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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Book Review By Graham Worthington & Other Quotes


The first time I saw His Highness the Aga Khan
(James Wolfensohn -Former President of the World Bank)

“Being Muslim and being a Muslim leader has been tough in recent years. The Aga Khan's pursuit for pluralism is commendable and much needed. Tolerance and dialogue are essential in our world and it is important that we recognize that there is great strength in differences. In this time of conflict and uncertainty, we must continue building bridges across countries, creeds, cultures and communities faster than ever before - to understand our differences and develop their creative potential. I believe a look at the Aga Khan's life can serve as an example of how one can do so.”

The first time I saw His Highness the Aga Khan, he was playing soccer and I was getting ready to play cricket at Harvard. The Aga Khan was a Harvard student in 1957, the year when he became Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. I was enrolled in Harvard's Business School , just across the fence. We shared playing fields and I saw him from a distance but I don't think we ever met at this time.

Over the past 20 years, the Aga Khan and I have grown to become close friends. We came into contact first when I was directing the Rockefeller Foundation, and later at the World Bank. The Aga Khan's vision for humanity to help the most marginalized people was very much in line with the work I was doing to alleviate poverty. The Aga Khan has persevered, through his foundation, to promote the well being of, not only his own followers, but also communities at large - from all faiths and all backgrounds, especially in the developing world.

In our early years, both of us realized that the differences between rich and poor were not going to continue unaddressed and that people in poverty - who constituted more than half of the world's population - were not going to remain silent. There was also a sense that proactively tackling the issue of poverty and deprivation was a matter of doing what was morally right; for those who were more religiously-inclined, aiding those in need was the result of religious teachings and religious practices. The Aga Khan, as a leader of his faith, is a unique example of a visionary committed to promote human welfare.

It is one thing to address spiritual values, which I am sure the Aga Khan has always done in a remarkable manner, but nurturing the spirit alone is not enough. What is extraordinary about the Aga Khan is that he addresses the whole person: he looks at the question of how you can encourage poor families to live a better life by giving them opportunities ranging from providing education for their children so that there is no limitation on the possibilities for their future, to giving them access to better healthcare so that they can live longer and enjoy a healthier - qualitatively better - life.

The Aga Khan understood the need for development very early on. His record, for the past fifty years in terms of the number of schools, hospitals, and local jobs he has created, is nothing but outstanding. Given my experience at the World Bank, I can say there is no other community leader that I know of who has done better. More importantly, he has done so in a multi-country environment dealing with different political leaders and he has done it through the sheer force of his personality, his goodness and his practical wisdom.

I congratulate the Ismailis and the Aga Khan at the time of his Golden Jubilee and I congratulate Shamir Allibhai for persevering with this film with a vision to help dispel prejudiced myths in the current climate where many are associating Islam with terrorism. I look to the future with hope that we will be able to bring about a confluence of cultures and faiths that will realize the best in humanity - a goal shared by my friend, the Aga Khan
Announcement from Hon. Jason Key – Royal Galipeau Makes a Statement in the House of Commons on the Aga Khan
Royal Galipeau, Member for Ottawa—Orléans (CPC): Royal Galipeau, Mr. Speaker, December 13 is an important day for the Ismaili community around the world. His Highness the Aga Khan, a descendant of the prophet Muhammad, was born in Geneva on this day in 1936.

In May 2010, this wise imam was given honorary Canadian citizenship by the Prime Minister of Canada.
In 1957, Her Majesty the Queen had granted him the title “His Highness”. The spiritual leader of 15 million Ismailis across 25 countries, His Highness the Aga Khan has emphasized the view of his faith, a faith that teaches compassion and tolerance, true Canadian values.
The well-being of his fellow Muslims has always been important to His Highness.
On behalf of all Canadians, I wish His Highness the Aga Khan a happy 75th birthday. May he enjoy peace, health, joy and my favourite, serenity.
On behalf of our Government I would like to pass on my best wishes to His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan on this significant milestone.
Hon. Jason Kenney, PC, MP, Calgary Southeast

French Government Bestows Honors for Contributions to Culture:

Paris, France, 9 November 2010 - The French Minister for Culture and Communication, Frédéric Mitterrand, on behalf of the French government, today conveyed honours on His Highness the Aga Khan and his brother Prince Amyn Aga Khan. Recognising their contributions to culture, both personally and through the various activities of the Aga Khan Development Network, the Minister noted that the promotion of culture had a privileged position amongst all of their multiple activities, because “you are convinced of its importance in the process of improving the quality of life globally”.

He also paid tribute to their work: “All these initiatives are carried out in line with the attention to perfection that is your hallmark; you apply the criteria of excellence to philanthropy. Your demanding standards are admired. Your hospitals, schools and banks are exemplary models and organisations bearing the name Aga Khan offer a guarantee of quality to all.”

Hear the words that Wolfensonhn spoke?

By: Abdulmalek A. Valla. Winner of International Poet of Merit Award,
Washington , D.C. August 2002

Hear the words that Wolfensonhn spoketh?
"He is a holy man". It is true; the Aga Khan is a holy Man,
Not only holy, but also saintly.
Not only saintly, but also virtuous,
Not only virtuous, but also righteous.
Not only righteous, but also ethical,
Not only ethical but also decent.
Not only decent but also respectable,
Not only respectable but also highly regarded.
Not only highly regarded but also highly perfect.
Not only highly perfect but perfectly perfect.

These words the Wolfensonhn said onTuesday 25th January 2005, It was evening at the dinner party, At National Building Museum . It was in admiration of the His Highness the Aga Khan , For fostering design excellence, For urban and rural revitalization and Historic safeguarding in countries where Muslims have a major presence. He was referring to the Aga Khan.

Mr. Wolfensonhn further said:

"A Man, who respects the very best in Islam".
The best in Islam are many things but
The very best in Islam is peace.
Peace for the world and peace for believers.
And Aga Khan is Peace of the world.
He is the peace of Islam and believers.
He is peace for His murids.
His murids are always at peace; don't ye think so?
Have ye experienced peace under His shelter?
If ye agree with me then ye have peace in Islam.
His speeches are full of peace,
His work is aimed at peace,
His deeds always lean at peace.
His thoughts are peace,
His thinking is always peace,
His institutions are for peace and
His coming to this world is for peace.
Mr. Wolfensonhn further said:
"The leader of His faith".
Yes, He is a proud leader of His Faith,
Yes, His Faith is Islam and
He is also a leader of Islam.
His ancestors followed Islam and He too.
For Islam He is born,
For Islam He will die.
For Islam He is proud.
Because, Aga Khan is the Light of Islam,
He is the Pillar of Islam,
He is the Pride of Islam.
He is the Defender of Islam,
He is a Protector of Islam,
He is very proud of Islam.
What else was said about the Aga Khan?
"All the good guys are here..."
"Among the world's greatest figures in development. "
"Leader of the grouping of the Aga Khan...not
"So much for His work in the built environment. ..
"But by work in the human environment. ..
"He is a holy Man,
"The leader of his faith,
"A Man who represents the very best in Islam".
Yes, the very best in Islam is peace; the Aga Khan is peace.

"Where Hope Takes Root: Democracy and Pluralism in an Independent World"

Having recently seen the inspiring film, "Let the Beauty We Love Be What We Do," about The Aga Khan's dedicated work on the restoration of historical Islamic buildings, I was moved to read this collection of his talks on the need for pluralism and tolerance in today's diverse and violent world.
In this collection of fourteen addresses, given over the last six years to various distinguished organisations, he explains concisely the need for societies to not merely accept pluralism of cultures and viewpoints, but to work actively in promoting this necessity for a tolerant world.
I especially like the chapters on democracy, highlighting its failures, strengths and needs, and the Aga Khan's oft-repeated point that the "Clash of Civilisations" so frequently mentioned in the media is actually a clash of ignorances, as communities with so much in common slide into conflict and fear due to lack of education on each other's virtues.
Pluralism is not a word that we come across frequently, yet it is by no means a minor or obscure subject, being in fact the fountain from which tolerance flows. In religion, it means that different faiths should coexist peacefully, at least giving each other tolerance, and at best recognising the central truths that they share. And of course pluralism in culture - with which it must go hand in hand - means much the same. In not merely calling for pluralism, but actively working for it, the Aga Khan goes beyond many of the religious leaders of today, leaving behind the tangled, fruitless jungle of sectarian beliefs, and venturing into the reality of human desire for peace and fulfillment.
There is a choice to be made, and nowadays it presses upon us with greater urgency than ever before. To accept, enjoy and learn from the natural diversity of this world, or to fear this diversity, and in seeking to oppose it, narrow down our own souls into dark caves where we may crouch in avoidance of life's sunlight. War occurs for a limited number of causes, and it's a common saying that religion causes more wars than anything else. I have no patience with cheerleading for this religion versus that, whilst throwing aside the search for meaning and fulfilment, and so I applaud the content of this book heartily, whilst praising the insight with which it's delivered.
To me, pluralism is recognition of the inescapable fact that all human being are created differently, even though in their essential nature they are the same. Variety is said to be the spice of life, and it is in this variety of physical - and emotional - being that we can find joy in exploring the breadth of the world. Nor is variety limited to form and emotions: thought also varies, both in its ability and conclusions, and these conclusions can, if applied intolerantly, lead us into the most violent and disastrous of conflicts. Yet if considered with tolerance and understanding, differences can act as mirrors and commentaries to each other, and lead us to greater understanding and breadth of being.
There is an adventure in life, the adventure of going beyond the limited experiences that we know, and into communion with the unknown and exotic. In finding the virtues of strangers to be in sympathy with ours, we ourselves become the strange and exotic. Our accustomed skin we then exchange for that of different hue, lighter or more luxuriantly dark, or its plain smoothness for the bright geometry of reptilian scales, or the brilliance of rainbow plumage. This is perhaps a little poetically put, but how else to express life's beauty, so easily gained or lost by hatred or love?
Long ago, a culture formed in the near east, growing from the words and revelations of prophets, which it recorded in scriptures. It recognised the supremacy of one unseen God, and the folly of worshiping idols, and recognised rules by which man could live in harmony. All was not of course perfect: man's everyday baggage of evil struggled with this good, and different schools of thought contended. Within this culture a teacher arose, Jesus, who taught the same, but afresh, and later another, Prophet Mohammed, who again pointed to one God, and the uselessness of idols, and the brotherhood of man. Despite the agreement of their teachings, and the God they spoke of in different languages being one and the same, quarrels arose. Today we see three groups, which we, obsessed with pigeonholing, classify as different, though they are not, and in pursuit of ever more complex ideas we sub-divide them endlessly and uselessly. Disputes continue, and often these supposed differences are used to fuel political struggles for land, or power, or individual glory, and blood is shed where the original intention was to enjoy peace and prosperity.
Today we have the same choice as the millions who have gone before us, wavering between a deeper inner world and one of immediate gratification, and wavering also between perceiving the essential unity of religions or wandering angry and bewildered within a forest of petty arguments and blood stained histories. We can choose the simple path of tolerance and progress, or we can add to the hatred and ruin.

We choose which facts we remember; we choose which facts we know. Wars, murders, and acts of terrorism stand out dramatically, and hide the greater reality of everyday cooperation. Historically, Islam, Judaism and Christianity have learned from each other constantly, and today we are free to do the same, or be misled into seeing the differences of detail and ignoring the unities.

Graham Worthington, author, Wake of the Raven and Zorn: A Legend of the Days to Come

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