Khan Stresses Pluralism
The Netherlands, 9th September, 2002
- "The inability of human society to recognise
pluralism as a fundamental value constitutes a serious
danger for our future."
a vigorous exhortation to "governments, civil
societies and peoples of the world," His Highness
the Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) on Saturday
night suggested that enhancing "pluralism is
as critical for the welfare and progress of human
society as are poverty alleviation and conflict
an international gathering of some 1800 in the presence
of Her Majesty Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands,
the Aga Khan 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." The Aga Khan 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.
to recognise the essentially pluralist nature of
human society was perhaps the most common ingredient
of recent conflicts the Aga Khan said. "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" said the Aga Khan, citing Central
Europe, the Great Lakes region in Africa and Afghanistan
as examples. "Without cultural identity,"
he said, "social cohesion gradually dissolves."
of the principal reasons why today there is so much
uninformed speculation about conflict between the
Muslim world and others," said the Aga Khan,
was insufficiently complete general education. "For
instance, the historic root causes of conflict in
the Middle East or Kashmir are not addressed at
any level of general education in the most powerful
western democracies that dominate world affairs."
the other ways of nurturing pluralism that the Aga
Khan highlighted were documenting "best practices"
in public policies and disseminating these lessons
widely through institutional means. He also strongly
encouraged influencing public opinion, helping organisations
that promote pluralism and acting with "tolerance,
openness and understanding towards other peoples'
cultures, social structures, values and faiths."
to enhance pluralism,"the Aga Khan noted, "have
to be matched in the developing world by programmes
to alleviate poverty because, left alone, poverty
will provide a context for special interests to
pursue their goals in aggressive terms. "Urgent
humanitarian assistance is indispensable,"
he said, "but should be conceived as part of
a long-term strategy of helping the recipient community
develop its own resources" to improve socio-economic
conditions of the poorest. "Development,"
he warned, "is sustainable only if the beneficiaries
become, in a gradual manner, the masters of the
Prince Claus Fund stimulates the exchange of ideas
among artists and thinkers throughout the world.
It recognises innovative activities in culture and
development in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the
Caribbean by granting awards, by funding and producing
publications, and by financing and stimulating networks
and cultural productions.
Aga Khan Development Network is a group of private,
non-denominational development agencies and institutions
that seek to empower communities and individuals,
often in disadvantaged circumstances, to improve
living conditions and opportunities. Working in
over 20 countries, the Network's underlying impulse
is the ethic of compassion for the vulnerable in
society and its agencies and institutions work for
the common good of all citizens, regardless of origin,
gender or religion. The Network's cultural activities
are coordinated by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture
whose activities include: administering the Aga
Khan Award for Architecture, the world's largest
architectural prize; revitalisation of historic
buildings and spaces in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Egypt,
India, Pakistan, Syria and Zanzibar; designing humanities
curricula for universities in Central Asia; preserving
and reviving traditional music of Central Asia;
supporting architectural education and research
at Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute
of Technology; and managing ArchNet, an Internet-based
resource on architecture, urban design and related
issues such as restoration, conservation and housing
design and construction.
For further information, please