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Wednesday » November 19 » 2008

Aga Khan in Canada to celebrate 50 years of leadership of Ismailis 

Ismailis from across globe pour into Canadian cities

By Salim Jiwa

Vancouver Province

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

CREDIT: By Chris Wattieseen – Reuters

Thousands of Ismaili Muslims have begun a week of celebration to mark the arrival of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan on an eight-day visit to Canada, during which he is to meet Canadian officials and his followers in major cities across Canada.

The Aga Khan is spiritual leader of the world’s 15 million Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims who live in large numbers in countries as diverse as Canada, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and even remote corners of Tajikistan.

His arrival at Ottawa airport on Tuesday — where he was greeted by John Baird. minister of transport and communities on behalf of the government — prompted a jubilant gathering of Ismailis at the main mosque in Burnaby.

Those who visited the early morning celebration Tuesday said the ceremony was marked by the raising of the Canadian flag followed by the singing of "O Canada.” This was followed by the raising of the Ismaili flag and the singing of the Ismaili anthem.

Tens of thousands of Ismailis from overseas have begun pouring into Canada from around the world for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of his hereditary appointment as the Imam of the Ismailis.

During the Golden Jubillee celebrations, the Aga Khan, known for his philanthropic work across the length and breadth of the globe — in particular in poor countries in Africa and Asia — has visited 35 countries.

The Aga Khan — hailed as a modern Muslim leader — has branded tensions between Islamic nations and the Western world in the wake of the 9/11 attacks as a "clash of ignorance” rather than a clash of civilizations. His main emphasis has been to stress the importance of pluralism among diverse cultures.

The Aga Khan Council for Canada said in a press release that the Aga Khan — who received the Order of Canada in 2005 — will meet with Governor General Michaelle Jean, Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty and with B.C. Premier Gordon Campbell. Rideau Hall press office said the meeting between the Aga Khan and the Governor General will take place on Wednesday afternoon.

Among the many discussions with  officials will be the collaborative role of the Aga Khan Development Network and the Aga Khan Foundation Canada with Canadian development agencies in promoting development in poorer countries. The AKDN’s annual budget for social development is US $500 million and is used according to the creed "compassion for the vulnerable in society.”

The Aga Khan will be in Vancouver next Tuesday where he will celebrate 50 years of his Imamat with thousands of his followers.

sjiwa@theprovince.com