The inability of human society to recognise pluralism as a fundamental value constitutes a serious danger for our future, the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of Ismaili Muslims said at the weekend.
In a vigorous exhortation to "governments, civil societies and peoples of the world," the Aga Khan on Saturday night suggested that enhancing "pluralism is as critical for the welfare and progress of human society as are poverty alleviation and conflict prevention."
Addressing an international gathering of some 1,800 in the presence of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands, he sounded caution about the consequences of "the present level of global cultural ignorance – particularly so in the number of functioning democracies where an informed public plays a central role."
He was delivering the keynote speech at the conclusion of a conference on Culture and Development held to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the founding of the Prince Claus Fund.
He added that failure to recognise the essentially pluralist nature of human society was perhaps the most common ingredient of recent conflicts.
"The attempt by communal groups, be they ethnic, religious or tribal groups, to impose themselves on others aims to eradicate the cultural basis of group identity" he said citing Central Europe, the Great Lakes region in Africa and Afghanistan as examples.
Without cultural identity, he said, "social cohesion gradually dissolves."
He said that one of the principal reasons why today there is so much uninformed speculation about conflict between the Muslim world and others was insufficiently complete general education.