Ismaili Leader Aga Khan Celebrates Canadian Pluralism

The Toronto Star – October 15, 2010

In a world where technology and human migration push people of differing backgrounds increasingly “in each other’s face,” spiritual leader the Aga Khan hailed Canada as a country that has got pluralism right.The religious leader — imam — of the world’s 14 million Shia Ismaili Muslims praised this country for allowing citizens to keep their identity as they become Canadian.“What the Canadian experience suggests to me is that honouring one’s own identity need not mean rejecting others,” he said Friday in the keynote address to the Institute for Canadian Citizenship’s prestigious annual LaFontaine-Baldwin Symposium.

The concept of people of different backgrounds living in harmony is the focus of a think tank he is creating in Ottawa in a building once home to the Canadian War Museum. In Toronto, he also announced earlier this year he will build a new Ismaili Centre and Aga Khan Museum and Gardens at Eglinton Ave. and Wynford Dr. Both centres – in Toronto and Ottawa – reflect the ties the Aga Khan said he has felt with Canada for nearly 40 years, since this country welcomed thousands of Asian refugees from Uganda, including many Ismailis.

Aga khan becomes honorary canadian

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has conferred honorary Canadian citizenship on the Aga Khan, making the billionaire spiritual leader to 15 million Ismaili Muslim followers worldwide only the fifth person to be so honored. Aga Khan lives in France.

The Prime Minister and the Aga Khan met  for a foundation ceremony for a cultural centre, museum and park to built on the site by 2013. The Aga Khan expressed his hope that the cultural edifice, particularly the collection of artifacts from Islamic history, would serve as a beacon for his sect’s moderate take on Islam and its “search for knowledge and beauty.” Ismaili Muslim Canadians include Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed and Senator Mobina Jaffer.

Aga Khan Lays Foundation for Major Ismaili Centre in Toronto

The Aga Khan, role model for Canada’s 100,000 Ismailis, is in Toronto to lay the foundation for an Islamic museum and cultural centre. The construction on Canadian soil of the largest Islamic museum in the English-speaking world marks a significant milestone for a community that arrived in Canada 38 years ago. In the last four decades, Ismailis have emerged as a remarkable success story. Their integration is seen as one of the reasons the Aga Khan promotes Canadian-style pluralism as a model for the world. In a short time, Ismailis have become leading figures in politics, business and the professions, with prominent people including Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed and Senator Mobina Jaffer.

The museum is scheduled to open in 2013 near Don Mills Rd. and Eglinton Ave.

Ismaili leader Aga Khan files lawsuit against Toronto lawyer

The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, is suing a Toronto lawyer and Montreal businessman for copyright infringement. The 10-page statement of claim filed in federal court alleges the two men and other unnamed parties infringed on his copyright by selling “literary works and readings” he wrote. The document alleges the defendants engaged in commercial ventures using unauthorized reproduction of material.

The material in question consists of a collection of written messages and speeches delivered by the Aga Khan between 1957 and 2009. The suit names Toronto lawyer Alnaz Jiwa and Montreal businessman Nagib Tajdin, and unnamed other persons and/or companies that have also sold what it deems infringing material. The lawsuit says he has operated a website that promotes the sale of a book and MP3 without the Aga Khan’s knowledge or authorization.

Aga Khan Granted Honorary Canadian Citizenship

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that Shah Kari al-Hussayni – the 49th Aga Khan – will receive the rare award of honorary Canadian citizenship to recognize his efforts in working toward that goal. He founded the Aga Khan Development Network, an organization that has brought better health care, education and urban and rural development to impoverished communities in Asia and Africa. Khan joins an elite group of four others who have also been given honorary citizenship. “[He is] a beacon of humanitarianism, of pluralism and of tolerance throughout the entire world,” Mr. Harper told the House of Commons.

In 2005, Khan was named an honorary companion to the Order of Canada. He was also given an honorary doctor of law degree by the University of Alberta.

Ismaili leader praises the Canadian example

At the end of his Canadian tour in Vancouver, the hereditary leader of the world’s 15 million Shi’a Ismaili Muslims, Aga Khan, described Canada as a model for diversity. Khan has often visited the country and has maintained a close relationship during his 50-year reign. Khan added that the absence of pluralism has led to much of the world’s discord.

In a special article in The Globe and Mail daily newspaper, former Canadian Governor General Adrienne Clarkson describes Khan as an incredible spiritual and political leader: “As imam, he is responsible both for leading the interpretation of the faith and for helping to improve quality of life for all in the wider communities where Ismailis live. This dual obligation is often, I think, quite difficult to appreciate from the Christian viewpoint of the role that church leaders are expected to perform.”

See full-text articles:

Clarkson’s commentary in The Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail

The National Post