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Speeches by H. S. H. Prince Aly Khan

H. R. H. Prince Aly Khan
The Middle East

Islam - The Religion of Equality

The Middle East

Lecture by His Serene Highness Prince Aly Khan under the chairmanship of His Worship the Major, councillor Abdulkarim M.L.C., Vice - President of the Dar es Salaam Cultural Society.

30 January 1951

It is indeed ironical that here, in Dar es Salaam, "Haven of peace", I must speak of war.

That I may speak of war and yet hold bright hopes for peace is due to my strong conviction that growing strength of the Mohamedan world, is staunchly united with Christianity in defence of freedom, may yet prevent, or if not prevent, bring to a victorious conclusion, any war which might be imposed upon us.

The Mohamedan world, the Middle East and Pakistan, is, I submit the hub of the free world's "wheel of fortune". obscure as the international situation may be, the strategic importance of Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Iran, because of their geographical situation and resources, stand out in bold relief against a clouded and troubled sky.

In spite of this fact, the Western powers have never given sufficient importance to the Muslim world. They have always been inclined to treat it as a big backward and lethargic child. That is the view they have generally adopted towards all Eastern peoples. It is only the reverses of the Korean war that have made the Western powers realise that the Eastern nations can and do produce good soldiers.

The Korean War has also shown quite clearly that in a major conflict manpower is as important as horsepower. Advanced designs in war planes and other mechanical devices cannot win a decisive victory without occupying forces to consolidate initial victories.

It is the contention of the peace-loving world that the overwhelming issue of the day is communism versus humanity. It is certainly true that the architects of Communist expansion are taking every possible measure to impose their dogmas upon the world.

The recent events of Berlin, Korea, and Indo-China, indicate that the Russians were not slow in appreciating the need of a strong foothold in the Middle Eastern countries, and it would not be surprising if the next move was made in the direction of Azarbaijan. This might not take the form of an attack, but more probably of some local rebellion, obviously incited and supported by Russia.

Some of the Middle Eastern countries, owing to foreign domination, have failed to progress to anywhere near the extent of their possibilities - others, owing to dissension amongst the Mohamedan sects, have also lagged behind. After the second World War, a great political, economic and social awakening has been taking place but the understanding, the friendship, and the material assistance of the West is needed now, as never before, if the peoples and nations of the Middle East, are to approach their full stature, as allies, in the cause of peace and justice.

And while it is true that the middle East and the world's fifth largest nation, Pakistan, with its more than eighty million population have not yet attained anything approaching their real potential strength, either economically, industrially, or militarily, the Christian forces must realise that there exists in fact today a third world bloc: ISLAM. The Islamic bloc may not, at this moment of history, compare in developed material power with the so-called major blocs; its spiritual power, however, is second to none, and it is this great spiritual force of Islam, with which Christianity must combine, if world aggression is to be halted.

Russia is fully aware of this forward movement in the Middle East countries, and an intense Communist programme of propaganda and infiltration is in operation throughout these areas, conducted by local agents and dissatisfied political leaders guided and abetted by the communist diplomatic representatives. Still another method is employed by playing upon the nationalistic aspirations of the people or members of their Governments. Unless the Western powers fully realise the existence and importance of this third world bloc, and the threats to that bloc from without, and extend a friendly, helping hand to it - then the ideal of equality and democracy for which we stand so firmly united will be in real and grave danger. If this is not done, these countries' ideology has any similarity to communism, but because they will be given cause to feel that they are undesired and unwanted by the west, and will automatically turn to the first power who shows them any mark of sympathy, however bogus this may be. I repeat, although the Communist doctrine has no connection with the Muslim faith, the economic needs and, to a large extent, the existing substandard of living suffered by the peoples make these under-developed lands ideal breeding ground for communist propaganda.

It is apparent that Christianity and Islam must come, and come immediately, to a closer understanding, and it is equally apparent that their unity if achieved, will be the most effective defensive measure against Communist expansion. Throughout the past, there has been a lack of intimacy, affection, and regard for Islam by Christianity. This, to a large extent, has been due to a lack of knowledge of the great human and spiritual ideals for which Islam and the teachings of Islam stand. All efforts should now be made by Christianity to bridge this wholly artificial and harmful gap.

A recent Communist Conference which was held in Batum, and which was attended by representatives of all the Middle Eastern countries proved again, if such proof were necessary, the great importance which Russia attributes to the Middle East. Very little publicity was given to the conference, yet this kind of information would be widely publicised in order to bring home forcefully to the layman of the world the gravity of the dangers with which we are faced.

Russia knows of the vulnerability of her frontiers in this part of the world. In Eastern Europe, she has created a series of buffer states which could take the first shock of any attacks directed against her. But from the direction of the Middle East, her weak under-side, she is far more vulnerable, particularly if you take into consideration the proximity of her principal oil sources: Baku and Ramanian fields. Baku's oil was so vital to Russia in the Second World War, that Hitler saw fit to drive his hordes through the steps of Russia in an attempt to stop its flow. Today, Russia doubtless covets the oil of Iraq, Persia and Saudi Arabia. This lends added significance to Russia in the safeguarding of her frontiers against all possible attacks by air or land, launched from Persia and Saudi Arabia. This lends added significance to Russia in the safeguarding of her frontiers against all possible attacks by air or land, launched from Persia or Turkey. We must remember, too, that the Russian population of the Caucasus are to a large extent Muslims, and the areas such as Georgia which have aspirations of their own.

With a communist drive into Europe, it would be futile to think that Russia could ignore her susceptibilities to attacks from the Middle East. Her eyes have long been turned towards the Persian Gulf, the road to India and an outlet on the Mediterranean always one of her older ambitions.

Communist propaganda has for some time been advocating a separatist movement in a number of Middle East countries, such as the Kurdish movements in Iraq and Persia; also factions in Azerbaijan (Iran) where already they stirred up trouble a few years ago; as well as the terrorists of the Irgun in Palestine.

All these countries and conditions must be weighed, and weighed again with mature judgement by the leaders of the Western hemisphere. If they fail to appraise the true value of Islam in the world situation today, if they fail to recognise or fail to endeavour to alleviate the sufferings of its masses, they may well lose the might of its manpower and the goodwill of its people, made cohesive by the faith and consequently lose, for all religions, the war against Godlessness.

Although I have spoken of the imminence of war, I wish to conclude with an invocation to peace...Peace for all men of faith, whatever their creed, whatever their colour.

H. R. H. Prince Aly Khan on his wedding day 1949

Islam - The Religion of Equality

Speech by H. R. H. Prince Aly Khan

Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the Council of Islamic Affairs,

New York, May 27th 1958.

The late Prince Aly Khan (d. 1960) was father of the present Aga Khan (IV), and eldest son of the previous Aga Khan (III) - who was also the Chairman of the League of Nations (1933 - 1936).  

Mr. Chairman, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you very much for the honour you have done me by inviting me to be your guest at this luncheon and for the kind words you have said about me.

If you feel that you can bear with me for a few minutes, I should like to speak about my country; Pakistan, as a member of the Islamic fraternity of nations.

The Council of Islamic Affairs is doing a great service to the world by promoting a greater understanding in America of the rich heritage of the Islamic peoples and their hopes and aspirations for the future. For centuries, the Moslem and Christian peoples have lived and moved in different worlds. Today the two worlds have become one. This fact alone, if no other, should compel them to get together to meet the challenge of a godless, totalitarian creed, which has pro-claimed as its ultimate purpose the destruction of both.

Despite the ebb and flow of its fortunes, the vicissitudes and calamities of its history, Islam claims nearly four hundred million adherents from the Atlantic to the Far East. As a living force in the lives of one fifth of mankind, it is a political fact of great significance in the world of today. That it has not exhausted its vitality, has been strikingly demonstrated by the emergence of Pakistan as an independent state, as recently as 1947. Faithful to their Islamic heritage, the Moslem people of the subcontinent, under their great leader Mohammed Ali Jinnah, staked their claim for an independent national existence as a people apart from those of the Hindu faith and culture.

Given a right understanding of the foundations of Islam and Christianity, and the spiritual values which they have proclaimed, it should not prove very difficult to build a bridge of mutual respect and co-operation between the two great religions. Unfortunately, it is a fact that the close similarity between the two remains largely unknown to the West.

Both Moslems and Christians believe in the Unity of God, in the revelations of his Divine Message through his chosen messengers - namely the great prophets, and in the spiritual and ethical foundations of a social order based on the principles of equality, liberty and universal brotherhood.

To bring out the closeness of our basic beliefs, let me quote to you from the Holy Quran which sets forth the basic doctrines of Islam:

First, the bedrock of faith - Divine Unity: "And your God is one God; there is no God but He,...there is none like unto Him."

Second, the whole of humanity is one: their division into tribes and nations is but to facilitate human relations: "All peoples are a single Nation."

Third, equality: "The White man is not above the Black, nor the Black above the Yellow, all men are equal before their Maker."

Fourth, dignity of the human person based so often on pride of birth, is rejected.

Fifth, freedom of belief and conscience must be respected.

The Quran says: "There is no compulsion in religion. Wherefore, let him who will believe, and let him who will, disbelieve."

These are the fundamental beliefs of the Islamic peoples. There is no need for me to emphasise the identical precepts to which the Christian world owes allegiance. Indeed, to a religion founded on love -love of God and love of one's neighbour - such as Christianity, the excerpts that I have quoted from the Quran must sound as recitations from the Bible

In the early centuries of Islam, the great schools of Islamic jurisprudence were built upon the above principles. Basic to all their legal systems they developed the doctrine that liberty is the fundamental basis of law.

The science of law was defined as: "The knowledge of rights and duties whereby man is enabled to observe right conduct in the world."

Thus, Islamic jurisprudence was developed to respect and promote the rights of men. The contribution of Islam to history and modern civilization is the product of the efforts of peoples of many races and tongues which came to accept its way of life. It is not the contribution of any one single race or nation. Although in the early centuries of Islam, Arabic was the common vehicle of expression, such as Latin was in Europe in the Middle Ages, the Persians, Turks and other peoples, as well as the Arabs, contributed immensely to the flowering of the unique culture which for many centuries governed the lives of a large section of mankind.

It is not necessary to dwell on the political and social principles of Islam, to underline how close they also are in spirit to the concepts of human rights which govern the political and social systems of the West.

It is one of the paradoxes of history that the West and the Islamic world which have so many beliefs and values in common, should have lived in antagonism for centuries. When we consider the great contribution of the Islamic peoples to modern Western civilization, particularly in the realm of scientific enquiry, philosophic thought, and mysticism, wherein the religious spirit is lifted to the sublime, the paradox of conflict becomes all the more striking. Perhaps the key to it lies in the statecraft of princes, who found in the appeal to religion a force, of tremendous power which could be exploited to serve their ambitions.

Fortunately, historians are now beginning to recognise the historic role of Islam as a liberating force for peoples oppressed by the burdens of unjust social systems. Islam challenged the contemporary societies of Asia and Europe, which rested on absolu-tism, intolerance and the privilege of birth and race. Instead it offered equality. Swami Vivekanananda, the distinguished Hindu savant, had this to say of its impact on India: "To Muslim rule we owe that great blessing, the destruction of exclusive privilege ...The Muslim conquest of India came as a salvation to the down-trodden, to the poor. That is why one-fifth of our people have become Muslim....''

The emergence of Pakistan, a decade ago, was an act of protest against the existence of privilege in the social order of the subcontinent of India. It reflects the will of the Muslims of the subcontinent to escape from the fear of being reduced, in course of time, by the inexorable facts of the situation in which they found themselves, to the status of second class citizens. It is a symbol of their determination to ensure for themselves an existence based on human dignity and equality in accordance with the social concepts of Islam.

If I may be forgiven a reference to my family, the origin of this protest goes back to the beginning of this century, when my revered father, the Aga Khan, won for the Moslems of the subcontinent, recognition of their right to separate representation in the political life of India, then under British rule. For fifty years, he strove for the rights of Moslems and lived to see the day when his efforts finally led to the creation of the largest Moslem State in the world. As a founding-father of the new nation, he played a decisive role in the fortunes of the Islamic world, with which my ancestors have for many centuries been intimately linked.

Pakistan, with a personality of its own in the Moslem world, calls itself an Islamic Republic, in the sense that the overwhelming majority of its people, are of the Moslem faith and aspire to a social and political order based on justice and equality, in accordance with the spirit of the injunctions of Islam that I have quoted.

The appellation "Islamic" however, does not imply that Pakistan is a theocratic State, run by religious fanatics who seek to reduce the non-Muslim minorities in Pakistan to the status of inferior citizens. The relevant provision of our Constitution, under which Pakistan became a democratic Republic on the 23rd of March 1956, lays down: "Section 5 (1): All citizens are equal before law and are entitled to equal protection of law."

The Constitution further nullifies as void, any law, custom, or usage, which is inconsistent with the fundamental right to equality under the law, which is an enforceable right under an independent judiciary, the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

This means that non-Moslems are guaranteed equality with Moslems under the laws of Pakistan.

With the exception of the Presidency, all governmental offices in Pakistan, including that of Prime Minister, are open to all citizens alike, regardless of their caste or creed.

While it is true that the President of Pakistan must be a Muslim, he is in fact the symbol of the State, and the executive powers are vested almost exclusively in the Prime Minister and his cabinet. Pakistan is not unique in basing its political institutions on fundamental religious concepts. For example, a number of European nations, such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Greece and the United Kingdom restrict the office of the head of state to those who profess the predominant religious beliefs of their countries.

Although Moslems, the Chiefs of State that Pakistan has had in succession, have made it their special concern to assure to religious minorities the full protection of their equal rights under the Constitution. President Iskander Mirza, the present Chief of State, has pledged his personal responsibility to guarantee to them the exercise of all their human rights. In this great man, the people of other religions have a sincere friend and champion.

The leaders of the Government of Pakistan are liberal and enlightened men, responsible to a freely elected Parliament in accordance with the popular will. They function entirely within the framework of the Constitution and laws of Pakistan.

I am well aware that the people of the United States are deeply committed to the doctrine of separation of church and state. We, in Pakistan do not have an established church as such. Basically, the fundamental values and virtues which you cherish and try to practice in the United States, are virtually identical with those we believe in and try to practice in Pakistan.

Turning now to a broad consideration of Pakistan's international relations, the foundations of our foreign policy rest on the Purposes and Principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

Among the most important questions which are debated in the United Nations are those concerning the self-determination of peoples and their freedom from colonial rule.

The rising nationalism, which we see today in Asia and Africa, is a continuation of the same tide of freedom which was loosed in Europe and America in the 18th century. It is now in full flow. -It presents a great challenge to the world. Those who have a sense of history will see in this historic process, element of necessity which in the end will remove the evil of exploitation of one people by another.

Asia has shaken herself free almost completely of colonial rule. The emancipation of all Africa is not far distant. The Bandung Conference of 29 Asian African nations held in Indonesia in 1955 and the Conference of the independent African State last month in Accra, capital of Ghana, are historic landmarks in the march of the two Continents towards freedom, equality and the assertion of an Asian and an African personality in the counsels of the world.

To all such movements, Pakistan, faithful to her own historical past, has committed its full moral and political support.

H. R. H. Prince Aga Khan III presiding over League of Nations of which he was the first President

The concept of the United Nations is based on the rule of law in international relations. If the hopes and aspirations of the peoples of the world, for an international order based on justice and the principles of international law, and not on force, to be fulfilled, law must be the same for all. No nation, great or small, may claim immunity.

Therefore, nothing made us happier than the declaration of President Eisenhower, in the Suez crisis in 1956, that there cannot be one code of law for friends and another for opponents... In that great decision, we saw a powerful nation uphold the principles of international law and justice, where a weaker and smaller power was concerned, even to the extent of an agonising break with its historic and trusted allies.

As you are aware, Pakistan is aligned with the West in regional defence pacts. That these alliances, namely, the South East Asia Collective Defence Treaty and the Baghdad Pact, are purely defensive, and are recognised by the Charter of the United Nations as based on the right of legitimate self-defence, has not made them immune from onslaughts by those, who for reasons of their own, are opposed to such groupings. The two instruments of regional security that I have mentioned are not mere military organisations. Under their aegis, member countries are pledged to international cooperation in the political, economic and cultural fields; also to promote the well being of a large part of the populations of South East Asia and the Middle East. Nothing would be more welcome than a greater emphasis on the economic and cultural aspects of their cooperation rather than on their purely military effort. But this does not depend on ourselves alone. To permit this evolution, international danger and tension must first abate.

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have taken much of your time. One thought more and I will conclude. On the plane of ideals and morals, we find in Islam and the Quran, a perennial source of inspiration and guidance. One of the basic teachings of this faith is Divine Unity and the oneness of humanity. The Quran says:

"And your God is one God."
"This your community is one community."
"All people are a single nation

If we, the people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan are to remain loyal and obedient to the commandments of our faith, we have no choice but to cast away all thoughts of East and West, of Asian, American or European and of all those barriers which alienate man from man, and people from people, so that we may join together to promote universal brotherhood under God.

I thank you.

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