An Islamic Conscience: The Aga Khan and the Ismailis (2007)
1h 1min · Documentary · 3 December 2007
Born into a world of wealth and privilege, he devotes his life to eliminating poverty and inequality. A religious leader who traces his ancestry back to the Prophet Muhammad, he struggles to balance the traditional with the modern. His Highness the Aga Khan is the spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, a Shia sect with 15 million followers around the world. At a time when Islam is at odds with itself and with the West, the Aga Khan represents a voice of moderation, speaking out for pluralism and diversity, and promoting dialogue between civilizations. But will he be heard? The Film: The Ismailis are a people without a homeland. An oft-persecuted minority within Islam, they are scattered across more than 30 countries. The program shows how many Ismailis came to the West when they were forced out of Uganda by Idi Amin. It was the current Aga Khan's grandfather, Sultan Muhammed Shah Aga Khan, who created the Ismaili community as we know it today. Though a reputation for high living often overshadowed his achievements, he encouraged Ismailis to build modern institutions, promoted the education of women, and built a network of charities, schools and hospitals in the developing world. In his will, he named his 20-year-old grandson, Prince Karim, as his successor, believing that Ismailis needed a leader who had grown up in the modern world - an Imam for "the atomic age." The Aga Khan prefers to let his development work speak for itself. He has resisted participating in documentaries for over forty-five years and has rarely given interviews. This documentary secured both. AN ISLAMIC CONSCIENCE reveals how this shy and studious young man became one of the world's most respected faith leaders, tending to the spiritual lives of his followers while also operating one of the most important aid organizations in the world: the Aga Khan Development Foundation, which employs 70,000 people and invests more than $400 million in development aid every year. For the Aga Khan, social improvement, pluralism and intellectual advancement are integral aspects of the Islamic faith but his message is being drowned out by the rise of militant fundamentalist Islam. He struggles to act as a force for moderation, and to establish bridges between Islam and the West. It remains to be seen if this battle can be won.
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