October 4, 2005

Aga Khan awarded Carnegie medal

Billionaire racehorse owner the Aga Khan has been presented with a prestigious award for philanthropy.

He was one of six people handed the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy during a ceremony at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

Kwik-Fit founder Sir Tom Farmer also received the accolade, regarded as the philanthropy world's equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Also honoured in the awards was Agnes Gund, chair of the New York Museum of Modern Art, the Cadbury chocolate family and the Hewlett and Packard families.

The ceremony was the first time the event, inaugurated in 2001 and held every two years, had taken place outside the United States. The awards, which recognise individuals who have donated their private wealth for the public good, were named after philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, whose family emigrated to the US from a life of poverty in Scotland in 1848.

After becoming the world's richest man by 1901, he eventually gave away the equivalent of nearly 15 billion dollars after making his fortune in iron and steel, establishing a family of worldwide foundations.

The Aga Khan is the Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad. He has been working to improve living conditions in the developing world, specifically in sub-Saharan Africa, south and central Asia and the Middle East.

Accepting his award, the Aga Khan, one of the world's richest men, said philanthropy was an important duty for all major religions.

He said: "In Islam, the Holy Koran offers explicit direction to share resources beyond one's requirements and to care for the poor and those in need."

The achievements of his development network would not be possible without the tireless contributions of the global community of Ismailis, he added.

"Our volunteers and contributors also include many thousands of others from multiple cultures and faiths around the world. They are united with us in our mission to help build capacity and dignity for individuals, to enable them to take control of their own development. It is on behalf of these many thousands of selfless and dedicated men and women of multiple languages, cultures, faiths and nationalities that I accept this award," he said.