Invited by the University of Waterloo, Canada as part of its “2020: Building the Future Distinguished Speaker Series”, Professor Azim Nanji, Director of the Institute addressed an audience of faculty, students and guests on the topic “Beyond the Clash of Civilizations”. The lecture series, organised by the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group (WPIRG) and initiated by students of the University, aims to create an arena for informed discussion and dialogue about the nature of global society and to explore emerging trends and transformations in the decades ahead.
At a time when Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations thesis is increasing in popularity, Professor Nanji argued for a civilisational dialogue guided by a framework of morality and ethics. In a year dedicated by the United Nations General Assembly as one of a “dialogue among civilizations”, his talk considered the vital role of Islam, and its living spiritual tradition, as an essential partner in the discussions taking place in communities and nations across our planet. He argued the need to acknowledge and be respectful of individual traditions, but also to consciously seek a shared vocabulary, symbol system and set of actions that transcend the purely local. The talk provided fresh insights into the ongoing debate about the nature of the new world order and was followed by a lively and stimulating discussion.
Other speakers in the series have included Dr J Fraser Mustard (President, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and former Dean and Vice-President, McMaster University’s Faculty of Health Sciences); Dr John McCallum (Senior Vice-President and Chief Economist, Royal Bank of Canada); Mr Firoz Rasul (Chairman and CEO, Ballard Power Systems); Professor Thomas F Homer-Dixon (Director, Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Toronto) and Mr Ken Dryden (President, Toronto Maple Leafs hockey team and a consultant on youth and education in Ontario). More information on the lecture series is available on the WPIRG website.
In addition to his lecture, Professor Nanji met with members and the executive of the University’s Ismaili Students Association (ISA), one of a network of ISAs across Canada and the United States.