The Centre is pleased to announce Dr. Marwan Muasher has joined the Board of Directors.
Dr. Marwan Muasher
Marwan Muasher bio
Dr. Marwan Muasher is vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment, where he oversees the Endowment’s research in Washington and Beirut on the Middle East. Dr. Muasher served as foreign minister (2002–2004) and deputy prime minister (2004–2005) of Jordan, and his career has spanned the areas of diplomacy, development, civil society, and communications. He was also a senior fellow at Yale University in 2010-2011.
Dr. Muasher began his career as a journalist for the Jordan Times. He then served at the Ministry of Planning, at the prime minister’s office as press adviser, and as director of the Jordan Information Bureau in Washington.
In 1995, Dr. Muasher opened Jordan’s first embassy in Israel, and in 1996 became minister of information and the government spokesperson. From 1997 to 2002, he served in Washington again as ambassador, negotiating the first free trade agreement between the United States and an Arab nation. He then returned to Jordan to serve as foreign minister, where he played a central role in developing the Arab Peace Initiative and the Middle East Road Map.
In 2004 he became deputy prime minister responsible for reform and government performance, and led the effort to produce a ten-year plan for political, economic, and social reform. From 2006 to 2007, he was at the Jordanian Senate.
Most recently, he was senior vice president of external affairs at the World Bank from 2007 to 2010.
He has authored two books, The Second Arab Awakening: And the Battle for Pluralism, published by Yale University Press in January 2014 and The Arab Center: The Promise of Moderation, also published by Yale University Press in June 2008. Dr. Muasher serves on the American University of Beirut’s board of trustees since March 2007. He lives in Amman, Jordan.
Global Centre for Pluralism looks to the future, with one foot in the past
Special to The Globe and Mail
Published Friday, May 19, 2017 12:18PM EDT
Last updated Friday, May 19, 2017 12:20PM EDT
Official Opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism
Ottawa, Ontario, Tuesday, May 16, 2017
Speech by the Governor General on the occasion of the
Official Opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism.
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The world is my country /
The human race is my race
Those are the words of Canadian poet and lawyer F. R. Scott, from his great poem “Creed.”
I think those words capture something of the creed of this Global Centre for Pluralism.
The world is your country.
The human race is your race.
I’ve had the pleasure of hosting a number of you who serve on the Centre’s board at Rideau Hall several times during my mandate. And I’m inspired by what all of you are achieving here.
This centre is a beacon of internationalism and humanism. It shines brightly.
Thank you all, and a special thank you to His Highness the Aga Khan for showing such dedication to pluralism and to strengthening Canada’s commitment to and leadership of this critically important issue.
Your Highness, establishing this centre in our capital city is a wonderful gift to Canada.
I often speak of the importance of knowledge diplomacy in our world, which I define as the process by which distinct peoples and cultures improve lives by sharing knowledge across borders and disciplines.
The Aga Khan is a wise practitioner of this brand of diplomacy. He appreciates that the success of our increasingly interdependent world is based on people of many faiths, cultures and values expressing tolerance, openness and understanding towards others.
The depth of His Highness’ commitment to diplomacy and pluralism is profound. I know this from personal experience. We first met at another official opening, 36 years ago, in Karachi, Pakistan. The details may differ but the underlying theme is the same: diverse peoples working together to improve lives.
Back in those days, I was serving as principal of McGill, and I had the privilege of being present at the birth of a wonderful partnership between the Aga Khan University and a number of North American universities, including McGill.
This partnership saw renowned epidemiologist Walter Spitzer and his team working closely with their Pakistani counterparts to share McGill’s lessons learned in establishing a successful community medicine model.
Thanks to this collaboration, the new Aga Khan University Hospital was able to build on McGill’s experience in deploying public health services in the community.
I was and remain so impressed by the boldness of that initiative. The goal was ambitious: bring the best of Western medicine to a country with distinct customs and traditions.
This goal was only achieved by showing a great deal of cultural sensitivity.
In essence, this is the challenge of pluralism.
How do we ensure respect for diversity while sharing ideas and resources in order to improve our lives and societies?
Your mission at the Global Centre for Pluralism is to advance respect for diversity as a new global ethic and foundation for inclusive citizenship. And these headquarters are a place for learning and sharing the lessons of pluralism from a Canadian perspective.
I’d like to say a few words about the importance of that mission, as well as Canada’s unique opportunity to lead.
First, why does pluralism matter?
The answer is as straightforward as it is urgent.
Pluralism is critical to the long-term peace and prosperity of societies worldwide. Without a commitment to pluralism, diversity can too easily become a source of conflict and division.
Too often we have seen those conflicts and that division occur.
So what do we do?
We develop a narrative and approaches that ensure diversity is properly understood as a source of strength and prosperity.
In other words, (1) we need to develop and tell a compelling story.
And (2) we need ideas and plans for action that allow that story to unfold.
If diversity is to be an asset and not a liability, we must allow diverse peoples to reach their full potential and to contribute as full and equal partners in our society. We must empower people to succeed. This is crucially important.
In other words, we must be inclusive.
Louise Arbour recently spoke about this in her new role as the UN’s special representative on international migration.
She, too, emphasizes the importance of a new narrative around pluralism.
In an interview she said:
“[We must] move away from a discourse that over-emphasizes the so-called burden of migration and bring to the surface how countries . . . have been able to harness the benefits.”
Pluralism will succeed if we’re able to tell the most convincing story. Why? Because a good story is more than just words.
A good story both reflects and creates reality.
A good story can help us to reimagine our lives and society, to imagine possibilities.
And a good story can guide us toward taking right actions for change—actions that are consistent with our story.
Let me tell you one recent story that comes out of Canada’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis—especially that of private citizens.
Here in Canada, when we look around for this pluralism story, and listen for it, we begin to realize that in fact it isn’t a new story we need, but rather a very old one that continues to unfold.
It’s a story of partnership: balanced, reciprocal and respectful.
This old story predates Canada itself, to at least the time of the Royal Proclamation in 1763, which laid the basis for the treaty relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples.
This year marks Canada’s 150th birthday, but as the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples reminded us a quarter-century ago:
“The first confederal bargain was with First Peoples.”
That bargain recognized we must work together if we are to survive and thrive in this vast and challenging land. And it saw several fundamental truths begin to be enshrined in law:
We are all here to stay.
And we are better off as partners.
Those truths, that story, are the beating heart of our modern, pluralistic society.
Listen to it, and hear the Confederation debates taking place in the colonial legislatures and the homes and gathering places of ordinary people in the years prior to 1867.
Listen to it, and hear more than 200 languages from around the world spoken today in Canada, and the estimated 65 Aboriginal languages spoken in Canada.
Listen to it, and hear the call to action:
Canada has an opportunity—a responsibility, perhaps—to demonstrate how pluralism is a viable, and perhaps the only, path to lasting peace and prosperity.
What is this confederation if not an exercise in pluralism among diverse peoples?
People sometimes dismiss a commitment to diversity as starry-eyed idealism.
It’s anything but. In a diverse, globalized, high-tech world, nothing could be more pragmatic than an inclusive, pluralistic society. Diversity helps us to enrich our society, to better understand other countries and to forge connections with people around the planet.
Now, I don’t need to tell you we have no reason for complacency here in Canada. Terrible, violent rejections of pluralism can and do happen here.
Where Canada has failed in the past—for example, the disastrous residential schools policy—it has been in trying to reduce diversity and restrict inclusiveness.
And where Canada has succeeded, it has been through a commitment to inclusiveness—to pluralism.
Canadian society is at its best when it mirrors its geography: broad, expansive, diverse.
Canada is a constantly evolving experiment in inclusiveness and making pluralism work. This is what positions us to tell the pluralism story not just here in Canada, but around the world.
And that is why your work at the Global Centre for Pluralism is so essential both for the Canadian experiment and for the capacity of people everywhere to live with difference—to live pluralism.
I wish you the very best in your magnificent quest, and in your beautiful new home.
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Following is a response from Khalil Andani regarding two articles on CBC.
Dear Ms. Thompson
I am writing with respect to two articles you published this week on CBC News online concerning the Aga Khan's Bell Island and the Aga Khan's visit to Canada. I understand that you must be receiving some very positive feedback on this piece of very thorough investigative journalism.
As a Chartered Accountant, former auditor, and current PhD candidate at Harvard where I academically study the history of the Ismailis and the Aga Khan, I wanted to offer a few comments and questions on your two pieces. I submit these comments to you in humility as a Canadian concerned about informed public discourse and as an academic with some expertise researching Ismaili Muslim history.
1. Your piece "Aga Khan Island..." was published the very same morning the Aga Khan was opening the Global Centre for Pluralism. As you know, the construction of the Global Centre had been announced in 2005 and has been in the works for years, leading to this week's highly anticipated opening - over 10 years in the making. It would have been beneficial to Canadians and the world for the Global Centre's opening to receive full media coverage without distraction - given the rise of populism and racism in the West. However, your article seems to have been released the same morning precisely to overshadow and direct the Canadians' attention away from the Global Centre for Pluralism's opening with the Aga Khan's visit. Was this timing intentional or necessary? Do you think it served the public interest by taking attention away from a joint Canada-Aga Khan project that aims to help the state of the world?
2. Upon reading your piece very carefully, the only fact established by your investigative journalism was the existence of offshore companies in a corporate structure being used by the Aga Khan; the rest semed to be speculative commentary and opinion by individuals who, quite frankly, know very little about the Aga Khan and his affairs. As a former auditor, I am aware that these types of corporate subsidiary arrangements are routine for international investors who own properties across the globe and the sheer existence of such structures are not evidence of tax evasion. It is not unexpected for, say, a Bahamas Island to be owned by a Bahamas registered company and for that company to be linked to "offshore" companies when the owner himself lives off shore and is not from the Bahamas. Nevertheless, this knowledge may not subsist among the Canadian public. However, the thrust of the article suggests or insinuates that the Aga Khan, by employing this structure, is intentionally evading taxes -- your article contains 6 paragraphs that mention tax avoidance or evasion, and the second article contained 4 such paragraphs. Even if this is not the intent of your article, the repeated focus on tax evasion makes it come across in such a fashion. But is there any instance over the last 60 years where the Aga Khan was found doing tax evasion? If not, then what warrants the repeated suggestion of tax evasion by the Aga Khan? Further, the Aga Khan is not resident in Canada for tax purposes, he resides in France and he is British; so why is his possible tax noncompliance, with commentary from Canadian tax experts (RCMP, FINTRAC) who know little about the Aga Khan, the main content of the article?
3. In your profession, you are aware that context is everything. Presentation or omission of contextual facts in a journalistic story changes the entire message of the story. On this note, I was curious as to why your article - which effectively suggests malevolent intentions of tax evasion by the Aga Khan - omitted and neglected to mention some key facts about his activities in Canada. For example, while you mentioned how the Canadian Government contributed $30 million to the GCP's Endowment, you neglected to mention how the Aga Khan contributed $10 million to the GCP Endowment and $35 million to the GCP's construction work totalling $45 million (as per GCP website & GCP 2017 Corporate Plan). You also failed to note how, just a few weeks ago, the Aga Khan announced he was gifting a $25 million Garden to the University of Alberta, as well as his prior construction of the $300 million dollar Aga Khan Museum in Toronto and $54 million Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat building in Ottawa. In total, over the last decade, the Aga Khan has contributed at least $425 million worth of enriching projects to Canada from his own money - but none of this was mentioned in your piece. Do you think this is an important or negligible fact for the Canadian public to know when it comes to their knowledge of the Aga Khan?
4. Finally, any investigative report about an individual which suggests unethical activity would have to present all the evidence about the character and track record of the individual. While your piece encouraged suspicions about the Aga Khan evading taxes, you did not show any facts that establish him having a past record of unethical dealings. But since the central issue is ultimately a question of an individual's ethics, your article would have benefited by including some facts on the Aga Khan's ethical track record of service to humanity and the most prestigious accolades he has received in recognition of that service. In this respect, the Aga Khan been widely recognized through worldwide honours and awards from the most prestigious institutions - including:
· 28 Title and State Decorations,
· 21 honorary degrees from various institutions including the US Ivy League,
· 16 civic honours including 9 investures as Foreign Member to several state academies;
· 30 awards spanning domains such as architecture and the built environment, restoration and the revival of culture, education, health, diplomacy and peace, philanthropy, sports, corporate enterprise;
· delivered over 70 high profile addresses including the 2015 Jodidi Lecture at Harvard University, and a 2014 Address to the Parliament of Canada.
5. While CBC's investigative reporting in your two articles was quite strong when it comes to looking up corporate structures, I am afraid there were a number of important omissions when providing a complete and integral presentation of relevant facts concerning the Aga Khan, which deserves the same amount of investigative rigour. At a time when Islamophobic attitudes are on the rise in Canada, one would expect the CBC to provide more contextualized and responsible reporting concerning the Aga Khan - one of the foremost Muslim leaders striving for a better world and representing the peaceful Islam of the majority, an Islam which is often silenced and overshadowed by political events. Projecting insinuations of tax evasion upon the Aga Khan from the sole fact of him using a corporate structure while neglecting to outline his services and contributions to Canada is a disservice to Canadians and the Aga Khan who has actually given a great deal of his time and material resources to Canada and Canadians - and has asked nothing in return.
6. Finally, if I may say so, I found your article embedding the personal YouTube Video of Sara Boyden for all CBC readers to watch in poor taste and disturbing. Sara Boyden is the Aga Khan's granddaughter and the daughter of Princess Zahra Aga Khan (one of the Directors of the Global Centre for Pluralism). She is a teenage minor and there was absolutely no reason for CBC to drag her personal recreational video into this. As you can see, she had to shut down her entire YouTube channel because of your publication, which has clearly caused her inconvenience.
I sincerely hope you consider the comments I offer above for incorporation into your current and future articles and I am available to speak by email or phone to discuss the issues. In order to not disrupt the flow of your current articles, perhaps an "About the Aga Khan" section, containing some of the above, could be placed at the bottom or in a separate box in the midst of the article. In my humble opinion, it is vital for Canadian journalists to inform public discourse in our great country with a full presentation of relevant facts. When this does not happen, we see fake news and superficial conclusions abound.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Khalil Andani, CA-CPA, MTS - Islamic Studies (Harvard)
Doctor of Philosophy Candidate - Islamic Studies
A new research centre grapples with an idea that is ancient, if not eternally fashionable
May 24th 2017
by M.D. | OTTAWA
ON MAY 16th the Aga Khan (pictured, left), the spiritual leader to 15m of the world’s Shia Ismaili Muslims, opened a Global Centre for Pluralism in Canada. The centre, which in a nice bit of symbolism occupies what was once a war museum in Ottawa, is meant to be a hub for research and conferences on pluralism. But what exactly does that mean?
The word can be defined in so many different ways that the organisers of the opening decided to show a video—“What is Pluralism?”—to clear things up. One common definition is the state of having more than one of anything. Ukraine can be described as a pluralistic country because of its regional and political diversity. Another, which has its roots in the medieval Roman Catholic church, means to hold more than one office or benefice at the same time. A third comes from philosophy and is the recognition of many principles, rather than an ultimate one. For example, Aristotle believed all human action aimed at happiness: not pluralistic. By contrast Martin Seligman, an author and psychologist, says the goal should be called well-being and expanded to include relationships, life satisfaction and accomplishments.
The dictionary definition that comes closest to what the new Canadian centre has in mind is the toleration or acceptance of multiple opinions, values and theories. It begins with diversity, a concept often mistaken as being interchangeable with pluralism, but does not end there. “It [pluralism] does not mean that we want to eliminate our differences or erase our distinctions,” the Aga Khan explained in his speech at the centre’s opening. “What it does mean is that we connect with one another in order to learn from one another, and to build our future together.” The Pluralism Project at Harvard University, a 26-year research project meant to educate future leaders, uses a similar definition. It holds that pluralism involves seeking understanding across cultural and religious divides, while keeping differences intact and promoting common understanding.
Pluralism in the sense the centre intends is not a new idea. Its roots can be traced to ancient philosophers in both the East and the West. Mohism, a school of thought that flourished in China between 470 and 390BC, promoted the idea that everyone must love one another impartially in order to avoid conflict. Religious pluralism existed on the Iberian peninsula during the long period of Muslim rule, from 711 to 1492. More recently the idea was popularised by Isaiah Berlin, a British philosopher and essayist. The concept has fallen in and out of fashion. It is back now as a possible antidote to rising nationalist and nativist movements around the world.
CANADA TO OPEN GLOBAL CENTRE FOR PLURALISM; AND PHOTOS OF OPENING CEREMONY SETTING
BY NURIN AND ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
Summary: The post highlights the arrival of His Highness the Aga Khan to Ottawa for the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism and, through a pictorial presentation, situates the Global Centre within the overall picture of Sussex Drive as well as offers glimpses of some buildings and monuments close to it.
Official Opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism, May 16, 2017
On May 16th, His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada officially opened the Centre’s new permanent headquarters at 330 Sussex Drive in Ottawa.
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