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.
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.
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
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