Aga Khan Conferred Honorary
by American University of Beirut
Aga Khan, Imam (spiritual leader) of
the Ismaili Muslims and founder of the Aga Khan Development
Network (AKDN), was conferred an Honorary Doctorate in Humane
Letters by the American University of Beirut.
The University praised the Aga Khan as “an avid philanthropist
standing at the head of a network of service institutions
focused on the have-nots of the world, Muslim and non-Muslim
In his acceptance remarks, the Aga Khan praised the American
University of Beirut for its commitment to developing future
leaders for the region throughout its 139-year history,
noting that AUB was not deterred from its mission of building
tolerance and understanding even during the difficult period
of the Lebanese civil war.
“The University’s fidelity to its founding notion,
that disciplined, objective inquiry is the property of all
humanity, attracts faculty and students of high caliber
from dozens of countries and cultures, challenged not only
to excel in their chosen fields, but to place their knowledge
in the wider context of humanity’s pluralist heritage
and foundations in the fields of education, health, social
and economic development and culture,” he said.
“Clearly, it has chosen with great wisdom those areas
of knowledge which are particularly important for the future
of the peoples of this part of the world, educating men
and women to graduate with outstanding qualities of leadership.”
He said AUB’s commitment to the universality of knowledge
“is a core principle of my own faith – Islam
– that learning is ennobling, regardless of the geographic
or cultural origin of the knowledge we acquire.”
Such a commitment to learning historically had inspired
the Islamic world to create universities that were symbols
of “new waves of adventure in the realms of the spirit
and the intellect,” including the University of al-Azhar
and Dar al-Ilm, established by the Fatimid ancestors of
the Aga Khan in Cairo, and counterpart institutions in Baghdad,
Cordova, Bukhara, Samarkand and other Muslim centers.
Other honorary degree recipients were:
• Richard Debs, long-serving member of the University’s
Board of Trustees, and known for his many services to international
finance, the Arab world, relations between the Arab world
and the West, philanthropy, and international education.
• Ahmed Zewail, winner of the 1999 Nobel Prize in
Chemistry, and the first Arab to win a Nobel Prize in science.
Currently he is the director of the California Institute
of Technology’s Laboratory for Molecular Sciences.
• Ghassan Tueni, journalist, and long time editor-in-chief
of the An-Nahar newspaper, which has been at the forefront
of Lebanon’s struggle for freedom of press, independence
and civic, economic and political rights. Tueni has also
been described as a statesman, a humanitarian and a man
• Fairuz, born and educated in Beirut, the renowned
Lebanese singer is a cultural icon for Arabs around the
world, working closely with local composers such as the
Rahbani brothers and starring in films written by them.