Your Highness, my Lords, Mr Mayor, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I need hardly tell you what a very special pleasure it is to be with you this afternoon for the opening of the Aga Khan Centre and, in particular, to join you in celebrating the sixtieth Anniversary of His Highness The Aga Khan’s succession to the Imamat. Believe it or not, it will be 50 years since I become Prince of Wales but that is purely incidental.
It is, of course, Your Highness, the remarkable leadership that you have shown over these past sixty years, which has made a reality of everything we see here today. Above all, it is Your Highness's vision which has enabled the Aga Khan Development Network to grow into an organization of international importance, addressing development needs across the globe, and bridging the boundaries of race and religion with your message of hope, compassion and pluralism.
It is, if I may say so, a matter of particular pride that this centre, and the international academic institutions to which it is home, should be here in London, a great world city and exemplar of pluralism, and a centre of excellence for specialist academic study.
Now I know that Your Highness's objective in the founding of The Institute of Ismaili Studies and the Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations was to foster better understanding of Islam and of Muslim cultures. I have no doubt that this new space will make a profound difference to such a vital mission and will help ensure that future generations gain a better appreciation of the profound intellectual and cultural contributions that Islamic civilizations have made to our world.
I share Your Highness's determination that we must tackle the truly dreadful scourge of intolerance by knowing and understanding each other better and by building bridges between our cultures and societies. It is heart-breaking beyond words to see how ignorance, narrow-mindedness and irresponsible leadership cause such pain and suffering in our world – something which the Ismaili community knows only too well.
Your Highness, the extraordinary work that you have done throughout your lifetime, in the service of humanity and in the name of Islam, is as remarkable as it is invaluable. For that, you are owed the greatest debt of gratitude and I did just want to take this opportunity to thank you on behalf of us all, if I may.
If I may, I would also just like to say a brief few words about the Ismaili community in this country, and the contribution you have made to British society over so many years. I have always had the greatest admiration for the Ismaili community's emphasis on intellectual and cultural exploration as a means of integration, and your determination to discharge your obligations as citizens of this country while maintaining your own special and distinctive traditions.
It is clear to me that in holding dear the values of humility, honour, magnanimity and hospitality, the Ismaili Community takes its inspiration from you, Your Highness, and from your extraordinary "Greatness of Soul." In similarly inspiring this Centre, you have set it on a path to serve the world with great distinction, just as Your Highness has yourself done throughout your remarkable life. My wife and I have been fortunate enough to see just what an inspiration you are to your community when we accompanied you to Altit years ago. Never will we forget that occasion nor, for that matter, the magnificently shampoo-ed bull yak with which I was presented and which, very sadly, I was unable to transport back to Highgrove to graze in my Islamic Garden!
It therefore gives me the greatest pride and pleasure to pay tribute to Your Highness today and to offer you my heartfelt congratulations on your Diamond Jubilee. It is a very great privilege to join you at the opening of this Centre, which I know means such a great deal to you, and to convey my warmest best wishes for the crucial work that will be done here in the years ahead.