Yellowstone National Park

With summer approaching, Simerg recommends Yellowstone and Grand Teton for an exciting and unforgettable family safari

By NURIN MERCHANT

Nurin Merchant with her bunny, Pistachio.

“I encourage everyone to travel and visit the forest, for they are amazing…there will be fewer and fewer in the future. That’s what I say to myself when I take every photograph…In my photographs, I let the animals and trees speak for themselves and hope other people will see the beauty I see.”– Prince Hussain Aga Khan

Wondering where to go for your holidays this summer! To follow up on Prince Hussain Aga Khan’s quote, I have a fantastic destination in mind for families as well as youth. My dad and I have just received a heart-warming photo of the first newborn baby bison spotted in Yellowstone this spring. The photo at top of this post was taken by Jim Futter, a long time supporter of the Park. Yellowstone is the only place in the U.S. where wild bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times, so everyone at Yellowstone as well as friends of the park around the world love seeing new calves carry on that legacy. Yellowstone is the world’s very first national park.

I highly recommend Yellowstone and its beautiful neighbour, Grand Teton National Park, as week long family safari destinations that would also include 2-3 days in beautiful Salt Lake City and Park City, which hosted the 2002 Winter Olympics. Parents, children and youth will be amazed, thrilled and excited with the complete natural environment they will experience during their trip — marvellous mountains, an amazing and picturesque salt lake, incredible geysers and volcanic activity, lakes, rivers, wildlife — including wolves, grizzly bears, and herds of bisons — green forests as well as burnt out forests from the fire of 1988, breathtaking canyons and much much more! The trip will also be highly educational, as there is so much one learns by being in Yellowstone.

Yellowstone National Park. Photo: Nurin Merchant.

Elks (Yellowstone); moose and grizzly (Grand Teton). Photo: Nurin Merchant.

One of many boardwalks at Yellowstone to be alongside the Park’s incredible geyser and volcanic activity. Photo: Nurin Merchant.

Yellowstone’s accommodation and restaurants situated next to the Old Faithful Geyser are fantastic, as are resorts next to the Grand Teton. Old Faithful is so named because of its predictable eruptions. You will remember your trip to Yellowstone for your entire lifetime — I say that with confidence, because I have been there and am longing to go back!

I invite you to click on A Phenomenal One-of-a-Kind Experience in Yellowstone, the World’s Very First National Park, Through the Lens of Nurin Merchant to view a collection of my photos that I took at the Park when I visited it. The post has links to detailed pieces about my experiences in Salt Lake City, Grand Teton and Yellowstone.

Have a fantastic summer — I bet you will, should you follow my recommendation to make Grand Teton and Yellowstone your choice destinations.

Date posted: April 20, 2019.

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Nurin Merchant with her dad, Malik, at Yellowstone

About the author: Born and raised in Ottawa, Canada, Nurin completed her International Baccalaureate (IB) high school program at Colonel By Secondary School before proceeding to the University of Guelph, where she has spent eight years, first completing an undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences and then pursuing a degree in veterinary medicine. A lover of animals and nature since her childhood, Nurin is also an artist whose art work has been featured on this website. Her inspiring mixed media work on canvas entitled “The Nature of Prayer” was featured  in The Ismaili Canada magazine during the Golden Jubilee of His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam. She also plays numerous musical instruments such as the piano and flute. She speaks English, French and Spanish as well as her mother tongue, Katchi.  

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The best samosas in Toronto are at the Aga Khan Museum, and I enjoyed them even more with Tottenham’s victory over Manchester City

Beef samosas from the Aga Khan’s Museum’s cafetaria. Note the image is of samosas that I froze after bringing the cooked version home. I simply microwave them for 30 seconds and then place them in a toaster oven (toast mode) for 3 – 4 minutes. They turn out to be as delicious as freshly fried ones. Photo: Malik Merchant/Simerg.

Do not fail to take a few dozen samosas home with you when you visit the Aga Khan Museum

By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos)

Yesterday (April 17), the samosas at the Aga Khan Museum tasted better than ever. Let me tell you why. I have been a Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) football fan since the age of 8, thanks to my late dad, Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018). We were in Lourenço Marques (now Maputo), Mozambique, in 1961, when Spurs won the double. Every Tuesday, my dad would acquire a South African English newspaper to see the results of the weekend’s British football games. He would also use the results to predict matches that would end up as draws the following week, and enter his choices in one of the cheaper football pool such as Zetters. Like everyone else who played the pools, his hope was that from his selections of drawn games, 7 or 8 would be correct. It would make him rich overnight, provided of course there weren’t too many draws on the day. If I recall correctly, he spent a good 2-3 hours analyzing the most recent results to make his predictions. I simply wanted him to win so that he would be able to buy me a good box of coloured pencils for 12-15 escudos — times were tough! I asked him one day what team he supported the most, and his reply was “Spurs”; “and second best papa?” And he replied, “Everton.”

Spurs has been in my heart ever since. They haven’t won the English Premiere now for 59 years, and they are not going to win it this year either. Yesterday, though, they broke the hearts of Manchester City players, their highly respected manager and million of fans when in the 3rd minutes of injury time, the goal scored by City’s striker Rahim Sterling was disallowed by VAR (Video Assistance Referee) due to an off-side infringement. Moments earlier, before the VAR review, my heart had sunk to its lowest depth. Now, following VAR review, the referee’s arm went up indicating off-side and the Jumbotron flashed NO GOAL VAR OFFSIDE (watch game highlights, below). I was as excited as every Spurs fan on the face of this earth. On aggregate, the scoreline after the VAR review stood at 4-4 and Spurs eliminated City due to the away goal rule.  Spurs will play their semi-finals against Ajax — the club that was made famous by Dutch master Johan Cruyff, who is regarded as one of the greatest players in football history.

I was ecstatic with the Spurs victory. I thought of my dad; a day earlier I had even told my mum about the game and she also remembered that Tottenham “was papa’s favourite team.” DAZN has the rights to show the UEFA games in Canada through an on-line subscription, and it was not televised, so my mum could not watch it.

Click to watch highlights of incredible UEFA Champions quarter final 2nd leg between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur

After that incredible and tense victory, I needed time to recover from a roller-coaster game that saw 5 goals scored inside the first 21 minutes. My point of relaxation, I decided, would be the Aga Khan Museum, which is open until 8 PM every Wednesday. As I set forth from home, I knew what would give me the greatest pleasure — not the fantastic Moon exhibition, but the delicious samosas that are prepared for the Museum’s courtyard cafe by the highly acclaimed on-site Diwan restaurant.

As I reached the cafe counter, I raised myself to discover that the oven trays where the samosas are kept to maintain crispiness were empty. I was disappointed and told the cheerful attendant they should be turning out more of the samosas, at least on Wednesday evenings. I was relieved when he told me he had placed an order for 10 more and they would be ready in 7-10 minutes. “Do you want all 10?” I replied, “Yes, 2 to eat here and the remainder for home.”

Story continues after quote…..

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 MAWLANA HAZAR IMAM ON HIS FONDNESS FOR SAMOSAS

His Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: John Macdonald, Ottawa.

….Earlier this evening I was struck by how quickly we are all affected by the culture we live in although it’s not our own. Bahadur Hirji, you all know, was taking pictures and he kept on saying to my wife and me “cheese” – in the end I said to him, at least if you had said “samosas” or “biriani”, I would have recognised that he was conveying a message to me — His Highness the Aga Khan, Los Angeles, November 3, 1986

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…….continued

The wait was worth every minute. I found a comfortable chair alongside the museum’s atrium. I did not turn on my Iphone. I had come to relax and did not want any intrusions. It was time to savour the Spurs victory with the best samosas in Toronto.

Samosas come in numerous varieties — ground beef and chicken as well as vegetarian. The Aga Khan Museum makes the beef and vegetarian kinds which are spiced splendidly. The version it prepares is with a thin pastry covering, not the thick and much heavier pastry that is served in the majority of Indian restaurants and supermarkets around the country. The thin pastry has always been my preferred choice. I often refer to such samosas  as Ismaili samosas, like the lentil based Ismaili bhajias, and fried muhogo (cassava), because the East African Ismaili community created its own versions of appetizers and curries (such as kuku paka, the equivalent of a Thai green/yellow/red chicken curry), pilaus and bhirianis which can be found in many restaurants across Canada run by East African Ismailis. In Vancouver, for example, restaurants such as Safari, Kilimanjaro, Simba Grill, James Cafe, Agra (across from James) come to my mind immediately. In Ottawa a trio of Ismaili sibblings, with the support of their parents, have established a magnificent catering unit under the name All Seasons Indian Catering on 2285 St. Laurent Blvd, with an East African emphasis. Of course, in addition to restaurants, many Ismaili ladies make outstanding samosas and some even cater for private parties.

As much as I have loved the fusion food at all these East African Ismaili outlets, the samosas at the Aga Khan Museum are among the finest in taste and quality. The crispiness of the samosa with its thin outer pastry, the spice level of the beef and the fact that the exterior pastry doesn’t have an oily feel to it have made me their fan. Moreover, there has never never a hint that the oil that the samosas are cooked in has been used over and over again. The samosa is slightly smaller in size than what you get in restaurants and the Museum sells them at a $1.00 each, with a 10% discount if you are a member of the museum .

Samosas are generally served with a slice of lemon that you squeeze over onto the meat after taking the initial bite. Many restaurants provide different types of chutneys such as amli (tamarind) chutney, a spicy chutney made from green chilies and coriander or even a white coconut chutney. But I am not a believer in these extra chutneys when a food item tastes delicious on its own. Two drinks that I enjoy the most with samosas are a cup of hot chai or a a can of coke. The chai sold at the Museum is a tea bagged version, which is never as satisfying as a chai that is prepared with tea leaves or tea bags combined with cinnamon sticks, elchi (cardamom pods), cloves as well as other spices, that are all boiled for a few minutes in water and milk. I make it a point to occasionally take a dozen samosas from the Museum for my afternoon tea. I freeze them, and whenever I am in the mood for samosas, I warm a couple in the microwave for 20 seconds before placing them in a toaster oven for about 3-4 minutes (in toaster setting — just as you would toast bread). Really, the result is outstanding and the previously frozen samosas come out as crispy and tasty as the freshly cooked ones.

I am generally a fast paced eater but yesterday I spent over an hour finishing two samosas and a cup of chai latte. That’s how relaxed I felt at the museum’s magnificent confines. It has a peaceful atmosphere, a fact that was noted by two new visitors to the museum as they walked by me. My mum who admonishes me for eating rapidly would have been pleased. I felt relaxed. I was savouring the samosas and I considered the time spent at the Museum as one of the finer moments in my life — with that Spurs victory. Thank you Aga Khan Museum for the best samosas in town and its founder, His Highness the Aga Khan, for  building a museum that not only has incredible exhibits and programs but also provides a truly peaceful and healing  environment when you need it the most.

To the Museum staff at the cafe and the chef at Diwan I say: “Thank you for making delicious samosas. I hope to see you over again and again, and definitely when Tottenham qualify for the finals after victory over Ajax of Amsterdam.”

I urge Torontonians and everyone visiting the city to see the Aga Khan Museum. It is fantastic and caters to every age group. The Moon exhibition (until August 18, 2019) is magnificent and highly educational, and every member of your family will love it. Then treat yourself to the samosas and take some home with you.

Date posted: April 18, 2019.
Last updated: April 20, 2019.

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Cannabis use in teens raises depression risk in adulthood and lowers school achievement – McGill and Oxford Study

Introduced by Abdulmalik Merchant
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos)

In a piece for “On the Brain,” [1] a newsletter published by the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute, the Chairman and President of The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University and a former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, Joseph A. Califano, Jr., writes:

“In his monumental study of history, the brilliant British historian Arnold Toynbee found that the great civilizations were destroyed not by an external enemy, but from within. ‘Civilizations,’ he said, ‘die from suicide, not by murder’.”

Califano continues:

“Of all the internal dangers our nation faces, none possess a greater threat to our children and families and none is complicit in more domestic ills than substance abuse and addiction.”

In urging Jamats to use their assets of energy, health, intelligence and ability to better ends than wasting them on valueless habits, Mawlana Hazar Imam  interestingly made a similar remark to what has been made above by Califano, when he stated on November 11, 1970 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that those who knew Islamic history would know that social habits had eaten into the fabric of Muslim societies and had contributed to the destruction of Muslim empires.

Just days before Canada legalized the recreational use of marijuana on October 17, 2018, we carried a post  where we called on the Ismaili Jamat and its youth to seek to apply principles of good health and good judgement as articulated by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

We take this opportunity to publish a  report that was released by the University of Oxford on  February 14, 2019. [2] Again, we ask members of the Jamat to keep away from all social habits including smoking, drinking and drugs so that we may always remain a strong and purposeful Jamat.

McGill and Oxford Report

KEY POINTS:

Question:  Is adolescent cannabis consumption associated with risk of depression, anxiety, and suicidality in young adulthood?

Findings: In this systematic review and meta-analysis of 11 studies and 23, 317 individuals, adolescent cannabis consumption was associated with increased risk of developing depression and suicidal behavior later in life, even in the absence of a premorbid condition. There was no association with anxiety.

Meaning:  Preadolescents and adolescents should avoid using cannabis as use is associated with a significant increased risk of developing depression or suicidality in young adulthood; these findings should inform public health policy and governments to apply preventive strategies to reduce the use of cannabis among youth.

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While there has been a lot of focus on the role of cannabis use in psychosis, there has been less attention on whether cannabis use is associated with an increased risk of common mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Researchers from McGill University and the University of Oxford carried out a systematic review and meta-analysis of the best existing evidence and analysed 23,317 individuals (from 11 international studies) to see whether use of cannabis in young people is associated with depression, anxiety and suicidality in early adulthood.

They found that cannabis use among adolescents is associated with a significant increased risk of depression and suicidality in adulthood (not anxiety). While the individual-level risk was found to be modest, the widespread use of the drug by young people makes the scale of the risk much more serious.

The population attributable risk was found to be around 7%, which translates to more than 400,000 adolescent cases of depression potentially attributable to cannabis exposure in the US, 25,000 in Canada and about 60,000 in the UK.

Dr. Gabriella Gobbi, Professor, Department of Psychiatry, McGill University and a scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, states: “While the link between cannabis and mood regulation has been largely studied in preclinical studies, there was still a gap in clinical studies regarding the systematic evaluation of the link between adolescent cannabis consumption and the risk of depression and suicidal behaviour in young adulthood. This study aimed to fill this gap, helping mental health professionals and parents to better address this problem.”

Professor Andrea Cipriani, NIHR Research Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Oxford, said:

“We looked at the effects of cannabis because its use among young people is so common, but the long-term effects are still poorly understood. We carefully selected the best studies carried out since 1993 and included only the methodologically sound ones to rule out important confounding factors, such us premorbid depression.

“Our findings about depression and suicidality are very relevant for clinical practice and public health. Although the size of the negative effects of cannabis can vary between individual adolescents and it is not possible to predict the exact risk for each teenager, the widespread use of cannabis among the young generations makes it an important public health issue.

“Regular use during adolescence is associated with lower achievement at school, addiction, psychosis and neuropsychological decline, increased risk of motor vehicle crashes, as well as the respiratory problems that are associated with smoking.”

The active ingredient in cannabis, THC, mediates most of psychoactive and mood-related effects of cannabis and also has addictive properties. Preclinical studies in laboratory animals reported an association between pubertal exposure to cannabinoids and adult-onset depressive symptoms. It is thought that cannabis may alter the physiological neurodevelopment (frontal cortex and limbic system) of adolescent brains.

While the review of observational studies was the first to look at the effects of cannabis use in adolescents only, it was not possible to predict the risk at the individual level, nor was it possible to discern information about the dose-dependent risk of cannabis use.

Date posted: April 11, 2019.

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[1]. High Society: How Substance Abuse Ravages America and What to Do About It by Joseph A. Califano, Jr., please click: https://hms.harvard.edu/sites/default/files/publications%20archive/OnTheBrain/OnTheBrainFall08.pdf

[2]. http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2019-02-14-cannabis-use-teens-raises-risk-depression-young-adults

Kutub Kassam served Ismaili Imamat Institutions as curriculum developer, editor, writer and researcher for 40 years

“It is my sad duty to inform you of the passing away of our colleague Kutub Kassam. He served IIS [Institute of Ismaili Studies] and the Jamat most faithfully for more than thirty years. May his soul rest in peace” — Dr. Farhad Daftary, Director, IIS, London, England, March 25, 2019.

Kutub Kassam (1944-2019)

Kutub Kassam (1944-2019)

By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos

It is with deep sadness that Simerg records the passing away of Kutubdin (Kutub) Aladin Kassam, on March 24, 2019 in London, England, at the age of 75 after serving Ismaili Imamat institutions for 40 years. Of these, he spent 35 years at the Institute of Ismaili Studies for which he was congratulated and recognized by Prince Rahim Aga Khan during the Institute’s 40th anniversary celebration held in London in November 2017.

Kutub’s funeral services were held on Tuesday, March 26, 2019, at the West London Jamatkhana. He was then buried at Brookwood cemetery in Surrey, following which post burial ceremonies of samar and zyarat were conducted for his departed soul at London’s North West Jamatkhana.

Kutub Kassam was born on January 21, 1944 in Mombasa, Kenya, and received his Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of East Africa at a ceremony held at the University College Nairobi in 1967.  

In Kenya, he contributed in developing an international curriculum on religious education for the global Ismaili community. He wrote an insightful piece about the challenges of creating the new International Religious Education Program (IREP) in a special commemorative issue celebrating sixty years of Ismaili education in Kenya.

In 1982, Kutub commenced his long tenure with the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London, where his first task was to coordinate the activities of the newly established Education Unit (later Department of Education). In that capacity, Kutub was responsible for overseeing the development of the Primary Talim materials.

From 1993 onwards, until his retirement in 2018, Kutub played the role of a researcher and senior editor where he provided invaluable input to scholars who were completing their books. He left his imprint in almost every publication that the IIS published during the past 25 years.

The pivotal role that Kutub played at the IIS as a senior editor was noted with affection by several authors in their book forewords or prefaces, showing how much they respected him for his analysis and insightful suggestions for improving their works before they got published.  

For example, Dr. Aziz Esmail, author of A Scent of Sandalwood: Indo-Ismaili Religious Lyrics wrote: “Kutub Kassam helped the work through, in the final stage, by applying his meticulous regard for the conventions of language, his feel for poetry, and his fine appreciation of the subject, to the text of the work. My thanks are due to him for the sustained effort he put in, and the suggestions he made for the improvement, in several places, of the penultimate text.”

Reza Shah-Kazemi, author of Justice and Remembrance: the Spirituality of Imam Ali thanked Kutub for going beyond the normal editing of the text by contributing to its intellectual content which resulted in a significantly improved text. Mohamed Keshavjee, a member of the Board of the IIS and author of Islam, Sharia and Alternative Dispute Resolution praised Kutub for meticulously reading his manuscript and suggesting extra sources for the book.

The late Peter Willey, one of the earliest contemporary scholars on the Alamut period and author of the highly readable work Eagle’s Nest: Ismaili Castle in Iran and Syria complimented by noting that Kutub was his “ever-patient and judicious editor at The Institute of Ismaili Studies who has always been a tower of strength.” The Vancouver based Amyn Sajoo, author of  Civil Society in the Muslim World: Comparative Perspectives, said he had benefited from Kutub Kassam’s “pragmatic insights and encouragement, which on more than one occasion helped keep the project on track.”

In addition to leaving his imprint in almost every IIS publication,  Kutub himself co-authored and edited Shimmering Light (1996) and An Anthology of Ismaili Literature (2008). 

Kutub’s influence was felt beyond the confines of the IIS. Al Noor Kassum, a prominent Ismaili leader in Tanzania, recognized Kutub’s contribution to his memoirs Africa’s Winds of Change: Memoirs of an International Tanzanian in the following terms: “….I am heavily indebted to Kutub Kassam for the highly professional input that he has provided in every chapter of the book with in-depth analysis that could only have been done by someone of his calibre. I am truly, truly grateful to him because, as a result, I have learnt a great deal, too.”

Aside from providing editorial expertise to authors, Kutub was himself a prolific writer and contributed rich literary articles and poems that appeared in numerous Ismaili publications around the world.

As our tribute to an inspiring and illuminating Ismaili individual of the modern times who served the Imamat for four decades, we bring you this beautiful poem by Kutub that we discovered in the Commemorative Issue 1977-1978: Celebrating Sixty Years of Ismaili Education in Kenya. 

Come, who will walk with me?

By KUTUB KASSAM
(1944-2019)

Come, who will walk with me?
A path there is over hills and dales,
Through avenues of purple, green and gold;
It pauses not where the thickets press,
Nor hesitates
To plunge into the forest gloom.

A place there is concealed
Of leaf and bough and tender grass,
Where the enraptured birds sing and dance;
In the still waters of pool appears
The sky inverted,
That conceals deeper depths.

Come, will you walk with me?
Leave all cares and sorrows behind;
All ambition, ornament and pride renounce;
Property, wealth, work, all abandon:
Come companion,
Put on your wings and let us fly.

Away from this world of
Fever and fret and fear of death,
This wretched city where men toil oppressed
And the memories of innocence drown
Where even the best
Lack compassion or conviction;

To another world where
Man and bird and beast dwell free
In accordance with love, beauty and truth,
Where birth and death, sun and moon
Declare the life
A continuous spiritual ecstasy.

Kutub Kassam’s impact on Ismaili Jamats through his work at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London will last for generations and he will be deeply missed.

We join the Director and staff of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in praying for the eternal peace of the soul of Kutub Kassam. We convey our heartfelt  condolences to Kutub’s family members, colleagues and friends around the world.

Date posted: March 25, 2019.
Last updated: April 1, 2019 (updated portrait photo of the Late Kutub Kassam).

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Readers who wish to express condolences and share memories of Kutub Kassam may do so by clicking on LEAVE A COMMENT. Alternatively, if you have difficulties using the feedback feature, please send your comment by email to Simerg@aol.com (Subject: Kutub Kassam), and we will publish it on your behalf.

Voice of America: How a Syrian Ismaili Family Was Welcomed in the USA

The brief video posted here with the transcript that follows originally appeared on the Voice of America website on March 17, 2017.

We hope to catch up with this Syrian Ismaili family as well as other families like them with whom we have recently made contact, to see how they have been doing since their arrival in the USA or Canada. We also welcome other Syrian Ismaili families who have arrived in North America to reach out to us at Simerg@aol.com, and share their tales of migration.  

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Despite White House Rhetoric, Syrians Welcomed in US

By ELIZABETH LEE
(Voanews.com)

LOS ANGELES — Nael Zaino will do anything for his almost 2-year-old son, Aram, whom he has hardly had a chance to meet.

“When I saw him first time, he was crying and the bad moment was when he refused to come to me. Maybe he’s punishing me why I was absent all this period.”

Working for an oil company in Iraq, Zaino was not absent by choice. He and his wife, Lin Arafat, are Ismaili minorities from Syria, and their home there is no longer safe from the Islamic State.

“They are so close to my village also. We are expecting any moment they may be inside the village,” Zaino said.

Asylum granted

While visiting her aunt in the U.S. in 2015, Arafat asked for asylum and received it. Zaino then applied for a U.S. visa as a family member. It was approved on the same day that Trump signed his first executive order, banning travelers from seven Muslim majority countries. As a result, Zaino’s first attempt to enter the U.S. failed.

“It’s very hard. I lost all my hope — because I’m here all alone with the little boy. I need him [Zaino] to come to have some support,” Arafat said.

“If you ask about my feeling, I would say I was in a dark box, dark room, black everything around you is black,” Zaino said.

‘This is America’

After many days of phone calls that led to help from U.S. Senator Kamala Harris’ office, Zaino finally arrived at the airport in Boston, Massachusetts, which he compared to coming into the sun.

“I start seeing a spot of life,” he said.

To his surprise, he was not only admitted to the country, he was welcomed.

“The officer gave me my passport with a stamp and he told me, ‘Go and start your life and enjoy it with your son.’ It was unbelievable. He let me feel strong. He told me, ‘This is America. This is American people. We are all behind you.’”

The greeting from the customs officer was at odds with what Zaino had seen on the news: The American government was taking a hard line with refugees and immigrants, particularly from Muslim-majority countries in an effort to safeguard U.S. citizens from terrorism. After the first travel order was stopped by the courts, a revised executive order issued March 6 again included Syria in a three-month ban on visa holders from six mostly Muslim countries. A court in Hawaii put a temporary hold on the second order Wednesday.

Getting to know his son

Zaino’s reception in the U.S., not only from the immigration officer but from other Americans he has met, has emboldened him.

“If it (the revised executive order) harms us, there will be someone to stop it, and we will be a part of it,” he said.

For now, Zaino is working on getting to know little Aram, as they take baby steps together.

“I don’t know what happened yesterday. He refused to let me do anything for him, but today, from the morning, he was smiling, and he let me kiss him, which is not possible yesterday.”

Date posted on Simerg: March 22, 2019.

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To see and read the story at source please click, https://www.voanews.com/a/despite-white-house-rhetoric-syrians-welcomed-in-us/3770191.html

NASA’s OPPORTUNITY Rover Mission Studied Martian Surface and Named a Few Targets to Honour Navroz

The following piece has been adapted from the NASA website; see notes [1] and [2] for links

One of the most successful and enduring feats of interplanetary exploration, NASA’s OPPORTUNITY rover mission came to an end in February 2019 after almost 15 years exploring the surface of Mars and helping lay the groundwork for NASA’s return to the Red Planet.

The OPPORTUNITY rover stopped communicating with Earth when a severe Mars-wide dust storm blanketed its location in June 2018. After more than a thousand commands to restore contact, engineers in the Space Flight Operations Facility at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) made their last attempt to revive OPPORTUNITY in February 2019, to no avail. The solar-powered rover’s final communication was received June 10.

“It is because of trailblazing missions such as OPPORTUNITY that there will come a day when our brave astronauts walk on the surface of Mars,” said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.” And when that day arrives, some portion of that first footprint will be owned by the men and women of OPPORTUNITY, and a little rover that defied the odds and did so much in the name of exploration.”

Designed to last just 90 Martian days and travel 1,100 yards (1,000 meters), the rover vastly surpassed all expectations in its endurance, scientific value and longevity. In addition to exceeding its life expectancy by 60 times, the rover traveled more than 28 miles (45 kilometers) by the time it reached its most appropriate final resting spot on Mars – Perseverance Valley.

This image taken by the panoramic camera aboard the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity shows the rover’s empty lander, the Challenger Memorial Station, at Meridiani Planum, Mars. The image was acquired on the rover’s 24 sol, or Martian day. Time. This mosaic image consists of 12 color images acquired with the camera’s red, green and blue filters. The color balance has been set to approximate the colors that a human eye would see. Opportunity is celebrating its seventh anniversary on the Red Planet, having landed on Jan. 25, 2004, Universal Time (Jan. 24, Pacific Time), for what was to be a 90-day mission. Image Credit: NASA/JPL/Cornell

During one of its drives on the surface,  the rover examined  soil targets that were designated as “Mobarak” in honor of Persian New Year for a period of 3 sols between March 25 – March 27, 2005. (The term sol is used by planetary astronomers to refer to the duration of a solar day on Mars. A mean Martian solar day, or “sol”, is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35.244 seconds).

OPPORTUNITY had its head down in a trough trying to figure out what the trough soil is made of. Two days later, the rover studied two other targets, “Norooz” and “Mayberooz,” again studying the soil properties. 

It may be of interest to note that several craters on the moon are named after famous Muslim scientists including  Fatimid astronomers Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen) and Ibn Yunus, Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and the Alamut scholar Nasir al-Din al-Tusi.

Excerpts from NASA

Sol-by-sol summaries: Sols 415 to 417 (March 25-27, 2005):

Zeroing in on a soil target called “Mobarak” in honor of Persian New Year, Opportunity has had its head down in a trough for three sols trying to figure out what the trough soil is made of. During an observation like this, it uses all of its in-situ instruments taking microscopic images, alpha particle X-ray spectrometer readings and Moessbauer spectrometer readings. 

Sol 418:

After Opportunity had looked at the soil in the trough, it was time to examine the soil at the top of the ripple. The rover planners perfectly executed a 7-meter (23-foot) drive that placed the rover right at the top of the ripple. Opportunity deployed its arm once again and inspected the soil. 

Sols 419 and 420:

Here, Opportunity has the chance to look at two targets, “Norooz” and “Mayberooz,” again studying the soil properties.

Date posted: March 21, 2019.

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NOTES

[1] https://mars.nasa.gov/news/8413/nasas-opportunity-rover-mission-on-mars-comes-to-end/
[2] https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/missions/mer/images-print.cfm?id=1615

Azim Premji raises the bar of philanthropy in India PLUS watch his conversation with Council on Foreign Relations

We present two very interesting YouTube videos related to India’s Azim Premji, who this week announced an increase in his philanthropic commitment to the Azim Premji Foundation by $7.5 billion, taking his overall commitment to his endowment to $21 billion.

The news which has been reported widely in media around the world generated a very interesting panel discussion on the Indian Channel ET NOW about the future of philanthropy in India. We provide the link to the panel discussion as well as another link to an insightful program by the Council on Foreign Relations in which Azim Premji discusses his role as founder and manager of Wipro Limited, and  his philanthropic work in providing quality education in rural India.

Ismaili readers may be interested to know that in 2016 Azim Premji was a keynote speaker via  remote video at the founders, mentors and investors gathering in Silicon Valley, organized by the Ismaili Professionals Network (IPN). The event  was a chance for budding companies to access new sources of capital and connect with mentors and experts.

It is hoped that the presentations and discussions that took place at the IPN event, and especially Azim Premji’s address, will be made readily accessible worldwide for the benefit of everyone, just as the Council on Foreign Relations has made its video on the visionary leader of Wipro available on YouTube. (If a video is available, please submit link in feedback form below or email it to simerg@aol.com).

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Date posted: March 14, 2019.
Last updated: March 15, 2019.

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Shirin Mohamedali Khimji (1935 – 2019): A Remarkable Ismaili Widow and Woman of Faith and Character

Portrait of Shirin Khimji

A portrait of Shirin Mohamedali Khimji (1935-2019). Photo: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection.

Inna lillahi wa inna ilayhi raji’un
“Surely we belong to God and to Him we return” — Holy Qur’an, 2:156

“Life is a great and noble calling, not a mean and grovelling thing to be shuffled through as best as we can but a lofty and exalted destiny.” — Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1877-1957), 48th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.

By GHALIB SUMAR

Shirin Mohamedali Khimji of Kutch, Dodoma and Toronto, passed away peacefully at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on February 6, 2019. She was the much-loved wife of late Mohamedali Khimji, father of Sadrudin, Moez, Rosmin and Tazim, grandmaa to Nisara, Abida, Fayaz, Sameer, Juliana, Adam, Arif and Ghalib and great grandmaa to Nasiha. The last rites were held at Scarborough Jamatkhana on February 9, 2019 and she was later buried the same day at Elgin Mills Cemetery in Richmond Hill.

Born on March 5, 1935 in Kutch Mundra, Gujarat, India, Maa, as we fondly called her, was raised in an impoverished town and got married to the only love of her life, her husband, the late Mohamedali Khimji in 1949. Her first child, Sadrudin, was born in 1951 and following the guidance of the late Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah, they decided to move to Kimamba, a small town outside of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania in July 1951 by ship.

20170514_093818_Portrait of Family

Shirin M. Khimji with her husband Late Mohamedali Khimji and children Moez, Sadrudin and Rosmin. Tazim, the 4th child, was not born yet. Photo: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection.

A few years later on November 14, 1956, when she was only 21, her husband passed away due to heart complications and she lived courageously and selflessly as a widow, raising and blossoming the lives of her four children and several grandchildren throughout her lifetime.

There are many thoughts and recollections that come to mind as we honour and celebrate the life of Maa, a transcendent soul which enlightened the lives of many everyday. Maa always looked after the well-being of others before herself and because of that she was able to build an inclusive and welcoming community wherever she lived.

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Shirin M. Khimji having an enjoyable moment with her four children: Tazim, Sadrudin, Rosmin and Moez. Photo: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection.

From approximately 1973 to 1983, as an assistant matron at the Aga Khan Boarding Hostel in Dar es Salaam, she transformed and improved the lives of her boarders and earned their respect and trust due to her humble deeds. Maa ensured the rooms were cleaned and was responsible for preparing the daily and weekly menu which included popular Ismaili East African dishes such as kuku paka, ugali and daal bhajia to name a few.

Following her migration to Canada, she continued to serve and enrich the community in numerous ways. For example, at 1420 Victoria Park Avenue, a well-known seniors housing building in Toronto with a significant Ismaili senior population, she once again brought the community together by serving meals and looking after her friends. Maa was remembered for her dedication in feeding those who kept rojo (fast) and would make 150 parathas to ensure those who kept the fast were fed properly. I remember her telling me that there was a big sawab (spiritual reward or blessing) in feeding members  who had observed the fast.

One of Maa’s favourite memories was being able to spend quality time with her children and grandchildren. She would call all her children and grandchildren on an almost daily basis and always inquired about their whereabouts and well-being.

Family Collage 2 Shirin Khimji

A collage of photos representing Shirin M. Khimji with members of her family at various times during her lifetime. Photos: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection. Collage by Simerg.

I was truly fortunate to build a strong and loving bond with her and in October 2017, Mawlana Hazar Imam visited Dar es Salaam for his Diamond Jubilee visit and celebrations. Maa was blessed to have seen the Golden, Diamond and Platinum Jubilees of Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah and the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees of Mawlana Hazar Imam.

We had talked about the Jubilees in detail on several occasions and we decided that we would bring her back home to celebrate Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Diamond Jubilee in Tanzania. We were able to make that dream a reality. Maa was extremely happy to be back in Tanzania and to see old acquaintances and friends she had not seen for over 30 years.

A crowning moment and memory of the Diamond Jubilee that will forever be etched in our hearts was when Mawlana Hazar Imam’s motorcade was passing by Dar es Salaam’s Upanga Jamatkhana and Maa was yearning to welcome and see her beloved Imam. A few moments later, he waved to her and the countless Ismailis who just wanted a glimpse of their Imam.

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Shirin M. Khimji on her final trip to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, with her grandson Ghalib and two daughters Rosmin and Tazim. Photo: (Late) Shirin Mohamedali Khimji Family Collection.

Maa was a selfless individual and she impacted innumerable lives through her humble actions, words and deeds. She prayed for the well being of others everyday until her last breath. Throughout her 84 years of life, Maa brought smiles and laughter to everyone that knew her. 

Our beloved Maa’s luminous legacy and impact will be felt for years and generations and her values of integrity, kindness, generosity, looking after the needy as well as selfless service to the community wherever she lived will always be admired by all.

Her entire life truly epitomized the meaning of ‘selfless service’ and her wise words and counsel are forever illuminated in our hearts, thoughts and prayers. She will always be remembered for her noble actions and deeds as well as an unflinching devotion to community harmony. She touched people of all ages throughout her life, and will be held in the utmost of respect and deep admiration. 

The passing away of our late Maa, Shirin Mohamedali Khimji, is a difficult moment for the family. Today, the family would like to celebrate the physical life of Maa, who most sincerely dedicated her life to the Ismaili Imamat and Jamats worldwide, and we express our humble shukrana to Mawlana Hazar Imam.

May her soul forever and eternally rest in peace. Ameen.

Date posted: March 5, 2019.

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We welcome tributes and messages of condolence for the late Shirin Mohamedali Khimji. Please complete the feedback form below or click LEAVE A COMMENT.

About the writer: Ghalib Sumar is the beloved grandson of Maa, the late Shirin Mohamedali Khimji. Born and raised in Toronto, he is now located in Calgary and volunteers his time extensively on the Communications & Publications Portfolio of the Aga Khan Council for Canada. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Health Studies degrees and is a communications and marketing professional.

We graciously publish tributes to honour deceased member(s) of your family. Please see Simerg Invites Obituaries / Tributes to Honour Past / Recent Deceased Ismailis. The feature is provided free of charge. 

Simerg Invites Obituaries / Tributes to Honour Past / Recent Deceased Ismailis

Passings

Top portion of image shows plaque commemorating Ismailis who were killed in a WWII raid in Burma. Bottom half is a surreal image by Sarite Sanders of Aswan’s Fatimid cemetery.

HONOURING LIVES LIVED

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos

Simerg offers to all Ismaili families around the world an opportunity to submit memorials to honour and celebrate the lives of their deceased family members. The memorials may be submitted in the form of (1) a simple short notice or (2) a tribute of up to 500 words. The memorial may be for any Ismaili who has died recently or at any time since 1950 (or even earlier). This is a FREE listing.

Substance of the Notice and Tribute

1. NOTICE: The simplest kind of tribute is a notice announcing the death of the person. This short notice may be followed by a longer tribute at a later date as described in (2) below. The following is an example of the contents of a notice:

“[Name of Deceased], author and playwright, died peacefully at home in [city], on [date]. He was the much-loved husband of [spouse name], father of [children], guardian and grandfather. The last rites were held in [name of Jamatkhana] on [date] and he was later buried on [date] at [name and city of cemetery]. Post funeral religious ceremonies were conducted at [name of Jamatkhana]. It was the wish [of the deceased or the deceased family] that monetary contributions in his honour be made to [organization, hospital, cause etc.].”

2. TRIBUTE: The purpose of the tribute will be to celebrate the person’s life. It will start with the same basic information you put in the notice (1, above), and goes on to add details about the person’s life: hometowns, jobs, family members, and personal interests activities as well as community services and awards. Anecdotes may be included from the person’s life to help family members, readers and future generations to reflect on the life of the individual. The universal tale, as is well-known, lies in specific examples and for this reason we are inviting you to write a tribute of up to 500 words in length.

For very good examples of short notices as well as tributes see your local newspapers or click The Globe and Mail. They will assist you in constructing appropriate notices and tributes.

Here is a selection of tributes we have published on Simerg:

Submission Rules

Each submission must specify your relationship with the deceased person, as well as include your full name, mailing address and the phone number where you may be contacted. Along with your short notice or tribute, we ask you to submit the celebrated person’s photo. For tributes, we will accept two additional photos which have a direct relevance to the person’s life that you have described. Images should be in JPG format.

Anonymous pieces will not be accepted for publication, although the editor may at his discretion allow author anonymity once the tribute has been approved for publication. Please submit the notice or tribute in PDF, Text or Word format to simerg@aol.com. You may, alternatively, incorporate the material within your email. The editor will contact you with the draft copy once the piece has been finalized for publication. 

The 48th Ismaili Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan (1877 -1957) said in his Memoirs that “life is a great and noble calling.” It is the life that was celebrated about which we are asking you to reflect and write about, in the form of a short notice or a longer tribute.

Date posted: February 28, 2019.
Last updated: March 26, 2019 (link to new piece, Kutub Kassam).

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The editor welcomes tributes honouring your deceased family members. Please send them to simerg@aol.com

We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the LEAVE A REPLY box which appears below. Your feedback may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Please visit our Home page for links to most recent posts. For links to articles posted on this Web site since its launch in March 2009, please click TABLE OF CONTENTS.

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Facebook Page Global Ismaili Community Death & Funeral Announcement is a Noble Service to Ismailis and Deserves Worldwide Jamati Participation and Full Institutional Support

A LETTER FROM PUBLISHER

Malik Merchant

Malik Merchant of Simerg

One thing that I deeply appreciated about the Ismaili UK Newsletter (at least the hard copy version that I knew of) was the periodic publication of births and deaths that occurred in the UK and other European countries that were under the jurisdiction of the UK Aga Khan Ismaili Council. That information was one of the easiest pieces to compile and publish, as every Council records the birth and death of Ismailis in its jurisdiction.

As a long time resident of Canada, I don’t think the Ismaili Canada offered or offers anything like its UK counterpart. Neither do the Al-Akhbar weekly electronic newsletters published in provinces across Canada. I was told just this past week that Ottawa Jamati members were at one time being informed about deaths in their region by emails from the Ottawa Council. I wonder if this practice has ceased. For example, after a friend in Ottawa passed away last week — his funeral was held in Toronto — I decided to stop by for grocery purchases before proceeding to Toronto’s Ismaili Centre for his zyarat and samar services. Another very close friend and his wife, also from Ottawa who happened to be in Toronto, walked into the store as I was preparing to proceed to the Jamatkhana. When I told them about our mutual friend’s death and that earlier that afternoon I had attended his funeral and burial ceremonies they were in utter shock. They felt deeply saddened by the news and said they were glad that they met me because they were originally planning to go to a Jamatkhana closer to them.

One learns about deaths through friends or relatives of the deceased or Jamatkhana announcements at locations where the death took place or a few days later when samars are held to honour and pray for the deceased person. And sometimes through fortuitous encounters such as the one I had in the grocery store. In many instances, one is not even aware about the death of long time friends or relatives for months or years. When I recently met a group of students of my late dad, who passed away last May, a few in the group were not even aware of his death and were deeply apologetic for their oversight.

Some three years ago, Mustak Hasham of Toronto created a Facebook page to help fill this void. Everyday, Mustak, with the assistance of his wife and hundreds of well-wishers from around the world, keeps his more than 45,000 members informed about deceased members on GLOBAL Ismaili Community Death & Funeral Announcement. 

Of course, Mustak’s page brings grief and sadness to many, but such is the fact of life. Everyone feels the grief of the passing away of a beloved member of one’s family and no grief is deeper than seeing the announcement of the death of an individual young in age, predeceasing his or her parents. The grief and burden is considerably lifted when families are consoled, often by individuals who for years were out of contact with the deceased person or family they knew well.

Mustak’s boxed announcement (see image below) is short and informs his subscribers the name of the deceased, age, residence, a profile photo, and pertinent information related to the funeral. In some cases he doesn’t have all the information. Mustak has people around the world who keep him informed about the deaths that take place in their cities, towns and regions. His daily updates sometimes carry up to ten passings. In this work, he is also supported by his wife Sunanda. 

Ismaili Death Announcement 2

A death announcement on Ismaili Community & Funeral Announcements Facebook page managed by Mustak Hasham in Toronto.

When I spoke to Mustak recently, I asked him about responses from remoter places such as Central Asia and Northern Pakistan. Occasionally he hears from residents in those places but he sincerely  hopes that more and more people from those remote locations as well as the Middle East, Iran, Syria and tiny Jamati settlements around the world would join his group and keep him informed about the passings that take place there.

Indeed, Mustak feels that his current page membership of 45,000+ is still small considering the hundreds of thousands who have access to the internet. He wants the numbers to grow significantly in the months to come, and hopes that readers will join and support his humble endeavour.

So far, Mustak hasn’t faced any resistance from families about deaths that he announces on his page. He did confide that on one rare occasion someone from a family of the deceased raised a concern about the posting but then quickly realized the benefit of the announcement. When readers, in response to a death, submit their condolence or prayer message, it is  inspiring for the grieving family. 

Institutions always expect Jamati members to support them on their projects. However it is also essential and important for institutions to be facilitators of websites and social media pages that are doing a worthy job to disseminate important pieces of knowledge and information. I think we have been asked by Mawlana Hazar Imam to work together. Where institutions are not fully able to dedicate their resources to put out important announcements, other than through Jamatkhana announcements, they can support projects such as Mustak’s by easily and quickly assembling a death notice for his attention. With regard to privacy issues, a simple question can be asked of family members: Do you have any objection if the death of your family member is mentioned on a Facebook page that is read worldwide?

Again, I reiterate that Mustak’s work has not raised objections. Indeed, family members appreciate and remain ever so grateful for the work that he is doing every single day.

Working together is a 2-way street. We bloggers and publishers of numerous websites and social media pages are self-motivators, and can immensely benefit from greater institutional encouragement for the work that we perform. CBC, CNN, BBC, G & M, WSJ, NYT and many other media outlets and news agencies are regularly invited to attend events at which Mawlana Hazar Imam is honoured or presides over important functions. It is time for Ismaili bloggers and journalists as well as outstanding photographers who have built a good reputation over the years to be respectfully treated by Ismaili institutions and invited to high profile functions. I can cite many occasions when I myself have sought access to these events, and asked to be present at the very last moment by communication coordinator representatives! There should be proper planning for these events, and advanced preparedness is important.

With regard to Mustak, our message to him is to keep up his wonderful work. He can do much more with everyone’s support, Jamats and institutions alike. Readers should join his page GLOBAL Ismaili Community Death & Funeral Announcement.

The death of  any deceased Jamati member brings immense grief to family members and friends. For those of us who may be strangers to the family, I would say that we can bring abundant blessing and peace to the soul of the departed by taking out a short prayer. That also goes a long way in giving courage and inspiration to the family and friends of the deceased. By such gracious and thoughtful acts, we are affirming that we deeply care for our late spiritual sisters and brothers as well as their families.

Date posted: February 27, 2019.

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We invite your feedback below or by clicking Leave a comment.

Simerg publishes obituaries and tributes submitted by family members to honour and celebrate the lives of their beloved deceased family members. Please visit our page Passings.