I591014 Interview



OCTOBER 14, 1959


On the eve of his departure after his East African tour, His Highness the Aga Khan gave a microphone interview to Charles Hayes.

This "question and answer" report is published in response to many requests from listeners to this interview which was first broadcast on Wednesday, 14th October at 8 p.m.

Q. How do you see the future of the Ismaili people in the development of East Africa?

A. First of all, I should make it clear that I have been brought up in the Western world and am, of course, a believer in a democratic course, a believer in a democratic form of Government and I see that it is very important for the Ismailis to fit into this pattern of democratic Government as it is being shaped in East Africa. I see them as citizens of the territories which they have adopted and contributing to the progress of these territories just as would be expected of any citizen in any State.

Q. Outside your own community do you think that the Asian community as a whole plays its full part in the progress of East Africa towards independence?

A. Yes, I do. I think, however, that there is a rather grave lack of communication between the various communities in East Africa. Now this, of course,is in varying degrees in the different territories, but I do believe that there is a lot of room for improvement of communication, exchange of ideas and exchange of know-how. This is where the Asian community can help in helping people to acquire business know-how.

Q. What is the relationship of your followers towards African Muslims here?

A. All Muslims are brothers and we live on this principle and help as much as possible, through our schools and through the East African Muslim Welfare Society, to help the African and Arab Muslims where they need help - that is if we can give it to them. That is very much the policy which I hope we will follow in the future and which I am sure the non-Ismaili Muslims wish to follow themselves.

Q. Your own position as a spiritual head of the Ismaili Muslims - is that in any way comparable with that of his Holiness the Pope towards Roman Catholics?

A. No, there is very little basis for a comparison. The Pope is elected, the Imam is not elected by the Ismailis, the Pope does not hold a hereditary position, the Imam does not have an ambassadorial service as the Papacy does, and so on these grounds there is little basis for comparison.


Q. From the Ismaili teachings, what is there that could be of value to the peoples of East Africa - living in harmony perhaps?

A. I think perhaps the greatest asset, which the community has proved so often here in East Africa, and in other parts of the world, is self-help. The people who are well-off help the people who are poor.

The community schemes are very widely supported and appeals that are made to support one scheme or another have tremendous response in the community. I would be very happy if similar forms of response were created throughout these territories for national schemes.

Q. What is your view of East Africa as a series of mono-racial nations?

A. I do not think that mono-racial nations would be possible in East Africa and from the interviews that I have been fortunate enough to have with the leaders of various groups, I do not believe that they really aim at this because, after all, the basic aim is to create the happiest and most prosperous state possible. I doubt, personally, whether it is possible to create such a state by making it thoroughly mono-racial.


Q. What is your view of African Nationalism at such a time as this in the development of East Africa?

A. In East Africa I have been very impressed with the leaders. I must say that in the private interviews I have found them very courteous and extremely intelligent. They have the interests of the country at heart and I would say that they are not as extreme in general as is made out to be and this is the very field where I believe that improvement in communication between various communities could do a tremendous amount of good.

Q. So you would say that there is not only no point in a policy of purely African dominance, it does not exist in anyone's imagination at all?

A. I would say that responsible African leaders do not view their countries in this light.


Q. Do you think there is anything wrong with the African attitude towards Asians?

A. I think that I will have to turn this question round and say that it is not a question of what is wrong, it is a question of making improvement where there is room for improvement and there are certainly fields where, simply through discussing issues with them, you find common ground which is totally ignored if these forms of communication had to go through letters or through non-personal contacts.

Q. In view of the boycott which is taking place at this moment in Uganda, communication seems to be a little difficult between some of the races there. I wonder if you could be more specific. Can you see ways and means of improving these relationships?

A. Yes, I certainly can. In the first place, I think that education is one of the bases in Uganda on which there can be a very valuable meeting ground. In my own schools, thirty percent of the students are Africans. We have African, Asian and European teachers teaching our students. This is one field. The other field, of course, is in business, which has for the moment a very strong Asian interest. We should bring the local population into businesses and train them so that they are eventually able to start themselves.

Q. Do you see radio, perhaps television, playing important roles in this policy of education?

A. Yes, I do. I think that television, for example, the sort of programs you have in America or in England where you put national leaders on a panel to discuss their problems can be of tremendous value to passing on the real issues to the people in their homes.

The issues then seem to become much more real to the people who are watching the interview and they are able to get a better knowledge of what is the real point behind the issue.

Q. Would you like to sum up what you found, what you met, during this tour?

A. I have been particularly happy, as I have said already, with the progress that my community has made. I have particularly worked for the Hospital - the Aga Khan Jubilee Hospital here in Nairobi, - to get the insurance scheme running, so that all people can have an insurance by which they pay f4 a year and are insured for up to f250 worth, of medical service at the hospital - equivalent to sixty-six days of hospitalization.

The other scheme, of course, is completing our housing projects by the target date of 1960. In most of the territories we have reached approximately eighty per cent or eighty-five per cent completion and we want to complete this by 1960. I think two other issues have been of great interest to me. The first is, of course, pushing forward our educational schemes as quickly as possible and the other one is reorganizing the East African Muslim Welfare Society so that the funds can be distributed according to the importance of the project, such as giving more bursaries to Muslim students and financing more bursaries to Muslim students and financing more Muslim schools.

Q. You have got followers behind the Iron Curtain, I understand. Have you any plans for moving across to see them?

A. I did say at a Press Conference that I would like to go to the U.S.S.R. if I can, but for the moment my time is very taken up. But I hope to be able to visit the U.S.S.R. in the future.

Q. Do you intend to take up permanent residence anywhere in East Africa?

A. I am afraid my permanent residence for the moment has been inside a suitcase. I do not think that I would make any permanent residence for the next two years. I plan to do another year or two years of travelling and will not have a permanent residence during these next years.