in our societies. Sadly, some would-be leaders all across the world have been tempted to exploit difference and magnify division. It is always easier to unite followers in a negative cause than a positive one. But the consequences can be a perilous polarisation.

The information explosion itself has sometimes become an information glut, putting even more of a premium on being first and getting attention, rather than being right and earning respect. It is not easy to retain one’s faith in a healthy, cosmopolitan marketplace of ideas when the flow of information is increasingly trivialised.

One answer to these temptations will be found, I am convinced, in the quality of our education. It will lie with our universities at one end of the spectrum, and early childhood education at the other — a field to which our Development Network has been giving special attention.

Let me mention one more specific issue where a sustained educational effort will be especially important. I refer to the debate — one that has involved many in this audience — about the prospect of some fundamental clash of civilisations between Islam and the West. In my view, the deeper problem behind any prospective “clash of civilisations” is a profound “clash of ignorances”. And in that struggle, education will be an indispensable weapon.

Finally, I would emphasise that a cosmopolitan ethic is one that resonates with the world’s great ethical and religious traditions.

A passage from the Holy Quran that has been central to my life is addressed to the whole of humanity. It says: “Oh Mankind, fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women…”

At the very heart of the Islamic faith is a conviction that we are all born “of a single soul.” We are “spread abroad” to be sure in all of our diversity, but we share, in a most profound sense, a common humanity.

This outlook has been central to the history of Islam. For many hundreds of years, the greatest Islamic societies were decidedly pluralistic, drawing strength from people of many religions and cultural backgrounds. My own ancestors, the Fatimid Caliphs, founded the city of Cairo, and the great Al Azhar University there, a thousand years ago in this same spirit. That pluralistic outlook remains a central ideal for most Muslims today.

There are many, of course, some non-Muslims and some Muslims alike, who have perpetrated different impressions.

At the same time, institutions such as those that have welcomed me here today, have eloquently addressed these misimpressions. My hope is that the voices of Islam itself will continue to remind the world of a tradition that, over so many centuries, has so often advanced pluralistic outlooks and built some of the most remarkable societies in human history.

Let me repeat, in conclusion, that a cosmopolitan ethic is one that will honour both our common humanity and our distinctive Identities — each reinforcing the other as part of the same high moral calling.

The central lesson of my own personal journey — over many miles and many years — is the indispensability of such an ethic in our changing world, based on the timeless truth that we are — each of us and all of us — “born of a single soul.”

Thank you.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 3:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

His Highness the Aga Khan’s Interview with Professor Diana L. Eck of Harvard University

http://www.akdn.org/Content/1372

Professor Diana L. Eck of Harvard University conducted the interview with His Highness the Aga Khan following the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture, 12 November 2015. Photo: AKDN

Diana L. ECK: Your Highness, thank you for that. It was a great pleasure to listen to, and I think I feel, especially honored because there are hundreds of people here who would like to be asking you questions this afternoon, and I’m the person who is sort of appointed to do so, and I am delighted and deeply honored.

His Highness the AGA KHAN: Thank you very much.

ECK: You ended with what is a remarkable theological foundation of pluralism. You began with the political situation of the world, and the multicultural situation of the Ismailis. So from all standards you have a basis for underlining pluralism as one of the most important issues in our world. But I think the theological understanding is one that may be new to many people who think primarily in terms of the practical issues of day-to-day life.

AGA KHAN: Right, right. Well I think that’s absolutely correct, and in fact this notion of one humanity in the faith of Islam is a very, very powerful force. But it’s not always presented in the form that I tried to present it today. And it is there, it is clear for those who wish to see it and understand it, but not all Muslim societies take that on board.

ECK: Well, it is interesting because Jewish, Christian and Muslim societies all are founded on theological principles that stress the oneness of God and also that begin with the theology of creation in the way in which you had. So there should be — and I think there has been — a kind of theological reaching out. I think especially of the Amman Declaration that you were part of, and of the message that was delivered called A Common Word Between Us and You, from so many Muslim leaders to Christian leaders across the country.

AGA KHAN: I hope that is true. I have been watching in parts of the world that has become a thought process. I am fearful of the parts of the world where that is not part of let’s say government philosophy, but I think that in time this understanding of unity of human society will end up by being seen as a condition sine qua non of good governance. I think you will see governments fail because they do not practice this principle. They will have so many divisions within them, so many attempts at achieving positions of power by certain groups or influence by others, that it will be impossible to create a sense of nationhood, a sense of building around common values, which after all is what most governments would wish to have.

ECK: I think one of the most striking things about the writings you’ve done on these issues and speeches like we’ve heard today, is your relentless linking of issues of poverty and education and human development with the foundation of pluralism as you’ve just articulated.

AGA KHAN: Well, if you try to analyse the causes of poverty in the developing world, as we have tried, there is absolutely no doubt that the marginalisation of communities is one of the fundamental causes of this poverty. And this marginalisation is so structured in society that minorities find it very difficult to break out of that situation. And the work that you are doing here in your field of pluralism, teaching about pluralism, having people understand that it is not a threat, on the contrary it is a foundation of civil society in the modern world. These things I think absolutely are absolutely essential … (I think this thing [microphone] has gone dead) (laugh-that’s better). I think the more we have seen societies work, which are fractured, putting little groups of people in a box, that is a way of guaranteeing conflict and poverty.

ECK: One of the things I think that we take from this, is because your Centre for Global Pluralism really looks at global issues which are so important, it also is the case that so much has changed in the United States and indeed in Canada and indeed at Harvard, since the days that you were in Leverett House with two secretaries, and that is the tremendous movement of people as migrants, as refugees from one part of the world to another, and in the US with the 1965 Immigration and Nationalities Act the opening of the US to immigrants really from all over the world, so that’s really changed the face of Harvard, and the message that you bring is one that is very relevant to universities today. I’m not sure how large the Harvard Islamic Society was when you were here.

AGA KHAN: Well in fact, it didn’t exist I think until Sir Hamilton Gibb came to teach here at Harvard. My recollection is that he was the juried professor of Islamic Studies at Oxford if I’m not wrong and he came to Harvard from Oxford and he started the program here at Harvard. But that’s my recollection — that’s a long time ago.

ECK: You know the thing that’s amazing today, as you would walk around Harvard you would see dozens and dozens women going just from here to Leverett House wearing hijab, that you would find a very active Islamic prayer space just next door, in one of the floors of the freshman dormitory and some places were the Juma prayers every week are in the largest lecture halls where you can remove all the chairs. So the transformation of our university from being a rather parochial university in some ways, to a global and cosmopolitan university is something that has not only to do with the fact that people come here from all over the world, but that our own nation has changed so much and these issues of marginalisation that you speak of, that are divisive in so many ways, are issues that that America faces profoundly in dealing with race and culture, and indeed with a multi-religious society.

AGA KHAN: Well I’m deeply pleased that Harvard has, it’s moving towards what Harvard want to be, even when I graduated. And I remember President Bok telling me extensively, how he was seeing Harvard becoming a global university rather than a US university. That was in his mind at the time, the goal for this university, and what you are saying today is that that goal is in the process of being achieved. So I have to say well, alhamdulillah.

ECK: Well it’s been achieved but we haven’t really moved in some ways from what our current President Drew Faust calls the necessity of moving from diversity to belonging. To a sense of really creation of a community that is respectful of our differences, which are so many, and that move, I think one of the profound things that I hear you say time and again is that pluralism doesn’t just happen by itself. It requires a certain amount of conviction and support of institutions across the spectrum of civil society.

AGA KHAN: I think that’s absolutely right. And indeed I would encourage education on pluralism even on secondary education and in fact neuroscientists are saying that newly born children recognise the pluralism of other children being next to them in a cot even if they can’t see the child. So the individual, the human individual, has extraordinary means of sensing somebody who is from a different society. But that sensing has nothing negative in it. It’s a constatation — I can’t find the word in English, but you know what I mean. So I find that very, very exciting that when children are born the notion of differences in background or race, is not at all a feature which has value attached to it, neither negative nor positive. It’s a constatation.

ECK: That issue that you have raised again and again, that our differences are part of the richness that we bring to life, we could say from a theological standpoint that’s a God-given difference from scattering of people from this one soul.

AGA KHAN: But I have to nonetheless point out that many countries in the developing world where we have been working were governed on the principle of divide of communities. For years we worked in countries where the educational system was African, Asian or European. There was no single educational system in those countries. So that is the phenomenon which people have inherited even today and which is difficult to overcome. I can remember situations where hospitals were not entitled to take people of different backgrounds.

ECK: In the development network that you have created spanning the world, I know education is a very big piece of this, from the Aga Khan Universities to local education that must be a daunting task. A few years ago, your daughter Princess Zahra was here and spoke at the Harvard School of Education about her role in this with a great attention to women’s education. I’m not sure if that is a particular emphasis that you bring, but it certainly is one that is profoundly important.

AGA KHAN: Well my grandfather in fact pushed very hard to have women’s education as part of our overall educational process, so that’s part of the way we think, the way we live today. Now you were talking about universities etc. And it’s clearly a critical issue that in the developing world, the universities should upgrade their performance and that their degrees should be recognised, that their research should be of global importance and I would stopped when I came to Harvard that plagiarism was a bad thing but I’m here to plagiarize (laugh) and I don’t hide it from Harvard.

ECK: When you talk about the cosmopolitan ethic that emerges from this recognition of difference and yet a foundation in human oneness, the elements of that are what? What would you say are the elements of a cosmopolitan ethic?

AGA KHAN: I think the first of all you need to accept the premise that human society is pluralist, and it has been pluralist for as long as we know about the human race if I’m not wrong. So there is a basic premise that has to be accepted, that issue of accepting pluralism also means that you need to attach equity to that notion. If there is no equity in pluralist societies then you don’t have functioning pluralist societies, you don’t have institutions that function properly etc. And I have admired a number of governments in developing countries for example, where without saying it, they have fought very hard to create equal opportunity for various communities in various parts of the country, whereas that was not the case in colonial societies.

ECK: So equity would be one element of that ethic…

AGA KHAN: Equity would certainly be one element.

ECK: And a respect for justice would be another piece of it?

AGA KHAN: Respect for justice and I would say equal opportunity for the intelligentsia… I have seen situations where there has been an attempt to marginalise the intelligentsia of a given community and that of course is an extremely unwelcome feature of a society.

ECK: One of the things I recall from having been involved with interfaith leaders, not that I am one myself, but I’m an observer of these events, was the effort over a number of years ago, to create a global ethic, out of the distinctive ethical norms of different religious traditions and even of secular traditions and there were certain things everyone could agree on. And I think equality, justice, opportunity, dignity, etc. were very much agreeable. When it came to what equity meant, I hesitate to say the biggest issue in equity among these dignified religious leaders was the issue of women and men, and whether gender equity, whether that really meant gender equity. It seems to me that is an issue to a great extent and yet my own impression of the Ismaili community is that leadership in Jamatkhanas and other elements of the Development Network and leadership in these positions is shared by women and men. Am I right about that?

AGA KHAN: Absolutely, and in fact I have spent considerable time trying to make sure that whether it’s leadership amongst women... the community could benefit from that. Leadership qualities is not gender driven so actually, if you don’t respect the fact that both genders have competencies, outstanding capabilities, you are damaging your community by not appointing those people.

ECK: So, as we think about, I’m thinking now about the kind of responsibility that you have both for the spiritual as well the material well-being, the welfare of the Ismaili community — but as you put it, it’s not just the welfare of the Ismaili community but those with whom they share their societies as well.

AGA KHAN: Absolutely.

ECK: So in those, are there societies in which you find it almost impossible to have leadership of women in your own community rise?

AGA KHAN: No, not really I think. I think people tolerate our decisions, I’m not sure they are always welcome (laugh).

ECK: That seems to have struck a chord here.

AGA KHAN: I think the women in the audience know what I mean. (Laughter and applause)

ECK: So as you think about your successor, is there any chance that Princess Zahra could, or would not that be tolerated —

AGA KHAN: No that would not be tolerated.

ECK: We were very impressed with her here. But we have not met your two sons.

AGA KHAN: Well she is the first member of my family who’s received a University degree. So she is an important member of my family because the gender balance is all now Harvard related. (laugh) Not Radcliffe.

ECK: One of the things that has been so, I’m sure very much on people’s mind, is that to intentionally cultivate pluralism in a society, there are some societies in which the civil society and our educational institutions are welcoming of this. But of course, pluralism within our own religious communities is often a very difficult thing, and I speak as a Christian who knows perfectly well the number of anti-pluralists there are within the Christian tradition and people who are convinced that the only possible way of conceptualising religious truth is through the lens of the Christian tradition. This also is probably true in the Muslim tradition and the effort that must be made to cultivate the kind of appreciation of mutual respect and difference is certainly a huge task.

AGA KHAN: I would strongly agree that pluralism is a subject that is taught; it’s not instinctive in a human society.

ECK: It’s not instinctive

AGA KHAN: It’s not instinctive. So I would strongly support any initiative at any level of age that is from the newly born child up to the post-graduate student, that there should be continuous exposure to the notion of pluralism in society. It’s much easier with children obviously than with grown ups. But to me, it must be a feature of any modern society in any part of the world. I can’t travel in any part of the world today, without observing the amazing mix of backgrounds of people today that wasn’t there years ago. And that is happening more and more through happy events, unhappy events — you can see what is happening with refugees today. But I am more worried about societies preparing themselves to accept foreigners. That’s not a big story of success in my mind. The only country that I can think of that actually has a process is Canada.

ECK: And you have lived certainly in France, and have deep connections in England as well. And you have seen the ways in which they are struggling with the diversity of their own societies.

AGA KHAN: Absolutely and for different reasons, but they are struggling, and in many ways I consider them somewhat unprepared.

ECK: I think the preparedness here in the United States is also very much, I mean the Pluralism Project has been studying the changing religious landscapes of the US for 25 years. And I think, along the lines of your point, if I had been teaching Kindergarten in Houston, Texas, I would have realised far earlier how much our society had been changing. But it wasn’t until till the 1990s that the children of this new immigration came to college and began transforming our own demographic and university in which we live and teach.

AGA KHAN: Well I think that your point is very important, because what you are effectively saying is awareness in United States of the issue. I am thinking of countries where there has not been that awareness until much too late.

ECK: Yes and among some Americans as well, even though scarcely, you can’t really find a state in the US where the Muslim and Hindu and Sikh presence hasn’t become a significant one. But still, we hear this in some of our public leaders this is only a slow dawning awareness. They sometimes don’t like it, as well.

AGA KHAN: Yes, I realise that, but I mean I think these are people who are thinking against or in contradiction with a roadmap that you can extend from history and you extend that road map and you reach the correct conclusions.

ECK: You have often said, and I think it’s right, as we look at the world today that the instability and divisiveness of societies is infectious, and at the same time you say so is hope. So can you give us in conclusion just a sense of the infectiousness of hope from your experience.

AGA KHAN: Well, I think I mentioned in my comments, to me one of the most important issues for society in any part of the world, is that it should be driven by hope. The moment that people of any generation, of any age, lose hope, it is a very, very damaging thing for that community, that society. So creating circumstances of hope, is to me very, very important indeed. And much of the Aga Khan Development Network their work is to try to assist countries to become countries of opportunity. That is one of the main goals that I have is that as many countries where the community is living should be countries of opportunity. Definition of opportunity of course is a different thing, but a life that sees itself with no opportunity is a very, very sad prospect.

ECK: Your Highness this has been a great pleasure to have the opportunity to speak with you and thank you for your return to Harvard for this afternoon. Thank you very much and may you come again and again.

AGA KHAN: Well thank you for your generosity and your questions.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 7:20 pm    Post subject: Video Jodidi Speech 2015 H.H. The Aga Khan Reply with quote

Aga Khan delivers 2015 Jodidi lecture at Harvard University

VIDEO LINK HERE BELOW

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MABS8niTWqU
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 9:23 pm    Post subject: Jodidi 2015 Speech - Aga Khan appeals for pluralism Reply with quote

thestandard.com.hk/breaking_news_detail.asp?id=68729&icid=4&d_str=

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Aga Khan appeals for pluralism
(11-13 12:3icon_cool.gif

A prominent imam speaking at Harvard University on Thursday rejected the notion of a fundamental “clash of civilizations'' between the Muslim World and the West and called for greater cultural understanding.
The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of some 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims, told a packed audience that society must strive to be more “pluralist'' and “cosmopolitan,'' meaning people should actively seek out difference and diversity and learn from it.

He said globalization should not mean the creation of a single, homogenized society where all differences are erased, but one where what we have in common and what makes us different is respected.
“In my view, the deeper problem behind any prospective clash of civilizations is a profound clash of ignorances. And, in that struggle, education will be an indispensable weapon,'' he told his audience at Memorial Church.

To Muslims, he issued a reminder that a central tenet of Islam is celebrating the “common humanity'' among all the world's people. The Aga Khan is considered a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.
“My hope is that the voices of Islam itself will continue to remind the world of a tradition that, over so many centuries, has so often advanced pluralistic outlooks and built some of the most remarkable societies in human history,'' he said.

Ismaili Muslims are a branch of Shia Islam with followers in Asia, Africa the Middle East and North America. The Aga Khan is their 49th imam.
In his speech, he also noted how technology has helped people become more interconnected but has made the world more fragmented.
“We have more communication, but we also have more confrontation,'' he said. “Even as we exclaim about growing connectivity, we seem to experience greater disconnection.''

He also touched on his time at Harvard, where he had been a 20-year-old junior and a member of the university soccer team when he succeeded his grandfather to become imam in 1957. And he highlighted the work his international development organization, the Aga Khan Development Network, does to address poverty, health care and education in developing countries.

His talk Thursday, the university's Jodidi Lecture, was part of a series by Harvard's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.—AP
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 13, 2015 9:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

http://www.khaama.com/prince-aga-khan-rejects-clash-of-civilizations-between-muslim-world-and-west-1688

Prince Aga Khan rejects ‘clash of civilizations’ between Muslim World and West

By Khaama Press - Fri Nov 13 2015, 9:24 pm


The spiritual leader of Shia Ismaili Muslims Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini Aga Khan called for greater cultural understanding between the Muslim World and the West, rejecting the notion of a fundamental ‘clash of civilizations’.

In his speech at Harvard University, Prince Aga Khan once again insisted on pluralism and said the society must strive to be more ‘pluralist’ and ‘cosmopolitan’.

His remarks were apparently aimed at searching for the difference and diversity by the people who should learn it.

Addressing a packed audience at Memorial Church, Prince Aga Khan said globalization should not mean the creation of a single, homogenized society where all differences are erased, rather it means people should seek out diversity and learn from it.

Insisting on mutual respect regarding what we have in common and what makes us different, Prince Aga Khan said “In my view, the deeper problem behind any prospective clash of civilizations is a profound clash of ignorances. And, in that struggle, education will be an indispensable weapon.”

Issuing a reminder to the Muslims of the world, he said the central tenet of Islam is to celebrate the ‘common humanity’ among all the people of the world.

He said “My hope is that the voices of Islam itself will continue to remind the world of a tradition that, over so many centuries, has so often advanced pluralistic outlooks and built some of the most remarkable societies in human history.”

He also went through several key obstacles that pluralism faces today, including marginalizing the intelligentsia of a given community by some governments and institutions, lack of “respect for justice & equal opportunity for all”, lack of a “concerted educational effort” to teach pluralistic values, and others.

Considered a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H), Prince Aga Khan is the 49th imam of Ismaili Muslims who are a branch of Shia Islam with followers in Asia, Africa the Middle East and North America.

Prince Aga Khan’s international development organization, the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), actively operates in developing countries to address poverty, health care and education.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2015 5:35 am    Post subject: Aga Khan - A call to build on differences Reply with quote

news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2015/11/a-call-to-build-on-differences/

A call to build on differences
In Harvard visit, the Aga Khan stresses opportunity in diversity

November 13, 2015

By John Laidler, Harvard Correspondent

Promoting a global society that celebrates both its common humanity and its differences is the antidote to the world’s deepening divisions, the Aga Khan — the worldwide spiritual leader of Shia Ismaili Muslims — said in a visit to Harvard Thursday.

“In every corner of the planet, the word ‘fragmentation’ seems to define our times,” the Aga Khan told a packed house at the Memorial Church, citing “a more fragile European Union, a more polarized United States, a more fervid Sunni-Shia conflict, intensified tribal rivalries in Africa and Asia, or other splintering threats.”

But the Aga Khan, a 1959 graduate of Harvard College who resides in France, said embracing an approach he terms the “cosmopolitan ethic” offered a way out of mounting polarization.

“A pluralistic, cosmopolitan society is a society which not only accepts difference, but actively seeks to understand it — and to learn from it,” he said. “In this perspective, diversity is not a burden to be endured, but an opportunity to be welcomed.”

As the 49th Imam of the Nizari Ismailis — a branch of Shia Islam — the Aga Khan leads a multi-ethnic community with members in Asia, the Middle East, sub-Saharan Africa, Europe, and North America.

Since assuming the hereditary role in 1957, when he was a 20-year-old College junior, the Aga Khan has engaged in global efforts to bolster the economies and the quality of life in developing nations, working through his Aga Khan Development Network.

“Leadership in the spiritual realm — for all imams, whether Sunni or Shia — implies responsibility in worldly affairs,” he said.

His Harvard talk was part of the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture Series presented by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. This year’s event was co-sponsored by the Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic Studies Program.

The Aga Khan’s visit marked a return to a school where he has deep ties.
The Aga Khan meets with Harvard President Drew Faust in her Massachusetts Hall office at Harvard University. The Aga Khan is pictured looking at a photo book during his visit. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

During a visit with President Drew Faust, the Aga Khan looked through a photo book inside her Massachusetts Hall office. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

In addition to his bachelor’s degree, he received an honorary degree from the University in 2008. He endowed the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard and MIT, and Harvard’s annual Aga Khan Award for Architecture. His brother and daughter are Harvard graduates.

The Aga Khan said that since its inception, his development network has worked to expand opportunity through a “truly pluralistic outlook” that seeks to leverage the best experiences of local communities into an international program.

He said the network’s early efforts coincided with a surge of international cooperation in the industrialized West, and a feeling that technological change “would bring us more closely together.”

But while becoming more interconnected, the world “has also become more fragmented,” he said, linking the increased pace of human interaction with wider conflict.

The Aga Khan suggested that the concept of globalization has compounded the discord by advancing a “superficial view of homogenized, global harmony.”

But by following a cosmopolitan ethic, he said, “We can address the dysfunctions of fragmentation without obscuring the values of diversity.”

His talk was peppered with references to his days at Harvard, including having been part of two Ivy League champion soccer teams. He also noted that the Jodidi Lecture Series began during his freshman year, though he could not recall attending one.

“I was probably having too much fun at Wigglesworth — or Leverett House — to venture out to something so serious,” he joked.
The Aga Khan meets with Harvard President Drew Faust in her Massachusetts Hall office at Harvard University. The Aga Khan (from left) is pictured during his visit with Drew Faust and Mark Elliott. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

The Aga Khan (from left) met with Harvard President Drew Faust, Mark C. Elliott, the Mark Schwartz Professor of Chinese and Inner Asian History, and others prior to his talk at the Memorial Church. Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard Staff Photographer

Michèle Lamont, director of the Weatherhead Center, said prior to the event that the Aga Khan’s lecture “could not be better timed,” noting that the center is shifting to a broader agenda that encompasses comparative global and transnational themes, with a focus on inequality and social inclusion.

She observed that it also came in a U.S. presidential election season that has seen a leading contender, Ben Carson, say that a Muslim should not be elected president.

“To the extent there is a lot of fear among the American population about Islam, his message is very much an antidote,” Lamont said of the Aga Khan.
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PostPosted: Sat Nov 14, 2015 7:12 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

More images from Harvard








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PostPosted: Sun Nov 15, 2015 6:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

VIDEO CLIP (PARTIAL) of Hazar Imam meeting the Jamat outside Harvard


https://www.facebook.com/IsmailiHeritage/videos/vb.1534814760124292/1640567506215683/?type=2&theater
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2015 8:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

asiaplus.tj/en/news/his-highness-aga-khan-speaks-harvard-university

His Highness the Aga Khan speaks at Harvard University

13/11/2015 11:56
Asia-Plus


DUSHANBE, November 13, 2015, Asia-Plus – On Thursday November 12, His Highness the Aga Khan delivered the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University's Weatherhead Center for International Affairs.

According to the Aga Khan Development Network, entitled “The Cosmopolitan Ethic in a Fragmented World”, his lecture covered the challenges to pluralism and cosmopolitanism.

The Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture provides for “the delivery of lectures by eminent and well-qualified persons for the promotion of tolerance, understanding and good will among nations, and the peace of the world.” Since its establishment in 1955, the lecture has featured heads of state, diplomats and international public figures, including a former secretary-general of the United Nations, past president of the World Bank, and the secretary general of the European Council.

After the lecture, the Aga Khan spoke with Diana L. Eck, Professor of Comparative Religion and Indian Studies and Fredric Wertham Professor of Law and Psychiatry in Society, Department of South Asian Studies, Harvard University. She is also a Member of the Faculty of Divinity, Harvard Divinity School, a Harvard College Professor, and Director of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University.

His Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, a global, multiethnic community whose members comprise a wide diversity of cultures, languages, and nationalities.

Since taking on his role, the Aga Khan has been committed to improving the quality of life of the most vulnerable populations, while emphasizing the need to uphold human dignity as well as respect for tolerance and pluralism. His Highness accomplishes this through the work of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), a group of private, international, and nondenominational agencies working to improve living conditions and opportunities for people in specific regions of the developing world.
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2015 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

huffingtonpost.com/entry/aga-khan-harvard-pluralism_564a38dde4b045bf3df05629


Aga Khan: We Can Achieve A More Cooperative World If We Understand Our Differences, Not Erase Them
"The word 'fragmentation' seems to define our times."

Headshot of Farah Mohamed
Farah Mohamed
Managing Editor, The WorldPost

Posted: 11/16/2015 09:06 PM EST

ASSOCIATED PRESS

In his address at Harvard University, the Aga Khan called for greater cultural understanding in today's increasingly fragmented world.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The Aga Khan is no stranger to Harvard. But 60 years ago when he walked the crisscrossed paths of the university’s gated Yard between brick buildings as a young student, he wasn’t yet the spiritual leader of a religious community -- and the world was a much different place.

On Thursday when he returned to the university to give the Jodidi Lecture on “The Cosmopolitan Ethic in a Fragmented World,” he returned as the leader of approximately 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims.

He spoke of “endemic poverty,” of the poverty “manifested in … persistent refugee crises” and of the power of pluralism amid globalization. Differences between civilizations, he said, need not be reasons for discord if we take the time to understand and appreciate the value they offer.

The prominent Muslim leader traces his lineage back to the Prophet Muhammad, and during his junior year at the Ivy League university became the 49th hereditary imam of the subsect of Shias scattered across Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Europe and North America. He told a packed audience on Thursday that he rejects the age-old notion of a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West, instead arguing that many of the struggles humanity faces today stem more from “a clash of ignorances” and an inability to recognize that diversity can often be “an opportunity” rather than “a burden” for societies.

“It is perhaps in our nature to see life as a series of choices between sharply defined dualities -- but in fact, life is more often a matter of avoiding false dichotomies, which can lead to dangerous extremes,” the Aga Khan said. “The truth of the matter is that we can address the dysfunctions of fragmentation without obscuring the values of diversity. … The road to a more cooperative world does not require us to erase our differences, but to understand them.”

With Friday’s attacks in Paris and Thursday’s attacks in Beirut, along with many others in recent months, the message of solidarity over polarity is a relevant one -- and it is one that this Muslim leader embraces in his work as a spiritual leader and a philanthropist. While extremists who belong to groups like the Islamic State seek to eliminate difference, the Aga Khan seeks to celebrate difference by engaging with it. While ISIS destroys art and architecture in historic places like Palmyra, the Aga Khan rebuilds and restores them. While ISIS seeks out disenchanted youth to recruit, the Aga Khan seeks out youth to educate.

But the Aga Khan is not a political leader. In fact, he is not political at all -- he does not make overt statements or comment on state actions. But what he does is offer a nuanced voice and presence to a world in which the ethics and values of Islam are constantly put to the test.

He is a practitioner of what Ali Asani calls “silent Islam,” “the work that people do that’s driven by faith” rather than the power-driven “loud Islam,” in which people “are using Islam to justify hegemonic goals.”

“Oftentimes I get asked where are the moderate Muslims and why aren’t they speaking out. Well here is a Muslim -- listen to him,” Asani, an Ismaili Muslim and director of the Islamic studies program at Harvard responsible for organizing the event, told The WorldPost.

“There are some people who write novels,” Eboo Patel, founder and president of Interfaith Youth Core and also an Ismaili Muslim, told the WorldPost. “There are other people who make political pronouncements, and there are some people who over the course of a half century build sustainable institutions -- and sustainable institutions that advance new ideas and new ethics and build patterns of activities to those ideas and ethics. And I believe he’s in that third category.”

The Aga Khan has built the expansive Aga Khan Development Network and has advanced appreciation for Islamic art and architecture. He’s also inspired scholars like Akbar Ahmed, Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University, who makes a point to highlight pluralism in parts of the world, like Andalusia, where Muslims have co-existed with other faiths and cultures.

“In a world where two dominant ideas appear to be clashing at different levels and in different ways -- the clash of civilizations and the dialogue of civilizations -- the Aga Khan is a key player on the international stage for team dialogue,” Ahmed told The WorldPost. “His courageous and consistent projection of Islam as an intelligent, sophisticated and compassionate religion has allowed him to create a strong counter narrative to much of the nonsense that is propagated against Islam.”

It is this “nonsense” that makes it important, perhaps now more than ever, to pay attention to the guidance of those such as the Aga Khan, Asani said. That “religious illiteracy” helps create an “exclusivist mentality,” he said, and we’re seeing that across the globe when people lack the tools -- the education -- to deal with difference.

In France, far-right politician Marine Le Pen has railed against immigrants; in Germany, the PEGIDA movement has held rallies against Islam; in the U.S., presidential contender Ben Carson has said the country shouldn't elect a Muslim as president; and in Europe, some countries are hesitant to accept Muslim refugees. Given this climate, it is little wonder why Asani finds the growing anti-immigrant and anti-Islam sentiments concerning.

“This exclusivist mentality is creating such terror,” Asani said. “The geopolitical situation in the world has become worse, and you’re seeing not only what’s happening in the Middle East but also all these refugees surging to Europe. And it’s creating panic in European societies."

The Aga Khan, too, noted some of the same trends in his speech and acknowledged that grappling with these developments is not an easy task.

“Whether we are looking at a more fragile European Union, a more polarized United States, a more fervid Sunni-Shia conflict, intensified tribal rivalries in much of Africa and Asia, or other splintering threats in every corner of the planet, the word ‘fragmentation’ seems to define our times,” he said. “We have more communication, but we also have more confrontation.”

This problem makes the challenge of pluralism perhaps more daunting, the Aga Khan said because, “even for the most ‘tolerant’ among us, difference, more and more, can be up close and ‘in your face.’”

Truly understanding these differences is crucial today and not only “for Muslim communities adapting to societies but also within the Muslim world,” where sectarian conflict can be exacerbated if these issues are not addressed properly, John Esposito, author of Islamophobia and the Challenge of Pluralism in the 21st Century, told The WorldPost.

This challenge of pluralism is of particular relevance to the Ismaili community, which has been persecuted during various chapters of its long history. In some areas of the world, practicing members continue to be the target of violence -- some sectarian, by those who consider the Ismaili version of Islam to be inauthentic -- including recently in Pakistan and Syria.

As he stood at the podium at Memorial Church looking over the pews of people gathered on the rainy afternoon to hear his message, the Aga Khan reminded them that despite the existence of different interpretations that run counter to pluralism, his religion has a history of cultural understanding.

“My hope is that the voices of Islam itself will continue to remind the world of a tradition that, over so many centuries, has so often advanced pluralistic outlooks and built some of the most remarkable societies in human history.”

For Patel, who devotes his own time to interfaith work, the words of the Aga Khan resonated strongly.

“What he is saying is the question of how human beings with different identities live together in the same societies is a defining question of the human race -- and it’s been with us from the beginning -- and [he’s] going to spend 50 or 60 years advancing an ethic when it comes to that question,” Patel told The WorldPost. “And there are very few people in the world who focus on something for 50 or 60 years.”
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 9:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

AS RECEIVED

Ismaili Student at Harvard narrates his experience of meeting Hazar Imam:

Meeting Hazar Imam in Person

Following the lecture, some of us proceeded to a special reception and dinner at a Harvard undergraduate house in the
presence of Hazar Imam. There were a hundred people in attendance including major Harvard professors, department
heads, and about a dozen or so Ismaili Harvard students – the undergraduates and a couple of us who studied Islamic
studies. The reception was an opportunity for people to chat with Hazar Imam. Of course, we Ismailis formed a circle of ourown and everyone shared how nervous they were and wondered how we were going to speak to the Imam if given the chance.
At this moment, Itmadi Dr. Shafik Sachedina – who works right under Hazar Imam as head of Jamati affairs – approached us.
He was very happy to see us and congratulated us on our achievements.
I also shared with Dr.Sachedina that I was presenting about the Imam’s vision of pluralism this weekend and he was happy to hear about it,saying that we all need to promote and share Hazar Imam’s messages with the rest of the world.
Dr. Sachedina also said he would take us and introduce us to Hazar Imam. Before he did, I stopped him and asked – “how do we address Hazar Imam in a public place like this? What do we call him – Khudawind, Hazar Imam, Your Highness? Do we say Ya Ali Madad to him?”. Dr. Sachedina said that we were seeing our Imam and our spiritual father and that it was entirely alright to call him Hazar Imam or Khudawind and not to overthink anything but just speak our hearts in front of the Imam.
This put all of us at ease and we slowly followed Dr. Sachedina to where Hazar Imam was standing.
I was just a few feet now from the Imam and I could see him speaking and conversing with each and every person who approached him. This included all the Harvard professors and the organizers.

Dr. Sachedina and Professor Asani started lining up the Ismaili students in small circles near the Imam.

I then saw the Imam approaching the Ismaili students in front of us: My immediate sense upon seeing the Imam, even though this was not in a Jamati context, was how glowing, radiant and luminous he appeared.
To me the Imam appears as someone who is “beyond-human”: even as an individual person, the Imam seems to belong a higher species than ordinary human beings (Sijistani/Khusraw would call this the “inspired mortal” species compared to the “rational animal” species of ordinary people) – as if the Imam is a celestial being who is present in our earthly realm but does not really belong to it. In the midst of this, I recalled the Prophet’s hadith
“to look upon ‘Ali is worship” and so I just decided to gave at Hazar Imam for a few minutes. My immediate experience was
the feeling of utter inadequacy; all I could do was ask for the Imam’s forgiveness. I said several times in my head: “I am sosorry for everything I have done wrong, please forgive us”; so I sought the Imam’s mercy and forgiveness for myself, myfamily, and everyone who had requested special prayers on this occasion, including all the members of our Ismaili Gnosis group.
I saw then Hazar Imam converse and give special one on-one time to each and every Ismaili who came to see him.
He shook the hand of every Ismaili student and asked their name, what they studied, what year they were in. In fact, Iwould say the Imam spent more time in the reception with his spiritual children than he did with non-Ismailis.
We often hear in the farmans how the Imam loves the Jamat much more than they love him and how happy the Imam is to see his Jamats.
I was able to get a glimpse of this here as I beheld the Imam giving so much care and attention to each and everymurid that was in attendance.
Suddenly, the Imam finished speaking with one group and he moved in the direction of myself and the five other muridsstanding next to me. We were on the cusp of that special, unique, and once-in-a-lifetime moment of getting to meet Hazar Imam. I knew beforehand this was a possibility and I had been preparing what to say over the last day as I hopednot to take up the Imam’s time with idle chatter.
I had decided that a message I wanted to convey to the Imam, in person,was the fact that I study Ismailism in graduate school and that I often present my research in public. As Hazar Imam came to meet me, Professor Asani told him that I was his student and that I studied Islamic studies and also Ismaili thought.

Mawlana Hazar Imam then held out his hand, looked at my name tag, and said very slowly, “Ahhh…Khalil”. I took out bothof my hands, placed them around the Imam’s hand, and said (after having rehearsed this a hundred times): “Welcome,
Hazar Imam”. Then Professor Asani mentioned to Hazar Imam that I study the philosophy of Nasir-i Khusraw. Upon hearingthis, Hazar Imam looked at me and lifted up both his hands, as if in amazement, and said very slowly: “Nasir…Khusraw…
wow!”. As he said this, the Imam’s facial expression was one of both being impressed and being humoured – like whenchildren show their parents a drawing they have made and the parents want to show they are impressed even though thechild really has not done anything that amazing. After all, all the academic research in the world is less than a drop in theocean in comparison to the Imam’s spiritual knowledge and wisdom.
I then took the opportunity to tell Hazar Imam that Ialso did research on the modern period and was in fact presenting on Hazar Imam’s ideas of pluralism two days fromnow.
The Imam smiled and nodded and then, after a few moments, said something I did not expect. He said:
“There is a house, a shrine of Nasir-i Khusraw in Badakhshan. It is a small house. We recently restored his shrine and it is very nice.
Go and visit the shrine of Nasir-i Khusraw one day. You will really enjoy it and you will be happy upon seeing it.”
At this point, the Imam smiled and nodded again and went on to meet the rest of the Ismaili students. I was left totallyspeechless: just 2 days ago, I showed the picture of Nasir Khusraw’s shrine to my class at the conclusion of my presentation, when I introduced Hazar Imam to them, and tonight, Hazar Imam mentioned this very same shrine. As Ibegan thinking about how I have to book my next trip to Central Asia and visit this shrine, I recalled how our Ismailihujjats and da‘is tell us the Imam’s words often contain allusions (isharat) to deeper meanings. In the next fewminutes, I came to realize how the Imam’s promise of finding happiness at visiting the restored shrine of Nasir Khusrawholds a deeper meaning for me.
As a scholar I have always felt that Nasir Khusraw’s intellectual thought and ideas have not been fully appreciated and my intention is to study his works and bring his ideas into the limelight. As it turns out,
Nasir Khusraw did not actually build a shrine or a house – but he always said that his poetry and sermons are the earthly“monument” or “foundation” (khak-i pa) of his intellect: “What is the "monument" (khak-i pa) of my intellect; Poems andSermons” (Nasir-i Khusraw).
I came away with the strong impression that in addition to visiting Nasir’s restored physical shrine, the Imam was alsotelling me to help “restore” Nasir Khusraw’s intellectual shrine comprised of his esoteric thought and philosophical ideas.
Intellectual Discussion in the presence of Hazar Imam:

During the dinner, I sat with a few Ismailis at a table and we had a clear view of where Hazar Imam was sitting.

Interestingly, our conversation was all about the rational proofs, historical evidences, and overall basis of Hazar Imam’s Imamat. This is a subject that comes up every week when I am conversing with Ismailis but to have the same discussionon the Proof of Imamat with Hazar Imam present before us was just surreal and will forever be a unique experience. I realize that this matter of whether Hazar Imam is just an ordinary person or whether he is much more than that continues to be a major issue that Ismaili youth today struggle with.
All I can say is that a) the philosophical arguments and historical evidence for Hazar Imam’s Imamat are very strong and deserve to be assessed rationally before one forms a conclusion, and b) every person’s experience of the Imam is going to be different and even one person’s experience will beevolving at different points of life.
Many young people over the years have told me that when they see the Imam in didar or somewhere else, they sometimes just feel “numb” in his presence but when they are at JK or watching a video of the Imam, then they feel something.
All I would say is that even feeling “numb” is an experience too. I myself have felt “numb” during a Didar and there is no reason to punish oneself or feel bad for this.
We each go through different phases of spiritual sensitivity and at times, we do feel “numb” because our minds and hearts are still fine-tuning and becoming aligned with respect to understanding the Imam intellectually and experiencing him in the heart.
Everything I wrote above is just from my own personal experience of Hazar Imam’s Harvard Visit on Nov 12 and Iencourage others present to share their stories.
This was a once in a lifetime experience for myself and many other lucky murids who participated in yesterday’s events.
Once again, I salute Professor Ali Asani and all of our volunteers who made the Harvard lecture possible and I pray that Hazar Imam showers his blessings upon all of his murid [truncated by WhatsApp]

Warm regards,
Zeenat
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 16, 2015 6:24 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

harvardmagazine.com/2015/12/aga-khan-at-harvard

The Harvard Remarks of the Aga Khan

by Ali S. Asani

12.14.15

Harvard Magazine

During his Jodidi Lecture at Harvard’s Memorial Church, co-sponsored by the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs and the Prince Alwaleed Islamic Studies Program, on November 12, His Highness the Aga Khan, Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims (and a member of the College class of 1959), addressed an issue, already rising steadily in prominence, that in recent weeks has been caught in the heated extremes of American presidential campaign rhetoric.

Before the address, professor of Indo-Muslim and Islamic religion and cultures Ali Asani, the director of Harvard’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Islamic studies program, spoke in a Weatherhead Center interview about addressing religious illiteracy and fostering pluralism. Asked about popular perceptions of Islam, he said:

We are witnessing an ideological competition, a battle between different interpretations of the faith, which profoundly impacts popular perceptions of the faith. His Highness the Aga Khan espouses a cosmopolitan vision of Islam which embraces religious, ethnic, and cultural diversities. Others interpretations of Islam are ahistorical and acultural in their approach, often defining it through negative or purely ideological terms.

Several such groups are opposed to the cultural arts and music. They go around destroying our shared human cultural heritage. They have their reasons for doing so, grounded in their context, but their highly ideological and polarizing vision of Islam contrasts starkly with the Aga Khan’s vision, which promotes the arts through various initiatives such as the Aga Khan Program in Islamic Architecture, jointly administered by Harvard and MIT; the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, which is engaged in restoring historic monuments in several cities in Africa and Asia; and the Aga Khan Music Initiative.

Asani put the Aga Khan’s work into perspective this way:

The Aga Khan talks about how the Qur’an itself embraces pluralism, diversity, and differences of opinion. For example, one verse [49:13] says, “We [God] have created you male and female, and appointed you races and tribes, that you may know one another,” or to that effect depending on how one translates it.

The purpose of God creating difference in human society—whether it is gender difference, or ethnic, or any kind—is supposed to be an occasion for learning and knowledge. Through that knowledge, as we engage with “the other,” we see that we’re actually engaging with other viewpoints and in the process coming to know ourselves better. It’s not meant to eliminate difference. It’s used to celebrate difference and engage with it in a very positive way.

In his remarks, titled “The Cosmopolitan Ethic in a Fragmented World,” the Aga Khan recalled his personal experience as a student, and addressed the polarization and fear that have poisoned discourse and understanding among peoples of different faiths and traditions. Excerpts follow.
From Boyhood, as Student and Imam, to a Life Promoting Opportunity

Now, you may have been wondering just what I have been doing over these past six decades since I left the Harvard playing fields. Let me begin by saying a word about that topic.

As you know, I was born into a Muslim family, linked by heredity to the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him and his family). My education blended Islamic and Western traditions in my early years and at Harvard, where I majored in Islamic History. And in 1957 I was a junior when I became the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims—when my grandfather designated me to succeed him.

What does it mean to become an Imam in the Ismaili tradition? To begin with, it is an inherited role of spiritual leadership. As you may know, the Ismailis are the only Muslim community that has been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from Prophet Muhammad.

That spiritual role, however, does not imply a separation from practical responsibilities. In fact for Muslims the opposite is true: the spiritual and material worlds are inextricably connected. Leadership in the spiritual realm—for all Imams, whether they are Sunni or Shia—implies responsibility in worldly affairs; a calling to improve the quality of human life. And that is why so much of my energy over these years has been devoted to the work of the Aga Khan Development Network.

The AKDN, as we call it, centers its attention in the developing world. And it is from this developing world’s perspective, that I speak to you today. So what I will be referring to is knowledge that I have gained from the developing world of Africa, Asia, the Middle East. What I will be speaking about has little to do with the industrialized West.

Through all of these years, my objective has been to understand more thoroughly the developing countries of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and to prepare initiatives that will help them become countries of opportunity, for all of their peoples.

As I prepared for this new role in the late 1950s, Harvard was very helpful. The University allowed me—having prudently verified that I was a student “in good standing”—to take 18 months away to meet the leaders of the Ismaili community in some 25 countries where most of the Ismailis then lived, and to speak with their government leaders.

I returned here after that experience with a solid sense of the issues I would have to address, especially the endemic poverty in which much of my community lived. And I also returned with a vivid sense of the new political realities that were shaping their lives, including the rise of African independence movements, the perilous relations between India and Pakistan and the sad fact that many Ismailis were locked behind the Iron Curtain and thus removed from regular contact with the Imamat.

When I returned to Harvard, it was not only to complete my degree, but I was fortunate to audit a number of courses that were highly relevant to my new responsibilities. So as an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to benefit from the complete spectrum of courses offered by this great university.

Incidentally, I must have been the only Harvard undergraduate to have two secretaries and a personal assistant working with me. And I have always been very proud of the fact that I never sent any of them to take notes for me at my class!

…Today, the Aga Khan Development Network embraces many facets and functions. But, if I were trying to sum up in a single word its central objective, I would focus on the word “opportunity.” For what the peoples of the developing world seek above all else is hope for a better future.

Too often however, true opportunity has been a distant hope—perhaps for some, not even more than a dream. Endemic poverty, in my view, remains the world’s single most important challenge. It is manifested in many ways, including persistent refugee crises of the sort we have recently seen in such an acute form.….

Sixty years ago as I took up my responsibilities, the problems of the developing world, for many observers, seemed intractable. It was widely claimed that places like China and India were destined to remain among the world’s “basket cases”—incapable of feeding themselves let alone being able to industrialise or achieve economic self-sustainability. If this had been true, of course, then there would have been no way for the people of my community, in India and China and in many other places, to look for a better future.

Political realities presented further complications. Most of the poorest countries were living under distant colonial or protectorate or communist regimes. The monetary market was totally unpredictable. Volatile currencies were shifting constantly in value, making it almost impossible to plan ahead. And while I thought of all the Ismailis as part of one religious community, the realities of their daily lives were deeply distinctive and decidedly local.

Nor did most people yet see the full potential for addressing these problems through non-profit, private organizations—what we today call “civil society.”

And yet, it was also clear that stronger coordination across these lines of division could help open new doors of opportunity. We could see how renovated educational systems, based on best practices, could reach across frontiers of politics and language. We could see how global science could address changing medical challenges, including the growing threat of non-communicable disease. We could see, in sum, how a truly pluralistic outlook could leverage the best experiences of local communities through an effective international network.

But we also learned that the creation of effective international networks in a highly diversified environment can be a daunting matter. It took a great deal of considered effort to meld older values of continuity and local cohesion, with the promise of new cross-border integration.

What was required — and is still required—was a readiness to work across frontiers of distinction and distance without trying to erase them. What we were looking for, even then, were ways of building an effective “cosmopolitan ethic in a fragmented world.”

… Today [the AKDN] embraces a group of agencies—non-governmental and non-denominational—operating in 35 countries. They work in fields ranging from education and medical care, to job creation and energy production; from transport and tourism, to media and technology; from the fine arts and cultural heritage, to banking and microfinance. But they are all working together toward a single overarching objective: improving the quality of human life.

Opposing “Tribal Wariness” with a Vision of Diversity as an “ Opportunity To Be Welcomed”

When the Jodidi Lectureship was established here in 1955, its explicit purpose (and I quote) was “the promotion of tolerance, understanding and good will among nations.” And that seemed to be the way history was moving. Surely, we thought, we had learned the terrible price of division and discord, and certainly the great technological revolutions of the twentieth century would bring us more closely together.

In looking back to my Harvard days, I recall how a powerful sense of technological promise was in the air—a faith that human invention would continue its ever-accelerating conquest of time and space. I recall too, how this confidence was accompanied by what was described as a “revolution of rising expectations” and the fall of colonial empires. And of course, this trend seemed to culminate some years later with the end of the Cold War and the “new world order” that it promised.

But even as old barriers crumbled and new connections expanded, a paradoxical trend set in, one that we see today at every hand. At the same time that the world was becoming more interconnected, it also became more fragmented.

We have been mesmerized on one hand by the explosive pace of what we call “globalization,” a centripetal force putting us as closely in touch with people who live across the world as we are to those who live next to us. But at the same time, a set of centrifugal forces have been gaining on us, producing a growing sense—between and within societies—of disintegration.

Whether we are looking at a more fragile European Union, a more polarized United States, a more fervid Sunni-Shia conflict, intensified tribal rivalries in much of Africa and Asia, or other splintering threats in every corner of the planet, the word “fragmentation” seems to define our times.

Global promise, it can be said, has been matched by tribal wariness. We have more communication, but we also have more confrontation. Even as we exclaim about growing connectivity we seem to experience greater disconnection.

Perhaps what we did not see so clearly 60 years ago is the fact that technological advance does not necessarily mean human progress. Sometimes it can mean the reverse.

The more we communicate, the harder it can sometimes be to evaluate what we are saying. More information often means less context and more confusion. More than that, the increased pace of human interaction means that we encounter the stranger more often, and more directly. What is different is no longer abstract and distant. Even for the most tolerant among us, difference, more and more, can be up close and in your face.

What all of this means is that the challenge of living well together—a challenge as old as the human race—can seem more and more complicated. And so we ask ourselves, what are the resources that we might now draw upon to counter this trend? How can we go beyond our bold words and address the mystery of why our ideals still elude us?

In responding to that question, I would ask you to think with me about the term I have used in the title for this lecture: “The Cosmopolitan Ethic.”

For a very long time, as you know, the term most often used in describing the search for human understanding was the word “tolerance.” In fact, it was one of the words that was used in 1955 text to describe one of the objectives of this Jodidi Lecture.

In recent years our vocabulary in discussing this subject has evolved. One word that we have come to use more often in this regard is the word “pluralism.” And the other is the word “cosmopolitan.”

…A pluralist, cosmopolitan society is a society which not only accepts difference, but actively seeks to understand it and to learn from it. In this perspective, diversity is not a burden to be endured, but an opportunity to be welcomed.

A cosmopolitan society regards the distinctive threads of our particular identities as elements that bring beauty to the larger social fabric. A cosmopolitan ethic accepts our ultimate moral responsibility to the whole of humanity, rather than absolutizing a presumably exceptional part.

Perhaps it is a natural condition of an insecure human race to seek security in a sense of superiority. But in a world where cultures increasingly interpenetrate one another, a more confident and a more generous outlook is needed.

What this means, perhaps above all else, is a readiness to participate in a true dialog with diversity, not only in our personal relationships, but in institutional and international relationships also. But that takes work, and it takes patience. Above all, it implies a readiness to listen.

What is needed, as the former Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson has said, and I quote, is a readiness “to listen to your neighbor, even when you may not particularly like him.” Is that message clear? You listen to people you don’t like!

A thoughtful cosmopolitan ethic is something quite different from some attitudes that have become associated with the concept of globalization in recent years. Too often, that term has been linked to an abstract universalism, perhaps well-meaning but often naïve. In emphasizing all that the human race had in common, it was easy to depreciate the identities that differentiated us. We sometimes talked so much about how we are all alike that we neglected the wonderful ways in which we can be different.

One result of this superficial view of homogenized, global harmony, was an unhappy counter-reaction. Some took it to mean the spread of a popular, Americanized global culture—that was unfair and an assessment that was erroneous. Others feared that their individual, ethnic or religious identities might be washed away by a super-competitive economic order, or by some supranational political regime. And the frequent reaction was a fierce defense of older identities. If cooperation meant homogenization, then a lot of people found themselves saying “No.”

But an either-or-choice between the global and the tribal—between the concept of universal belonging and the value of particular identities—was in fact a false choice. The road to a more cooperative world does not require us to erase our differences, but to understand them.

A responsible, thoughtful process of globalization, in my view, is one that is truly cosmopolitan, respecting both what we have in common and what makes us different.

It is perhaps in our nature to see life as a series of choices between sharply defined dualities, but in fact life is more often a matter of avoiding false dichotomies, which can lead to dangerous extremes. The truth of the matter is that we can address the dysfunctions of fragmentation without obscuring the values of diversity.

A cosmopolitan ethic will also be sensitive to the problem of economic insecurity in our world. It is an enormous contributing factor to the problems I have been discussing. Endemic poverty still corrodes any meaningful sense of opportunity for many millions. And even in less impoverished societies, a rising tide of economic anxiety can make it difficult for fearful people to respect, let alone embrace, that which is new or different.…

All of these considerations will place special obligations on those who play leadership roles in our societies. Sadly, some would-be leaders all across the world have been tempted to exploit difference and magnify division. It is always easier to unite followers in a negative cause than a positive one. But the consequences can be a perilous polarization.

The information explosion itself has sometimes become an information glut, putting even more of a premium on being first and getting attention, rather than being right and earning respect. It is not easy to retain one’s faith in a healthy, cosmopolitan marketplace of ideas when the flow of information is increasingly trivialized.

One answer to these temptations will be found, I am convinced, in the quality of our education. It will lie with our universities at one end of the spectrum, and early childhood education at the other—a field to which our Development Network has been giving special attention.

Let me mention one more specific issue where a sustained educational effort will be especially important. I refer to the debate—one that has involved many in this audience—about the prospect of some fundamental clash of civilizations between Islam and the West. In my view, the deeper problem behind any prospective “clash of civilizations” is a profound “clash of ignorances.” And in that struggle, education will be an indispensable weapon.

Finally, I would emphasize that a cosmopolitan ethic is one that resonates with the world’s great ethical and religious traditions.

A passage from the Holy Quran that has been central to my life is addressed to the whole of humanity. It says: “Oh Mankind, fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women…”

At the very heart of the Islamic faith is a conviction that we are all born “of a single soul.” We are “spread abroad” to be sure in all of our diversity, but we share, in a most profound sense, a common humanity.

This outlook has been central to the history of Islam. For many hundreds of years, the greatest Islamic societies were decidedly pluralistic, drawing strength from people of many religions and cultural backgrounds. My own ancestors, the Fatimid Caliphs, founded the city of Cairo, and the great Al Azhar University there, a thousand years ago in this same spirit.

That pluralistic outlook remains a central ideal for most Muslims today.

There are many, of course, some non-Muslims and some Muslims alike, who have perpetrated different impressions.

At the same time, institutions such as those that have welcomed me here today, have eloquently addressed these misimpressions. My hope is that the voices of Islam itself will continue to remind the world of a tradition that, over so many centuries, has so often advanced pluralistic outlooks and built some of the most remarkable societies in human history.

Let me repeat, in conclusion, that a cosmopolitan ethic is one that will honor both our common humanity and our distinctive identities—each reinforcing the other as part of the same high moral calling.

The central lesson of my own personal journey—over many miles and many years—is the indispensability of such an ethic in our changing world, based on the timeless truth that we are—each of us and all of us—“born of a single soul.”
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kmaherali



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PostPosted: Thu Dec 24, 2015 10:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Photo Gallery | Fall 2015 Centerpiece: Jodidi Lecture

http://wcfia.harvard.edu/galleries/cpfall2015-jodidi
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