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Speech by Prince Amyn Muhammad during the discussion of the Houston Ismaili Center with Mayor Turner 2022-07-11

Monday, 2022, July 11
youtube video
Prince Amyn Aga Khan shares his reflections on The Ismaili Center Houston at a development luncheon held  on 2022-07-11
Prince Amyn Muhammad Aga Khan

Houston, Texas
11th August 2022

Bismillah-ir-Raheman nir Rahim

Mayor Turner, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you very much.

Like you, dear Mayor, dear friends, I am amazed by the film that we just saw. I don’t know how it was made. My worry is that people who saw it would think that the building was already there. And when they finally see the building in a year and a bit, they will say “where have all the yellow flowers gone?” They were so pretty (laughter)

I also want to thank you for making me a Texan finally. I will have to do something about the accent I agree with you. Being a cowboy may be tricky you will have to find a really old horse (laughter)

Anyway I am delighted to be back in Houston and especially happy to be able to share these moments with you today.

As we saw in the fly-through video, the Ismaili Centre is an ambitious project, not just for the Ismaili Muslim community, but for all of Houstononians. What we are building on the site right across from the Buffalo Bayou is a centre dedicated to advancing pluralism, public understanding civic outreach.

Today, Houston is regarded as one of the most diverse cities in the United States. It is a cosmopolitan city with people from various cultures and traditions living and working together. America’s rich immigrant culture compliments the fundamental principles of this country which are rooted in equality for all which resonate with the teachings of all faiths.

The Centre is intended to be resourced for all Houstonians, a place to come together with local, national and international partners many of whom are here today to enhance the vibrant nature and rich cultural tapestry of the city.

I must express my appreciation for the support for this project from so many including the State of Texas, Mayor Turner yourself, the City of Houston and its residents, including those present here today.

The Centre in Houston joins its counterparts, established by my brother, His Highness The Aga Khan, over some forty years, in Canada, Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.

Mayor Turner, as you said, I believe you have visited the Ismaili Centre in London opposite the V & A. (Victoria and Albert Museum).

It should ought to be noted that each of these buildings, designed by architects of international standing and multicultural sensitivity, is reflective of their own geographies and contexts . The design of the Centre in Houston is contemporary in its expression and is reflective of the historically-rooted rich architectural heritage. It combines contemporary architectural technology with traditional Persian forms and ornament and with ceramic mosaics and screens drawn from Islamic traditions around the world, its atriums and iwans bring natural light and views of the sky to the heart of the building.

I hope they will also raise the thoughts to matters spiritual of the many of those who visit the Centre.

The Centre’s landscaped are intended to provide a sense of serenity and peace, offering a respite from the Centre’s urban surroundings. These gardens will include tree canopies, fountains, shaded footpaths, flower beds – not all yellow of course – lawns and walkways. The planting will include indigenous species from the gulf areas to the transpicos, providing spaces of solace and rejuvenation of the mind and the spirit. It is also intended that they can provide spaces for musical performances, poetry readings and other public gatherings, even such things as yoga and Tai Chi.

In short, these Centres seek to provide a place where people come together to share their creativity and their wisdom. Above all, these are places for contemplation , upliftment and the search for knowledge and they have become important cultural institutions.

I have always believed that art and culture are effective ways to connect communities. And one of the Centre’s objectives will be to offer the highest caliber of cultural programming and promote cultural dialogue, which are all key elements of sharing one’s quality of life.

The dialogue between cultures has forever existed. As a result of man’s urge and need to travel, to discover , to meet people, to share experiences, to buy and to sell, cultural dialogue unites by showing, by underling what we share despite our apparent differences.

I am pleased to note that the Ismaili Centre will work in close partnership with the Aga Khan Museum, a museum based in Toronto which I serve as Chairman of the Board. A young institution, the museum has begun to make a mark as one of the leaders in the arts of the Muslim world. Its mission is to foster a greater understanding and appreciation of the contributions that Muslim civilizations have made to world heritage by showing their arts in their many and varied forms from across the world.

My hope is that the Centre will partner with Houston’s museums and other American and foreign museums in organizing both temporary exhibitions, lectures, even training programs and the like,

The Aga Khan Museum’s recent exhibition on the moon in 2019, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, to which Houston is well connected, explored our enduring fascination with this enchanting orb in the sky and looked at the so-often similar role it has played in faith, science and the arts across the Muslim world and beyond.

I hope too that the Centre will partner with Texan and other universities and institutions of learning, including our own, in projects of an educational nature aimed at children as well as adults and which they too, as they increase and improve understanding, will both reveal and reflect how much we share.

In this endeavor, we look to you for your continued support, not only as interested observers, but as our thought-partners throughout the process as well as in organizing activities at the Centre’s gardens.

Thank you and I look forward to the future.

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