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Speech by
The Right Honourable Margaret Thatcher
Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

At the Opening of
The Ismaili Centre London
Wednesday, 24 April 1985

Your Highnesses, Ladies and Gentlemen,

It gives me great pleasure to be here today for the official opening of this new Ismaili Centre in London. I am most grateful to His Highness the Aga Khan for the honour he has done me in inviting me to perform the Opening Ceremony.

The building of this splendid new Centre, which will provide facilities for religious observance and for social functions within the Ismaili community, must reflect a sense of stability and confidence in the future. There has been an Ismaili community in this country for very many years. But I know that many members came here comparatively recently, having been uprooted from settled and successful lives in East Africa. For them, leaving East Africa must have been a sad, deeply disturbing and in some cases, terrible experience. But clearly the Ismaili community who made Britain their new home triumphed over these adversities, and have found here a new sense of security and belonging. This Centre is a powerful symbol of that feeling of belonging.

And in return, Britain, like so many other parts of the world where there are Ismaili communities, benefits from the contributions that Ismailis make to society. The Ismaili community in London is self-sufficient and independent, energetic and highly talented. It contributes to society in every sort of way. And at the same time, its powerful sense of community, both spiritual and cultural, provides a firm and unchanging basis for living.

Many migrants who have come to this country to settle in recent years have had to come to terms with a life that is very different from their old one. In the process of change and adaptation they have been sustained by a sense of purpose derived from a firm faith and a valued heritage. Britain is now, more than ever, a society of many cultures. And I think that we are beginning to appreciate the challenges and the opportunities that this diversity offers.

There are many practical examples to show how much your community values service to the wider community. Many of the Aga Khan hospital and educational services are open to all, regardless of race or creed. The work of the Aga Khan Foundation in other continents also shows how your community adopts this positive approach. I am proud that the British Government, with the Foundation, are together financing projects of benefit to the people of Pakistan. And I understand and welcome that many of the facilities of this Centre will be available for other Londoners to use.

London itself is enhanced by the construction of the new Centre, for which we are all most grateful to His Highness the Aga Khan. It is a splendid contribution to the architecture of London, fitting in easily with the other fine buildings of South Kensington, yet having its own distinctive character too. It is a monument to the determination of your community to play a full part in the life of our society, while at the same time retaining their own identity and independence. As I believe a great Islamic poet of the 19th century, Mohammed Iqbal, said:

“For the individual to be bound to society is a blessing: it is in a community that his work is perfected.”

This new Centre is a splendid testament to the words of the poet and to the vitality of the Ismaili community here, and it is with great pleasure that I now formally declare the Ismaili Centre open.