Jamatkhana

Ismaili Centre Toronto Prayer Hall Simerg

By NAVYN NARAN

They entered the Jamatkhana prayer hall,
Sat on the patterned carpet or the seniors on chairs
Closed their eyes.
So some chatted to acquaintances
Ya Ali Madad “ki ayon?”
“Did you hear? Did you go…? Shukr
Mawla…”
Mukhi-Kamadiasaheban enter, we start.
Every day, 365.

A pandemic, unprecedented.
A change.
The place of prayer remained.
And was attended, at set time and others,
“All day, all night, every day, every night”
Outdoors and in, on screen and off,
They looked toward the esoteric qibla,
breathed the esoteric Qur’an.

The Jamatkhana holds a special place
and cannot be replaced
The place of prayer remains within
The soul is not erased.
“There are those I see with my eyes”….
Yes, there is that we see with our eyes,
And then, there is that we may feel in the heart.

Will the space of gathering open?
A sanctuary for so many,
A familiar space of belonging,
Connection, hope and light.
When will it open?
No one can speculate.
For it is, when the Imam decides.

“Remember, remember, remember,
And never forget
“Take your tasbirh, take your tasbirh”
Like your breath, in and out.
Only you can decide.
The exoteric and the esoteric

The Jamatkhana is a physical space
A sanctuary, a place of peace.

Date posted: June 22, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

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About the author: A regular contributor to this website, Dr. Navyn Naran was born in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to Anaar (1936-2017) and Badrudin Naran (1930-1979). She is currently in Toronto working in pediatrics and volunteering at the Aga Khan Museum.

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We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the feedback box which appears below. If you don’t see the box please click Leave a comment . Your comment may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Ismaili Youth Perspectives on Black Lives Matter and Social Justice Issues

By ALYNA NOREEN DADA
(Special contribution to Simerg)

Pluralism

We hear this word constantly and are reminded of the ethics of pluralism in Mawlana Hazar Imam’s, His Highness the Aga Khan, Farmans and speeches how we can integrate this in our everyday lives. What does pluralism mean and how can we, as Ismaili Muslims, understand our role in the Black Lives Matter movement and apply the tenets of our faith to make a meaningful contribution to improving the quality of life for our African-American community?

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Aga Khan address Global Centre for Pluralism Jean-Marc Carisse Barakah and Simerg
Guests listen as His Highness the Aga Khan delivers his remarks on May 16, 2017 at the inauguration of the international headquarters of the Global Centre for Pluralism. Photo: ©Jean-Marc Carisse.

His Highness stated in his speech on May 16, 2017 at the opening ceremony of the new headquarters of the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa, “Pluralism does not mean the elimination of difference, but the embrace of difference. Genuine pluralism understands that diversity does not weaken a society, it strengthens it. In an ever-shrinking, ever more diverse world, a genuine sense of pluralism is the indispensable foundation for human peace and progress.” [Bold emphasis added here, and in remainder of article]

We are grateful to be a part of a religious ummah which prides on serving others and the societies in which we live and also allows us to build upon our moral compass by leveraging our intelligence, experience and humility with guidance from the Imam. In order to create a pluralistic society, our duty as Ismailis must be to support the movement and black-led organizations, particularly when we see African-Americans like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others murdered unjustly when fighting for their own human rights.

However, this begs the question, why is anti-blackness so prevalent in the South Asian including our own Ismaili Khoja community and why do older generations continue to question the purpose of Black protests and police brutality that we see on a plethora of news channels every second of every day?

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President Kennedy with Civil Rights Leaders after March on Washington on August 28, 2963. Simerg,Library of Congress
Civil rights leaders, including Dr. Martin Luther King (3rd from left), meet with President John F. Kennedy in the oval office of the White House after the March on Washington, D.C. on August 28, 1963. Photo: Warren K. Leffler, U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection /
US Library of Congress.

This is a turning point in history that should serve as an awakening: our presence in the United States is as a result of work of Black activists who often sacrificed their lives to achieve equal rights.  During the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, African Americans led by the notable Dr. Martin Luther King used protests and civil disobedience to help abolish some of the most racist laws in the US not only for themselves, but for all communities of color like South Asians. Ultimately, this led to the US government implementing the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which eliminated the racist quotas and allowed South Asian communities to emigrate to the US. We should be indebted to the civil rights movement and black activists who eliminated major barriers that allowed us as a community to settle and thrive in various parts of the United States and beyond.

I believe that the youth in our community have an obligation to educate our first-generation immigrants on their microaggressions and inherent biases pertaining to Black people.

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Fortunately, many Ismaili youth activists from all over the world have come together to vocalize racial injustices, particularly in light of recent killings of Black men and women due to police brutality in the United States.

They have been doing a wonderful job mobilizing resources (that I will discuss in greater detail later in this article). The goal of these coalesced resources is to target larger audiences initially at a local level, ultimately expanding this to a national platform to highlight this systemic issue.

South Asian/East African youth who are typically first or second younger generation Americans can begin to have these conversations, starting with their families and escalating it to a wide scale audience. Citing guidance from Mawlana Hazar Imam is paramount as this will quickly resonate with the older members of our community. Given that we’re a group of multicultural individuals with distinctive backgrounds should serve as a great example of strength in diversity and solidarity. Islamic principles of inclusion, peace and generosity should be used as our guiding principles when engaging various constituents of the Ismaili Jamat.

(Please note, these activists’ groups are not associated with the official Jamati institutions. They are Ismailis who have a passion for social justice issues and grassroots organization and want to create a forum for discussion to help implement change within our community)

Ismaili Activists 

An Instagram Account was created to underscore social justice issues that exist in USA and bridge the gap with what Ismailis should be addressing within our community. The purpose of this social media platform is to provide an open forum to for members to have honest discussions about topics that are seldom talked about within Ismailis due to either lack of knowledge, awareness or inability to vocalize these issues. Please click on Ismaili Activists Instagram Platform.

Ismaili activists Instagram Simerg
Please click for Ismaili Activists on Instagram

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Ismailis for Black Lives Matter

A group of Ismaili youths from USA & Canada created a GoFundMe campaign, Ismailis for Black Lives Matter, an independent fundraiser set up with the purpose of involving the Ismaili Community in the discussion around racial injustices pertaining to African Americans.

This initiative symbolizes ally hood to the Black Lives Matter Movement and helps to educate members of the Jamat as well as mobilize the financial resources of the Ismaili community in accordance with the faith’s core principles. The campaign raised over $20,000 and was supported by platforms like Twitter and Ismaili Mail.

Please click on Ismailis for Black Lives Matter GoFund Me Website (all proceeds will go directly to Black Lives Matter Movement).

The team also created a library with talking points and helpful resources to further education on the Black Lives Matter Movement.

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Ismailis for Change

This Slack group is focused on taking action based off an open letter addressed to the Jamat written by Alia Jeraj, a Minnesotan Ismaili. The Slack work group, created by Zahir Surmawala, is comprised of Ismailis from a variety of professional backgrounds including: product managers, tech entrepreneurs, attorneys, diversity and inclusion educators, healthcare professionals, artists, interfaith preachers etc. These individuals have all been brought together with one common goal of educating the Jamat on social justice issues to build solidarity for the African-American Community. Please click Open Letter Resource Guide.

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Additional Resources Created by Ismaili Youth

1. Combating Implicit Racial Biases in the Education System

2. How to talk to your Ismaili Family About Black Lives Matter

3. The Model Minority Myth

4. Defunding the Police

I, along with my Ismaili brothers and sisters, hope you find these resources helpful and we continue to make the voices of our Black community heard.  

Date posted: June 18, 2020.

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We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the feedback box which appears below. If you don’t see the box please click please click Leave a comment. Your comment may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Alyna Noreen Dada portrait for Simerg

Alyna Noreen Dada is a healthcare professional working for a national physician organization that transforms the healthcare delivery experience for providers and consumers.

Originally from the New Jersey area, she is a graduate of The George Washington University in Washington, DC with a degree in public policy and public health and has been living in the District for a decade.

Alyna’s family hails from Kenya and South Africa by way of the UK and settled in the United States in the early 1980’s.

Living in DC for the last few years has certainly piqued Alyna’s interest in social justice and policy issues, particularly around racial injustice and the Black Lives Matter Movement. After all, she lives blocks away from the White House!

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

Photograph shows James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. LOC photo reproduced in Simerg

A lesson in Black history in a classroom in Jinja, Uganda: The case of Mississippi’s African-American James Meredith

Editor’s note: The following special piece for Simerg by UK’s Shiraz Pradhan is the second in Simerg’s series of articles on the subject of race, inequality, cultural diversity and pluralism. The first article in the series was President Kennedy’s address on June 13, 1963 to the Americans on the subject of Civil Rights. Shiraz’s piece has been adapted from a chapter in his latest novel “Michelangelo in Jinja” and contains illustrations that do not form part of his novel. Following the article, we have a video of a fascinating talk delivered at the US Library of Congress by Henry T. Gallagher that details the events, including the riot, that took place during the admission of the first black American student, James Meredith, to the University of Mississippi. Mr. Gallagher was among the 20,000 troops that were dispatched by President Kennedy to restore law and order in Mississippi during the riot. He was also personally responsible for looking after the safety of Mr. Meredith.

Stranglehold on Neck of Black People

A frontispiece illustration in "The Child's Anti-Slavery Book…, New York, [1860], showing an African-American slave father leaving his family as he is sold away from his family. Photo: US Library of Congress. Reproduced in Simerg.
A frontispiece illustration in “The Child’s Anti-Slavery Book…, New York, [1860], showing an African-American slave father leaving his family as he is sold away from his family. Photo: US Library of Congress.

By SHIRAZ PRADHAN

When James Meredith was being admitted to the segregated University of Mississippi as its first African-American student, the Uganda Argus carried a cryptic headline “Segregation Defeated”. This simple headline, in the months and years that followed, would change the history of Uganda and rest of Africa.

This event caused great joy in our part of the world and fueled the Ugandan ambition for independence. But in the next several weeks the story turned ugly as many white people of Mississippi and other southern states of the USA reacted violently to black encroachment on the white domain of university education and other civil privileges, forcing President John F. Kennedy to send troops in order to restore law and order.

Yes, it was that stark – blatant denial of black rights! The Meredith saga acted as a catalyst for the re-emergence of the Civil Rights Movement in the US originally started by Martin Luther King in 1954.

Photograph shows James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. LOC photo reproduced in Simerg
Photograph shows James Meredith walking on the campus of the University of Mississippi, accompanied by U.S. marshals. Photo: Marion S. Trikosko / US Library of Congress via U.S. News & World Report Magazine Photograph Collection.

Mr Batra, our history teacher. seized on the Meredith story to shift his focus from Western and Eastern philosophies to philosophy of action and human rights. He said that philosophy, search for God and reaching nirvana were only words if they did not improve human condition. “As important as God is,” he said, “concern for human condition is no less. We have a duty to our fellow beings. God would wish for that. Today, I will talk about people whose philosophies were based on actions to improve the conditions of their people. More importantly, I will speak about the struggles of black people of America.”

Our teacher electrified the class. Jinja Secondary School in those days was called Indian Secondary School. William Wilberforce and Joseph Bufumbiro where the first native Ugandans who had joined our class. We had become aware of black aspirations. Africa in the 1960s was a smoldering tinder, ready to burst into flames at the slightest wind. The apartheid in South Africa was a stranglehold on the neck of Black People of South Africa. The Sharpeville massacre of innocent blacks in South Africa was fresh in our minds. Ian Smith of South Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) was ready to crush the hopes of black people for an equitable independence with one-man-one-vote and was conniving with the British to declare a minority White Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI), which he did in 1965.

The Mau Mau Insurgency for independence that lasted from 1952-1960 in our neighboring Kenya and the subsequent killings of the innocent Kikuyu people by the British was a pink-elephant in the room that no one wanted to mention.

Rolling a chalk-stick in his hand, Mr. Batra sensed our mood and continued. “We will shift our attention to that part of American history that was saddening. In the 1900s, the freed African-American slaves, still called by the derogatory term ‘negroes’, were struggling to gain equality.

Booker T Washington, Library of Congress Photo, reproduced in Simerg
Booker T. Washington, three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing front; created / published between 1880 and 1890. Photograph possibly by Harry Shepherd. Photo: Booker T. Washington Collection, US Library of Congress.

Booker T. Washington was the first freed slave who had gained high prominence in politics in Washington, DC in the early 1900s. He was an advocate for building African-American economic strength, which he argued would give them the desired freedoms and equality. At this date, although freed, the African-American had no voting rights and no protection under the law. The lynching of black people for petty crimes or in some cases no crimes had accelerated. The whites made sure that black enterprises failed.

Booker T. Washington revolted against this white tyranny and sought to protect the senseless lynching of black people. The constitution drawn-up by the founding fathers of US recognized equal rights but in reality the rights of the black people were ignored. With no legal avenues at his disposal Booker T. Washington agreed to the only compromise solution to protect the rights of black people and save them from murder and lynching. This solution came to be known as the Atlanta Convention.

Agreed in 1905, this illegal convention was never written down. In it, the white establishment demanded that black people forego voting rights, agree only to basic education with no right to university education and no equality in law. The last dehumanizing demand of white people was for a forced segregation of black people in return for limited safety in law and basic freedom.

A poster in the collection of US Library of Congress condemning the South African apartheid policies, reproduced in Simerg
A poster designed and created in 1976 by Wilfred Owen Brigade condemning the South African apartheid regime, and showing support of the international boycott. Photo: US Library of Congress.

The white people of South Africa learned apartheid from this page of US history. Although not fully satisfactory, the Atlanta Convention stopped the senseless lynching and persecution of the black people. This was the singular achievement of Booker T. Washington.

As an afterthought, Mr Batra added, “The importance of James Meredith story that you read in Uganda Argus is that it has taken fifty years for one black student to challenge the unwritten, unlawful Atlanta Convention. The reaction of the white people of the south US demonstrates that white attitude towards the black people has not changed since the abolition of slavery.”

In his characteristic fashion, Mr Batra had not finished jarring our senses with impactful and unjust events from history. He had saved the most powerful of these for the last. He concluded his lesson by saying, “You will study the life of Abraham Lincoln in your literature class next year. He was the 35th president of the US. He abolished slavery in the US and restored human dignity. You would think that this would be a joyful achievement for the US and for Mr Lincoln. Unfortunately, he was silenced like Mahatma Gandhi by an assassin’s bullet soon after proclamation of the abolition of slavery.”

Caption in this illustration by Udo J. Keppler reads: "President Roosevelt: Lincoln emancipated you, the people gave you citizenship and I'll protect your rights."
Caption in this illustration by Udo J. Keppler reads: “President Roosevelt: Lincoln emancipated you, the people gave you citizenship and I’ll protect your rights.” The illustration shows President Theodore Roosevelt, standing with right hand on the left shoulder of an African American man, standing to the left, and his left hand on a paper labeled “15th Amendment”; behind them is a statue labeled “Lincoln – With Malice Toward None With Charity Toward all” showing Abraham Lincoln standing at the top with freed African American slaves. Section 1 of the 15th Amendment of the American Constitution reads, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Section 2 then goes on to declare, “The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.” Photo: US Library of Congress.

I asked. “Sir, why does every great life end in a tragedy?” Mr Batra thought for a while, before he answered: “Historically the human was a hunter-gatherer. His survival depended on defending his territory and maintaining superiority over others by dehumanizing and enslaving the enemy. The ancient humans hunted in bands. Anyone not belonging to the band was an enemy. This is the human instinct. In this sense a band can be any group with common interest and common characteristics such as race, color or religion. Anyone that challenges this convention is an enemy who needs to be dealt with.”

African-Americans with wagon pointing guns at slave-catchers, Library of Congress photo reproduced in Simerg
An illustration entitled ‘A bold stroke for freedom in “William Still, The Underground Railroad” 1872, p. 125, depicting African-Americans with wagon pointing guns at slave-catchers. Photo: US Library of Congress.

In the coming years the situation in Africa became grim as the apartheid grip on South Africa became stronger, Southern Rhodesia sunk in to a quagmire and Algeria began a war for independence from its French master. It was this one lesson with Mr Batra that gave us the motivation to pick up banners to end tyranny in Africa and to fight for justice for Nelson Mandela when the illegal South African regime tried him for treason.

Watch an important webcast presented by the US Library of Congress

SUMMARY: In September 1962, James Meredith became the first African American admitted to the University of Mississippi. A milestone in the civil rights movement, his admission triggered a riot spurred by a mob of 3,000 whites from across the South and all-but-officially stoked by the state’s segregationist authorities. The escalating conflict prompted President John F. Kennedy to send in 20,000 regular Army troops, in addition to federalized Mississippi National Guard soldiers, to restore law and order. “James Meredith and the Ole Miss Riot” is the memoir of one of the participants, a young Army second lieutenant named Henry T. Gallagher, born and raised in Minnesota.

VIDEO: James Meredith & the Ole Miss Riot

Date posted: June 12, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

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About the author: Shiraz Pradhan is a professional engineer, writer and philosopher. He grew up in Uganda and attended universities in Kenya and Pennsylvania, USA, and graduated with advanced degrees in Mechanical Engineering and Mechanics. As part of his involvement in several mega-project across the world, he has lived and worked in several countries in North and South America, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Europe. This has given him a globalist world-view which flavours his writings. His first novel Dancing with Shadows was published in 2015. Michelangelo in Jinja is his second book. Summing his writing, Pacific Book Review said: “Pradhan’s work is the first one I’m aware that is actively Globalist.” Shiraz has a keen interest in Judaeo-Christian History, Islamic Studies, Sufism and philosophies of the Vedas and Upanishads. With his interest and familiarity with several languages and dialects, Shiraz has specialized in the study of ancient and medieval devotional traditions of South Asia including the Nizari Ismail Ginans. He has published several essays and articles on these subjects, many of which have been published on this website. He is currently completing a book titles Amarapuri, the Abode of Eternity for publication in late 2020.  He is the Chairman of the Association of the Study of Ginans which specializes in the preservation, study and research of the ancient Ginans. Shiraz currently lives in the UK with his family.

June 11, 1963: President John Kennedy on Civil Rights, as 2 black students are admitted to University of Alabama after Governor Wallace initially blocks them

Compiled by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor Simerg, Barakah and Simergphotos

In a tweet last week, Calgary’s Mayor Nahid Nenshi said, “Like many of you, I have been profoundly disturbed by, well, everything this past week. We’ve been reminded of the reality of racism, here and everywhere.” It was in reference to George Floyd, the black American who died after a police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck for 9 minutes. Calgarians turned out by their thousands to speak out against racism, as shown in the incredible photograph that was captured by Jon Yee.

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Calgary anti-racism rally. Photo: Jon Yee,
Calgary anti-racism rally. Photo: Jon Yee, who noted about the photo in his tweet, “I point at things and push a button. Sometimes I get lucky.”

On Friday, June 5, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a knee at an anti-racism protest on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

With the hearts of hundreds of millions of people around the world still in grief over what happened to Mr. Floyd in Minneapolis on May 24, 2020, we start a series of posts on the subject of race, equality and cultural diversity with President John F. Kennedy’s address to the American people on civil rights. We are deeply indebted to the textual and audio-visual divisions of the Presidential Library and Museum of John F. Kennedy for providing us with links from which we have been able to draw some of the material that is posted below.

Events at the University of Alabama on June 11, 1963

Federalized National Guard troops on the campus of the University of Alabama, June 11, 1963 when African Americans Vivian Malone and James Hood registered for classes. Simerg photo via LOC.
Federalized National Guard troops on the campus of the University of Alabama, June 11, 1963 when African Americans Vivian Malone and James Hood registered for classes. Photo: Warren K Leffler / US Library of Congress.

At 8:00 p.m., on June 11, 1963, Americans watching TV and listening to the radio heard President John F. Kennedy say things about civil rights that no American president had said before.

He began the speech citing events that had taken place at the University of Alabama that afternoon when George Wallace, the Governor of Alabama, in a symbolic attempt to keep his inaugural promise of “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” and stop the desegregation of schools, stood at the Schoolhouse Door of the University’s Foster Auditorium to try to block the entry of two black students, Vivian Malone and James Hood, who had applied for admission to the University. The Governor specifically proclaimed at the door, “I stand here today as governor of this sovereign state and refuse to willingly submit to illegal usurpation of power by the central government.” At the time, Alabama was the only remaining state with no integrated public schools.

The two students were accompanied by Nicholas Katzenbach, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General, who would keep president Kennedy and attorney general informed by phone.

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Vivian Malone entering Foster Auditorium to register for classes at the University of Alabama. Photo: Warren K Leffler /US Library of Congress. reproduced in Simerg
Vivian Malone entering Foster Auditorium to register for classes at the University of Alabama. Photo: Warren K Leffler / US Library of Congress.

Katzenbach confronted the governor and handed him the president’s orders to step aside. When Wallace refused, the president was informed, and he signed Executive Order 11111 federalizing the Alabama National Guard. The commander of the Guard, General Henry V. Graham, politely asked the governor to move. Wallace then spoke further, but eventually moved, and Malone and Hood completed their registration, but Wallace believed he had won because America had witnessed his stand. That night, President Kennedy addressed the nation on television and radio.

He explained what happened in Alabama that day, and announced his commitment to a far-reaching civil rights bill. Please read the transcript below, followed by a link to the speech by President Kennedy. Teachers — and parents who have assumed the role of teachers during Covid-19 — will find the page curricular resources useful for further learning and education.

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Transcript and Video of President John F. Kennedy’s Address to the American People on June 11, 1963

23 August 1962: President Kennedy addresses the AMVETS convention in New York City by telephone. White House, Oval Office. Photo: Abbie Rowe, National Park Service, in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

By PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY

Good evening, my fellow citizens:

This afternoon, following a series of threats and defiant statements, the presence of Alabama National Guardsmen was required on the University of Alabama to carry out the final and unequivocal order of the United States District Court of the Northern District of Alabama. That order called for the admission of two clearly qualified young Alabama residents who happened to have been born Negro.

That they were admitted peacefully on the campus is due in good measure to the conduct of the students of the University of Alabama, who met their responsibilities in a constructive way.

I hope that every American, regardless of where he lives, will stop and examine his conscience about this and other related incidents. This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

Today we are committed to a worldwide struggle to promote and protect the rights of all who wish to be free. And when Americans are sent to Viet-Nam or West Berlin, we do not ask for whites only. It ought to be possible, therefore, for American students of any color to attend any public institution they select without having to be backed up by troops.

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President Kennedy and Julius Nyerere
17 July, 1961: President John F. Kennedy is seen with Prime Minister Julius Nyerere of Tanganyika at the West Wing Colonnade, White House, Washington, D.C. Also in picture is Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs G. Mennen “Soapy” Williams. Photo credit: Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

It ought to be possible for American consumers of any color to receive equal service in places of public accommodation, such as hotels and restaurants and theaters and retail stores, without being forced to resort to demonstrations in the street, and it ought to be possible for American citizens of any color to register and to vote in a free election without interference or fear of reprisal.

It ought to be possible, in short, for every American to enjoy the privileges of being American without regard to his race or his color. In short, every American ought to have the right to be treated as he would wish to be treated, as one would wish his children to be treated. But this is not the case.

The Negro baby born in America today, regardless of the section of the Nation in which he is born, has about one-half as much chance of completing a high school as a white baby born in the same place on the same day, one-third as much chance of completing college, one-third as much chance of becoming a professional man, twice as much chance of becoming unemployed, about one¬seventh as much chance of earning $10,000 a year, a life expectancy which is 7 years shorter, and the prospects of earning only half as much.

This is not a sectional issue. Difficulties over segregation and discrimination exist in every city, in every State of the Union, producing in many cities a rising tide of discontent that threatens the public safety. Nor is this a partisan issue. In a time of domestic crisis men of good will and generosity should be able to unite regardless of party or politics. This is not even a legal or legislative issue alone. It is better to settle these matters in the courts than on the streets, and new laws are needed at every level, but law alone cannot make men see right.

We are confronted primarily with a moral issue. It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution.

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This photograph was given to President John F. Kennedy by Lester B. Pearson, Prime Minister of Canada (1963-1968), during his state visit to the White House on May 11, 1963.
This photograph was given to President John F. Kennedy by Lester B. Pearson, Prime Minister of Canada (1963-1968), during his state visit to the White House on May 11, 1963, exactly a month before the President addressed the Americans on Civil Rights.

The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities, whether we are going to treat our fellow Americans as we want to be treated. If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public, if he cannot send his children to the best public school available, if he cannot vote for the public officials who represent him, if, in short, he cannot enjoy the full and free life which all of us want, then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us would then be content with the counsels of patience and delay?

One hundred years of delay have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.

We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is a land of the free except for the Negroes; that we have no second-class citizens except Negroes; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettoes, no master race except with respect to Negroes?

Now the time has come for this Nation to fulfill its promise. The events in Birmingham and elsewhere have so increased the cries for equality that no city or State or legislative body can prudently choose to ignore them.

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President Kennedy reaches out to crowd in Texas, photo reproduced in Simerg
22 November 1963 President Kennedy reaches out to the crowd gathered at the Hotel Texas Parking Lot Rally in Fort Worth, TX, 22 November 1963. Photo: Cecil Stoughton / John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

The fires of frustration and discord are burning in every city, North and South, where legal remedies are not at hand. Re-dress is sought in the streets, in demonstrations, parades, and protests which create tensions and threaten violence and threaten lives.

We face, therefore, a moral crisis as a country and as a people. It cannot be met by repressive police action. It cannot be left to increased demonstrations in the streets. It cannot be quieted by token moves or talk. It is a time to act in the Congress, in your State and local legislative body and, above all, in all of our daily lives.

It is not enough to pin the blame on others, to say this is a problem of one section of the country or another, or deplore the fact that we face. A great change is at hand, and our task, our obligation, is to make that revolution, that change, peaceful and constructive for all.

Those who do nothing are inviting shame as well as violence. Those who act boldly are recognizing right as well as reality.

Next week I shall ask the Congress of the United States to act, to make a commitment it has not fully made in this century to the proposition that race has no place in American life or law. The Federal judiciary has upheld that proposition in a series of forthright cases. The executive branch has adopted that proposition in the conduct of its affairs, including the employment of Federal personnel, the use of Federal facilities, and the sale of federally financed housing.

But there are other necessary measures which only the Congress can provide, and they must be provided at this session. The old code of equity law under which we live commands for every wrong a remedy, but in too many communities, in too many parts of the country, wrongs are inflicted on Negro citizens and there are no remedies at law. Unless the Congress acts, their only remedy is in the street.

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July 12, 1961: President John F. Kennedy meets with representatives from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Photo: Robert Knudsen, White House / John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. photo reproduced in Simerg
July 12, 1961: President John F. Kennedy meets with representatives from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Photo: Robert Knudsen, White House / John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

I am, therefore, asking the Congress to enact legislation giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public-hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments.

This seems to me to be an elementary right. Its denial is an arbitrary indignity that no American in 1963 should have to endure, but many do.

I have recently met with scores of business leaders urging them to take voluntary action to end this discrimination and I have been encouraged by their response, and in the last 2 weeks over 75 cities have seen progress made in desegregating these kinds of facilities. But many are unwilling to act alone, and for this reason, nationwide legislation is needed if we are to move this problem from the streets to the courts.

I am also asking Congress to authorize the Federal Government to participate more fully in lawsuits designed to end segregation in public education. We have succeeded in persuading many districts to desegregate voluntarily. Dozens have admitted Negroes without violence. Today a Negro is attending a State-supported institution in every one of our 50 States, but the pace is very slow.

Too many Negro children entering segregated grade schools at the time of the Supreme Court’s decision 9 years ago will enter segregated high schools this fall, having suffered a loss which can never be restored. The lack of an adequate education denies the Negro a chance to get a decent job.

The orderly implementation of the Supreme Court decision, therefore, cannot be left solely to those who may not have the economic resources to carry the legal action or who may be subject to harassment.

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President Kennedy photo reproduced in Simerg
President John F. Kennedy meets with representatives from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). President Kennedy; Ted Berry, member of NAACP Ohio Committee for Civil Rights Legislation (later Mayor of Cincinnati) (second from right); others unidentified. Lincoln Bedroom, White House, Washington, D.C. Photo: Robert Knudsen, White House / John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.

Other features will be also requested, including greater protection for the right to vote. But legislation, I repeat, cannot solve this problem alone. It must be solved in the homes of every American in every community across our country.

In this respect, I want to pay tribute to those citizens North and South who have been working in their communities to make life better for all. They are acting not out of a sense of legal duty but out of a sense of human decency.

Like our soldiers and sailors in all parts of the world they are meeting freedom’s challenge on the firing line, and I salute them for their honor and their courage.

My fellow Americans, this is a problem which faces us all – in every city of the North as well as the South. Today there are Negroes unemployed, two or three times as many compared to whites, inadequate in education, moving into the large cities, unable to find work, young people particularly out of work without hope, denied equal rights, denied the opportunity to eat at a restaurant or lunch counter or go to a movie theater, denied the right to a decent education, denied almost today the right to attend a State university even though qualified. It seems to me that these are matters which concern us all, not merely Presidents or Congressmen or Governors, but every citizen of the United States.

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23 November, 1963 : President Kennedy’s wife and daughter kneel at the casket as the President’s body lies in state in the Rotunda of the Capitol Building. Photo: Abbie Rowe, National Park Service / John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum. Boston.

This is one country. It has become one country because all of us and all the people who came here had an equal chance to develop their talents.

We cannot say to 10 percent of the population that you can’t have that right; that your children can’t have the chance to develop whatever talents they have; that the only way that they are going to get their rights is to go into the streets and demonstrate. I think we owe them and we owe ourselves a better country than that.

Therefore, I am asking for your help in making it easier for us to move ahead and to provide the kind of equality of treatment which we would want ourselves; to give a chance for every child to be educated to the limit of his talents.

As I have said before, not every child has an equal talent or an equal ability or an equal motivation, but they should have the equal right to develop their talent and their ability and their motivation, to make something of themselves.

We have a right to expect that the Negro community will be responsible, will uphold the law, but they have a right to expect that the law will be fair, that the Constitution will be color blind, as Justice Harlan said at the turn of the century.

This is what we are talking about and this is a matter which concerns this country and what it stands for, and in meeting it I ask the support of all our citizens.

Thank you very much.

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Video of President John F. Kennedy’s Address to the American People on June 11, 1963

Please click on image for speech.

Date posted: June 11, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

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Please also see our sister website’s Photo Essay: Remembering President John F. Kennedy (May 29, 1917 – November 22, 1963)

“The Last Anointing” – an amazing must read piece in the New York Times

EDITOR’S NOTE: Ismaili Muslim families whose family members are seriously ill or are in the last stages of their lives seek out their Jamatkhana leaders — the Mukhis and Kamadias — to offer some specific prayers, blessings and rites on the sick members of the family, who may never recover from the illness. Many of us familiar with our sacred and age old traditional ceremonies will be able to relate to this remarkable piece that I have just finished reading in the print edition of the Sunday New York Times (June 7, 2020). Because the piece relates to Covid-19, the newspaper offers it as a free-read on its on-line edition, without having to subscribe. Please read it!

Well I Never….

 

By ROXANA JAFFER

Well I Never …

Order of the day: “Stay at home”
An opportunity to relax n catch up with sleep

COVID 19, you came to destruct,
And Lockdown 20, you came to obstruct

Or a chance to question His existence deep
No resistance now in the discovery of NUR?

An – NUR the sacred sound of the universe
Found in every nook and cranny like a poetic verse

Well I Never …

To the garden perambulating the home
Round and Round; looking for the Unknown

As Adam found Eve in His Garden of Eden
Many jewels in my garden; blatant to my Oblivion

All speaking in color and shape, flower bush and tree
Iqra – Read, Read what you know not, come set yourself free

Learn the sound of NUR through the birds of the sky
Recite with the mind; find the power of the butterfly

Well I Never …

NUR exists; in the many shades of red and pink
Juxtaposed with variegated greens all in sync

Green berries flowering to pink; Honey bees in search of nectar
Confused with beautiful butterflies on their path as protector

Cant but just appreciate what I never saw before
Blessings manifold of the birds in their original couture

The Neem, the Lime, the Chikoo & Moringa opening their boughs
Guests invited to perch are the parrot, the dove and the crows

Well I Never …

Look everywhere and there is diversity in total harmony
Not castles in the air, but the moon dancing round the planets

Under the moonlight am I, a whirling dervish on the lawn
Moving to the rhythm of NUR, not aware when night becomes dawn

Twirling in happiness becoming submerged in His current
He who is above all else, only His cell is totally apparent

COVID 19, did you really come to destruct?
Really you helped to right the wrongs and reconstruct

Date posted: May 26, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

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Roxana Jaffer, Simerg

Kenyan born Roxana Jaffer, is an accountant by profession, and currently lives in the UAE. She is striving to make the world a better place, and is the founder of the NGO -– ‘abc: an Advent for Building human Capital’ (see www.myabcfoundation.org) which accords English to the unemployed in Hunza and Delhi, resulting in a 70% impact as youth get growth.

Her creativity is taking a different turn as she expresses spirituality through poetry she pens. We were delighted to welcome her into the Simerg fold with her recent composition Devotion Through Dhikr.

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We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the feedback box which appears below. If you don’t see the box please click please click Leave a comment. Your comment may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Tributes to Ismailis who have passed away during the Covid-19 pandemic: Issue no. 1 of a multipart series

As announced a few days ago, we commence a special series of tributes to Ismailis as well as non-Ismaili members of Ismaili families who have passed away during the Coronavirus pandemic, either due to Covid-19 or any other cause. For details on submitting your tribute to a deceased family member or a very close friend, please read TRIBUTES and write to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com; you must include your full name and contact information.

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Issue No. 1: Tributes received from May 18-21, 2020

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

Alnoor Ramji
(Canada)

Submitted by Abdulrasul Allibhai Ramji and Lilly Ramji

Tribute to Alnoor Ramji, Simerg
Alnoor Ramji, age 62 (d. April 14, 2020)

It was the beginning of March 2020. Alnoor’s 62nd birthday was just 3 weeks away. But he had cancer, and was in the last stages of his life. He did not let it control him. Rather, he coped with it, accepted it and carried on with his passion of raising funds for the Aga Khan Foundation’s annual World Partnership Walk (WPW). In each of the previous years, he had raised between $13,000 to $15,000. With all the passion that he had developed over the years for the work of the Imamat around the world, he started sending out a message that simply said, “Donate to WPW [World Partnership Walk].” For him, that would be the most cherished birthday gift anyone could ever give him. In a little more than 3 weeks, Alnoor raised $18,000.

He passed away on April 14, 2020, but not before the Mukhi and Kamadiasahebs of Toronto’s Headquarters Jamatkhana at the Ismaili Centre, made a conference call to him. He answered them with the greeting Ya Ali Madad. They bestowed Dua (prayers) on him, and Alnoor responded with the word “Amen” each time – a total of four times.

His funeral was held in Toronto on April 17, 2020. He leaves behind his parents, Abdulrasul Allibhai Ramji and Lilly Ramji. His two sisters, Nilam (Naushadaly) in Edmonton, Alberta, and Rubina (Craig) in Sydney, Nova Scotia, were both unable to attend the funeral.

Editor’s note: An obituary for Alnoor Ramji was published in The Toronto Star on April 17, 2020. Please click HERE to read the detailed piece.

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Goulzare Foui
(France)

Submitted by Nigar Ribault

Tribute to Goulzare, France, Simerg
Goulzare Foui

« Ma chère Goulzare Foui, 

Vous m’aviez dit de ne pas m’inquiéter parce que vous aviez juste la grippe. Vous connaissiez si bien mon caractère angoissé : « mais qu’est ce qu’on va faire de toi avec ces angoisses mon petit ? ».

Et soudain, en quelques jours, vous avez été emportée par ce virus. 

Je vous appelle et je vous cherche depuis 40 jours que vous êtes partie … 

Et vous êtes là ! : 

Les roses ont fleuri et me font signe. Je vous vois Goulzare (Jardin fleuri) dans ces fleurs. Je vois votre beau sourire lumineux. J’entends votre voix dans le chant des oiseaux du printemps. Vous chantez comme un rossignol dans le grand jardin de Mowla Bapa.

Vous ne m’avez pas quittée : vous êtes dans mon cœur pour toujours et dans ce que vous m’avez transmis. Je vous aime ma Goulzare Foui. La petite sœur de mon papa. 

Votre Nigar »

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Translation by Dr. Nurin Merchant

My dear Goulzare Foui,

You told me not to worry, that it was just the flu. You knew my anxious character well — “what are we going to do with you and all of your anxieties my little one?”

And suddenly, in just a few days, this virus had taken you from us.

I call you, I seek you ever since the day you left us 40 days ago.

And there you are!

The roses have bloomed, giving me a sign. I see you Goulzare (flowery garden). I see your beautiful and radiant smile. I hear your voice in the song of the spring birds. You are singing like a nightingale in Mowla Bapa’s big garden.

You have not left me: you are here. Here in what you shared with and passed down to me, and forever in my heart. I love you my Goulzare Foui. My dad’s little sister. 

Your Nigar.

Translators note: In the translation, I have tried to keep the meaning of Nigar’s beautiful tribute to her aunt as best as I could.

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Amirali S. Nagji
(USA)

Submitted by Akberali Nagji

Tribute to Amir Nagji, Simerg
Amirali Nagji, age 78 (d. April 2, 2020)

Amirali Nagji passed away of natural causes on April 2, 2020 in Albuquerque, New Mexio, USA. He was 78. Originally from Mtwara, Tanzania, Amirali was very hardworking and generous; he was known for helping many people by giving free accommodation in his motel.

He served Jamati institutions for twenty years, and had also held the position of Mukhisaheb of Albuquerque Jamat.

Outside Ismaili institutions, he served seniors at a local hospital. His ever-smiling face and friendly demeanor provided comfort to many.

Amirali loved to travel and was fond of Bolywood music. As well as being a good dancer, he had a wonderful sense of humour, for which he was greatly admired.

He is survived by his wife Nurjehan, daughter Alia and her husband Shafin, and two grandchildren.

We pray that his soul may rest in eternal peace. Amen.

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Sultan Piroj Maknojiya Methanwala
(India)

Submitted by the families of Nazarali Kasamali Momin and Akbarali Kasamali Momin

Tribute to Sultan Methanwalla, Simerg
Sultan P. M. Methanwala (d. May 16, 2020)

Sultan Bhai Piroj Maknojiya Methanwala passed away on May 16, 2020 in Vaishali Nagar Jogeshwari West, Mumbai.

He was a prominent leader both within and outside the Ismaili Jamat. He had served as the Mukhisaheb of the Jamat with great distinction, and was deeply loved by members of the Jamat.

He was also a life long social worker, and reached out to all communities to provide care and assistance.

He will be deeply remembered and missed by his family, the Vaishali Nagar Jamat and other communities whom he served selflessly.

May Mawla rest his soul in eternal peace and may Mawla give strength to his family members and the Jamat to bear the loss of a commendable leader of the Jamat. Amen.

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Salima Wanda Arthurs
(Canada)

Submitted by Shaida Hussein

Salima Wanda Arthurs, age 64 (d. April 24, 2020)

Salima Wanda Arthurs, 64 years old, passed away in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, on Friday April 24, 2020, the first day of Ramadhan, from cancer.

Her mum, Margaret, sister Linda, some friends and myself, Shaida Hussein, attended the funeral ceremony. Like other Ismaili funerals that take place during the current pandemic, the funeral and post burial ceremonies such as chaanta, last respects, samar and zyarat were conducted according to physical distancing and other guidelines that have been established by each province.

Salima  embraced the Ismaili Muslim faith in 1985, and was a committed volunteer in jamati (community) services. She contributed to the work of Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Board on the literature counter and served in the admissions committee, as well as participated in other institutional projects and programs. She was a humble and a compassionate person, and will be fondly remembered and missed by the Calgary Jamat as well as her family and friends.

We pray for her soul to rest in eternal peace. We also pray that Almighty God grants her family and friends the strength and courage to bear this loss.

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To submit a tribute to your family member who has passed away due to Covid-19 or any other cause, please read TRIBUTES and write to Malik Merchant at Simerg@aol.com; please include your full name and contact information.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

We welcome tributes from our readers to individuals portrayed in this piece. Please use the feedback box which appears below. If you don’t see the box please click Leave a comment.

Pandemic, Prayers, Pluralism, and Partnerships

By NIZAR A MOTANI, Ph.D

This pandemic has brought the world humbling and tumbling to its knees, which is actually the best position from which to beg for the Supreme Being’s forgiveness, mercy, and blessings. Its economies have been battered and shattered and almost all of the world’s citizens have been imprisoned in their dwellings. He alone will eventually empower our scientists and secular and sacred leaders to find effective vaccines to successfully overcome this calamity.

Guidance from a seventh century ruler to his regional governors entrusted with administering a new and rapidly expanding empire has timeless relevance to our pandemic times. Hazrat Ali was the first hereditary Shia Muslim Imam, as well as the fourth caliph of all Muslims, after the death of the Prophet Muhammad (S.A.S.), in 632 A.C. His letter enumerated a host of principles of good governance. He urged his subordinates to rule with intelligence and wisdom; justice, truth, and forgiveness; compassion and forbearance; humility and patience in calamity; consultation and wise counsel; piety and prayers; and above all to seek Divine Guidance. These are lessons which still apply today. [1]

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Folio Hazrat Ali's Nahj al-Balagha
A folio from Hazrat Ali’s Nahj al-Balagha (Peak of Eloquence).

Remarkably, during the Prophet Muhammad’s time (570-632 A.C.), he had strongly recommended territorial quarantine and stricter personal hygiene, such as frequent hand washing during contagion. Later Muslim scientists and doctors had done the same, and Europe subsequently learned this practice from them. [2]

Turning to the current pandemic, this silent, inscrutable, and insidious enemy with unhindered Global Entry has awakened and heightened the need for prayers and some critical aspects of pluralism, which include public-private partnerships at all levels, to address the current dire situation engulfing almost every country.

Prayers have shown effectiveness since biblical times, and pluralism is inherent, in various forms, in all religious teachings. Some countries even have pluralism embodied in their constitutions, but sadly it often gets ignored.

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Karen Armstrong at Aga Khan Centre London
The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor-General of Canada, and GCP Board Member thanks Karen Armstrong for delivering the GCP 2018 Annual Pluralism Lecture. Photo: AKDN / Anya Campbell

Karen Armstrong, the renowned historian and scholar of religions, has described the Qur’an as the most pluralistic scriptural book, which teaches not just tolerance of diversity, but beyond this a universal brotherhood, empathy, and an inclusive approach that harnesses the intelligence of all in society (annual pluralism lecture at the new Aga Khan Centre, London, 2018). Pluralism entails inclusion of all of God’s children who inhabit our shared planet, as an integral part of the community. Hardly any country is totally homogenous – most are quite heterogeneous with racially, ethnically, and religiously diverse minorities. Accommodating such diversity is best addressed through dialogue, mutual respect, research, and collaboration to promote a better understanding of differences as strengths.

The idea of defining, promoting and giving pluralism an international platform emerged, significantly, after another calamity, namely the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, that shook the world and drastically changed lives and livelihoods. In January 2002, the then Canadian prime minister Jean Chretien and the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, discussed the desirability of jointly creating a formal body to study, explain, and promote pluralistic values across the world and to prevent escalations of conflicts between the West and the Muslim countries. A decade later the Global Centre for Pluralism was formally established in Ottawa, Canada.

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His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency David Johnston at the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism
His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency David Johnston look at each other as they applaud a splendid musical performance by the children’s band Orkidstra during the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa on Tuesday May 16, 2017. Photo: © Jean-Marc Carisse.

Pluralism, essential in ordinary times to promote mutual understanding, respect, and acceptance of differences, is even more critical in extraordinary times, such as the present, where widespread panic has driven many to act without regard for the wellbeing of others.

Equally alarming, Asian Americans have collectively been demonized and blamed for the virus. Fortunately, there have also been numerous wonderful and inspiring examples of collaboration, innovation, ingenuity, generosity, and volunteering to help those on the frontlines and those thrust onto food line.

However, let us not forget the other endemic and mutating virus of scammers and fraudsters preying on the most desperate of our fellow countrymen. We need more vigilance, prayers, partnerships and pluralism to combat both of these common enemies. Until God’s mercy results in effective vaccines, the best interim vaccines are the three Ps and gratitude.

Coincidentally, during this month of Ramadan, some fundamental practices of Islam are more evident now than at other times: fasting, prayer, and charity towards all — especially the weak, the sick, the poor, orphans, widows, and other most disadvantaged members of society. This constitutes the social conscience of Islam.

It is this Atlanta-based writer’s hope that Muslims and non-Muslims alike will share their relief/stimulus checks, if possible, with those in greater need. Unfortunately, their numbers are exploding, and they largely depend on such charities as the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Atlanta Union Mission, Salvation Army, and Red Cross among many others. Atlanta-based CARE is internationally active, as is the Aga Khan Foundation USA, which is a part of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) – the world’s largest, most cost-effective, private, multifaceted network with hundreds of partners including the US Government.

May God Bless America and our interconnected planet.

Date posted: May 19, 2020.
Last updated: May 20, 2020 (Revisions by author)

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

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Notes:

[1] Nahjul Balagha, Peak of Eloquence; Sermons, Letters, and Sayings of Imam Ali ibn Abu Talib, Elmhurst NY, 1981.
[2] Article by Yahia Hatim, Moroccan Times, April 4th, 2020. See also March 17, 2020 Newsweek article by Craig Considine.

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The writer, who was born in Uganda, has a doctorate from the University of London, U.K. in African History. He has taught at Bowdoin College (Maine) and Western Michigan University. Later he worked at the Institute of Ismaili Studies in the U.K. A lifetime member of the Global South Studies Association and a longtime resident of Atlanta, he is a volunteer and donor for AKDN.

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Author’s recommendation: For a superb explanation of pluralism in the Qur’an, see Rahim Snow’s highly acclaimed book “Remember Who You Are: 28 Spiritual Verses from the Holy Quran to Help You Discover Your True Identity, Purpose, and Nourishment in God,” published  by Remembrance Studio, 2017, Pp. 213. Please visit his website by clicking Rahim Snow .

We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the feedback box which appears below. If you don’t see the box please click Leave a comment. Your comment may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Video: Dignity in death for people of all faiths – a story of courage and humanity unfolds in Surat, India

In the age of the Coronavirus many families are unwilling or unable to claim bodies of those who have died, not just from the virus, but from other diseases and even accidents. In this situation, Surat’s Abdul Rehman Malbari and his Ekta Trust step in….watch this highly inspiring video report by MOJO, with English subtitles, and read the BBC and Times of India report that follow the video.

“For three decades, Abdul Malabari has been an undertaker for unclaimed bodies. But he never thought he would have to bury people whose families wanted to say goodbye but couldn’t because of Covid-19” — BBC

Also read:

1. BBC: The Man Giving Dignified Burial to Covid-19 Victims
2. The Times of India: He did what the kin denied: Last rites of 1st Covid-19 victim

Date posted: May 18, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

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Simerg invites Ismaili families to submit tributes to their family members who have passed away during the Covid-19 pandemic

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

The tributes may be submitted for passings due to Covid-19 or any other cause

Some years ago, Simerg launched PASSINGS where Ismailis around the world were invited to submit obituaries or tributes to honour members of their families who had passed away, irrespective of the time frame. Over the past few years, we have seen a trickle of these obituaries and tributes flowing in, and we have graciously published them to the comfort of several family members.

Today, the coronavirus pandemic has brought great sadness to families who have lost family members during the past two months. Like other places of worship, Jamatkhanas in North America, the UK, Europe and many other parts of the world, have remained closed since around the middle of March. Whether the death has been due to Covid-19 or other illnesses, funeral, burial and post-burial ceremonies and rites have been vastly compromised, with limited number of family members and friends being permitted to attend the mourning ceremonies, both before and immediately after the person has been buried.

Restrictions have even prevented family members from being close to their loved ones during their times of illness and during the final moments of their lives. Often, the death of the individual is unknown to many due to Jamatkhana closures, as special prayers for the soul of the deceased (known as samar, which takes place in many parts of the world where the deceased is known through family and friends) can no longer be conducted. With all of these elements missing, many families who have lost their beloved have not experienced a sense of closure with respect to the loved ones that have left them.

Most recently, as readers might be aware, Simerg paid a loving tribute to Missionary Amirali Gillani. His closest family members were deeply comforted by the condolences that they were offered by friends, relatives as well as well-wishers from around the world, who made contact by phone and emails. Many submitted tributes to Missionary Amirali Gillani in the comments section of this website. We went on to report about the extraordinary funeral and burial ceremonies that took place in Toronto for the long serving and well-known Ismaili missionary.

Today, we announce a special weekly series in which we will publish tributes to deceased Ismailis or individuals who are members of Ismaili families who have passed away during the coronavirus pandemic.

The tribute that you pen is not restricted to deaths caused by Covid-19. It will be to anyone who is part of an Ismaili family and who has died from any cause – Covid-19 or otherwise – during the coronavirus pandemic. This opportunity to submit tributes is being offered to Ismaili families around the world in the spirit of the ONE JAMAT that we are, under the leadership and loving care of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

Please email the tribute (preferably 75-100 words in length), along with the deceased family member’s portrait photo (if available, in jpeg format), to Malik Merchant at simerg@aol.com. You MUST include your full name and phone number where you can be reached. Anonymous tributes will not be accepted.

The Toronto Star article The Lives They Lived will help you in developing a comprehensive tribute, and Simerg’s editor will always be available to provide his assistance in formulating a good tribute, so long as you provide good information about the deceased.

Kindly note that Simerg’s tribute will be for ALL deceased Ismailis and members of Ismaili families who have passed away during the pandemic due to Covid-19 and other causes. Again, please send your tribute to Simerg@aol.com.

We hope to commence the series of tributes on Friday, May 22, 2020. In addition to English, we will also accept tributes written in French, Portuguese and Spanish with their corresponding English translations, provided by you (you may use Google translate, if you wish).

Date posted: May 17, 2020.
Last updated: May 18, 2020 (added note about submitting tributes in French, Spanish, and Portuguese).

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

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Malik Merchant

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher/editor of Simerg (2009), Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012). A former IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to small family projects and other passionate endeavours such as the publication of this website. He is the eldest son of the Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant, who both served Ismaili Jamati institutions together for several decades in professional and honorary capacities. His daughter, Nurin Merchant, is a veterinarian. He may be contacted at Simerg@aol.com.

We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the feedback box which appears below. If you don’t see the box please click Leave a comment. Your comment may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.