@Barakah: Two fantastic posts of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s visit to Tatarstan

Aga Khan tours Kazan Kremlin
His Highness the Aga Khan at Kazan Kremlin. Please click for complete coverage of visit to Tatarstan.

A note from Publisher/Editor Malik Merchant

Simerg’s sister website Barakah is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam — His Highness the Aga Khan — members of his family, and the Ismaili Imamat. It currently contains more than 170 interesting visual and textual pieces on the subject. There are 2 posts you should see about his visit to Tatarstan last week. Please click on:

Aga Khan at Award Ceremony Kazan, Tatarstan
His Highness the Aga Khan at the Award Ceremony. Please click for thematic speech, 5 high quality videos and wonderful photos

We also take this oppotunity to invite you to visit Barakah’s Facebook Page, as well as join our Facebook group Simerg/Barakah: All Things Ismaili + His Highness the Aga Khan.

Date posted: September 12, 2019.
Last updated: September 17, 2019.

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Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson Announces New Secretary General for the Global Centre for Pluralism

Meredith Preston McGhie to Assume Role

A view of the Global Centre for Pluralism from Jacques Cartier Park in Gatineau, on the North side of the Ottawa River. The Centre sits on Sussex Drive alongside or close to other iconic buildings and monuments in Canada’s capital city, Ottawa. Photo: © Simerg/Nurin and Malik Merchant.

By THE GLOBAL CENTRE FOR PLURALISM
(Press Release, August 1, 2019)

The Board of Directors of the Global Centre for Pluralism is pleased to confirm that Meredith Preston McGhie will take over as Secretary General, replacing John McNee on his retirement from the position. She will assume her new role on October 1st.

In announcing the selection, The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, Chair of the Search Committee, cited Ms. Preston McGhie’s frontline negotiating efforts towards building peace and good governance in diverse societies.

Meredith Preston McGhie. Photo: Ilja C. Hendel via Global Centre for Pluralism

“Meredith stood out for the depth of her lived experience in parts of the world where conflict and exclusions are widespread,” said Madame Clarkson. “Her understanding of the value of pluralism is grounded in this extensive practical experience. After searching the world for a leader to continue the Centre’s vital work, I am delighted we convinced this outstanding Canadian to come home.”

His Highness the Aga Khan warmly greets former Governor General, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, after she gave her closing remarks at the opening ceremony of the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa on May 16, 2017. The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, is on the Board of Directors of the Global Centre and Chair of the Search Committee. Photo: © Jean-Marc Carisse.

Ms. Preston McGhie studied military and international history at the University of British Columbia before pursuing graduate studies in global security in the United Kingdom. She has since devoted more than 20 years to addressing conflict and instability in Africa and Asia in some of the most troubled situations. From working with the Naga in Northeast India and indigenous communities on the Thai-Myanmar border, to supporting UN efforts in Kosovo, Northern Iraq and several African countries, her work has straddled frontline negotiation, policy and diplomacy.

Most recently, as Africa Regional Director with the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, she oversaw the HD Centre’s complex mediation and dialogue efforts in Nigeria, the Gambia, Kenya, Mozambique, Sudan, Somalia and South Sudan, among other places. In the Kenyan National Dialogue and Reconciliation Process in 2007-08, she advised a panel of eminent Africans led by the late Kofi Annan. She has contributed annually to the Oslo Forum, a gathering of the world’s leading experts and policymakers in conflict resolution, and teaches mediation practice internationally.

His Highness the Aga Khan, His Excellency, the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General for Canada, and John McNee, whose retirement as the Secretary General of the Global Centre for Pluralism has just been announced, share some light moments outside the main entrance of the building opened on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Photo: © AKDN/The Ismaili.

Ms. Preston McGhie replaces John McNee, who has served as the Centre’s first Secretary General since 2011, and who presided over the restoration of 330 Sussex Drive, an Ottawa heritage landmark, as the Centre’s global headquarters.

“The Centre’s Directors look forward to working closely with Meredith to advance our agenda of building more peaceful and inclusive societies,” said Madame Clarkson. “At the same time, we are enormously grateful to her predecessor. John quite literally put the Centre on the map, and leaves a strong foundation for its future.”

Date posted: August 1, 2019.

[Before leaving this page, please take a moment to visit Simerg’s Table of Contents  for links to a vast and rich collection of articles published on this blog as well as its two sister blogs Barakah and Simergphotos.]

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On the Aga Khan: “Not all Heroes Wear Capes”; “I was Serving no Ordinary Man”; “Virtual Head of States”; and “Modern Personification of Historical Islamic Rationalism, Charity and Peace”

Salgirah Mubarak

Photo via Munira Karamkhudoeva of Khorog, Badakhshan.

Andrew Kosorok on the Aga Khan“The Prophet Muhammad taught: ‘The doors of goodness are many…..enjoining good, forbidding evil, removing harm from the road, listening to the deaf, leading the blind, guiding one to the object of his need, hurrying with the strength of one’s legs to one in sorrow who is asking for help, and supporting the feeble with the strength of one’s arms — all these are charity prescribed for you. Your smile for your brother is charity’. And the Aga Khan has accepted this hadith as a personal job description”….READ MORE BY ANDREW KOSOROK

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Michael Curtis on the Aga Khan“It was an unforgettable scene and took place in one of the state rooms of Government House where the Aga Khan was guest of the Colonial Governor at that time. The Ismaili leaders were seated, as is their custom, cross-legged in a semi-circle around their young Imam and the two factions elaborated their different points of view. To a non-Muslim the arguments were difficult to follow, but it was clear to me that a strong difference of opinion existed and that the Aga Khan would be called upon to resolve a ticklish point of theological doctrine.” …..READ MORE BY LATE MICHAEL CURTIS

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Nizar Motani on the Aga Khan“Clearly, if any person or entity can restore Islam to its rightful place, it would be AKDN under the enlightened, visionary, and revolutionary, global leadership of the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and his successors. The Aga Khan has been called a “Prince without a Princedom,” yet he has been treated by dozens of nations as a “visiting head of state” with his red and green Imamat flag flying on his car and beside the host countries’ flags at official functions.” ….READ MORE BY NIZAR MOTANI

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Michael Hamilton Morgan on the Aga Khan“In this vast tapestry of the interaction of Muslims with each other, and with other cultures and faiths, there is one tradition that unfailingly continues the progressive heritage of classical Islam — profoundly intellectual, open, tolerant, pacific — and in particular one leader who has made it especially attuned to the many difficulties of the world today. That would be Ismailism and its revered Imam, the current Aga Khan IV” ….READ MORE BY MICHAEL HAMILTON MORGAN

Date posted: December 13, 2018.

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Aga Khan arrives, a photo tour of the Global Centre for Pluralism and more

Aga Khan Ottawa Arrival

Aga Khan arrival 2017-11-14-moez_visram_moe2382Mawlana Hazar Imam is received at Ottawa International Airport by the Aga Khan Development Network Representative for Canada, Mahmood Eboo (left), the President of the Aga Khan Council for Canada, Malik Talib, centre with Hazar Imam, and Karima Karmali, the Council’s Vice President. Photo: Moez Visram/The Ismaili.

By ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

His Highness the Aga Khan arrived in Ottawa Tuesday, November 14, to begin his week long trip to Canada during which he will meet with his Ismaili followers in Eastern Canada for religious meetings in Toronto and Montreal.

He will however first preside over the inaugural Pluralism Award ceremony at the iconic Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building located on Sussex Drive. Readers will be able to watch the ceremony live on Wednesday, November 15, starting at 6 P.M. EST.

A short photographic tour of the Global Centre for Pluralism

His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency David Johnston in a jovial mood joke as they unveil the commemorative plaque of the official opening of the International Headquarters of the Global Centre for Pluralism. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.Flashback: The unveiling of the plaque by His Highness the Aga Khan and the former Governor General of Canada, David Johnston, during the inauguration ceremony of the building on May 16, 2017. The plaque is now embedded in the right wall, just inside the main entrance to the building. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse.

In preparation for the press conference that was held yesterday (Tuesday, November 14), and this evening’s award ceremony, I decided to visit the Global Centre for Pluralism on Saturday, November 11, the last day the interior of the building was open for viewing by the public (it will reopen again next spring).

A short video presentation highlighting the purpose of the Global Centre for Pluralism. Above Princess Zahra Aga Khan. Note: Light streak is camera reflection. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

An immense transformation has taken place, while still preserving the historic features of the building. The Aga Khan during the official opening of the building on May 16, 2017, noted: “The architects, designers, engineers and so many others who have rehabilitated this wonderful Tudor Gothic building have taken enormous care to respect its distinctive historic character.”

A plaque highlighting the Global Centres connection to the Ottawa River, see following two photos. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

One of the major features that you are drawn to as you enter the building and climb its few steps is the large window that overlooks the Ottawa River. And the Aga Khan provided an insight on the topic too. In the same speech, he said:

“When I first visited this site, I went across the Ottawa River, to see things from the opposite side. From that perspective, I noticed that many buildings on the Ontario side had, over the years, turned their backs to the river. But as we began to plan, another possibility became evident. It seemed increasingly significant to open the site to the water.” This is precisely what the building offers every day to each person who walks in, perhaps with the thought: “Let me see the Ottawa River first.”

Visitors at the Global Centre on Saturday, November 11, 2017. One, far right end, is standing a few metres from the full-height window, and pointing to the Ottawa River, see next photo. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

A beautiful view of the Ottawa River from the Global Centre’s full height window.See photo of plaque, above. Photo: Barakah/Simerg.

pb112064-global-centre-plaque.jpgGlobal Centre for Pluralism was designated as one of 10 CONFEDERATION PAVILIONS, for 2017, the 150th anniversary of Canada. This plaque stands outside the building on Sussex Drive. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

The Global Centre for Pluralism was designated as one of the 10 Confederation Pavilions in the National Capital Region for the year 2017. The Commission identified buildings that had been dormant and then brought back to life. A passport booklet highlighting all  the 10 buildings has been published, as shown in the next image. It encourages everyone to visit the buildings and experience them for their architectural heritage.

Bilingual front cover of the passport booklet, with an insert (English shown) on the Global Centre for Pluralism. Photo: Barakah/Simerg.

The Global Centre has been a National Historic Site since 1990, at which time it was the home of the Canadian War Museum. The PASSPORT booklet explains: “Today a $35 million investment from His Highness the Aga Khan has brought the building back to life as the new home of the Global Centre for Pluralism. This independent research and education centre, created in partnership with the Government of Canada, advances respect for diversity around the world. Become a pluralism champion; visit this heritage landmark, and explore the mission and work of the Centre.”

The historic Sir Arthur Doughty’s fireplace inside the Global Centre’s presentation room. See plaque, next photo, explaining the significance of the fireplace. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Fireplace plaque. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Chandelier in the hall by the main entrance. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

A segment of a drawing, “Invincible before daybreak”, by Edward Pien (2007). Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Ceiling in seminar room, with all the high tech gadgets seamlessly incorporated. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

A segment of a painting symbolizing past indigenous injustices. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Decorative designs on walls and windows symbolizing plurarity. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Painting (details soon). Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

Contemplative garden. The Aga Khan in referring to this exterior space said, “a new garden in the forecourt, a tranquil space for contemplating the past and thinking about the future.” Background building is the Royal Canadian Mint. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

A colourful plaque on wall explaining pluralism in all its aspects. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakah/Simerg.

The last of the beautiful fall colours shading the Global Centre for Pluralism on November 11, in a delayed autumn foliage. Photo: Malik Merchant/Barakh/Simerg.

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Press Conference with winners of the 2017 Pluralism Award

Pluralism Award Winners with Mcnee and Clarke at press conference(l to r): Daniel Webb of Australia, Alice Wairimu Nderitu of Kenya, Leyner Palacios Asprilla of Colombia – all three are Pluralism Award Winners – Rt. Hon. Joe Clarke and John McNee.

Members of the media were invited on Tuesday morning for an hour long press conference at the Global Centre for Pluralism to meet with the winners of the first Pluralism Award. The opening remarks by the Centre’s Secretary General John McNee were followed by the introduction of each of the 3 winners by the Rt. Hon. Joe Clark, Canada’s former Prime Minister. Mr. Clarke headed the jury that selected the 3 winners and 7 other honourable mentions from over 200 nominations that were submitted in 43 different countries.

Leyner Palacios Asprilla: The humble and courageous activist Leyner Asprilla of Colombia spoke about the the terrible massacre in May 2002 when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the guerilla movement known with the Spanish acronym FARC, launched gas cylinder bombs at a church in Bojayá full of civilians that was being used as a human shield by a paramilitary group. The bombs bursted the church killing 79 people including 48 infants and children. Asprilla survived the massacre but he emerged to find that 32 of his family members had been killed. Instead of becoming despondent over this cruel tragedy, Asprilla went on to found the Committee for the Rights of Victims of Bojayá, giving voice to over 11,000 victims of the conflict that live in the municipality of Bojayá, Chocó. As a result of his fight for social justice, Leyner was asked to represent Bojayá massacre victims during peace negotiations between guerilla forces and the government. One of the results was that FARC publicly acknowledged their role in the 2002 tragedy and, in a private ceremony in a Bojayá church, requested forgiveness.

leyner-palacios-asprilla-1-feature.jpgLeyner Palacios Asprilla. Photo: Barakah/Simerg.

Asprilla organized assemblies with representatives from every community in Bojayá, even the most remote, and encouraged each community to include a female representative. Now, these remote communities have a united voice that takes their demand for human rights to the highest levels of government, and around the world. By bringing communities together in the fight for social justice, Leyner realized how powerful a chorus of diverse voices can be. Today, he continues to demand that Colombia embrace diversity by respecting the rights of all its citizens, particularly its most marginalized.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAlice Wairimu Nderitu. Photo:Barakah/Simerg.

Alice Wairimu Nderitu: The graceful Alice Nderitu of Kenya has been a tireless peacemaker, conflict mediator and gender equality advocate who believes that differences can be strengths, not weaknesses. She took a seat at the peace table with 100 elders from ten ethnic communities who had never negotiated peace with each other before. This was 18 months after violence erupted in Kenya’s Rift Valley when results of a flawed election were announced which ignited historic grievances over land and deep-seated ethnic tensions. As a child eavesdropping in a tree, Alice was told that as a woman she could not participate in the work of making peace. But Alice took her place at the table with male mediators and led the elders in a dialogue that resulted in the region’s first peaceful elections in 20 years Today, as a lead mediator brokering peace throughout Africa, she has proven again and again that making peace is very much women’s business; however she explained that she found it necessary to integrate attitudes generally reserved for man!

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Daniel WebbDaniel Webb. Photo: Barakah/Simerg.

Daniel Webb: The narrative by the articulate Australian Daniel Webb, a lawyer by training, was forceful. He was severely critical of the Australian Government for its decision to place every refugee arriving in boat in Australia’s offshore detention center on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. The conditions in these detention centres are inhumane and demoralizing, with numerous reports of violence, medical neglect, suicide, self-harm. When Daniel visited the island he met many refugees and found out that they were inspiring people who could make great contributions to Australian society, if only given the chance to live on the mainland.

To tackle the offshore detention issue in Australia, Daniel has developed an innovative approach that combines legal action, media advocacy, public campaigns and United Nations engagement. Daniel’s work has helped to hold the Australian government accountable for breaches in international law. His work has not stopped there. He realized he needed to change the public perception of people seeking asylum. Australians had to understand that the people detained offshore were not threats, but rather human beings with their own stories, talents and families.

In addition to hearing stories of Leyner, Alice and Daniel, the media was also briefed about seven other individuals and corporations who received honourable mentions.

Press Conference Video

To access press conference, click on image below and then click again where its says “Watch this video on Youtube”

Date posted: November 15, 2017.

Note: Another version of this post, with enlarged photos, can be read at http://www.barakah.com

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Aga Khan photos, essays and stories: A recap of what to read now at Barakah!

Barakah Title with logo and text

“The colossal work which you achieve day after day towards a better living standard in the most deprived countries is not unknown to us. The spirit on which this action is based is amongst the purest expressions of human fraternity.” — READ RENE LEVESQUE’S TRIBUTE TO THE AGA KHAN 

“To a non-Muslim the arguments were difficult to follow, but it was clear to me that a strong difference of opinion existed and that the Aga Khan would be called upon to resolve a ticklish point of theological doctrine.” — READ ANECDOTE “I WAS SERVING NO ORDINARY MAN” BY MICHAEL CURTIS

Prince Karim Aga Khan: “Just as we need food and water, so do the plants. Near our vegetable garden there are many large trees. The wind blows many leaves onto our crops. Young plants would get buried under the weight of these leaves, so every morning both of us collect all the leaves and burn them.” — READ SWEET AND ENDEARING CHILDHOOD STORIES OF PRINCE KARIM AGA KHAN

“[the Ismailis] represent in Islamic Ummah a very exceptional community. The reason is that you have since 1957, His Highness the Aga Khan as a spiritual guide, as an intellectual guide” — READ MOHAMMED ARKOUN’S ESSAY ON THE AGA KHAN

Gulnar Saratbekova: “Time went and we reached the most momentous day in our life: May 25, 1995, a historical date that no Badakhshani will ever forget. We were blessed with Mawla’s didar for the very first time. That is when we really knew that we would never be alone, ever again. This was the day for which all our elderly and ancestors were longing, for centuries. — READ THE AGA KHAN’S FIRST VISIT TO BADAKHSHAN

“We are receiving you here officially and not just as a friend because you are an important leader of the Muslim religion…What we admire in you is that you have been able to integrate a modern outlook with religion so that religion has been allowed its true role which is not merely to provide an all-embracing explanation of the universe but also to furnish the fundamental solutions of the problems which life poses us.” — READ LEOPOLD SENGHOR’S TRIBUTE TO THE AGA KHAN

Prince Sinan Aga Khan was born in London, England, on January 2, 2017. Sinan is an Arabic name for boys meaning spearhead and is derived from the root word S-N-N which is used in the Qur’an. Sinan is pronounced [(SI)mple] + [(NA)p + (N)ew] with emphasis on the second syllable. — READ PRINCE SINAN AGA KHAN OFFICIAL PHOTOS

“Through his inspiring words and innovative programs, the Aga Khan has meticulously laid the foundation of the seemingly insurmountable task of re-connecting Islam to its two elder Abrahamic siblings: Judaisim and Christianity, from which it has sadly become separated in the past decades. Clearly, if any person or entity can restore Islam to its rightful place, it would be AKDN under the enlightened, visionary, and revolutionary leadership of the 49th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims and his successors.” — READ NIZAR MOTANI’S ESSAY: THE AGA KHAN – FROM AN ISMAILI MUSLIM IMAM TO A GLOBAL CITIZEN

Date posted: April 10, 2017.

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Exclusive Coverage of the Aga Khan Award For Architecture, with Photos and Transcript of Extempore Remarks of Mawlana Hazar Imam in Dubai, UAE

I am also worried about the process of warming….We are seeing villages which are being wiped away by earthquakes, by landslides, by avalanches…I would like to see that as part of general education. I would like to see that as part of secondary education, so that all young people have a better understanding, particularly in our world, in the Islamic world, of the spaces in which they live, how they can ensure the security of their habitat, how they can practice good construction in these areas….PLEASE CLICK TO READ TRANSCRIPT OF THE AGA KHAN’S EXTEMPORE REMARKS

PLEASE CLICK: Special Coverage – Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Visit to the UAE

Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge, Tehran, one of 6 projects to win the 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Please click on photo for coverage of the Aga Khan Award for Architecture

Tabiat Pedestrian Bridge, Tehran, one of 6 projects to win the 2016 Aga Khan Award for Architecture. Photo: Aga Khan Trust for Culture/Barzin Baharlouie. Please click on photo for special report.

Date posted: Monday, November 7, 2016.

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His Highness the Aga Khan’s “Enduring Commitment to Afghanistan” – Watch Videos of Mawlana Hazar Imam at the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan

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His Excellency Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, President of Afghanistan (right) with His Highness the Aga Khan, Founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network and 49th Imam of Ismaili Muslims. Photo: European Union. Copyright.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Imam of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, is attending the Brussels Conference on Afghanistan on Wednesday, 5 October, 2016. The conference is being co-hosted by the European Union and Afghanistan. Like previous conferences, this conference is the opportunity to signal sustained political and financial support to Afghan peace, state-building and development. Mawlana Hazar Imam has contributed significantly towards these purposes over the past several years, and has participated and spoken at previous such conferences held around the world.

We are pleased to provide links to videos of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s presence at the conference in Brussels, including his bilateral meetings with conference attendees, a “family photo” of conference participants and the statement that he has made.

FAMILY PHOTO OF BRUSSELS CONFERENCE PARTICIPANTS

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BILATERAL MEETING WITH SWEDEN’S DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER

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BILATERAL MEETING WITH FRANCE’S MINISTER OF STATE

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STATEMENT BY HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN

If you encounter technical problems in watching any of the videos, please visit https://tvnewsroom.consilium.europa.eu/videos.

Date posted: October 5, 2016.

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For more photos and videos of the conference please visit https://tvnewsroom.consilium.europa.eu/videos

A Defining Moment – His Highness the Aga Khan on Strengths of a Global Citizen; (Transcript) the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson in Conversation with the Ismaili Imam; and Medal Symbolism

By Abdulmalik Merchant
(Publisher-Editor, http://www.simerg.com, http://www.simergphotos.com and http://www.barakah.com)

aga-khan-on-the-global-citizen

Photo: The Ismaili/Lisa Sakulensky. Copyright. Note: Superimposition of text on photo by Simerg.

There were many cherishable and memorable moments on Wednesday, September 21, 2016, at   Koerner Hall in Toronto when the inaugural Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship was presented to His Highness the Aga Khan. World renowned vocalist and songwriter Rufus Wainwright welcomed the audience with a wonderful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah. We were reminded by Rufus that September 21 also marked Cohen’s birthday – his 82nd. A video of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s congratulatory message to His Highness Aga Khan received a big applause from the packed auditorium hall, as did the actual presentation of the unique award to His Highness by Madame Clarkson. This was followed by her welcome speech and the 49th Ismaili Imam’s words of wisdom.

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The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson, Canada’s 26th Governor General from 1999-2005, awarding the inaugural Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship to His Highness the Aga Khan, 49th Imam of Ismaili Muslims, in Toronto on September 21, 2016. Photo: The Ismaili/Vazir Karsan. Copyright.

But of all the absorbing moments that the event offered, there was one defining moment in Mawlana Hazar Imam’s speech that I took to my heart. In concluding his speech, Mawlana Hazar Imam defined what it takes for each one of us to be a Global Citizen. He said:

“These are just a few thoughts as I look to the future of Global Citizenship. The challenges, in sum, will be many and continuing. What will they require of us?

“A short list might include these strengths: a vital sense of balance, an abundant capacity for compromise, more than a little sense of patience, an appropriate degree of humility, a good measure of forgiveness, and, of course, a genuine welcoming of human difference.”

It was with reference to this last sentence that Madame Clarkson then began her conversation with Mawlana Hazar Imam. The following is a transcript that Simerg has prepared from an audio recording of the event, and we invite our readers to view the video of the wonderful event through the links that we have provided at the bottom of this page.

TRANSCRIPT OF THE CONVERSATION
(Prepared by Simerg from an audio recording)

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His Highness the Aga Khan and the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson in conversation following the presentation of the Global Citizenship Award to the Ismaili Imam on September 21, 2016, in Toronto. Photo: The Ismaili/Lisa Sakulensky. Copyright. Ismaili.

Adrienne Clarkson: Thank you so much for those words. They are so well thought out, and over the years as we have known each other, I am always impressed by your deep sense of humane commitment and feeling that you have when you talk about things like forgiveness, and that, that is part of what we are as a society……One of the things I am very interested in, and I think everybody here is interested too, is in the fact that you put so much faith in Canada; that you have put institutions in Canada, like the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa….And you have also put the Imamat in Ottawa. And when I think about it, I think: Is that because in 1972, we welcomed so many Ismailis. Is that the beginning of it, or is there something else about us: Is it that you are a secret fan of Mackenzie King.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: No, I think the answer to that is that as I look at the world around us, and I ask myself what would define countries where I would like to see my community reside. The first word that comes to my mind is countries of opportunity. And I believe Canada is one of the greatest countries of opportunity.

Adrienne Clarkson: I think that is true, and certainly the Ismaili community in Canada has made the most of the opportunities which all people who come to this country have. And that is the reason why I think people understand once they get here: that there lives are going to be different. And that is one of the interesting things too about what you talk about to the Jamat, to the community. And I think something that people should realise in the rest of Canada that you have your community, and it is very important; but that you emphasise how important it is to be part of the world outside your community. And why do you do that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Well, I have to go back to 1957. In 1957, many of the countries where my community was living were colonies. And those countries needed to go through the process of independence, needed to find the pathways forwards towards peace, towards development. And I have asked myself: How do countries achieve that? And if you go back to 1957, you look at the map of our world, and you try to define where all these countries that have now become independent, have created opportunity; I think one has to say that that has not been very successful.

Adrienne Clarkson: What have been the barriers? What are the barriers?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Oh, I think there is a multitude of barriers. First of all, I suppose national resources would be a major issue. The second would be the level of human ability within a given country, whether it has a human ability to develop its resources, to build opportunity. So in that sense we are looking at processes of change. And they have occurred; they have occurred. There are today countries of opportunity which either did not exist or one would not have thought of as being countries of opportunity in 1957 when my grandfather died.

Adrienne Clarkson: And that has changed.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: That has changed.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, you have had a lifetime of opportunity to see that. It is very rare to meet somebody who has had such an effect on the world, not only on a group of people, but in the world. Because that is what you have made it in sixty years. Next year will be your sixtieth anniversary as the Imam. And in sixty years, you have seen development, you have made development happen, you made resources available to places where there were absolutely no resources. And in doing that, it cannot have been easy to decide where that would happen, to decide who would be the collaborators, to bring along people who could understand and have the capacity to help with that development. How did you go about doing that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: [I think] what you try to do is look at circumstances on an on-going basis. And then you work through what I would call predictability, and you try to project into the future what countries have the ability to follow the path of peace and development. And where there are situations which are potentially difficult, and that, of course, is something which changes practically every day; and, of course, it has changed a lot since 1957.

Adrienne Clarkson: And they did not teach you that at Harvard.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I am not sure what they taught me at Harvard.

Adrienne Clarkson: We all wonder what we learned at university and how that was relevant to anything that we are doing today. But I think what is interesting in what you have been saying over the last, particularly over the last decade in your speeches, in your writings is that ignorance that we have. And I am always struck by the fact that we are, we speak out of such ignorance in a so-called western developed world, particularly about Islam. We do not know the varieties of the Muslim world at all, we seem not to be even interested in it, and the more people shout about it, the worse it becomes, because it is as though we shut out everything that could be various, that could be different, that could have any kind of nuance in it. How do you mitigate against that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think probably the first step would be to extract from Islamic history, from Islamic philosophy the great names, the great thinkers, the great astronomers, the great scientists, the great medical figures, who have influenced global knowledge. I remember courses which taught general humanities. And those general humanities caused one to read in French, or Italian, or German, or English. Arabic! Never heard of it; Urdu! Never heard of it; Farsi! We do not even know what that is. So, it was a frightening vacuum in general education at the time. And I think that that vacuum has had terrible results.

Adrienne Clarkson: No, of course it has. It is ridiculous. I mean, we met only a few years ago, William Polk who was the first translator of the great epic Bedouin poem. And to think that only practically in the 21st century did we have access to that in translation is frightening, almost. A lacunae of knowledge. Not even accessible to us in any way.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: And that I think is one of the really serious issues – is that the cultures of Islam, of the Islamic world are not present in global cultural (let us say, how would I call it) presence.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, of course, you have given us an enormous gift to Toronto in the Aga Khan Museum and the Jamatkhana, which is now virtually in the geographic centre of Metropolitan Toronto. And I think by those wonderful Islamic gardens with the pools of water, but using native Canadian trees, and native Canadian plants. I always think of you as somebody with a motto of: No idea too big, no detail too small. Because I know how you look at everything: you know, the grouting in the marble, the bulbs that will be planted, the colours of the bulbs. And, of course, that is an enriching thing for you to have that detail in your life, but also I think it enriches us. And when I think of the role that beauty and culture play in the message that you have to the world, I think we are enormously grateful to you…..

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His Highness the Aga Khan and the Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson in conversation following the presentation of the Global Citizenship Award to the Ismaili Imam. on September 21, 2016 in Toronto. Photo: Simerg.

(The Rt. Hon. Adrienne Clarkson then went on to describe the restoration work carried out by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture at the Humayun Gardens in New Delhi and the Babur Gardens in Kabul as well as the creation of Cairo’s new Al-Azhar Park from a site that had been used for many centuries as a landfill. The description is being skipped here. – Editor).

Adrienne Clarkson……..Why do you think beauty is so important to us, even when there are so many other needs around?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Well, I think, all faiths express themselves in some cultural form or the other. And Islam is a faith which has expressed itself in cultural manifestations over centuries in different parts of the world. And I think it is very important that those manifestations should be seen and should be, I hope, admired, and that they should inspire young people who are talented young architects, land planners, whatever it may be. So that they can inspire their own buildings with a sense of continuity, but of our time. And I think it is very important that we not try to plagiarise history. (Laughter). I would get a, what would it be, a D or an E at Harvard for plagiarization.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, of course, when you restore things or you make things new, you have to always avoid that. You have to say I am making something new. And that does not seem to fill you with any kind of fear.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: No, I think that every people in every given time should be encouraged to express themselves. And I remember that when the Pyramid was built in the Louvre, in the courtyard of the Louvre, there was immense debate as to whether this was appropriate or not. Well, it is there!

Adrienne Clarkson: Yes, yes, it is there. When we look at the world today….The rise of the Hard Right, of the really almost Fascist movements, reminds us sadly of times in the 1930s, and we have to really watch that because all that is to raise fear in people. And once fear rules people, they become blinded to all kinds of things. How do you deal with that? How do we deal with the fear?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think in this particular case, the issue is whether these countries have been willing to prepare themselves for this situation. Canada is a country that has permanent preparation. It is the way the country thinks. It welcomes people to come from outside, it has the institutions to support them when they arrive. It helps them integrate into Canadian society. That is not true of many western European countries, because they are facing economic constraint, because there are social tensions in various European countries also. Northern Europe does not speak the same language as Southern Europe, nor do they face the same problems. So I think we are living at a time when there are real difficulties, and my sense is that they are going to have to be analysed and solutions are going to have to be found. Because the movement of people is not going to stop. I do not see that stopping. It is driven by a number of factors, and I think in many of the countries which are sending people to Europe today, are dealing with populations who are seeking opportunity. There is a great sense of lack of opportunity. Opportunity is next door, it is not (around).

Adrienne Clarkson: (You know) When you were named as Imam in your grandfather’s will, he said he felt that he had to appoint somebody who was a young man, a man who was born in the atomic age, that is, the age of the 20th and 21st century. Has that influenced the way you think of things? Do you think of things in terms of a kind of millennial way, because you were appointed so young and you took on those duties so young. You knew you were expected to do something different. That is implicit in that will.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Right. At the time and even today, many of the questions that I ask myself and that I discuss with members of my community is medium- and long-term projecting. Where are we going? And are we going in the right direction in various countries? Are we being equitable in relation to the demography of the community? Are we over-committing in certain parts of the world and under-committing in others? Are there circumstances in regions which make it impossible for our institutions to function? Or, on the contrary, are there countries that would welcome them? So we are looking at, let’s say, a semi-global situation on an on-going basis. So, in that sense, we are looking at how to plan. And planning, I think, in our case requires institutional initiative. We need to get our institutions in place before people decide to move.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, that is the point. You are there before!

Mawlana Hazar Imam: We try.

Adrienne Clarkson: You are there before, because you have to then predict and you have to then say we are going to be out front, and when the tide is ready we will have the port built, so that the ships can arrive. How do you do that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: You pray that Idi Amin never comes back!

Adrienne Clarkson: Yes. Well, let’s hope that that was only once in a hundred years, at least. But the idea of a threat to so many people comes up over and over again. I mean we know more about it now, because we have instant communications. So we know when whole groups are threatened, when things happen like that. But, you know, the ignorance that I talked about earlier is almost terrifying. That people do not understand the Muslim world whatsoever. And they do not understand, as you touched on in your speech, they do not understand the differences in the Muslim world. They have never read the Koran, they would not think of reading it or taking a study course in it. And I think that sort of thing really means that ignorance is promulgated and continued. And then, you know when very careless media add to that, then you really do not understand. Also, the other thing that I always like to point out is that Islam is six hundred years younger than Christianity. So, Christians should think, you know, what was Christianity like in the 15th century. And who was talking then? And how were they divided? It is very interesting to think of it in the cycles of history, as opposed to, just thinking, it is now and we are all the same and we are all equal, etc. We are not, really, because we have different heritages.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: That is true, but there was also a lot of inter-faith communication in the Middle Ages.

Adrienne Clarkson: That is right. The inter-faith communication is..

Mawlana Hazar Imam: A great deal [of inter-faith communication], particularly in the field of mystic faith.

Adrienne Clarkson: Mysticism!

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Yes.

Adrienne Clarkson: Linking Sufism and so on with Christian mysticism.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Yes. Personal search.

Adrienne Clarkson: Why have we lost that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Probably, the requirements of modern life.

Adrienne Clarkson: Can we do anything about it? Should we be trying? Is that one of the things we should be trying, besides thinking of development, besides thinking of, you know, creating universities and schools. Can we do that?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think we need to reflect over is generosity in society. Our faith, the faith of Islam teaches generosity. But, I think it is very important that generosity should be part of public psyche.

Adrienne Clarkson: And that means being brought up with it.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Means being brought up with it. Means recognising those in need of help. Means creating institutions to deliver that help. And, obviously, in poor countries, it is very difficult to achieve. But it should be a goal.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, the problem is that the gap between rich and poor is growing and growing and growing, and not just in the developing world, but in the developed world. That is one of the real problems now for us, I think, as a society in the West is that disparity between the haves and have-nots. And the more that grows, the more unjust society becomes. And there seems to be very little that people want to do about that, very little that they really want to do about it. And things become charity. Charity is not the right way to go about it; development is the right vehicle now, surely.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Yes. Well, in the faith of Islam the best charity is to give, to enable an individual or a family to become independent of their economic destiny. That is known as the best charity.

Adrienne Clarkson: How often is it? Does it happen?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I honestly do not know. I would have to ask our bankers.

Adrienne Clarkson: As a final thing, I would like to ask you: What do you really think will happen now in the medium term for our future as we see Britain wanting to leave Europe, as we see the rise of very hard Right in the European countries, as we see what is happening in the United States, which is hardly even mentionable. What can we hope for now? How can we as individuals who really want to make things better, as we are faced with all of this, how does it happen, for us now?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think we have to offer rational people, options. I think it is very important to put in front of public opinion, good options. Alternatives.

Adrienne Clarkson: Different ways of behaviour.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Different ways of behaving.

Adrienne Clarkson: And how do we do that? How do we make that? Is that through education? Is that through incentives? What is it? How is it done?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think it is through men and women coming forward to take positions of leadership. I think it is institutions who need to engage, rather than let the field open to anything. And, I have been very impressed since 1957 in developing countries, when elections had to be held or were held in circumstances where you would assume that the population did not have access to the information they would have, in our view, needed to express themselves rationally and competently. Well, I got it wrong. They are very, very wise. Public wisdom is not dependent on education.

Adrienne Clarkson: You are practically talking about Jung’s collective unconscious there. Is that, that there is a kind of wisdom that people share.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Yes.

Adrienne Clarkson: Because of their common humanity.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Because of the common humanity. Because of the common circumstance in which they are living.

Adrienne Clarkson: But does that bring us hope – as, you know, a collection of your speeches as ‘Where Hope Takes Root”. Is that where hope will take root?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Yes. I believe so. But it means that decision makers have to be responsive.

Adrienne Clarkson: Well, it is very discouraging often when you look at the people who are elected in public office in different countries and the countries seem to vote for people that will harm them the most. Often, this is the most discouraging when you see in a democratic situation, even in free ones, where people will vote for something that is going to really harm them, and they do not seem to realise that it is very, very difficult, very difficult even because we have freedom of the press, we have enormous freedoms, particularly in North America and most of Europe. We have all those freedoms and yet we are in the dilemma that we are…Does that come back to the individual and their ability to do things?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: I think it comes back to the way the individual, or the family, rather than the individual, evaluate their position in society at a given time. Ultimately, the basic issue is: How does a family feed itself and educate the children, generation after generation? It is that clear, it is that important. And if society is able to provide that for the totality of the population in a given country, that is already a very sound foundation. But that is a condition sine qua non for a country to move ahead. If you have pockets of poverty, if you have populations or groups of populations who are marginalised, you are looking at a series of issues that one year are going to blow up. The predictability of crisis, in my view, in Third World countries is much higher than people would believe.

Adrienne Clarkson: You could predict them.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: You can predict them.

Adrienne Clarkson: Then why do not we avert them?

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Ah, that is a different question. I think predicting them is something that you can do, averting them does depend on a lot of different issues. That is not always easy.

Adrienne Clarkson: Thank you so much, Your Highness.

Mawlana Hazar Imam: Thank you. Thank you.

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STATEMENT BY ANNA WILLIAMS, SCULPTOR OF THE MEDAL PRESENTED TO HIS HIGHNESS THE AGA KHAN

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The medal presented to His Highness the Aga Khan for the Adrienne Clarkson Prize for Global Citizenship was sculpted by Anna Williams. The photo and her statement (below) are from the program booklet “Six Degrees Citizen Space 2016,” published by 6DegreesTO.com.

“Adrienne Clarkson asked me to create a medal for the Prize for Global Citizenship. I had the idea of bringing together the world of creation with that of the great mythological winged deities. Sedna is the Inuit goddess from whom all creatures of the sea spring. Atlanta, Nike, Lilith and the winged bearers of souls in Norse lore, the Valkyrie, each exist in an imperfect world. But through their strength, intelligence, independence, and compassion, they have created an iconography of champions and dissenters. Each in their own way is unyielding and stands apart as they chart a new course against buffeting waves. In the narrative of this medal, Sedna the creator emerges from the waves to pass a vulnerable world to the outstretched arms of our winged guardian.” — Anna Williams, sculptor.

Date posted: September 22, 2016.
Last updated: September 23, 2016, 15:25 (new photos added, completion of interview transcript and artist statement for Global Citizenship Medal).

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Please visit http://www.theismaili.org and http://www.akdn.org for extended coverage of the presentation ceremony.

Photos: The 32nd Annual Aga Khan Foundation World Partnership Walk in Vancouver @Simergphotos

IMPORTANT NOTE FROM THE EDITOR:  If you are in any photo(s) and wish to receive a high resolution image, please write to Simerg@aol.com, subject: World Partnership Photo. We request that you provide your phone number where we can contact you. The Jpeg image will be emailed to you absolutely free of charge. We look forward to hearing from you and responding to your request promptly.

Please click: In Vancouver’s World Partnership Walk, Participants Take Millions of Steps to Fight Global Poverty and Give Hope to Countless

Children lead the way at the World Partnership Walk held in Vancouver on Sunday, May 29, 2016. Photo: Malik Merchant. Simerg. Please click on image for more photos

Children lead the way at the World Partnership Walk held in Vancouver on Sunday, May 29, 2016. Photo: Malik Merchant. Simerg. Please click on image for more photos


Date posted:
May 30, 2016.

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The Fulfilment of a Mother’s Wish: Visiting the Aga Khan Foundation’s Together-Ensemble Exhibition in Vancouver

BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT
Editor, Simerg

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Together-Ensemble Truck at the parking lot across from the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby, where over 300 visitors got a glimpse of the work of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada. Photo: Malik Merchant, Simerg.

It was my mother’s fond wish to view the large 53 foot truck hosting the Aga Khan Foundation’s mobile Together-Ensemble exhibition at the Ismaili Centre in Burnaby. The truck with 1000 sq ft of space has clocked 19,000 kms across Canada in the past 13 months. For her, to climb the steps leading into the exhibition area would have been a little bit challenging, so seeing the truck and walking around it, she felt, would be fulfilling. What a treat, then, for her when we arrived at the exhibition site, and to be told that she would be lofted into the exhibition space on a wheelchair lift! Like hundreds of other visitors, we were welcomed into the exhibition by the tour manager, François Grenier. I visited the exhibition last year when it was launched in Ottawa, and found the latest version to be more inviting and aesthetically appealing. This was also noted by Grenier who granted me a short interview with some great insights (see bottom of page).

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This incredible piece of art work done by Shamya Jaffer is showcased at the entrance of the exhibition, along with two other winning entries, see below, in the Aga Khan Foundation’s art competition to complement the exhibition. Shamya has called her winning piece “Hidden Complexities” and notes as follows in her artist’s statement: “My piece of art work is a map of the world filled with different, detailed patterns that connect and overlap each other, symbolizing inter-connectedness between countries and continents. The patterns are inspired from Swahili and Indian designs. The incorporation of different forms of art into one piece is a representation of global diversity. At first glance, it may seem like a simple concept but it has depth and complexity just like global development and diversity.” Photo: Malik Merchant, Simerg.

Gesture by Safira Lakhani, 2nd winning entry. Photo: Malik Merchant, Simerg. Note: Photo has reflective light from camera flash and exhibit lighting.

Gesture by Safira Lakhani, 2nd winning entry. Photo: Malik Merchant, Simerg. Note: Photo has reflective light from camera flash and exhibit lighting.

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Calypso by Queenie Wong, 3rd winning enty. Photo: Malik Merchant, Simerg. Note: Photo has reflective light from camera flash and exhibit lighting.

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Visitors, including my mother at foreground, learn about the work of the Aga Khan Foundation Canada at its mobile exhibition at the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby,on May 27, 2016. Photo: Malik Merchant, Simerg.

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“God created Man from One Soul. Everybody Should Help Each Other” – a thought by a visitor to the exhibition. Photo: Malik Merchant, Simerg.

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A visitor responds to a question in an interactive display exhibit that includes a large topographical map of the world. Photo: Malik Merchant, Simerg.

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A close up of the topographies of Africa, the Middle East and parts of Europe and Asia. Photo: Malik Merchant, Simerg.

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A visitor watches displays of Aga Khan Foundation Canada’s projects in Asia and Africa. Photo: Malik Merchant, Simerg.

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Voices of Change. Photo: Malik Merchant, Simerg.

An Interview with François Grenier, Tour Manager, Aga Khan Foundation Canada Together-Ensemble Exhibition

The truck was scheduled to leave on Saturday morning (May 28) for Stanley Park where thousands of Canadians are expected to participate in the  Aga Khan Foundation’s 2016 Partnership Walk.

Date posted: May 28, 2016.

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