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.

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.

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.”

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Clarkson’s commentary in The Globe and Mail

The Globe and Mail

The National Post