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Aga Khan announces first Ismaili centre in Middle East

United Arab Emirates: Sunday, December 14 - 2003 @ 10:48

The Ismaili Centre, Dubai, when completed, will be comparable in scope and standing to existing major centres in London, Vancouver and Lisbon, the one underway in Dushanbe and the one in advanced planning stages in Toronto.

The foundation ceremony was attended by His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Deputy Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council and President of the Department of Civil Aviation representing Sheikh Mohammaed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai. The Centre, a project likely to cost in the region of US$18 million, is to be built on 13,200 square metres of land gifted by the Crown Prince.

Addressing a distinguished gathering including national and civic leaders, religious dignitaries and diplomats, the Aga Khan expressed the “humble prayer that, when built, the Ismaili Centre in Dubai will be a place for contemplation and search for enlightenment, where people come together to share knowledge and wisdom. It will be a place of peace, of order, of hope and of brotherhood, radiating those thoughts, attitudes and sentiments which unite, and which do not divide, and which uplift the mind and the spirit.”

“At a time, when the search for mutual understanding remains essential to assuring peace and stability,” said the Aga Khan, “the creation of spaces that will enable that search becomes a greater imperative than ever. The centre was conceived, and will be established, for that very purpose, amongst others.”

“The Centre,” said the Aga Khan, “will provide facilities to promote cultural, educational and social programmes from the broadest, non-denominational perspectives within the ethical framework of Islam. Amongst them will be an Early Learning Centre where the Aga Khan Education Services, a philanthropic agency, will draw on its own extensive experience in many parts of the world to offer broad, holistic, early childhood education on a secular and non-denominational basis at the highest standards of excellence. It would”, he continued, “serve as a resource to support the work of the Aga Khan Development Network which is active in the Middle East and Gulf region in the areas urban development, conservation, restoration, education, healthcare, microfinance, higher education, culture and rural development.

The Aga Khan described the centre as “a symbol of the confluence between the spiritual and the secular in Islam.” Situating one of the functions of the Ismali Centre in the tradition of Muslim piety, the Aga Khan noted that “ a prominent feature of the Muslim religious landscape has been the variety of spaces of gathering co-existing harmoniously with the masjid. Historically serving communities of different interpretations and spiritual affiliations, these spaces have retained their cultural nomenclatures and characteristics, from ribat and zawiyya to khanaqa and jamatkhana. The congregational space incorporated within the Ismaili Centre belongs to the historic category of jamatkhana, an institutional category that also serves a number of sister Sunni and Shia communities, in their respective contexts, in many parts of the world.”

Explaining that “like its functions, the Centre’s architecture will reflect our perception of daily life whose rhythm weaves the body and the soul, man and nature into a seamless unity,” the Aga Khan noted that Egyptian architect Rami El Dahan had drawn inspiration from the Fatimid mosques of Cairo. “Guided by the ethic that whatever we do, see and hear, and the quality of our social interactions, resonate on our faith and bear on our spiritual lives”, said the Aga Khan, “the Centre will seek to create a sense of equilibrium, stability and tranquility,”.

“Through its design and functions this Centre, like its predecessors, will reflect a mood of humility, forward outlook, friendship and dialogue. Above all, this Centre is being conceived in the ethic of respect for human dignity. It will, therefore, aim to empathise with, and to expand our intellectual, cultural and moral horizons.”

In addition to offering facilities for lectures, presentations, seminars and conferences relating to the Aga Khan Development Network’s areas of activity, the Ismaili Centre will host recitals and exhibitions that will serve to educate wider publics about the breadth of Islam’s heritage.

The Aga Khan continues his stay in Dubai as part of visit to the Middle East and Gulf region.

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Sunday, December 14- 2003 @ 10:48 UAE local time (GMT+4) Replication or redistribution in whole or in part is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Mediaquest FZ LLC.

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