I cannot tell you how delighted I am to be in Malaysia for the first time and in this sixtieth anniversary year of Malaysia’s independence.
I am so very grateful to His Royal Highness The Sultan of Perak for hosting this reception, this morning, particularly as it falls, most auspiciously, on his Official Birthday. So a Very Happy Birthday to you.
I must say that I have always been fascinated by Malaysia’s rich cultural, religious and racial diversity - which, if I may say so, is something to be both cherished and celebrated.
Indeed, the guests here today represent a broad cross-section of Malaysia’s faith groups and its vibrant civil society, which can play such a vital role in fostering understanding between and within Malaysia’s diverse communities.
The setting for today’s reception could hardly be more appropriate. The Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia is the most wonderful celebration of the great diversity of traditions in Islamic art, and the rich variety of influences that have shaped it over the centuries. I am particularly delighted that the Museum has such strong connections with my own School of Traditional Arts which itself aims to ensure that traditional arts and skills continue to enrich our changing world.
Particularly when you think that many of the world's sacred traditions and traditional art forms have already been destroyed. It is one of the objectives of The School to work on a practical solution to the threat of further extinction. The main solution is the teaching and promotion of the practice of these arts and crafts. Students who attend The School, from all over the world and from many different cultures, may, in turn, pass on these practical skills, together with an awareness of the universal principles underlying them. Thus The School is in a unique position to promote understanding and tolerance between cultures, helping to forge links and encourage recognition of the common values held by all.
All civilisations have acknowledged that geometry is fundamental to the cosmic order, or as Plato explained, "… geometry is the knowledge of the eternally existent". Students learn that the patterns of traditional art reflect nature and are underpinned by the same geometry that is the basis of the natural world. Thus geometry is seen as a reflection of a universal order, taught by the ancient Greeks and recognised by the great Arab architects and scientists, as well as the cathedral builders of the Middle Ages.
For me, Ladies and Gentlemen, this museum serves as a reminder of just how important it is that all societies are able to preserve - and be proud of - their cultural heritage.
For that reason I could not be more pleased to begin my visit to Malaysia in this marvelous museum and to be here with all of you this morning.