The Herald
Issue 1723
Wednesday, 16th April 2003


Aga Khan says heritage is at risk after destruction of cultural treasures

THE Aga Khan, spiritual leader of Shia Ismaili Muslims and a scholar of Islamic history and art, yesterday lamented the destruction of historical treasures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We are witnessing in Afghanistan, and now in Iraq, that the very survival of our heritage is today at risk, destroyed under the dust of our own indifference," said the wealthy philanthropist, Prince Karim Aga Khan. "We must renew our vigour to revitalize our shared heritage."

The Aga Khan was in New Delhi to unveil newly restored gardens at one of India's major monuments and meet with Indian leaders to discuss co-operation with his foundation, which is promoting education, rural development, health care and the preservation of heritage sites in India.

At the sixteenth-century Humayun's Tomb in the heart of New Delhi, he decried the destruction of ancient treasures in Afghanistan and the looting of the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad.

"Whether through neglect or wilful destruction, the disappearance of ancient treasures of the past deprives us of more than history," he said.

The Aga Khan Trust for Culture donated more than 400,000 for the restoration of the gardens, water channels and fountains at Humayun's Tomb. The massive tomb of red sandstone and white marble is the final resting place of Mogul Emperor Humayun.

The trust contributes some 130m annually to non-profit activities world-wide, focusing on projects where Muslims have a significant presence.

Humayun was the son of Babur, who founded the Mogul Empire. His tomb, which contains more than 100 Mogul graves, is one of UNESCO's 23 World Heritage Sites in India.

The tomb was ordered by Akbar, Humayun's son and the greatest Mogul emperor of India, in about 1565, after his father fell to his death on a stairway. Historians say the tomb took a decade to build and inspired the Taj Mahal, built nearly a century later by Akbar's grandson, Shah Jahan.

-April 16th