Item(s) for the ‘Islamic Articles’ Category

Jan 14,2008

Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) has evolved into a global industry. Teaching English abroad has become a great way to spend a few years overseas and experience the world before returning home. From Japan to Bulgaria, from Swaziland to Brazil, you will find a market for ESL almost anywhere.For workers in many countries, fluency in English is a ticket into the best high schools and universities, as well as into the global economy. Which helps explain why every day, with classes starting as early as 6 a.m. and continuing through to 10 p.m., millions and millions of students all over the world attend English classes. And they all need teachers to help them do it.

^ So, what does “teaching English” mean? The job can cover a wide variety of tasks and situations. You may find yourself chatting with students in a “conversation class,” teaching grammar and writing, or helping students prep for high school exams, the TOEFL and the SAT. A common situation is teaching at a “language institute” set up solely for the purpose of teaching English. Students come to these institutes for an hour or two every day, taking courses lasting from a few weeks to several months. As a teacher at one of these institutes, you might be teaching up to eight classes a day, often split between early morning classes and late afternoon/evening classes.

In addition, English teachers can be found working in private kindergartens, elementary and high schools, in the public education system, in government- run programs, in company training programs, volunteering in remote villages, working at prestigious universities and on remote oil rigs. Some of these positions require more teaching qualifications and experience than others. The fact that a teacher is a native speaker of English is the most important qualification for the job.

Because of the diversity of experiences, the flexibility of requirements and the low barriers to entry, teaching English attracts a wide variety of people, from career professional ESL teachers with Master’s degrees, to (more commonly) younger teachers in their 20s and 30s.

The two most common areas of the world to teach English in are currently North Asia (Korea, Japan, China, Taiwan) and Eastern Europe (the Czech Republic, Poland, and countries like Bulgaria and Hungary). As it prepares for E.U. admission, Turkey has also seen increased demand for English teachers. Latin America also offers some opportunities, though here the demand for “native speakers” is not as high and many language courses rely on locals with good language skills.

So, where should you go? It depends on your motivation for wanting to teach English in the first place. Is it lifestyle or money that is motivating you? Are you interested in a certain part of the world?

If you’re interested in money, there are places where teaching can be quite lucrative. North Asia is still your best bet if making and saving money is your goal. Private tutoring (teaching private or small group lessons on the side) provides ample opportunities to make extra money. Hourly rates can range up to $50/hour, though the best gigs are often monopolized by teachers who have been in the country for a long time. China currently does not offer salaries that match with those offered in Japan, Korea or Taiwan, though demand for private lessons and English teachers is increasing as the economy there expands. Teaching English in certain Middle Eastern countries, such as Dubai and Saudi Arabia, can also be lucrative, though these positions are typically limited to men for cultural reasons.

In other areas of the world, the attraction of teaching English is less about the money. As the director of an ESL institute in Prague says: “We provide accommodation assistance, pay work permit and residency visa fees, pay for health insurance and teacher bonuses. However, if you are hoping to put aside money to pay off student or housing loans in your home country, you should consider teaching elsewhere. Above all else, you should come to Prague for the experience.”


Oct 17,2007

Speech by His Highness the Aga Khan

Mr President
Ladies and Gentlemen

Shortly after the announcement of our museum in Toronto, the aim of which is to present Islamic art in all its beauty and diversity, I had the immense pleasure of receiving Henri Loyrette’s invitation to stage an exhibition here at the Louvre.

I thank Mr Loyrette and the management of the Louvre most warmly for organising this round table and inviting me to speak this evening. This is a completely new situation for me, since I have never previously taken part in this kind of initiative in France, much less at the Louvre. You will not be surprised if I confess that I feel as though I am sitting an extremely important school examination for which I have done no preparation at all!  So I approach the task with deep trepidation!

When I was invited to talk to you about the future of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto and the objects that will be on show there, I was asked to explain the significance of our exhibition and the role museums might play in improving understanding between East and West.

The meaning of our exhibition was certainly better illustrated by my brother Prince Amyn, and the director of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, Luis Monreal. I myself could not have explained the technicalities, but I think it is interesting to know about the framework within which our initiative is taking place, and it is to this issue that I shall turn now. It is, of course, risky to generalise about a world as diversified, complex and pluralistic as the Islamic world in this day and age. I shall allow myself to take that risk and attempt to explain to you some of the strategic aims we considered in relation to putting our collection on exhibition.

I believe that today the Islamic world’s view of its own future is seriously affected by a divergent squint. It is a world split into two tendencies: on the one hand, modernisers and believers in progressive change, on the other, traditionalists who might even be described as hidebound. Both seek to determine future directions to be taken by the Ummah which will reinforce its identity, or rather its identit ies, while remaining rooted in a truth which is firmly Muslim. In practice, these two tendencies can be seen in the political domain in the differences between theocratic governance and the secular state; between the application of Sharia in all legal fields and the complete absence of Sharia or its application only in the domain of civil law;  between economic and financial systems based on Sharia and systems that are essentially liberal and westernised; between religious education at every level and  a national system with no reference at all to religion throughout the whole educational process, apart from the madrasa option for very young children.

In this context, we thought it essential, whichever choice Muslim populations may indicate to their governments, to clarify certain aspects of the history of Muslim civilisations in order that today’s two main tendencies, modern and  traditional, can base their ideas on historical realities and not on history that has been misunderstood or even manipulated.

Firstly, the 1,428 years of the Ummah embrace many civilisations and are therefore characterised by an astonishing pluralism. In particular, this geographic, ethnic, linguistic and religious pluralism has manifested itself at the most defining moments in the history of the Ummah, hence the objective of the Aga Khan collection, which is to highlight objects drawn from every region and every period, and created from every kind of material in the Muslim world.
The second great historical lesson to be learnt is that the Muslim world has always been wide open to every aspect of human existence. The sciences, society, art, the oceans, the environment and the cosmos have all contributed to the great moments in the history of Muslim civilisations. The Qur’an itself repeatedly recommends Muslims to become better educated in order better to understand God’s creation. Our collection seeks to demonstrate the openness of Muslim civilisations to every aspect of human life, even going so far as to work in partnership with intellectual and artistic sources originating in other regions.

The third important observation we can make about the Ummah today is that the two main tendencies, traditional and modern, are trying to maintain, indeed to develop, their Islamic legitimacy. Loss of identity, anxiety about the risk of being caught up in a process of westernisation that is essentially Christian and is perceived as becoming less and less religious, are deep and very real concerns. Where the two tendencies diverge is on the question of how to maintain and strengthen this identity in the future.

Here, I would like to digress in order to illustrate how deep this loss of identity can be, even though it passes unrecognised until it is too late. Thirty years ago, I and a number of Muslim intellectuals met to ask ourselves an apparently simple but in reality extremely complex question: “Has the Muslim world lost the ability to express itself in the field of architecture, a field admired and acknowledged as one of the most powerful manifestations of every great Muslim civilisation? The response was a unanimous ‘Yes’. Since then, many efforts have been made to reverse the situation, including the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, but one of the causes was that, throughout the Ummah, none of the teachers in any of the schools of architecture had studied in their home countries. Without exception, every teacher of architecture in every school and university in the Muslim world had been trained abroad, without any reference whatsoever to the Muslim world.  This is, by the way, one of the reasons we are pleased to have been able to include in our collection some documents of unique architectural interest.

For the populations of the Ummah, loss of identity is an unquestionable reality, as it is for all societies. Perhaps one of the keys for the Muslim world will be to perpetuate their cultures in the modern world by means of rediscovered ancient and newly inspired sources. The Muslim world’s two main tendencies, traditional and modern, will both have a role to play but if one attempts to achieve exclusivity at the expense of the other, the consequences will be predictable and highly damaging.

The second issue about which I have been asked to talk to you is what the role of museums might be in promoting understanding between East and West. It is a huge question to which I shall not try to give a comprehensive response but I should nevertheless point out that the Muslim world, with its history and cultures, and indeed its different interpretations of Islam, is still little known in the West.  Even today in secondary and even university education in the West, the study of the Muslim world is still a specialist subject.  One example is how little the Muslim world features in the study of humanities in the West, where courses are essentially centred around Judeo-Christian civilisations.

This lack of knowledge is a dramatic reality which manifests itself in a particularly serious way in western democracies, since public opinion has difficulties judging national and international policy vis-à-vis the Muslim world. There are an infinite number of historical reasons for this, but perhaps there is also a fear of proselytisation. Be that as it may, the two worlds, Muslim and non-Muslim, Eastern and Western, must, as a matter of urgency, make a real effort to get to know one another, for I fear that what we have is not a clash of civilisations, but a clash of ignorance on both sides.  Insofar as civilisations manifest and express themselves through their art, museums have an essential role to play in  teaching the two worlds to understand, respect and appreciate each other and ensuring that whole populations are given fresh opportunities to make contact with each other, using new, modern methods imaginatively  and intelligently to bring about truly global communication.

Western museums, particularly those in Europe, have some extraordinary collections of Muslim art. Obviously, the Louvre and the Museum of Decorative Arts are the richest and I congratulate and thank them for the efforts they are making, with government backing, to fill the enormous void, a veritable black hole, which threatens us in this conflict of ignorance. Rest assured that you can fully count on us to play our part, however modest.

I shall finish by saying a few words specifically about our museum in Toronto. As you will have gathered, I am firmly convinced that better knowledge of the Muslim world can overcome distrust and therefore that city has been a strategic choice.  While some North American museums have significant collections of Muslim art, there is no institution devoted to Islamic art. In building the museum in Toronto, we intend to introduce a new actor to the North American art scene. Its fundamental aim will be an educational one, to actively promote knowledge of Islamic arts and culture. What happens on that continent, culturally, economically and politically, cannot fail to have worldwide repercussions – which is why we thought it important that an institution capable of promoting understanding and tolerance should exist there.

The museum will also belong to the large Muslim population living in Canada and the USA. It will be a source of pride and identity for all these people, showing the inherent pluralism of Islam, not only in terms of religious interpretations but also of cultural and ethnic variety. Furthermore, the museum will show, beyond the notoriously politicised form of Islam which now tends to make headlines, Islam is in reality an open-minded, tolerant faith capable of adopting other people’s cultures and languages and making them its own. There is no doubt whatsoever that the Muslims of North America will play an important role in the development of states and populations within the Ummah.


Aga Khan

Jul 1,2007

His Highness the Aga Khan became Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims on July 11, 1957 at the age of 20, succeeding his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan. He is the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, the first Imam, and his wife Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter.


Son of Prince Aly Khan and Princess Tajuddawlah Aly Khan, the Aga Khan was born on December 13, 1936, in Geneva. He spent his early childhood in Nairobi, Kenya, and then attended Le Rosey School in Switzerland for nine years. He graduated from Harvard University in 1959 with a BA Honors Degree in Islamic history.Like his grandfather Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan before him, the Aga Khan has, since assuming the office of Imamat in 1957, been concerned about the well-being of all Muslims, particularly in the face of the challenges of rapid historical changes. Today, the Ismailis live in some twenty-five countries, mainly in West and Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East, as well as in North America and Western Europe. Over the four decades since the present Aga Khan became Imam, there have been major political and economic changes in most of these areas. He has adapted the complex system of administering the Ismaili Community, pioneered by his grandfather during the colonial era, to a new world of nation-states, which even recently has grown in size and complexity following the newly acquired independence of the Central Asian Republics of the former Soviet Union.

View of Islam

The Aga Khan has emphasised the view of Islam as a thinking, spiritual faith, one that teaches compassion and tolerance and that upholds the dignity of man, Allah’s noblest creation. In the Shia tradition of Islam, it is the mandate of the Imam of the time to safeguard the individual’s right to personal intellectual search and to give practical expression to the ethical vision of society that the Islamic message inspires. Addressing, the International Conference on the Example (Seerat) of the Prophet Muhammad in Karachi in 1976, the Aga Khan said that the wisdom of Allah’s final Prophet in seeking new solutions for problems which could not be solved by traditional methods, provides the inspiration for Muslims to conceive a truly modern and dynamic society, without affecting the fundamental concepts of Islam.During the course of history, the Ismailis have, under the guidance of their Imams, made contributions to the growth of Islamic civilisation. Al-Azhar University and the Academy of Science, Dar al-Ilm, in Cairo and indeed the city of Cairo itself, exemplify their contributions to the cultural, religious and intellectual life of Muslims. Among the renowned philosophers, jurists, physicians, mathematicians, astronomers and scientists of the past who flourished under the patronage of Ismaili Imams are Qadi al-Numan, al-Kirmani, Ibn al-Haytham (al-Hazen), Nasir e-Khusraw and Nasir al-Din Tusi.

Achievements of the Fatimid Empire

Achievements of the Fatimid Empire dominate accounts of the early period of Ismaili history, roughly from the beginnings of Islam through the 11th century.
Named after the Prophet’s daughter Fatima, the Fatimid dynasty created a state that stimulated the development of art, science, and trade in the Mediterranean Near East over two centuries. Its centre was Cairo, founded by the Fatimids as their capital. Following the Fatimid period, the Ismaili Muslims’ geographical centre shifted from Egypt to Syria and Persia. After their centre in Persia, Alamut, fell to Mongol conquerors in the 13th century, Ismailis lived for several centuries in dispersed communities, mainly in Persia and Central Asia but also in Syria, India and elsewhere. In the 1830s, Aga Hassanaly Shah, the 46th Ismaili Imam, was granted the honorary hereditary title of Aga Khan by the Shah of Persia. In 1843, the first Aga Khan left Persia for India, which already had a large Ismaili community. Aga Khan II died in 1885, only four years after assuming the Imamat. He was succeeded by the present Aga Khan’s grandfather, and predecessor as Imam, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan.

A Tradition of International Service

In recent generations, the Aga Khan’s family has followed a tradition of service in international affairs. The Aga Khan’s grandfather was President of the League of Nations and his father, Prince Aly Khan, was Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United Nations. His uncle, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan, was the longest-serving United Nations’ High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations’ Coordinator for assistance to Afghanistan and United Nations’ Executive Delegate of the Iraq-Turkey border areas. The Aga Khan’s brother, Prince Amyn, worked at the United Nations Secretariat, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, following his graduation from Harvard in 1965. Since 1968, Prince Amyn has been closely involved with the governance of the principal development institutions of the Imamat. The Aga Khan’s eldest child and daughter, Princess Zahra, who graduated from Harvard in 1994 with a BA Honors Degree in Third World Development Studies, heads the Social Welfare Department at the Secretariat of His Highness the Aga Khan at Aiglemont, France. His elder son, Prince Rahim, who graduated from Brown University (USA) in 1995, and holds a business degree from the University of Navarra, Spain, has similar responsibilities in the Imamat’s economic development institutions. His younger son, Prince Hussain, who graduated from Williams College (USA) in 1997 and holds an M.A. in Economic and Political Development from Columbia, has been involved the cultural and environmental projects of the Aga Khan Development Network.In consonance with this vision of Islam and their tradition of service to humanity, wherever Ismailis live, they have elaborated a well-defined institutional framework to carry out social, economic and cultural activities. Under the Aga Khan’s leadership, this framework has expanded and evolved into the Aga Khan Development Network, a group of institutions working to improve living conditions and opportunities in specific regions of the developing world. In every country, these institutions work for the common good of all citizens regardless of their origin or religion. Their individual mandates range from architecture, education and health to the promotion of private sector enterprise, the enhancement of non-government organisations and rural development.

Recognition for the Aga Khan’s Work

Over the years, the Aga Khan has received numerous decorations, honorary degrees, and awards in recognition of the various dimensions of his work. He has received civilian decorations on one or more occasions from the governments of France, Portugal, Côte d’Ivoire, Upper Volta, Madagascar, Iran, Pakistan, Italy, Senegal, Morocco, Spain, and Tajikistan. In October 1998, on the occasion of the Award Ceremony of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture, he was presented with the Gold Medal of the City of Granada.

His Highness has been awarded honorary degrees by universities in Pakistan, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. He has also received numerous awards and prizes from various professional organisations in recognition of his work in architecture and the conservation of historic buildings.

The title His Highness was granted by Her Majesty the Queen of Great Britain in 1957, and His Royal Highness by His Imperial Majesty the Shah of Iran in 1959.