“We salute those who have donated their time and talent and material resources to this project, including those who designed, constructed and decorated this building and its surroundings. You have created a remarkable building that will enhance the cityscape of Dushanbe.”
His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Ismaili Imam
The Energy of Roshan and Zeenab
By Navyn Naran
how were you born?
who is your mother?
whose child are you?
who bears a child?
we, are all children.
children of the One,
“Who begets not , nor is He begotten
and there is none like unto Him”
so speaks the faith.
It is about the children,
each child, one child, any child
all the children
you, were a child
and are still;
a body, with a Spirit Breathed into you,
and your ‘child becomes the Man’
on a new moment and new day,
The Movement stirs,
is it the Wind of the Universe
pushing forward Time?
Giving Life and Taking Life Away
a woman bears a child
The Blessing comes to her,
and she, is the mother.
a teacher, teaches children
and understand Allah’s Creation
spiritual and physical.
so that “we may leave this world
a better place than the way
we find it”
does not the Qur’an says:
“and whoseover takes a life,
it is as if he has destroyed all humanity”?
and the Prophet (s.a.s) has said;
“And Paradise lies
at the foot of the Mother”
then what is it you are
trying to achieve?
A Child. A Spark
of the Almighty’s Hand
“an oil, neither of the east , nor of the west,
whose Light glows forth, though no fire touched it.”
“Light upon light” the Noor says.
Roshan was light, Zeenab, a flowering plant
the mothers of children of the world
“she was more than a mother”
“her body may have died but the values
will only be stronger”
mother of her own children
mothers of belief and tenacity
mothers of courage and love..
as water flows, a child grows
plants reach high, lit from Greater than the sky..
what will you teach them, these children?
what will you share with them, the values?
how will you train them, the principles?
Rahim, Rishma, Karim, Sameera,
Karim-Aly and family,
“the energy of the Universe is in one mustard seed”…
the Energy of Roshan and Zeenab
is now faster than the speed of light
Revised: Saturday, April 5, 2014.
Copyright: Navyn Naran
Author’s note: This poem in written to the Taliban in the context that each of them was born to and through a mother. Each was a child in time, and still is their mother’s child. The poem is best acted out and the various stanzas are to be read by children and adult children of different ages…this should invoke a feeling of an individual’s journey in time and a realization that killing one human is as if “one destroyed entire humanity,” including oneself. This, the taliban are doing. The energy they believe they want to overthrow, through the children they destroy, will be transcended to a greater Force because it is Blessed through Allah.
To read more about Roshan Thomas and Zeenab Kassam and the recent tragedy in Kabul, please visit http://ismailimail.wordpress.com, a definitive resource of news about the Ismaili community. We welcome your tribute to Roshan and Zeenab; please click Leave a comment or if you encounter a technical difficulty send your message to firstname.lastname@example.org, subject: Roshan Thomas and Zeenab Kassam.
Simerg’s new downloadable publication is filled with informative readings and inspiring poems including an explanation of the ginan “Eji Navroz na din sohamna”. Please click on A Rich Collection of Readings and Poetry on Navroz or one of the following two NASA images showing a cylindrical projection of the earth and the earth as seen from the sun at noon on March 21, 2013.
Compiled and presented by Abdulmalik J. Merchant
I. Excerpts from President Christina Paxson’s Introduction to His Highness the Aga Khan
Today we welcome His Highness the Aga Khan to the Brown campus — not as a newly arrived guest, but as a returning friend of the University and a Brown parent. In May 1996, Brown conferred the honorary Doctor of Law degree upon His Highness. At that time, President Vartan Gregorian said of him:
“He has become a major activist for civilised humanity and universal values. Not in words but in deeds. Not in one location but around the world. For he believes in the long tradition of Ismaili community values — that education, self-reliance, solidarity, and character are the elements which keep a community vibrant and healthy and lead to enlightenment and dignity.”
In the 18 years since, His Highness’s critically important work has intensified and expanded. As the 49th hereditary Imam — the spiritual leader — of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, His Highness has been productively engaged with the development of Asia and Africa, work he and his organisations have pursued for nearly 60 years. He is the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the world’s largest private development agencies, which has improved living conditions and opportunities for people in 30 countries through work in healthcare, education, architecture, rural development, the built environment, and the promotion of private-sector enterprise…About 80,000 people work for the Network.
The Network’s efforts range from small — the micro loans and financing that are so important to eager but resource-poor entrepreneurs — to two entire universities: The five campuses of the Aga Khan University, and the University of Central Asia, whose School of Professional and Continuing Education has served nearly 50,000 students in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. His Highness once made the following remark:
“Education has been important to my family for a long time. My forefathers founded Al-Azhar University in Cairo some 1,000 years ago… Discovery of knowledge was seen by those founders as an embodiment of religious faith — faith as reinforced by knowledge of workings of the Creator’s physical world. The form of universities has changed over those 1,000 years, but that reciprocity between faith and knowledge remains a source of strength.”
Whether for 250 years or a thousand, we at Brown recognise and celebrate the institutions and people throughout the world who champion fundamental values like the discovery of knowledge and the notion that knowledge is a globally shared source of strength.
Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming His Highness the Aga Khan.
II. Excerpts from His Highness the Aga Khan’s Ogden Lecture Delivered on March 10, 2014
1. STEPHEN OGDEN, PRINCE RAHIM, AND
THE AGA KHAN DEVELOPMENT NETWORK
Thank you very much, Madame President, for your very kind introduction. It is a great honour for me to give the Ogden Lecture…and to pay tribute to the memory of Stephen Ogden.
I have long felt a close sense of belonging at Brown; my eldest son was a member of the Brown Class of 1995, and I treasure the fact that I received an honorary degree from Brown, and was privileged at that time to give the Baccalaureate Address.
My own education has blended Islamic and Western traditions. I was studying at Harvard some 56 years ago when I inherited the Ismaili Imamat. It is not a political role, as has been mentioned, but let me emphasise that Islamic belief sees the spiritual and material worlds as inextricably connected. Faith should deepen our concern for improving the quality of human life in all of its dimensions. That is the overarching objective of the Aga Khan Development Network, which President Paxson has described so well.
2. 1996 AND NOW
It has been said that giving an effective university lecture requires the boldness to make some strong predictions about the future.
As I look back, over some 18 years now, to 1996, I think I actually under-estimated how many things would change in the years ahead. If you were a student at Brown 18 years ago, you would not have had any Facebook friends and you wouldn’t be following anyone on Twitter. And, even more sadly perhaps, no one would be following you!
There was no instant messaging at that time; indeed, as I recall, people actually used their telephones primarily for talking!
In fact, email itself was still quite a new thing in 1996. And those are only the most obvious examples of transformative change in our world.
What has been the impact of such changes? We often think about technological innovation as a great source of hope for the world. We hear about how the internet can reach out across boundaries, helping us all to stay in touch, and giving us access to information from every imaginable source.
3. COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES - FULFILLED HOPES AND DISAPPOINTMENTS
But it is worth remembering that the same affirmations have greeted new communication technologies for centuries, from the printing press to the telegraph to television and radio. Yet in each case, while many hopes were fulfilled, many were also disappointed. In the final analysis, the key to human cooperation and concord has not depended on advances in the technologies of communication, but rather on how human beings go about using – or abusing – their technological tools.
Yes, the Information Revolution, for individuals and for communities, can be a great liberating influence. But it also carries some important risks.
A. Risks: Fleeting attention spans, Impulsive Judgments and Isolation
More information at our fingertips can mean more knowledge and understanding. But it can also mean more fleeting attention-spans, more impulsive judgments, and more dependence on superficial snapshots of events. Communicating more often and more easily can bring people closer together, but it can also tempt us to live more of our lives inside smaller information bubbles, in more intense but often more isolated groupings.
B. Risk: Greater Connectivity # Greater Connection
We see more people everywhere these days, standing or sitting or walking alone, absorbed in their hand-held screens. But, I wonder whether, in some larger sense, they are really more “in touch?” Greater “connectivity” does not necessarily mean greater “connection.”
Information travels more quickly, in greater quantities these days. But the incalculable multiplication of information can also mean more error, more exaggeration, more misinformation, more disinformation, more propaganda. The world may be right there on our laptops, but the truth about the world may be further and further away.
C. Risk: Contribution to Fragmentation
Among the risks of our new communications world is its potential contribution to what I would call the growing “centrifugal forces” in our time – the forces of “fragmentation.” These forces, I believe, can threaten the coherence of democratic societies and the effectiveness of democratic institutions.
The problem of fragmentation in our world is not a problem of diversity. Diversity itself should be a source of enrichment. The problem comes when diverse elements spin-off on their own, when the bonds that connect us across our diversities begin to weaken.
D. Risk: Knowledge Gaps…Becoming Empathy Gaps
Too often, as the world grows more complex, the temptation for some is to shield themselves from complexity, we seek the comfort of our own simplicities, our own specialities. As has often been said, we risk learning more and more, about less and less. And the result is that significant knowledge gaps can develop and persist.
The danger is that knowledge gaps so often run the risk of becoming empathy gaps. The struggle to remain empathetically open to the Other in a diversifying world is a continuing struggle of central importance for all of us.
The danger of having knowledge gaps grow into empathy gaps – that was the theme of my address in 1996. I discussed then what was becoming an enormous knowledge gap, nearly an ignorance gap, between the worlds of Islam and the non-Muslim world. Since that time, to be sure, there have been moments of encouraging progress on this front, including academic-centred efforts here at Brown, with your wonderful Digital Islamic Humanities Project.
4. THE WORSENING KNOWLEDGE GAP, AND THE LOSS OF AN IMPORTANT ISLAMIC TRADITION
But in many ways, that knowledge gap has worsened.
We have heard predictions for some years now about some inevitable clash of the industrial West with the Muslim world. These multiplied, of course, in the wake of the 9/11 tragedies and other violent episodes. But most Muslims don’t think that way; only an extreme minority does. For most of us, there is singularly little in our theology that would clash with the other Abrahamic faiths, with Christianity and Judaism. And there is much more in harmony. What has happened to the Islamic tradition that says that our best friends will be from the other Abrahamic Faiths, known as the “People of the Book”, all of whose faith builds on monotheistic revelation?
Of course, much of what the West has seen about the Muslim world in recent years has been through a media lens of instability and confrontation. What is highly abnormal in the Islamic world thus often gets mistaken for what is normal. But that is all the more reason for us to work from all directions to replace fearful ignorance with empathetic knowledge.
5. NON-RECOGNITION IN THE WEST OF MUSLIM CONTRIBUTIONS
Down through many centuries, great Muslim cultures were built on the principle of inclusiveness. Some of the best minds and creative spirits from every corner of the world, independent of ethnic or religious identities, were brought together at great Muslim centres of learning. My own ancestors, the Fatimids, founded one of the world’s oldest universities, Al-Azhar in Cairo, over a thousand years ago. In fields of learning from mathematics to astronomy, from philosophy to medicine Muslim scholars sharpened the cutting edge of human knowledge. They were the equivalents of thinkers like Plato and Aristotle, Galileo and Newton. Yet their names are scarcely known in the West today. How many would recognise the name al-Khwarizmi – the Persian mathematician who developed some 1,200 years ago the algorithm, which is the foundation of search engine technology?
6. HOSTILITY BETWEEN AND WITHIN FAITHS
In the Muslim world itself, as is true outside of it, much of our history, culture and art, has been obscured, and with it a clear sense of Muslim diversity. Among other “in-comprehensions” is the increasing conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims. In places like Pakistan and Malaysia, Iraq and Syria, Lebanon and Bahrain, Yemen and Somalia and Afghanistan, the Sunni-Shia conflict is becoming an absolute disaster.
The harsh truth is that religious hostility and intolerance, between as well as within religions, is contributing to violent crises and political impasse all across the world, in the Central African Republic, in South Sudan and Nigeria; in Myanmar, in the Philippines and in the Ukraine, and in many other places.
Such hostilities, of course, represent the most sinister side of what I have described as the centrifugal, fragmenting patterns of our times.
7. RESPONSES TO INTOLERANCE
A. Recognition of Pluralism
How can we respond to such tendencies? The response, I would emphasise today is a thoughtful, renewed commitment to the concept of pluralism and to the closely related potential of civil society.
A pluralist commitment is rooted in the essential unity of the human race. Does the Holy Quran not say that mankind is descended from “a single soul?” In an increasingly cosmopolitan world, it is essential that we live by a “cosmopolitan ethic,” one that addresses the age-old need to balance the particular and the universal, to honour both human rights and social duties, to advance personal freedom and to accept human responsibility.
It is in that spirit that we can nurture bonds of confidence across different peoples and unique individuals, welcoming the growing diversity of our world, even in matters of faith, as a gift of the Divine. Difference, in this context, can become an opportunity – not a threat – a blessing rather than a burden.
B. Good Governance: The Example of America’s First President, George Washington
This brings us to the challenges for governance in our time. How do we organise our complex societies to achieve harmony and perhaps some progress, even at this time of growing diversity? These have always been difficult questions and they are not getting any easier. As you know, they were particularly difficult questions for the United States back in this university’s earliest years, as 13 former colonies tried to write a new national constitution.
George Washington, who had presided over the Constitutional Convention, came to this campus in 1790, after just one year as President, when Brown itself was only a quarter of a century old. He travelled to Providence to mark the recent adoption of the new US Constitution by the state of Rhode Island – the last of the original 13 states to do so.
Washington’s visit in Providence marked a moment of historic constitutional significance. And the questions we have raised today, balancing centrifugal, fragmenting realities on the one hand with the imperatives of national bonding and governing on the other, were central concerns for Washington at that moment and throughout his career. After eight years of coping with these issues as the first American president, he made them the major theme of his famous Farewell Address.
He was worried, principally, he said then, about what he called the spirit of “faction” and its ability to undermine a sense of democratic nationhood. He described faction as a spirit, that “kindles the animosity of one part against another,” creating a “fatal tendency to elevate a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community” against the whole. It threatened, he said, “a frightful despotism”, one that could “render alien to each other those who ought to be bound together…”
C. New Government Frameworks and Constitutions Honouring Human Rights: Kenya and Tunisia
Such threats to bonding, and thus to balance, have long presented a central governance challenge, here and elsewhere. And these issues are now being addressed with new intensity all across the world.
Amazing as it may seem, fully 37 countries have been writing or rewriting their constitutions in the last ten years, with another 12 countries recently embarking on this path….And nearly half of these 49 countries have majority Muslim populations.
Clearly, many Muslim societies are seeking new ways to organise themselves. And there can be no “one size fits all”. The outcomes obviously are going to be many and varied. The process will challenge the creativity of the world’s best political and legal thinkers. Especially in the developing world, such matters will increasingly be in the hands of younger, more educated men and women, provided the system allows them to come to the forefront.
These governance issues are frankly today, of global concern. And I believe that the great universities of the world and Brown University in particular, can also play an especially creative role in responding to them.
The challenge, as we have said, will be one of balancing values and interests, honouring the importance of religious and ethical traditions, for example, while also respecting the free will of individual human beings; accommodating both the role of central governments and regional demands, reconciling the urban and the rural; providing for democratic change, and institutional continuity.
Creating new governance frameworks is obviously not an easy task. But it can be accomplished. In Kenya just three and a half years ago, for example, a new constitution ratified by two-thirds of the voters, redistributed power dramatically from the central level to 47 county governments. In Tunisia, just a few weeks ago, a new “consensus” constitution with 94 per cent approval from the elected Constituent Assembly reaffirmed the Islamic identity of the Tunisian state, while also protecting the human rights of religious and ethnic minorities.
D. Good and Quality Civil Society: Vital to Democratic Governance
In these cases, and in other places such as Bangladesh, one of the fundamental constructive forces at work has been the strength of civil society, it is a topic that is worth serious attention.
By civil society I mean an array of institutions that operate on a private, voluntary basis, but are motivated by high public purposes. They include institutions devoted to culture, to science and to research; to commercial, labour, ethnic and religious concerns; as well as a variety of professional societies. They include institutions of the media and education.
I think the conclusion is the success of democratic societies will depend in the end on more than democratic governments. The scale and the quality of civil society will become a factor, I believe, of enormous importance.
A quality civil society has three critical underpinnings: a commitment to pluralism, an open door to meritocracy, and a full embrace of what I described earlier as a cosmopolitan ethic.
The voices of civil society will reflect and express the growing complexity of society, not as autonomous fragments, but as diversified institutions seeking the common good. And I believe that the voices of civil society can be among the most powerful forces in our time. Where change has been overdue, they can be voices for change. Where people live in fear, they can be voices of hope.
8. ATTRIBUTES OF A GOOD CIVIL SOCIETY
A. Talent and Voluntary Service
One of the energizing forces that makes a quality civil society possible, of course, is the readiness of its citizens to contribute their talents and energies to the social good. What is required is a profound spirit of voluntary service, a principle cherished in Shia Ismaili culture, and honoured, I know, here at Brown.
B. Diversified Input
Progress is possible when the multiple, diversified needs of any society can be matched by multiple, diversified inputs; that is also what civil society is all about. This is why great universities, with their broad, diversified programmes, can be a resource of importance in the development of quality civil society, in their own countries but also around the world. And again, Brown offers a powerful example.
C. Predictability and Sophisticated Analysis
Perhaps the biggest quandary we face in our economic and social development programmes is the problem of “predictability”; knowing what changes are going to arise, and then deciding what is more or less likely to work in a given situation. But again, progress is possible when complex issues are subjected to competent, intelligent, nuanced and sophisticated analysis, free from dogmatism, and based upon what I would describe as “empathetic knowledge.” This happens best in open, meritocratic societies, where people’s responsibilities are based on their competence. It also happens best when the intellectual resources of the world’s great universities, like Brown, are brought into play.
D. Well-Informed Leaders with Broad Outlooks
A quality civil society, in any setting, will require well-informed leaders who are sensitive to a wide array of disciplines, and outlooks and cultures. It will require people with the ability to continue their learning in response to new knowledge. I know these are central concerns for Brown University, articulated so well in its new Strategic Plan and its call for “Building on Distinction.”
E. Diversity Without Fragmentation
As we look ahead, in sum, we face a world in which centrifugal and fragmenting influences are of growing importance, presenting new governance challenges all across the planet, and especially in fragile societies. In such a world, the voices of pluralistic civil society can help ensure that diversity does not lead to disintegration, and that a broad variety of energies and talents can be enlisted in the quest for human progress. Diversification without disintegration, this is the greatest challenge of our time.
9. THE IMPORTANCE OF THE HUMAN INTELLECT IN THE SHIA ISMAILI TRADITION AND THE ROLE OF IMAMAT INSTITUTIONS
One of the important values of the Shia Ismaili tradition is the transformative power of the human intellect – that conviction underscores AKDN’s strong commitment to education, at all levels, wherever we are present. These activities include the Aga Khan University – now thirty years old – our newer University of Central Asia, our Aga Khan Academies at the primary and secondary levels, and our major commitment to the potential of Early Childhood Development.
The Aga Khan University in Karachi and East Africa is in the process today of creating a new Liberal Arts faculty, while also establishing eight new post-graduate schools. I would emphasise both these initiatives. Professional education is sorely needed in the developing world, but equally important is the capacity to integrate knowledge, to nurture critical thinking and ethical sensitivity and to advance interdisciplinary teaching and research.
10. FINAL REMARKS: SPEAKING FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
Over the past six decades I have been immersed in the problems of developing societies, grappling with ways to assist their populations, despite both natural hazards and human errors. It is my conviction that a strong, high-quality, ethical and competent civil society is one of the greatest forces we can work with to underwrite such progress. And, if this is correct, then the role of great universities has never been more important.
I am convinced that Brown will be among the greatest universities stepping up to this challenge, as it finishes its first 250 years, and embarks on its next quarter of a millennium!
Date posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Please visit Ismailimail for a comprehensive collection of links to all material related to the above event. It is the best referral website for anything related to His Highness the Aga Khan and the Ismaili community.
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INTRODUCTION: Founded in 1764, Brown University, the seventh-oldest college in the United States, is celebrating the 250th anniversary of its founding this year. As part of this anniversary, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of Ismaili Muslims, will deliver a Stephen A. Ogden Jr. ’60 Memorial Lecture on International Affairs at Brown University on Monday, March 10, 2014, at 5 p.m. The ceremony will be will be carried live at http://www.brown.edu/web/livestream/.
Since 1965, the Ogden Lectures have been the most distinguished of their kind, serving both the Brown and Rhode Island communities in the field of International Relations.
Stephen A. Ogden Jr., an active member of the Brown class of 1960, was seriously injured in an automobile accident in the spring of his junior year. After a valiant fight for life, he died in 1963. Established by his family, the Ogden lectureship came into being two years later as a means of achieving in some small measure what Steve Ogden had hoped to accomplish in his life: the advancement of international peace and understanding.
The Ogden Lectures are a living tribute to the memory of a young man who had hoped to devote his abilities and energy to the field of international relations. These lectures have brought to the University and to Rhode Island a large number of U.S. and foreign diplomats as well as many other observers of the international scene. All have given lectures, free and open to the public, on current world topics.
A Cherished Photo
By Abdulmalik J. Merchant
A family member living overseas called me in Philadelphia, USA, during the third week of May in 1996, and asked me to obtain a speech that he thought Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, had already delivered at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, earlier that month. Without waiting another second, I called Brown’s main number, and was swiftly connected to a very kind and knowledgeable gentleman. When I requested for a copy of the speech, he informed me that the speech had not yet been delivered and that His Highness would be addressing the University’s Baccalaureate Service during the coming Memorial Day Weekend. Obviously, my next question was if I was permitted to attend the event, and without hesitation he asked me to come over and bring my friends too! He explained that the address would take place at the First Baptist Church, where sitting would be limited to the graduating students. However, all the visitors would be able to watch the videocast on a large-screen on the College Green. I thanked him with all my heart. But before wishing me good-bye, he thoughtfully asked me to spend an extra day in Providence, as Mawlana Hazar Imam along with eight other individuals would also be conferred with an Honorary Degree at a special University Ceremony on the same Green.
The Memorial weekend was only two days away! I rushed to get a rented car and prepared for the event, including purchasing a couple of $9.00 disposable cameras from a nearby drugstore in downtown Philadelphia, where I lived. I set out for the 6 hour drive on Saturday morning, May 25th. I first stopped at Scranton University and attended my cousin Akber’s graduation ceremony. I then proceeded to Connecticut to meet Anaar Naran, a close family friend who was my younger brother Fahar’s teacher at Dar-es-Salaam’s Aga Khan Boys Primary School in the 1960′s.
The following morning, Sunday, 26th May, upon reaching Providence, I first decided to locate the whereabouts of the Green. Satisfied, I checked into a nearby hotel and returned with immense excitement to the event site well before the start of the 1:30 pm Baccalaureate Service in the First Baptist Church.
Seated at the front of the Green, I witnessed the entire ceremony on the large screen that had been set-up. The ceremony embraced lively expressions of thanksgiving, harmony, and rhythm and included music and spiritual readings from Islam, Christianity and Hinduism as well as other faiths, incorporating the many spiritual and cultural traditions of the Brown community. The program that was distributed contained the texts of the spiritual readings. I was captivated and deeply touched by the distinguished and dignified ceremony which respected and recognized world-faiths.
As I heard a Hindu reading which alluded to the Lord Vishnu as the Preserver of the Universe and one who would manifest himself again, my thoughts turned to that notion of manifestation as presented by Ismaili missionaries and Pirs in some of their ginans, which were aimed at converting Hindus to the Ismaili faith.
The entire service including President Gregorian’s and Mawlana Hazar Imam’s speeches (Vartan Gregorian’s Tribute to His Highness the Aga Khan at Brown University in 1996) was overpowering and unforgettable, and I was given an opportunity to share my thoughts about the complete event with the Philadelphia jamat a few days later at the invitation of the mukhi. During that talk I also read out the scripture excerpts from Brown’s programme booklet. Alas, the diskette with the hard-copy of my speech is in storage and not easily accessible.
The following morning on Monday, 27th May, bagpipers, highland drummers, marching bands and more than 5,000 graduates, alumni, faculty, parent educators and University guests marched in a mile-long procession that announced Brown University’s 228th Commencement exercises, in one of the largest and most colorful academic pageants in the nation.
By approximately 11:45 all the three groups – the medical students, graduate students as well as undergraduates - had returned from their separate convocations for the University Ceremony on The College Green.
In the meantime I wandered around the Green, enjoying and soaking in the lively atmosphere. Near one end of the Green I spotted Mansoor Saleh, a class-mate from my 1964 primary school days in Dar-es-Salaam. He was with the Council for USA. I was meeting him after several years, and I greeted him with immense enthusiasm and excitement, not knowing who was around us. A few moments earlier I had seen Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Prince Rahim Aga Khan, and I asked Mansoor where Hazar Imam might be. He asked me to turn to the left, and there standing just a few metres away was Mawlana Hazar Imam in the company of other distinguished individuals, who were also going to be conferred with honorary degrees. I should have been a little quieter in greeting Mansoor, I thought to myself! But then it was a meeting of brothers after years, I said to myself. Wouldn’t my Imam feel happy at that very warm brotherly encounter and greeting?
Dozens of academic staff passed by in the University’s regalia, and many stopped to greet Mawlana Hazar Imam and other dignitaries. I saw President Shams Kassim-Lakha, in his elegant Aga Khan University regalia, approaching Mawlana Hazar Imam and readied my camera to click them together. But a person blocked the scene, and I was momentarily delayed. I clicked as soon as the person had passed. I was uncertain about the shot I had taken and who might be in it. This wasn’t a digital camera – the film had to be sent to the lab to be processed! Everything happened too swiftly.
I thanked Mansoor, wished him goodbye, and proceeded to the back of the Green to watch the University ceremony during which President Vartan Gregorian presented special awards and honors as well as conferred honorary degrees to Mawlana Hazar Imam and eight others – namely Mary Chapin Carpenter, Edward D. Eddy, Timothy Forbes, Agnes Gund, Arthur Mitchell, Sandra Day O’Connor, Itzhak Perlman and James Wolfensohn. Flags from more than 50 nations, representing the homelands of the Class of 1996, were flown during the University ceremony which was filled with thousands of people. When Mawlana Hazar Imam was presented with the honorary degree, President Vartan Gregorian prompted the gathering to give him a special ovation.
A truly memorable event had come to an end. I returned to Philadelphia, and my first action was to submit the cameras for processing. I was quite clear about the contents of dozens of photos that I had captured, with the exception of one.
…AND THE PHOTO
I soon collected the processed prints, and started flipping through the photos, which were essentially of average quality. I felt satisfied considering I had used a very rudimentary camera, a disposable one. Then as I neared the end of the second set of prints, I realized that President Shams Kassim-Lakha had been too fast for my shutter speed. I brought the photo closer to my eye. It filled me with immense joy and happiness. I didn’t know that the camera had harmoniously coordinated with other forces to capture the image. Either by fluke or providence this (‘posed’) photo of Mawlana Hazar Imam is one that I will cherish and treasure throughout my life.
Date posted: Sunday, March 9, 2014.
A QUANTUM LEAP
By Farouk B.K.S. Verjee
27th February, 2014 will be etched as a momentous day in Ismaili history with Mawlana Hazar Imam becoming the first faith leader in 75 years to address the Joint Session of the Parliament of Canada, at the invitation of the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper. Our group of invitees who travelled to Parliament in a coach proudly sang “O Canada,” and as we reached the snow-covered lawns of the Parliament Building we saw the Imamat flag flying on the hill. We had truly arrived!
The Chamber of the House of Commons was filled to capacity. Shortly after 11 a.m as Mawlana Hazar Imam entered the House to rousing applause from both sides of the House, my eyes welled up in tears as I travelled back in time to the Silver Jubilee.
I had been the Hon. Secretary of the Ismaili Council for Canada during Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Silver Jubilee visit, and was thinking back to how far we had come since his first visit to the House during the Jubilee in April, 1983. Pierre Trudeau was the Prime Minister, and Zulficar Lalji our National President. During that visit, Mawlana Hazar Imam was recognised from the Distinguished Visitors’ Gallery by the speaker of the House, Madame Jeanne Sauve.
After a raucous question period relating to a budget leak, the late Prime Minister invited Hazar Imam, Prince Amyn Muhammad and the accompanying Ismaili leaders to his office. He immediately asked if we would like to have a picture taken (see photo above). It was like being in seventh heaven! Prime Minister Trudeau praised our jamats’ engagement in all aspects of National Life, having arrived here only a decade earlier. It is a well know-historical fact that the Prime Minister facilitated the settlement of thousands of stateless Asians, including Ismailis, after they were forced to leave Uganda by Idi Amin in 1972. Referring to the rowdy question period earlier, the Prime Minister jokingly said it was like going to the dentist every day! The charismatic Mr. Trudeau with his usual panache was always at his very best with his sharp wit.
At one point I quipped that hopefully by the next Jubilee we would have Ismailis in the House. The Prime Minister with his typical shrug said, “Why not earlier?” Until recently we had Yasmin Rattansi (Liberal — Toronto) and Rahim Jaffer (Conservative — Edmonton) as Federal MP’s. Mobina Jaffer sits in the Senate.
Last week’s address by Mawlana Hazar Imam to both houses was extensive, and was punctuated by numerous applauses. It ended beautifully with the following quote from the Holy Qur’an:
“Oh 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.”
Following the joint session of Parliament, Prime Minister Harper and Mawlana Hazar Imam signed an important Protocol of Understanding with the Government of Canada and the Ismaili Imamat in the Hallway of Honour, which was draped with our National flag and the Imamat flag. As part of this historical visit Mawlana Hazar Imam also signed the distinguished Visitors Books of the House of Commons and the Senate.
On the following day, a very large gathering of some 2500 people from all walks of life attended Massey Hall in Toronto to hear both the Prime Minister and Mawlana Hazar Imam.
As we huddled outside the iconic 120 year old building in extreme weather with a temperature of around -28c with windshield, to go through the security checks, I was impressed by the number of non-Ismailis who were lining up in good cheer to hear our Imam. One individual got a large canister of Starbucks coffee and handed it out freely to the freezing crowd!
Our jamat can be truly proud of the events at the Parliament and Massey Hall and we can now all look forward to the opening this year in Toronto of the magnificent Ismaili Centre, the Aga Khan Museum and the Park.
Date posted: Friday, March 7, 2014.
Copyright: Farouk Verjee/Simerg. 2014.
Click on Aga Khan Signs Visitors Books to watch a brief 1 minute video of the signing ceremony.
Other related links at Simerg:
- Photo Collection and Stirring Speech Excerpts of His Highness the Aga Khan at Simergphotos
- His Highness the Aga Khan at the Parliament of Canada: Selected Excerpts from the Live English Translation of Remarks Made in French
About the writer: Farouk B.K.S. Verjee served as the Honorary Secretary of His Highness the Aga Khan Ismaili Council for Canada for a period of 5 years from 1979-1984, following which he became its President until 1987. His terms of office saw the foundation laying ceremony of the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre (a Silver Jubilee Project) by the Honourable Henry Bell-Irving, Lieutenant-Governor General of British Columbia, as well as its opening in 1985 by Canada’s Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney. Both the ceremonies took place in the presence of Mawlana Hazar Imam and members of the Noorani family. In a farman made to the jamat on the opening day, Mawlana Hazar Imam declared the jamatkhana as Canada’s darkhana.
Watch short 1 minute video of the signing ceremony, please click on story: Conservatives Harvested Emails
Simerg’s recent post about His Highness the Aga Khan’s dynamic and stirring address to members of the Canadian Parliament has been published at Simergphotos under a different page theme suited for photos. Please click on the following image to read the speech as well as view the photos, some of which are exclusive to Simerg.
For the original Simerg post, please click on In a Dynamic and Stirring Address to Members of the Canadian Parliament, His Highness the Aga Khan Shares His Faith Perspectives
The following English translation of selected parts of His Highness the Aga Khan’s speech on February 27, 2014 to the Canadian Parliament which were in French was obtained from the live translation that was provided during the broadcast.
HONOUR AND THE WORLDWIDE RECOGNITION OF IMAMAT
….Thank you again, Prime Minister, for your invitation. It is for me an unprecedented honour. It is a feeling, a profound feeling…because I have been told that this is the first time in 75 years that a spiritual leader has addressed the Senate and the House of Commons together as part of an official visit.
It is, therefore, with humility and awareness of eminent responsibility that I address to you today, elected representatives of the Federal Canadian Parliament and in the presence of other Senior Federal Officials.
I have the great privilege of representing the Ismaili Imamat — this institution which has stretched beyond borders for more than 1400 years and which defines itself and is recognised by an increasingly large number of states, as the succession of Shia Imami Ismaili Imams.
As the 49th Imam, I have for the past 50 years, looked after two inseparable responsibilities: overseeing the spiritual wellbeing of Ismailis, as well, at the same time, as focusing on improving their quality of life and that of the people with whom they live.
Even if there was a time when Ismaili Imams were also Caliphs — in other words, Head of States, for example in Egypt during Fatimid times — my duties today are apolitical. All Ismailis are first and foremost citizens of their countries of birth or adoption. The reach of the Ismaili Imamat is, however, much larger than it was at that time since it is active today in many regions of the world. It is from this perspective that I will share with you some thoughts with you that I feel are worthy of your presence here today.
OPPOSING FORCES BUT HARMONY IS POSSIBLE
THROUGH A CONSTITUTIONAL PROCESS
Allow me at this point to address you again in French. I have just spoken about the incomprehension that exists between industrialised world and Muslim world and about how opposing forces have undermined relations with the great traditions of Islam. Yet, our hearts, our minds, and for many, our faith, tell us that harmony is possible. In fact, recent developments are an indication of this.
I would like to say how important constitutional development is in correcting the inability of several existing constitutions to match the evolution of societies, especially when these societies are evolving. This is a fundamental issue that, given my responsibilities, I cannot ignore. You maybe surprised to learn that 37 countries throughout the world have adopted a new constitution over the past 10 years, and 12 are at an advanced phase of modernising their own constitutions. That is a total of 49 countries. In other words, this movement involves a quarter of the UN member states. Out of that 49, 25 percent have a Muslim majority. This shows that there is now no turning back from the demand by civil societies for new constitutional structures.
I would like to take a moment now to speak to a specific political difficulty that involves the Muslim world. Religious parties, by their very structure, are based on the principle of inseparability between religion and daily life. The consequence of this is that when it comes time to negotiate constitutional terms with those who want separation between state and religion, a consensus of overarching legislation becomes very difficult to reach.
THE EXAMPLE OF TUNISIA: A GREAT STEP FORWARD
However, there is one country that has shown us now that this is possible, and that is the Tunisian Republic.
Now is not the time or the place to go into details on its new Constitution, however, allow me to point out that this is the outcome of a responsible pluralist debate, and that it appears to contain the necessary rules to ensure mutual respect between the various parts of civil society. This is reflected in, among other things, a use of notion of coalition, whether that be at an electoral level or government level. This is a great step forward for the kind of pluralism that Canada and the Ismaili Imamat have been hoping for.
Allow me also to make note of a hopeful outcome of these developments. That is that the forum for debate and conflict within any pluralist society no longer has to be the street or square, but that it can be the constitutional court of a state’s law.
THE PORTUGUESE CONNECTION AND THE ROLE OF CIVIL SOCIETY
Besides the genius of Tunisian constitutionalists, the preparatory work of this involved consultations on comparative Constitutional Law. And I would like to acknowledge in particular the role that the Portuguese legal experts have played, citizens of the country that I greatly admire and that, like Canada, has developed a civilisation of mutual respect between communities and openness to religions. I am referring here to the law regulating the relations between the Portuguese Republic and the Ismaili Imamat since 2010. I am very pleased to add, before this very honourable audience, that this law was unanimously passed and it recognises the nature of the Ismaili Imamat as being a supranational entity.
In conclusion, on the Tunisian constitution, Mr Francois Hollande, the President of the French Republic, said in Tunis that “what makes your revolution unique and even your constitution, is the role of civil society.”
Date posted: Sunday March 1, 2014
Please also see: In a Dynamic and Stirring Address to Members of the Canadian Parliament, His Highness the Aga Khan Shares His Faith Perspectives on the Imamat, Collaboration with Canada, the Muslim World Community (the Ummah), the Nurturing of Civil Society, Early Childhood Education, Voluntary Work, and the Unity of the Human Race
“As we all know, Canada is home to a well-established and
fast-growing Ismaili community. His Highness has therefore
become an increasingly frequent visitor, and always a welcome one.”
– Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Material compiled and presented by Abdulmalik Merchant
The following are thematic excerpts from His Highness the Aga Khan’s address to the Parliament of Canada on Thursday, February 27, 2014. A collection of selected links to the full speech text, the speech video as well as information related to the events that took place at the Parliament is provided at the end of this piece. Note - several photos are clickable for enlargement. See also new post His Highness the Aga Khan at the Parliament of Canada: Selected Excerpts from the Live English Translation of Remarks Made in French
1. THE ISMAILI IMAMAT REPRESENTS THE SUCCESSION OF IMAMS SINCE THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD
I propose today to give you some background about myself and my role, and then to reflect about what we call the Ummah — the entirety of Muslim communities around the world.
I will comment, as a faith leader, on the crisis of governance in so much of the world today, before concluding with some thoughts about the values that can assist countries of crisis to develop into countries of opportunity, and how Canada can help shape that process.
First then, a few personal words. I was born into a Muslim family, linked by heredity to the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him and his family). My education blended Islamic and Western traditions, and I was studying at Harvard some 50 years ago (yes 50 years ago — actually 56 years ago!) when I became the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.
The Ismaili Imamat is a supra-national entity, representing the succession of Imams since the time of the Prophet. But let me clarify something more about the history of that role, in both the Sunni and Shia interpretations of the Muslim faith. The Sunni position is that the Prophet nominated no successor, and that spiritual-moral authority belongs to those who are learned in matters of religious law. As a result, there are many Sunni imams in a given time and place. But others believed that the Prophet had designated his cousin and son-in-law, Ali, as his successor. From that early division, a host of further distinctions grew up — but the question of rightful leadership remains central. In time, the Shia were also sub-divided over this question, so that today the Ismailis are the only Shia community who, throughout history, have been led by a living, hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet.
The role of the Ismaili Imam is a spiritual one; his authority is that of religious interpretation. It is not a political role. I do not govern any land. At the same time, Islam believes fundamentally that the spiritual and material worlds are inextricably connected. Faith does not remove Muslims — or their Imams — from daily, practical matters in family life, in business, in community affairs.
Faith, rather, is a force that should deepen our concern for our worldly habitat, for embracing its challenges, and for improving the quality of human life.
This Muslim belief in the fusion of Faith and World is why much of my attention has been committed to the work of the Aga Khan Development Network.
2. COMMUNITY IN 1957 AND NOW, WORLD CONFLICTS AND THE RESILIENCE OF THE ISMAILI PEOPLE
In 1957, when I succeeded my grandfather as Imam, the Ismaili community lived for the most part in the colonies or ex-colonies of France, Belgium and the British Empire, or behind the Iron Curtain. They are still a highly diverse community, in terms of ethnicity, language, culture, and geography. They continue to live mostly in the developing world, though increasing numbers now live in Europe and North America.
Before 1957, individual Ismaili communities had their own social and economic institutions where that was allowed. There was no intent for them to grow to national prominence, and even less a vision to coordinate their activities across frontiers.
Today, however, that situation has changed, and the Aga Khan Development Network has a strong presence in several dozen countries, where appropriate regional coordination is also useful.
The AKDN — as we call it — is composed of a variety of private, non-governmental, non-denominational agencies implementing many of the Imamat’s responsibilities….Most of our AKDN activities have been born from the grass-roots of developing countries, reflecting their aspirations and their fragilities. Through the years, of course, this landscape has changed fundamentally, with the creation of new states like Bangladesh, the horrors of ethnic cleansing in Uganda, the collapse of the Soviet empire and the emergence of new countries with large Ismaili populations such as Tajikistan.
More recently, of course, we have faced the conflicts in Afghanistan and Syria. But through all of these experiences, the Ismaili peoples have demonstrated an impressive capacity to persevere and to progress.
3. COMMON DENOMINATORS OF THE HUMAN RACE,
CANADA’S LEADERSHIP AND COLLABORATIVE WORK
Our work has always been people-driven. It grows out of the age-old Islamic ethic, committed to goals with universal relevance: the elimination of poverty, access to education, and social peace in a pluralist environment. The AKDN’s fundamental objective is to improve the quality of human life.
Amongst the great common denominators of the human race is a shared aspiration, a common hope, for a better quality of life. I was struck a few years ago to read about a UNDP survey of 18 South American states where the majority of the people were less interested in their forms of government, than in the quality of their lives. Even autocratic governments that improved their quality of life would be more acceptable for most of those polled than ineffective democratic governments.
I cite that study, of course, with due respect to governmental institutions that have had a more successful history — including certain very distinguished parliaments!
But the sad fact behind so much instability in our world today is that governments are seen 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.
One of our earliest collaborations was to establish the first private nursing school in Pakistan, in cooperation with McMaster and the CIDA of that time. It was the first component of the Aga Khan University — the first private university in that country. The nursing school’s impact has been enormous; many of those who now head other nursing programmes and hospitals in the whole of the region — not just Pakistan — are graduates of our school. Canada was also one of the first donors to the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme in Northern Pakistan, tripling incomes in this remote, marginalised area….
I could speak about our close ties with Canadian universities also, such as McMaster, McGill, the University of Toronto, and the University of Alberta, enhancing our own institutions of tertiary education — the Aga Khan University and the University of Central Asia.
The latter institution has resulted from the Imamat’s unique, tripartite treaty with the governments of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. It serves some 22 million people who live in Central Asia, in hillside and high mountain environments, areas of acute seismic and economic vulnerability.
I could list many more examples in cultural development and in scientific research. And we are especially proud of the Global Centre for Pluralism here in Ottawa, a joint project of the Imamat and the Canadian government.
4. CANADA’S 150TH ANNIVERSARY AND THE IMAMAT PARTNERSHIP WITH CANADA
In just three years, Canada will mark its 150th anniversary, and the whole world will be ready to celebrate with you. Sharing Canada’s robust pluralistic history, is a core mission of our Global Centre, and 2017 will be a major opportunity for doing so, operating from its headquarters in the former War Museum on Sussex Drive. Perhaps 2017 and the celebrations can be a catalyst with our neighbours to improve the entire riverfront area around that building.
Our partnership in Canada has been immensely strengthened, of course, by the presence for more than four decades of a significant Ismaili community. Like most historic global communities the Ismaili peoples have a variegated history, but surely our experience in Canada has been a particularly positive chapter.
I happily recall the establishment of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat here in 2008 and the Prime Minister’s description that day of our collaborative efforts to make Canada “the headquarters of the global effort to foster peace, prosperity, and equality through pluralism.”
We are deeply pleased that we can sign today a new Protocol with your Government — further strengthening our ongoing platform for cooperation.
As we look to the next 25 years of the AKDN, we believe that our permanent presence in the developing world will make us a dependable partner, especially in meeting the difficult challenges of predictability.
5. THE ISLAMIC UMMAH AND INCLUSIVENESS OF OTHER FAITHS DURING THE ABBASID AND FATIMID ERAS
Against this background, let me move on to the broad international sphere, including the role of relations between the countries and cultures of Islam — what we call the Ummah — and non-Islamic societies. It is central to the shape of global affairs in our time.
I would begin by emphasising a central point about the Ummah often unseen elsewhere: the fundamental fact of its immense diversity. Muslim demography has expanded dramatically in recent years, and Muslims today have highly differing views on many questions.
Essential among them is that they do not share some common, overarching impression of the West. It has become commonplace for some to talk about an inevitable clash of the industrial West and Islamic civilizations. But Muslims don’t see things in this way. Those whose words and deeds feed into that point of view are a small and extreme minority. For most of us, it is simply not true. We find singularly little in our theological interpretations that would clash with the other Abrahamic faiths — with Christianity and Judaism. Indeed, there is much that is in profound harmony.
The complexity of the Ummah has a long history. Some of the most glorious chapters in Islamic history were purposefully built on the principle of inclusiveness — it was a matter of state policy to pursue excellence through pluralism. This was true from the time of the Abbasids in Baghdad and the Fatimids in Cairo over 1,000 years ago. It was true in Afghanistan and Timbuktu in Mali, and later with the Safavids in Iran, the Mughals in India, the Uzbeks in Bukhara, and Ottomans in Turkey. From the 8th to the 16th century, al-Andalus thrived on the Iberian Peninsula — under Muslim aegis — but also deeply welcoming to Christian and Jewish peoples.
Today, these Islamic traditions have been obscured in many places, from Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
6. AGA KHAN TRUST FOR CULTURE
AND THE AGA KHAN MUSEUM
The work of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture….is to revive the memory of this inclusive inheritance. Another immediate initiative is the Aga Khan Museum which will open this year in Toronto, an important testimonial in a Canadian setting to the immense diversity of Islamic cultures.
7. SUNNI AND SHIA TENSIONS AND IMPORTANCE FOR NON-MUSLIMS TO COMMUNICATE WITH BOTH PARTIES
Perhaps the most important area of incomprehension, outside the Ummah, is the conflict between Sunni and Shia interpretations of Islam and the consequences for the Sunni and Shia peoples.
This powerful tension is sometimes even more profound than conflicts between Muslims and other faiths. It has increased massively in scope and intensity recently, and has been further exacerbated by external interventions. In Pakistan and Malaysia, in Iraq and Syria, in Lebanon and Bahrain, in Yemen and Somalia and Afghanistan it is becoming a disaster. It is important, therefore, for non-Muslims who are dealing with the Ummah to communicate with both Sunni and Shia voices. To be oblivious to this reality would be like ignoring over many centuries that there were differences between Catholics and Protestants, or trying to resolve the civil war in Northern Ireland without engaging both Christian communities. What would have been the consequences if the Protestant-Catholic struggle in Ireland had spread throughout the Christian world, as is happening today between Shia and Sunni Muslims in more than nine countries? It is of the highest priority that these dangerous trends be well understood and resisted, and that the fundamental legitimacy of pluralistic outlooks be honoured in all aspects of our lives together — including matters of faith.
8. THE WORLD HAS TO PAY MORE ATTENTION TO CIVIL SOCIETY
By Civil Society I mean an array of institutions which operate on a private, voluntary basis, but are motivated by high public purposes. They include institutions devoted to education, culture, science and research; to commercial, labor, ethnic and religious concerns; as well as professional societies in law, accounting, banking, engineering and medicine. Civil Society encompasses groups that work on health and safety and environmental matters, organisations that are engaged in humanitarian service, or in the arts or the media.
We see it expanding in many places, from Sub-Saharan Africa to Tunisia and Egypt, from Iran to Bangladesh. At a time of extreme danger in Kenya a few years ago — the beginnings of a civil war — the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, led the way to a peaceful solution which rested heavily on the strength of Kenya’s Civil Society.
Increasingly, I believe, the voices of Civil Society are voices for change, where change has been overdue. They have been voices of hope for people living in fear.
They are voices that can help transform countries of crisis into countries of opportunity. There are too many societies where too many people live in a culture of fear, condemned to a life of poverty. Addressing that fear, and replacing it with hope, will be a major step to the elimination of poverty. And often the call for hope to replace fear will come from the voices of Civil Society.
9. UNDERPINNINGS OF A QUALITY CIVIL SOCIETY
I believe that Canada is uniquely able to articulate and exemplify three critical underpinnings of a quality Civil Society — a commitment to pluralism, to meritocracy, and to a cosmopolitan ethic.
A cosmopolitan ethic is one that welcomes the complexity of human society. It balances rights and duties, freedom and responsibility. It is an ethic for all peoples, the familiar and the Other, whether they live across the street or across the planet.
Quality education is fundamental to the development of a meritocratic Civil Society, and thus to the development of pluralistic attitudes.
The history of Canada has a great deal to teach us in this regard, including the long, incremental processes through which quality civil societies and committed cultures of pluralism are built. One of the watchwords of our new Global Centre for Pluralism is that “Pluralism is a Process and not a Product.” I know that many Canadians would describe their own pluralism as a “work in progress,” but it is also an asset of enormous global quality.
What more will a quality Civil Society now require of us? Sadly, the world is becoming more pluralist in fact, but not necessarily in spirit. “Cosmopolitan” social patterns have not yet been matched by “a cosmopolitan ethic.” In fact, one harsh reality is that religious hostility and intolerance seems to be on the rise in many places — from the Central African Republic, to South Sudan, to Nigeria, to Myanmar, the Philippines and other countries — both between major religious groups and within them.
Again, Canada has responded in notable ways, including the establishment — just one year ago — of the Office of Religious Freedom. Its challenges, like those facing the Centre for Global Pluralism, are enormous and its contributions will be warmly welcomed. And surely it will also serve as a worthy model for other countries.
In sum, I believe that Civil Society is one of the most powerful forces in our time, one that will become an increasingly universal influence, engulfing more countries, influencing, reshaping and sometimes even replacing ineffective regimes. And I also believe that Civil Society around the world should be vigorously encouraged and wisely nurtured by those who have made it work most successfully — Canada first amongst all.
10. THANK YOU PRIME MINISTER
The Aga Khan Development Network has worked over five decades to assist in the enhancement of Civil Society. And as we look to its future, we are honoured that Canada views us as a valued partner. Thank you Prime Minister. One key to Canada’s success in building a meritocratic Civil Society is your recognition that democratic societies require more than democratic governments.
11. “ENLIGHTENED FULFILLEMENT”
THROUGH VOLUNTARY SERVICES
I have been impressed by recent studies showing the activity of voluntary institutions and not-for-profit organisations in Canada to be among the highest in the world. This Canadian spirit resonates with a cherished principle in Shia Ismaili culture — the importance of contributing one’s individual energies on a voluntary basis to improving the lives of others.
This is not a matter of philanthropy, but rather of self-fulfillment — “enlightened self-fulfillment.”
During my Golden Jubilee — and this is important — six years ago Ismailis from around the world volunteered their gifts, not only of wealth, but most notably of time and knowledge, in support of our work. We established a Time and Knowledge framework, a structured process for engaging an immense pool of expertise involving tens of thousands of volunteers. Many of them traveled to developing countries as part of this outpouring of service — one third of those were Canadians. Their impact has been enormous in helping us to achieve best practice standards in our institutions and programmes, making us we hope an even better partner for Canada!
The Aga Khan University in Karachi and East Africa are expanding to create a new Liberal Arts faculty, and to establish eight new post-graduate schools in collaboration with several Canadian universities.
12. SALUTING FRASER MUSTARD FOR HIS WORK
ON EARLY CHILDHOOD DEVELOPMENT
We also share with Canada a deep appreciation for the potential of early childhood education. It is the period of the greatest development of the brain. This education is one of the most cost-effective ways to improve the quality of life for rural as well as urban populations. Congratulations, Prime Minister, for your initiative on this.
In this regard, let me take a moment to salute the late Dr Fraser Mustard, whose work in Early Childhood Development will impact millions of people around the world. The AKDN has been fortunate to have been inspired and counselled by this great Canadian scientist and humanist.
13. THE OPPORTUNITY TO ADDRESS TO THE PARLIAMENT
I am most grateful to the Prime Minister and to you who have given me this opportunity to share — from a faith perspective — some of the issues that preoccupy me when looking ahead. I hope I have explained why I am convinced about the global validity of our partnership for human development.
14. A BEAUTIFUL EXPRESSION FROM THE HOLY QUR’AN
Let me end with a personal thought. 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:
‘Oh 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.
Date posted: Saturday, March 1, 2014. Copyright.
Date last update: Sunday, March 2, 2014, 09:30 EST (new related links, below)
Photo Theme version of this post at His Highness the Aga Khan’s Historic Visit to the Parliament of Canada: A Collection of Photos and Speech Excerpts
For non-comparable referral links to all things Ismaili as well as material about His Highness the Aga Khan’s recent official visit to Canada, please visit ismailimail. For past and recent speeches of Ismaili Imams please visit www.nanowisdoms.org.
Also click on the following links for some extraordinary official coverage of the visit including photographs, videos and speeches:
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Simerg Welcomes Eye Witness Accounts of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Parliament Address and His Presence at the Iconic Massey Hall
Many dozens of Ismaili youth and university students living and studying in close proximity to Metro Toronto were pleasantly surprised to receive an email invitation for a gathering on Friday, February 28th at 2pm at Toronto’s iconic Massey Hall in which His Highness the Aga Khan will be present. This event will follow his historic address in Ottawa at the Canadian Parliament on Thursday, February 27, 2014 at the invitation of the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper.
Recipients of the email were left wondering whether the email invitation was indeed some kind of a spam, and many youth were contemplating on not replying to the invitation. But with key government of Canada phone numbers and details listed in the email most were expected to confirm their attendance by the February 24th deadline.
An elderly Ismaili who also received an email invitation proudly forwarded it to his contacts, including the editor of this website. The invitation to him read:
Dear (name withheld),
The Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper is pleased to invite you to an event in honour of His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.
Prime Minister Harper will be joined by Minister Baird, Minister Kenney, Minister Alexander, and other Ministers and Parliamentarians.
The event will be held at Massey Hall on Friday, February 28, 2014 at 2 p.m. in Toronto, Ontario in the presence of His Highness the Aga Khan, to honour him on the occasion of his visit to Canada and address to Parliament the previous day.
The dress code for this event is business attire.
Please confirm your attendance and mailing address by replying to this email no later than February 24th, 2014. Upon confirmation of your attendance, additional details regarding the event at Massey Hall will be sent to you.
Kindly note this invitation is personal and non-transferable.
Name and contact information withheld
Congratulations to him and all others who will participate at the historic ceremonies.
If you are at the Parliament on Thursday or at Massey Hall on Friday we would like you to share your experience and story for the benefit of this website’s world-wide readers. Your contribution will be appreciated by everyone. Please click on Leave a comment and provide as much information from the event(s) as you can, including your own personal and memorable experience. If you have a Facebook or other social media page or blog provide the link. Photos (as well as your narrative) may also be submitted to Simerg@aol.com.
A special post will be created with everyone’s stories and photos to mark the historical occasion!
Date posted: Monday, February 24, 2014.
- His Highness the Aga Khan to Become 5th Muslim Since 1939 to Address Joint Session of Canadian Parliament on February 27, 2014: The ABC’s of the Event Including Past Distinguished Speakers