[Aga Khan: ‘Without a doubt, I am seriously worried’ about the world
Toronto — The Globe and Mail
Published Saturday, Mar. 01 2014, 12:06 AM EST
Last updated Saturday, Mar. 01 2014, 12:08 AM EST
The Aga Khan, spiritual leader to the world’s 15 million Ismaili Muslims and an honorary Canadian, visited Canada this week to speak to a rare joint session of Parliament, and inspect the new Ismaili centre in Toronto, due to open this summer. He also sat down with The Globe and Mail’s Editor-in-Chief John Stackhouse for an hour on Friday.
Here is an excerpt of the conversation:
You’ve been promoting the creation of parks around the world, from Cairo to Kabul to Delhi, and now Toronto. Why do parks matter to you?
When a public space is in a historic area or even in an ordinary area, the population from all backgrounds comes together. People from all ages, from different backgrounds, come together. It’s a space of immense social gathering. That’s part of civil society. It’s getting people to talk to other people informally in these environments.
You are celebrated as a champion of pluralism, and you refer to Canada as a global model of pluralism. What can immigrant communities draw from the Ismaili experience coming to Canada in the 1970s when your community was forced out of East Africa?
It wasn’t just the political system. It was the banking system. I reached an agreement with Prime Minister [Pierre] Trudeau and President [Jomo] Kenyatta. Another big factor was the role of Canada’s banks, Royal Bank, CIBC and Bank of Nova Scotia, which agreed to lend money to families and entrepreneurs with a financial guarantee from the imamat (his office). What is important is the notion that commercial banks will deal with whole communities as long as they’re not at risk. It’s a wonderful thing that they accepted the imamat’s guarantee.
What else can be learned by other immigrant communities?
Let’s be frank. The community had one thing. It was absolutely fluent in the English language. The fact that they were fluent in English meant they could adjust into Canadian society, to Canadian national life. This was true of the younger generation. The elder generation is less fluent. The second thing that played a big part is that the community has a structure, it has a constitution, it has consular bodies, it has people who have functions. It was not a disorganized community. It was a community that was facing disorganizational pressures. but itself, it had its own capacities. There was a structure that responded to needs. That structure had been set in place before the Uganda crisis.
You’ve said pluralism is a process, not a product. In terms of Canada’s process, what concerns are raised by Quebec’s Charter of Values?
Frankly, I haven’t read it, but if you’re asking me about the generic issue, I’d say there are two issues – one is the purpose of carrying religious identification. Is it a purpose that has an objective to proselytize, or is it personal conviction – and a sense of identification with one’s faith – that cannot be interpreted as proselytization? In the case of the Sikhs, for instance, they have a religious duty – and it has been accepted by many governments. Why is that an exception? Because it is seen as a requirement of their faith.
Is it different for facial coverings, because many see those as a barrier to communication?
That is more complicated because the history is probably more tribal. So depending on which part of the world the community comes from, they will wear different headdresses. There’s no common rule. It’s something that has to be looked at very carefully, to find a common denominator that is acceptable.
Like Canada, you’ve devoted much of your energy to Afghanistan, and invested there in things like hotels. Do you hope for stability any time soon?
I think it’s going to be a little bit of a kaleidoscope, a mixed picture where various provinces will move ahead and others will find themselves with less forward movement. The conditionality of all that is the protection of civil society. I’m not convinced that is in place.
What does Afghanistan need most?
A fully trained police, police from the provinces, trained and perhaps led by training officers for a period, not necessarily Afghan training officers, for a transitional period.
Should the Taliban be at the table?
What is the nature of government that you want for your country? At present, the constitution does not allow for the country to become a theocracy. It is a civil society with space for faith. That’s the dividing line. That’s why I highlight the Tunisian example. Its constitution is based on a civil society.
The Taliban, among others, want to move backward in terms of rights, especially toward women. Is that a condition of peace?
Some people refer to it as Islamification. I can’t think of one single country where that has succeeded. The reason is the diversity within Islam, the different types of attitudes towards inheritance, towards zakaat. The attempt to bring a Muslim country that has a multiple of interpretations of Islam around one single interpretation of Islam has never worked. They may try to force it. That’s a different issue. I’ve never seen it work where it wasn’t followed by some form of dictatorial government.
Is the Ummah, the worldwide community of Muslims, more divided today than 30 years ago?
Yes and no. Demographically, no. In terms of the changing environment, very definitely yes. In simplistic terms, the invasion of Iraq eliminated a Sunni minority government in a Shia majority state. In Syria, you have a Shia minority government in a Sunni majority country. In Bahrain, you have a Sunni monarchy governing a Shia majority. These situations have become much more acute than before.
Is that because of borders and do they need to be rethought?
The first issue that comes up is equal opportunity. That is critical. No one can convince me that the Hazara are a community given equal opportunity in Afghanistan. Demography, access to opportunity, access to education, access to the financial system, ownership of land, all these issues come into play. What we are seeing today is a surge by many of these communities to reposition themselves. The dominant force is not there. When that disappears, everyone looks to reposition themselves.
That’s a polite way of saying there could be chaos.
Isn’t that what’s there?
Is that sorting itself out, or is it in the middle of what you call “extensive repositioning”?
Extensive repositioning, and I don’t think the forces at play are anywhere near their state of intentions.
What can be done?
There are so many countries trying to redesign their constitutions. If you’re addressing your constitution, one of the things you can do is refine your demography, you can rewrite the equality of opportunity, you can protect rights. Many countries I’ve worked in have done that. Tunisia is the most recent example. But India changed its constitution some years ago to protect the right of its minorities. That’s entirely legitimate. The reason being that any weak minority in a given country is a liability.
Do Iraq, Syria accept that?
Syria does. It’s a pluralistic society. It’s historically pluralist and that goes back centuries. If you look at the post-colonial experience, for the first 10 years everyone was running around trying to create a national identity. So you were stuck with a national language that was not entirely useless. You were stuck with economic competencies that were not entirely useful. That plays against the development of the country.
For Syria, is there reasonable hope its people can resolve this?
I don’t see anything to lead me to believe there is an outcome [that is positive].
It would seem [Bashar] al-Assad has to go.
Does he believe that?
That’s another matter.
That’s one of the things being discussed. But how realistic is it? There’s no point, in a situation like that, discussing non-negotiable issues.
Do you see that as non-negotiable?
It’s not my view [that matters]. It’s what is President Assad’s view. And what is the Russian view and what is the Iranian view. So I don’t see an outcome for the moment.
What is negotiable in Syria?
There was a concept that islands of peace could be developed, and that those islands of peace could be built around minorities, and would receive international guarantees, but that didn’t happen.
Was that hopeful or fanciful?'/b]
I don’t think the United Nations saw that as a real opportunity because the whole situation is so fractured. There’s something like 1,400 independent groups functioning in that state. So for the moment, it’s war.
[b]One of the players in Syria is Iran. Is the new regime in Tehran trustworthy?
I think civil society has had a much bigger impact than people think. When you have theocratic forces facing civil society, there has to be accommodation of some kind, and I think that’s what has happened. It may have been partially sustained by economic pressure but I don’t believe the economic pressure alone caused this to happen. That process is still fragile.
Why?There are established forces in the country that have been there a long time. I think there is an intent to accommodate, which would be rational really.
In Egypt, should the Muslim Brotherhood be recognized as part of a pluralistic process?
The basic issue is what is the nature of governance that you want. In the Muslim world, that is particularly complex because faith and world are not separated. Where we have political parties that are faith-based, they are part of the real world. They are not only theocratic parties. They actually act in civil society, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is an example. There is a real difficulty in accommodating these individuals. In Tunisia, they decided it was a civil outcome they were all going to support.
You have a heightened sense of concern about the world.
Without a doubt, I am seriously worried. I think we are seeing new problems that originally looked to be local problems but now are becoming regional problems and regional problems that are becoming global problems. One of them is frustration with governments that have stayed in power too long and underperformed. Another, the Shia-Sunni divide is a serious one. It’s not one country called Ireland. It’s nine countries. That’s a lot of countries. So we have a serious problem there. I think we have a situation where new megapowers are coming up on the world screen. I’m thinking of China, and, from my point of view, predictability is a problem. If you’re looking at the global map and you’re asking what’s ahead, I find predictability with respect to China quite difficult. Their policy toward Africa has been very supportive. I don’t know where that will go in the next 10 years. To me there are more questions on the radar screen than there was a year ago.
You seem more hopeful about human development and the fight against poverty.
In individual situations, very definitely yes. There are a number of countries where wealth is being created. But it’s an uneven picture. Some countries have made bad judgments on education, bad judgments on resources.
So we should be more hopeful about economics than politics?
I see more rational foundations. If you go back to the ‘60s, how often could you have a rational debate about development? Everything was forced into ideology, into dogma. That’s not there any more.
Volume 147 | NUMBER 053 | 2nd SESSION | 41st PARLIAMENT
OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)
Thursday, February 27, 2014
STATEMENT BY MEMBERS
His Highness the Aga Khan
Mr. Frank Valeriote (Guelph, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, today we were truly fortunate to welcome and hear a moving speech from His Highness the Aga Khan, a man whose great example of compassion, tolerance, inclusiveness, and respect for human dignity inspires not only the thousands of Ismaili Muslims here in Canada and millions more around the world, but all people across the globe, myself proudly among them.
In his 57 years as the Aga Khan, he has sought to highlight the importance of humanitarianism, the necessity for education and development far and wide, and the absolute need for understanding that different cultures, religions, and languages are not a threat but a gift.
Here in Canada, we strive to meet his example. It is a sign of his deep esteem for Canada that the Aga Khan established his Global Centre for Pluralism here in Canada. That he was awarded honorary Canadian citizenship in 2010 is a sign of our deep esteem for him.
On behalf of the Liberal caucus and all members of this House, I wish to extend my sincerest thanks to His Holiness the Aga Khan for honouring us today.
Aga Khan and Canadian Prime Minister Announce Human Development Partnership
Toronto, 28 February 2014 — More than a million people living in Asia and Africa will have new opportunities within reach, thanks to a five-year, CAD $100-million partnership between the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the Government of Canada, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.
The Partnership for Advancing Human Development in Africa and Asia was announced by His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper at Massey Hall in Toronto.
“Most of our AKDN activities have been born from the grassroots of developing countries, reflecting their aspirations and their fragilities,” said His Highness the Aga Khan during a rare address to Canada’s Parliament on Thursday. “Amongst the great common denominators of the human race is a shared aspiration – a common hope – for a better quality of life.”
Building on three decades of collaboration between the Government of Canada and the AKDN, the partnership will strengthen health systems in Central Asia and education systems in East Africa. It will also support the work of civil society organisations working on gender issues, climate change adaptation, and innovative approaches to alleviating poverty.
In Canada, Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC) will launch public engagement and learning activities, giving Canadians the chance to participate more meaningfully in improving quality of life for people in the developing world.
“Partnerships are essential for accelerating development results and ensuring that we maximise the effectiveness and reach of aid dollars,” said Prime Minister Harper in a press release announcing the partnership. “Canada is pleased to partner on this initiative with Aga Khan Foundation Canada, a trusted ally who continues to do remarkable work around the world under the leadership of His Highness, a true champion of international development, pluralism and tolerance.”
The partnership will enable Canada to leverage the extensive institutional and intellectual assets of the AKDN. In addition, AKFC will contribute up to CAD $25 million, sourced entirely from Canadians participating in the World Partnership Walk and World Partnership Golf events, which raise millions of dollars annually to support international development programs overseas. The Government of Canada will contribute CAD $75 million.
The announcement of this initiative follows Thursday’s historic signing of a Protocol of Understanding by His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, committing Canada and the Ismaili Imamat to regular, high-level consultations on a range of global and regional issues.
For more information:
Director of Public Affairs, Aga Khan Foundation Canada
613-237-2532 ext. 120
613 617-1767 (cell)
Last edited by Admin on Sat Mar 01, 2014 5:56 am, edited 1 time in total
New opportunities for more than a million people in Asia and Africa
February 28, 2014 - His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced a joint initiative that will see $100 million invested to improve the quality of life for more than a million people living in Asia and Africa.
The Partnership for Advancing Human Development in Africa and Asia builds on more than three decades of cooperation between Canada and the Aga Khan Development Network, which has touched millions of lives through programming to alleviate poverty and promote human development.
“Most of our AKDN activities have been born from the grassroots of developing countries, reflecting their aspirations and their fragilities,” said His Highness the Aga Khan during a rare address to Canada’s Parliament on Thursday. “Amongst the great common denominators of the human race is a shared aspiration – a common hope – for a better quality of life.”
Over five years, the partnership program will improve health care in Central Asia and strengthen education systems in East Africa. It will also support the work of civil society organizations working on gender issues, climate change adaptation, and innovative approaches to alleviating poverty.
In Canada, the partnership aims to promote a global perspective, helping Canadians understand Canada’s leadership role in the world and offering them meaningful opportunities to contribute to international development efforts.
“Partnerships are essential for accelerating development results and ensuring that we maximize the effectiveness and reach of aid dollars, “ said Prime Minister Harper in a press release announcing the partnership. “Canada is pleased to partner on this initiative with Aga Khan Foundation Canada, a trusted ally who continues to do remarkable work around the world under the leadership of His Highness, a true champion of international development, pluralism and tolerance.”
The program draws upon the intellectual, institutional, and financial capacities of both the Government of Canada and the AKDN. Under the agreement, the AKDN will contribute up to $25 million of the investment, funded by donations from individual Canadians who participate in the World Partnership Walk and World Partnership Golf fundraising events, raising millions of dollars every year.
The Government of Canada will contribute $75 million.
To read more about the partnership and its components, click here.
The announcement of this initiative follows Thursday’s historic signing of a Protocol of Understanding by His Highness the Aga Khan and Prime Minister Stephen Harper, committing Canada and the Imamat to regular, high-level consultations on a range of global and regional issues.
Partnership for Advancing Human Development in Africa and Asia
28 February 2014
There are a number of serious development challenges faced by millions of the poorest people in the world, including weak health systems, a poor quality of early education and the limited capacity of local civil society institutions to address local needs.
To help address these challenges, on February 28, 2014, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and His Highness the Aga Khan announced $100 million towards the Partnership for Advancing Human Development in Africa and Asia. The joint initiative helps to strengthen health and education systems, and build the capacity of local civil society institutions in Africa and Asia. It also raises Canadian awareness and involvement in international development. The announcement took place during an official visit to Canada by the Aga Khan from February 27 to 28.
Of the $100 million, the Government of Canada is providing $75 million over five years (2012-2017), through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development’s Partnerships for Development Innovation program. Aga Khan Foundation Canada is providing $25 million for the partnership.
The Partnership for Advancing Human Development in Africa and Asia focuses on four areas:
1. Strengthening Health Systems in Central Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic)
Implementing partners: Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) agencies and selected government and not-for-profit health care facilities
Timeframe: June 2012 to December 2017
Brief Description: The aim of the project is to strengthen health systems in Central Asia by targeting poor communities in mountainous areas which are often vulnerable to natural disasters, difficult to access, and politically or economically marginalized. Strategies will focus on reaching women, newborns and children under five years of age.
More specifically, the project helps to:
increase the availability of quality care in health facilities across the region;
improve the quality of care by enhancing diagnostic and imaging capacity in a network of 14 governmental and non-government facilities;
improve the capacities of female and male health professionals to manage and provide quality care;
provide health care providers (doctors, nurses, midwives and allied health workers) with the necessary skills to deliver efficient and quality health services;
introduce measures to increase knowledge and promote healthy behaviour among community members; and,
promote learning and enhance knowledge management to inform and improve the functioning of the health systems.
2. Strengthening Pre-Primary and Primary Education Systems in Eastern Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda)
Implementing partners: Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) agencies and selected teacher training colleges
Timeframe: June 2012 to December 2017
Brief Description: In Eastern Africa, the quality of early education is low, and teacher training is inconsistent. The aim of this program is to strengthen education systems, improve the quality of pre-primary, primary education and teacher training, and promote learning and dialogue to improve learning outcomes for children and youth in government, community schools and pre-schools.
More specifically, the project helps to:
develop skilled and competent teachers at the pre-primary and primary levels in target areas of East Africa;
strengthen education support systems and institutions;
build accountable leadership, management and technical capacity within the education systems; and,
increase high-quality, evidence-based knowledge of key pre-primary and primary education issues in East Africa by conducting studies, creating user-friendly summary reports and policy briefs, and stimulating and encouraging policy dialogue with and amongst governments and key education stakeholders.
3. Building the Capacity of Civil Society Organizations in Africa and Asia (Egypt, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan and Tajikistan)
Implementing partners: Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) agencies
Timeframe: June 2012 to December 2017
Brief Description: This component of the project aims to strengthen the effectiveness of civil society organizations to work with communities to adapt to climate change and ensure food security, to test innovative approaches that improve livelihood opportunities, and to support gender equality. Community-based organizations are often best placed to respond to basic needs and services in marginalized communities.
More specifically, the project helps to:
strengthen the capacity of civil society organizations to address gender equality objectives in their projects;
support civil society organizations in testing new and innovative development approaches across sectors; and,
assist civil society organizations in working with communities to mitigate the effects of climate change by developing and implementing adaptation strategies and/or interventions in various sectors including agriculture, water conservation, micro-finance and disaster risk reduction.
4. Helping Canadians Become More Aware of, and Involved in, International Development
Implementing partners: Implemented by Aga Khan Foundation Canada (AKFC) in major cities and towns across Canada, drawing on Canadian expertise and the resources of agencies in the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). Canadian professionals and selected Canadian universities and colleges will also provide expertise in support of institutions in Africa and Asia.
Timeframe: June 2012 to December 2017
Brief Description: The project aims to engage the Canadian public in Canada's global development and poverty alleviation efforts. It will also send young and mid-career professionals to selected institutions in Africa and Asia, and will support partnerships between Canadian universities/colleges and selected counterparts in Africa and Asia.
More specifically, the project helps to:
increase knowledge of select human development themes among interested Canadians, educators, media and young Canadians, as well as development actors and other relevant professionals and institutions;
create overseas placements for young and mid-career Canadian professionals; and,
create partnerships between Canadian and overseas post-secondary institutions.
A breakdown of the public’s reaction to the Aga Khan’s Parliament address
DR. VALI JAMAL
The Aga Khan’s official visit to Canada to address the Parliament got mired in controversy as at the second big event Friday – a mass address in Toronto’s Massey Hall – the opposition parties were not invited.
Vali Jamal, from Kampala, Uganda, analyzes the public’s reaction to the Highness’s parliamentary address by filtering through comments on news sites:
I happened to be on the CBC site as the speech began to be reported. Within an hour, 30 comments were made.
Today, 18 hours later, 741 comments have been registered and CBC remains open to hear more.
Some people took advantage of the open comments thread to play party politics, but in the end, given that the host party and its leader are so anti-everything the Aga Khan stands for, it was inevitable that people would ask the question why Harper invited him in the first place and why the Aga Khan accepted.
The invitation was explained as a photo op for Harper to be with a world leader. Some people thought he was courting votes from Ismailis and other Muslims. Why the Aga Khan accepted the invitation perhaps was a major honour or an opportunity to deliver on his favourite topic of pluralism and world peace, which he did so eloquently.
But the speech played badly with the people – surprisingly, after more than 40 years of presence in Canada, neither the Aga Khan nor the Ismailis are known to the man on the street. Many commentators referred to him as “this guy.”
That he is wealthy everyone knew from Google. The 12-15 per cent tithe was mentioned. Muslim-haters joined hands with mainstream Muslims to point out the Aga Khan Ismailis are just 1 per cent of the Muslim world so how can the Imam speak for all Muslims. Some even said the Ismaili religion is so far away from basic Muslim tenets that it was like a Mormon leader speaking on behalf of Catholics.
As for the contents of the speech only a few people were aware of the Aga Khan’s friendship with Trudeau but not of his role in the rescue mission for Uganda Asians in 1972. And so of course they were clueless on the “virtual spiral” that event set off that culminated in yesterday’s world event: the adoption of the Multicultural Law by Canada (1987); the siting of Global Centre for Pluralism (2006) in Canada by the Aga Khan; and the conferral of Canadian honorary doctorates and citizenship on the Aga Khan.
Some mentioned the Aga Khan was an honorary pall-bearer at Trudeau’s funeral. People made mention of how this would cause Harper some dismay and perhaps for this reason the Aga Khan himself made no reference to how his strong ties with Canada started in 1972 as a friend of Trudeau.
The only reference to Uganda was when he spoke of “ethnic cleansing” and we who are in the know would take that to mean Idi Amin and the Big X (expulsion). Those who don’t know may think it was a reference to Uganda’s Acholi people being herded into IDP camps.
To the ordinary Canadian what happened yesterday was that a “stranger” was asked to address their parliament. For us Ismailis we are seeing their reaction for the first time.
It’s not the same as what we read from Adrienne Clarke, Kofi Annan and Wolfensen, and in all the citations for the honorary degrees.
We, as Ismailis, just know who our Imam is. As Liberal Senator Mobina Jaffer said on being asked how she felt being excluded from today’s Massey Hall lecture: “I am just so happy he has come home.”
Seven global insights from the Aga Khan Add to ...
The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Mar. 03 2014, 10:05 AM EST
Last updated Monday, Mar. 03 2014, 11:55 AM EST
The Aga Khan is more than spiritual leader to 15 million Ismaili Muslims. Well-read, well-travelled and well-connected, he is a voice of reason globally and an effective bridge between East and West, Islam and secular. He has the ear of world leaders, and through the extensive development network of his foundation, an understanding of the poorer parts of the world.
The Aga Khan addressed Canada's Parliament Thursday and offered his congratulations for winning hockey gold in Sochi. The spiritual leader of Shia Ismaili Muslims also commended Canada for its worldwide support of human rights.The Aga Khan addressed Canada's Parliament Thursday and offered his congratulations for winning hockey gold in Sochi. The spiritual leader of Shia Ismaili Muslims also commended Canada for its worldwide support of human rights. CP Video
I spent an hour with him Friday (you can read the interview here) and came away with these observations:
1. The Sunni-Shia divide will dominate the decade ahead for the Middle East. The divisions are greater today than at any time in the past few decades, and will consume the region. Syria and Iraq remain the gravest challenges. “It’s not one country called Ireland,” he said. “It’s nine countries. That’s a lot of countries. So we have a serious problem there.” Each country will have to sort out its internal tensions, and few are doing that well as rival groups generally believe they can win, usually by armed force. One hope lies in Tunisia, which pursued constitutional reform to bring together secular and religious parties. In the end, 80 per cent of the population agreed that the religion of the state would be Islam but the government would be secular. That will be harder under dictatorships such as Syria’s, as every major group believes it can win an armed struggle.
2. The West needs to develop its ability to deal with religious parties, in opposition or government. This will be a particular challenge in Gaza, where Hamas exerts power; Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood will at some point be a force again; and Afghanistan, where offshoots of the Taliban will hold some sway. The Aga Khan says such parties can cross a line, as was the case with the Brotherhood in Egypt, abusing their power to institute a version of theocracy. But they cannot be ignored or isolated, as they represent elements of the population and are essential to the functioning of society. “In the Muslim world, that is particularly complex because faith and world are not separated. Where we have political parties that are faith-based, they are part of the real world. They are not only theocratic parties. They actually act in civil society, and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt is an example.”
3. Iran needs to be engaged, not isolated. While he does not criticize the Harper government for its strident approach (closing our embassy, for instance), he suggests we should be talking with Tehran. One reason is the Iranian people have successfully pushed for change, and elected a more moderate government. True, supreme power rests with the mullahs, as has been the case since 1979. Nuclear concerns may also undermine all else. But the new government is one that the West should be open to, in part because so many civic groups have pushed the country forward, inch by inch. Talk is better than the alternative.
4. China may be the young century’s great wild card. He has watched Beijing transform development in Africa, largely in a positive way. But few seem to understand where China is going with its foreign policy. “I think we have a situation where new megapowers are coming up on the world screen. I’m thinking of China, and, from my point of view, predictability is a problem. If you’re looking at the global map and you’re asking what’s ahead, I find predictability with respect to China quite difficult. Their policy toward Africa has been very supportive. I don’t know where that will go in the next 10 years.”
5. International development is working. Lots of problems, but more success. The big difference remains education. Get education right, and everything else is easier. Market-based economics is the other big factor. “I see more rational foundations. If you go back to the ‘60s, how often could you have a rational debate about development? Everything was forced into ideology, into dogma. That’s not there anymore.”
6. Parks are a good way to bring people together, especially from different faiths, languages and cultures. It’s why his foundation has spent millions on green spaces in Cairo, Kabul, Delhi and other cities. Toronto is its latest focus, with a green space set to open this summer in the midtown district of Don Mills, an area marked by shopping malls, apartment blocks and industrial strips, but not grass.
7. Commercial banks are critical to successful immigration programs. Many immigrants arrive with little in the way of financial assets, and no credit rating, leaving them in the hands of informal money lenders or shady financial operations. When tens of thousands of Ismailis fled East Africa in the early 1970s, the Aga Khan arranged with a handful of Canadian banks to lend money to the newcomers, for homes and businesses. Most immigrant communities don’t have that kind of guarantor, but the principle is important – a financial footing is essential for a social footing.
On Wednesday, the Aga Khan became just the sixth person to address Canada’s Parliament since the Conservative government came to office in 2006. Such rare moments come at the invitation of the Prime Minister and are as important in medium as they are in message.
Addresses to joint sessions of the Commons and Senate have been used by Stephen Harper’s government as an opportunity to showcase other pragmatic conservative leaders, such as British Prime Minister David Cameron and former Australian PM John Howard. They’ve also been granted to leaders of fragile democracies around the world to highlight Canada’s steadfast support for freedom, human rights and the rule of law, as with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko.
So what should we make of Mr. Harper’s decision to turn over Canada’s podium of record to a leader who has won no elections, governs no land and commands no army? The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslims and founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, wields a very different type of power and influence.
Like most development agencies, the AKDN has a benevolent outlook, providing essential services to the most vulnerable populations in Africa and Asia. Canada’s government has long partnered with the AKDN in Afghanistan, Pakistan and East Africa, most recently on the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health.
For the Aga Khan and Mr. Harper’s Conservatives, international development is more than a simple expression of compassion – it is also an effective tool to combat the growing tentacles of extremism.
Terrorist groups such as Hamas, al-Shabab and al-Qaeda all share the same recruitment tactics, mixing lifesaving food and medicine with an “education” laced with dogmatic ideology and hatred. This has been successful in some of the most remote regions of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and, more recently, Mali. But in remote mountain communities in Central Asia and parts of Africa that face cyclical drought, hundreds of kilometres from Western embassies, the ADKN is breaking up the monopoly on young people’s minds and bodies. With assistance from Canada and other donors, they are delivering life-saving assistance plus legitimate educational and vocational opportunities, provided regardless of religious or tribal allegiances.
The Aga Khan’s sense of purpose, translated into concrete action, was largely driven by necessity from the shared experience of his followers. Ismaili Muslims were long persecuted in Asia, the Middle East and Africa for their interpretation of Islam. They migrated in search of peace and stability with a message from their spiritual leader that their faith and their civic duties need not conflict. Ismailis have since prospered individually and as a community.
Here at home, some of Mr. Harper’s opponents have interpreted the government’s steadfast support of the state of Israel as a signal of a veiled anti-Islamic sentiment. The Prime Minister’s invitation to the Aga Khan (whose followers consider him a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed) to address the House of Commons was a clear rebuke to these opponents and a signal of openness to Canada’s Muslim community.
Both Mr. Harper and the Aga Khan delivered remarks highlighting their shared commitment to assisting the world’s most vulnerable people, and in doing so, creating a more peaceful, secure and prosperous world. They conveyed their common belief that pluralism, the active engagement of religious and cultural groups, is necessary for modern democracies to flourish.
These were not unexpected messages, as they have been a common thread in their ongoing public dialogue. The truly lasting message was that matters of the world’s poor and religious diversity, often political pariahs, were elevated to the highest of mediums.
Neil Desai is a fellow with the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto and the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, and a former adviser to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Exploring the Diversity and Complexity of the Muslim World
A Relationship of Mutual Respect and Admiration: His Highness the Aga Khan Becomes First Faith Leader to Address Joint Session of Canadian Parliament
Posted: 03/03/2014 4:54 pm EST Updated: 03/03/2014 4:59 pm EST
Greeted by a standing ovation, His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, Shi'a Imam of the world's Ismaili Muslim population addressed a joint session of Canadian Parliament on Thursday January 27, 2014. The sub-zero temperatures and intermittent snowflakes weren't enough to stop members of the House of Commons and the Senate from listening to the reflective advice of the celebrated Muslim leader who also heads one of the world's largest private, international development agencies.
His Highness the Aga Khan, hereditary Imam of the Nizari branch of the Shi'a Ismailis, addressing the Joint Session of Canadian Parliament
This is only the third time since 1941, when these joint sessions began, that a non-sitting head of state has been accorded this honor and the only time a faith leader has addressed both houses of Canadian Parliament. Being Imam of the Ismailis, a position he inherited from his grandfather in 1957 at the age of 20, is a responsibility that has entailed providing spiritual guidance to his followers, a transnational community scattered over many countries, including Canada. The majority, however, still live in the developing world, including amongst them, the fragile democracies of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan and a number of the countries that straddle the Eastern African coast and interior of the continent. In all of these countries, the Imam is able to realize his second mandate -- to improve the quality of life of the community which he guides, but also the broader societies to which they belong, regardless of faith or ethnicity. Much of the latter is done through a non-denominational set of agencies based in Geneva known as the Aga Khan Development Network, which since its inception more than 30 years ago has set up hospitals, primary and secondary schools and universities amongst the most vulnerable populations and in some of the most socially and politically delicate regions of the world.
The Ismaili Imamat and the Government of Canada have had a long standing relationship of mutual respect and admiration. On the occasion of foundation ceremony of the soon-to-be-opened Ismaili Center Toronto, The Aga Khan Museum and their Park in 2010, the then-74-year-old Aga Khan was awarded Canada's fifth ever honorary citizenship following in the footsteps of other humanitarians such as Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama.
The Right Honorable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada and His Highness the Aga Khan
The Aga Khan, alternating between English and French, had much to say to the gathered audience and the thousands more who watched the event online and on television. Among them, he recognized the increasing move towards constitutional reform, acknowledging that 37 countries had adopted new constitutions in the last ten years and a further twelve were in the process of updating their existing frameworks; a number which amassed to more than a quarter of world's nation-states. He noted that one of the most successful amongst these was Tunisia, a small Muslim-majority country in Mediterranean North Africa, who in consultation with the Portuguese, were able to enshrine the importance of civil society institutions as an essential element of democratic strength.
The Shi'a Imam spoke about the increased conflict that characterized our world, the tensions between Sunni and Shi'a interpretations of Islam and that pluralism -- an ethic in which diversity, not just in its spirit, but in practice -- needed to be valued and championed. However, he also noted that pluralism was a process, rather than an end-point that one arrived at, a mantra which has become one of the working points of the Global Centre for Pluralism, a joint venture between the Ismaili Imamat and the Government of Canada on whose board sit the likes of former UN Secretary Kofi Annan and the former Vice-President of Guatemala, Eduardo Stein. Despite these challenges, the Aga Khan, wavering between optimism and realism, believes there is still a way to transform "countries of conflict" into "countries of opportunity," a long but necessary journey which would involve consultation with all parties and the participation of diverse voices -- not just those in advantageous positions of power.
Many of these conflicts today are taking place in countries where Muslims live, but this is not a problem exclusive to a single faith community or model of political governance. "Muslims today have differing views on many questions," said the Aga Khan. However, it is dangerous to equate "what is highly abnormal in the Islamic world" with something that is an innate characteristic of the worldview of 1.6 billion Muslims. Rather, the community of believers, the ummah, that comprise the Muslim world are the standard-bearers of an immense diversity, a feature which has been an essential and defining part of its complexion from its early years in the Arabian Peninsula.
One value, however, that has tied together many Muslim societies historically, he argued, was an emphasis on the pursuit of excellence and knowledge. This principle was formalized and became part of state policy in dynasties as diverse as the Abbasids and the Ottomans, the Mughals and the Fatimids, the historic civilizations of Mali and Andalusia, and it was amongst these very groups and governments that the use of the intellect for the betterment of society was actively encouraged. The result of those pursuits were magnificent civilizations that excelled in the arts, in literature and in technology.
Just as he began his speech invoking the name of God, the Muslim leader also ended with a translated verse from the Qur'an which extolled our common humanity: "O Mankind, fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women..."
To this, he added: "I know of no more beautiful expression about the unity of our human race -- born indeed from a single soul."
The video of the speech can be found here. The full-text is located here.
Conservatives harvested emails from livestreams of Aga Khan events
By Stephen Maher, Postmedia News March 3, 2014 5:22 PM
The prime minister’s website was used to collect email addresses for the Conservative party from viewers who tuned in for web broadcasts of events with the Aga Khan last week.
The Aga Khan, hereditary spiritual leader of the world’s Ismaili Muslim community, spoke in Parliament on Thursday and at an invitation-only event at Toronto’s Massey Hall on Friday.
Both events were available for viewing online through the stephenharper.ca website, a Conservative party site, but only after web surfers were asked to enter their name and email address.
On Feb. 21, Employment Minister Jason Kenney sent an email from his parliamentary account to Ismailis across Canada directing them to the website if they wanted to watch the Aga Khan’s speeches.
“Please share this message with friends and family,” he wrote.
The prime minister also sent out a link from his Twitter account.
Ismailis who clicked on the link to the site were presented with a pitch: “Do you want exclusive, behind-the-scenes photos from his highness’s visit?” Below that, was a form, requiring first name, last name, email address and postal code.
Parties use forms like that to create databases of potential supporters for followup with customized pitches for fundraising and voter identification.
Liberal leader Justin Trudeau did something similar last week with an online form offering the chance to congratulate the Trudeaus for the birth of their third child.
What sets the Aga Khan event apart, though, is that the party was harvesting emails by carefully funnelling people to a party website with exclusive access to official government of Canada events.
Opposition MPs complained that the government wouldn’t give them tickets to attend the Massey Hall event.
At least one person who attended the event found the presentation too partisan, particularly given that the Aga Khan’s core message to Canadians was on the importance of pluralism.
Abid Virani, a 23-year-old social media entrepreneur, said that as he watched the event and followed commentary from young Ismailis on Twitter, he realized that the party was using the event to harvest email addresses.
“The place that everyone was watching it was on the Conservative website,” he said in an interview Monday. “To view it, you had to insert an email.”
Ismailis were thrilled and proud at the honours their leader received last week, but the partisanship and email harvesting left Virani uneasy.
“In hindsight, I feel as though I was unintentionally privy to the objectification of a religious leader for the sake of gaining political clout,” he said.
Virani said the Conservatives have likely collected thousands of emails from the livestreams.
Cory Hann, a spokesman for the party, wouldn’t say how many emails the government has harvested. “As with many of the accomplishments of our Conservative government, we set up a website to keep Canadians informed on the Aga Khan’s visit to Canada,” he said in an email.
The Aga Khan Foundation did not respond to requests for comment on Monday.
NDP MP Charlie Angus said Monday that it would be like telling Catholics they couldn’t see Pope Francis unless they give the party contact information.
“What’s really disturbing here is that for a religious community, the Ismaili community, this was a momentous occasion, and in order to get access to watching their spiritual leader, they had to give their information to a website that may turn it over to the Conservative war room as part of their database,” he said.
Jason MacDonald, a spokesman for the prime minister, said Angus shouldn’t criticize the event.
“The event in Toronto was an opportunity for thousands of Ismailis and non-Ismailis to hear His Highness the Aga Khan speak,” he said in an email. “Invitations were extended to thousands of people from the community, as well as business and charitable sector leaders. Those trying to cheapen the event by flinging partisan accusations should be ashamed of themselves, and we won’t dignify their partisan attacks with a response.”
Interest in the event was heavy among Canada’s roughly 100,000 Ismailis. The demand for the livestream appeared to overwhelm the Conservatives’ servers. The livestream went down midway through the event, leading to angry complaints on social media, at which point CBC began broadcasting it.
PHOTO: The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, looks on during a speaking event at Massey Hall in Toronto, Feb. 28, 2014.
The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of Ismaili Muslims, looks on during a speaking event at Massey Hall in Toronto, Feb. 28, 2014.
He is one of the world’s richest men with an estimated net worth of $800 million as well as a revered religious figure. Recognized worldwide for his charity work, Prince Karim Al Husseini Aga Khan is believed to be a direct descendant of Islam’s revered Prophet Mohammed.
Who is he and what’s his mission?
Like his grandfather, the Aga Khan – the name used by the Imam of the Shia Imami Ismailia Muslims – is committed to promoting the image of Muslims, bridging the gap and misunderstandings about the religion, giving a greater understanding of the Islam particularly in the West.
The Ismaili, as they are known, are a sect of Shia Islam with some 15 million members living in countries worldwide from North America to India.
In a recent address to the Canadian parliament, he explained how Muslims view the world, saying "essential among them is that they do not share some common, overarching impression of the West. It has become a commonplace for some to talk about an inevitable clash of the industrial West and Islamic civilizations. But most Muslims don't see things this way."
The Aga Khan assumed the role of the spiritual leader of the Shia Imami Ismailia Muslims in 1957, at age 20, after succeeding his grandfather. In his role, prejudice is among the issues the Aga Khan is trying to combat.
The Harvard Graduate who has a degree in Islamic History is the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, an organization that helps to improve people’s lives in the developing world. Relying largely on donations that flow in from followers, Aga Khan has been able to build schools and hospitals. He has also provided regular funding for administration, new initiatives and other activities.
Semin Abdulla, a spokesperson for the Aga Khan, said, "The Network's main goal is to improve the quality of life of people who are often stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty. His Highness has adopted a multi-pronged approach working in many different sectors from education to health to cultural and economic development. The Network, which includes nine private non-denominational agencies, strives to attain best practice in all it does. His Highness sees the role of civil society as a key contributor for stability and development, especially in post conflict areas.
The Aga Khan is scheduled to speak on March 10 at Brown University.
In the meantime, he continues to make the important distinction of the diverse cultures and traditions within Islam.
“Sadly, what is highly abnormal in the Islamic world often gets mistaken for what is normal,” he said. “Of course, media perceptions of our world in recent years have often been conveyed through a lens of war."
The following is an emai from our grandson Aqil. He had the good
fortune of going to Ottawa for the historic visit of Mawlana Hazer Imam
and his Speech to Parlament. We are proud to share it with you.
Date: Thu, 6 Mar 2014 12:15:04 -0500
Subject: My View of MHI's Visit to Canada
Hello and Ya Ali Madad everyone,
I hope all of you are doing well. Last week Mowlana Hazar Imam was
invited by the government of Canada to address the parliament in
Ottawa. As some of you know, I experienced the wonderful opportunity
of being present for the speech.
This was the first time that jamati leaders across Canada and the globe
were included on such a large
scale for such an historic event. As we were representing the entire
Canadian jamat, I would like to share my experience with all of you.
The group from the GTA that I was travelling with arrived about two
hours early to ensure we had time to register and get through
As this did not take very long we were in the building and
seated with plenty of time to spare. I watched the grand hall fill up;
in short time it was packed to capacity, with 90% of the audience
consisting of Ismailis. We had taken over parliament.
As the speech was webcast I am sure most of you have seen it, so I
will not go into too much detail but instead just focus on my
impression of the experience and the highlights that I took away from
Mowlana Hazar Imam's words.
For those of you that haven't seen it I highly suggest you take 45 minutes
to watch one of the online versions available. Religious aspect aside, this
was a commentary on the state of the world by a man who has the respect of
both the leaders of the
developed world and the developing world.
This level of respect was made clear by the generous introductions he
received from the speaker and the Prime Minister.
The silence and attentiveness of ministers of parliament and audience alike
astonishing, and was only interrupted by generous and frequent
The entire event made me feel immensely proud to be a
Canadian Ismaili. The speech itself can, in my mind, be broken down
into three parts; history and context, a prognosis of the present
state of affairs, and an outline of the responsibilities of the
After outlining the historical and current connections between Canada
and the office of the Imamat the speech went on to outline Muslim and
Mowlana Hazar Imam's frankness in his description of
his lineage (as a direct descendant of Prophet Mohamed P.B.U.H.) and
his outline of the divisions within Islam was an absolute shock to me.
Never before had I heard of him speaking in such clarity regarding his
rightful position as imam of the time, especially to a global
Many of us have trouble or feel nervous when articulating
our faith and our beliefs to non-ismailis; the imam has made this much
easier for us.
The speech then moved on to current issues that the world is facing
today. He made it clear that the idea of an unsolvable clash of
civilizations between the Islamic world and the western world is not
the way the vast majority of Muslims see this relationship. Emphasis
was put on the vast similarities among the Abrahamic religions of
Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.
The Imam then spoke of Islamic political regimes and the lack of separation
in the religion of world
and faith (din/duniya). He highlighted the example of Tunisia, with
its official religion as Islam but secular government structure as an
ideal for the other 49 countries currently in constitutional
transition to follow.
I was once again taken aback by the word used to
describe Sunni / Shia conflict occurring in 9 countries; a disaster.
Mowlana Hazar Imam outlined steps for the future both for the
government of Canada and the people of the world. For Canada, he
focused on his belief that a great power is not one that only advances
its own interests, but equally, one that can also advance the
interests of other states.
He challenged our country to play a greater role in the development and
prosperity of the rest of the world. For the people of the world, he
highlighted the power of civil society in
building bridges and working through the process of pluralism. He
noted the rise in influence of individuals and non-governmental
In his very short speech the following day in
Toronto (which I was again fortunate to attend) the Imam said that the
most important part of the new Museum and Ismaili center project on
Wynford Drive was the park, because it brought different aspects of
civil society together to enjoy and live and create bonds.
After the parliament speech I attended a short reception in the
building where I was able to speak with a few ministers. Jason Kenney,
the minister for multiculturalism, spoke to a few of us about a lunch
he had just had with Prince Rahim.
He described the Prince as relaxed and easygoing. He said that he referred
to the Imam as
dad. Mr. Kenney then asked us if Prince Rahim will succeed his father as
Imam and we
explained to him that it is up to the current imam to decide.
Midway through the reception, Mowlana Hazar Imam walked through the
hall via a roped off pathway; I was about 5 feet from my Imam. I
cannot explain exactly how I felt. I was definitely overwhelmed. After
he walked past and onto the next room I needed to sit down.
I looked over at my friend Naim and we acknowledged that we were feeling the
same heavy, winded, incomprehensible reaction. I will never forget
that day or that feeling, but I also believe that I will never be
fully able to describe it.
The Imam's visit has garnered much media attention. I have placed some
links at the bottom of the email of articles and interviews about his
visit. Inshallah he will be back soon for a deedar for the whole
SENATORS' STATEMENTS - March 4, 2014
His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan
Address to Parliament
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, on Thursday, February 27, we welcomed His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan to the Parliament of Canada, where he delivered a historic address to the joint session of Parliament, making him the third non-sitting head of state and the first faith leader to be afforded this honour.
As a proud Ismaili Muslim, this was a particularly special day for me and for my community. His Highness's visit was not only a reflection of the strong relationship shared between the Government of Canada and the Ismaili Imamat, but also a reminder of the importance we must all place on values such as pluralism, diversity, inclusiveness and tolerance, which truly define us as Canadians.
As members of Parliament, senators, distinguished guests and thousands of others watching at home listened intently, our hearts filled with pride as we heard His Highness speak of Canada in such high regard. In his address he stated:
The sad fact behind so much instability in our world today is that governments seem to be inadequate to these challenges. A much happier fact is that in the global effort to change this picture, Canada is an exemplary leader.
Honourable senators, although I'm very proud to be the only Canadian Ismaili parliamentarian and to call myself a Canadian, and I will always be eternally grateful to have been welcomed to Canada some 40 years ago, when my own country of Uganda had abandoned me, I believe that there is still a great deal of work that needs to be done for Canada to truly live up to His Highness's vision.
As I'm sure you are aware, there are many places in the world that are currently facing political hardship and which desperately require our assistance. I believe that the way we, as a country, respond to the current crisis in the Ukraine, as well as the crisis in Syria, will act as an opportunity for Canada to further promote values of tolerance, justice, pluralism and mutual respect, which, as His Highness pointed out, are inherently a part of the Canadian identity.
Honourable senators, I would like to conclude my statement by borrowing from His Highness's wise words which continue to guide me in my work:
"As you build your lives for yourselves and others, you will come to rest upon certain principles. Central to my life has been a verse in the Holy Quran, which addresses itself to the whole of humanity.
It says, "O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you of a single soul, and from it created its mate, and from the pair of them scattered abroad many men and women." I know of no more beautiful expression about the unity of our human race, born indeed from a single soul."
Exclusive: J. Patrick Boyer’s thought provoking insights on the Aga Khan as he talks about his book “Foreign Voices in the House” in an interview with Barakah
“Given the state of world affairs today, his [the Aga Khan’s] rational, specific, historically based, and ultimately inspiration address is one of the most important of all speeches delivered to the audience of Canadian parliamentarians over the last hundred years. The Aga Khan spirit reflects what I call “optimistic realism.” By publishing his full speech I’m trying to ensure that readers of Foreign Voices in the House will get the full extent of his teachings.”
INTERVIEW: J. Patrick Boyer on Foreign Voices in the House and on His Highness the Aga Khan and the Ismailis
Ottawa, Canada, 27 February 2014 - More than a million people living in Asia and Africa will have new opportunities within reach, thanks to a five-year, CAD $100-million partnership between the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) and the Government of Canada, through the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development.
All times are GMT - 5 Hours Goto page Previous1, 2
Page 2 of 2
You cannot post new topics in this forum You cannot reply to topics in this forum You cannot edit your posts in this forum You cannot delete your posts in this forum You cannot vote in polls in this forum