The Aga Khan was in Edmonton on Tuesday to receive an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Alberta.
He gave an impassioned speech that touched on several global issues, including what he described as “faltering instruments of government in many countries of Asia and Africa.”
“We have learned that simplistic systems don’t work, whether built around the arrogance of colonialism, the rigidities of communism, the romantic dreams of nationalism or the naive promises of untrammeled capitalism.”
The Aga Khan also spoke at length about ethics, not only in government but in all areas of society and the need for leaders and academics to provide an ethical example for people to follow.
“We know from recent headlines about scoundrels from the American financial scene to the halls of European parliaments – and we can certainly do without either,” he said.
“When a construction company cheats on the quality of materials for a school or a bridge, when a teacher skimps on class work in order to sell his time privately, when a doctor recommends a drug because of incentives from a pharmaceutical company, when a bank loan is skewed by kickbacks, or a student paper is plagiarized from the Internet – when the norms of fairness and decency are violated in any way, then the foundations of society are undermined.”
The Aga Khan also mentioned last week’s landmark speech in Cairo by U.S. President Barack Obama who reached out for a fresh start with the Islamic world.
“It continually amazes me…how little is understood about the Muslim civilizations and cultures in the non-Islamic world and how little is taught,” he said.
“When President Obama described the richness of that history in his Cairo speech, he was telling a story which is unfamiliar to many in the West.
“As the world shrinks and as contact among diverse peoples increases, some would argue that we face an inevitable clash of civilizations. My own conviction, however, is that we face today a clash of ignorances.”