Originally, Khans weren't Muslims
"No conflict between Islam and democracy"
DW-TV: Your Highness, the world has been shocked by terrorist attacks carried out by people who claim to be fighting for Islam. You, as an eminent Muslim leader, call Islam a religion of peace. Doesn't that mean that Islam has two faces?
Prince Karim Aga Khan IV .: No, I do not think so. For one thing, keep in mind that this is only a very, very small minority of the world's Muslim population. On the other hand, they are essentially driven by political rather than religious motives. It would be completely wrong to see this as representative of Islam. The western world has to look carefully at what forces are at play so that one can distinguish between belief and those things that have nothing to do with belief at all. We Muslims could also ask the same questions: for example, about what is happening in Northern Ireland. If, as a Muslim, I came up to you and said, "What happened in Northern Ireland is a reflection of both Catholic and Protestant beliefs," you would look at me and say, "You are uneducated."
[Of course we would never say something like that, but:] In many Western countries, including Germany, more and more people are of the opinion that Islam and democracy are incompatible. If so, mutual understanding and effective cooperation between Muslims and the West would be virtually impossible.
That's right, but I don't see any conflict between Islam and democracy. Two concepts played an important role in the story: the first was counseling and the second was the transmission of religious and secular authority through heredity. It was also asked: What is the purpose of these consultations? That is, making sure the most capable lead the community. I believe that democracy is based on these two concepts: it is based on the concept of consultation and the concept of voting, with the aim of finding out which people are best suited to lead the community. So I don't see any conflict at all when I look at the original form of the Muslim community.
Tolerance and pluralism are high on your agenda for improving the condition of humanity. Is that because your own followers, the Ishmaelites, are also discriminated against as a minority? Sometimes they are even referred to as heretics by other Muslims.
First of all, I would say that in every belief there is a disagreement about the interpretation of that belief. But I don't think that the Ishmaelites are still discriminated against today. On the contrary, we are building bridges to representatives of other branches of Islam. Because in Islam the concept of pluralism is firmly anchored. There are also a number of different interpretations. So the difference between the interpretations is not a problem in Islam. I would go even further and argue that Islam is a very broad belief. There is a very well-known passage in the Koran: Allah says "I have you" - and by that he means all of humanity - "made out of one soul."
Since the end of 2001 the West has endeavored to enter into a dialogue with the Muslim world. But more and more people are frustrated because there seems to be no real answer from the Muslim side. They are waiting for voices from moderate Muslims to speak out loud and clear against terrorism in the name of Islam. Why can't you hear such voices?
I think these voices can be heard more and more now. We have to remember that there are forces within the Islamic world that do not promote free exchange of views, and especially not on faith.
What hope is there of overcoming terrorism forever?
First of all, I would say: let's get rid of the causes of terror. In general, this is political frustration and not a question of belief. The situation in the Middle East did not arise from the Islamic faith. The situation in Kashmir did not arise from Islamic belief. The situation in Afghanistan did not arise from Islamic belief. So we have to get to the heart of the problem, and it is political. And when we know the root cause that drives people to despair, then we will grab it.
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