His Highness the Aga Khan and Canada: A Profound Affinity – But Why Canada?

Clockwise, from top left: His Highness the Aga Khan; Ismaili Centre, The Aga Khan Museum and the Park (under construction in Toronto); Map of Canada; The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat, Ottawa; Global Centre for Pluralism, Ottawa; and The Ismaili Jamatkhana and Centre, Burnaby. Please scroll down for PDF file.


Time and time again, perhaps most often by Canadians themselves, His Highness the Aga Khan is asked “Why Canada?” in reference to The Global Centre for Pluralism he established in partnership with the Canadian Government. His deep affinity for Canada is perhaps best characterised by the words of German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer: “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits targets no one else can see.”

The Aga Khan’s relationship with Canada goes back 50 years, when the Globe and Mail was part of a consortium helping him establish what is now the Nation Media group in Kenya. But, it was perhaps Canada’s response to the Ugandan-Asian crisis (1972) that gave Canada “top-of-mind” presence for him and the Ismailis. Under the leadership of his friend Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, Canada opened her doors to thousands of Ugandan refugees — victims of an unprecedented act of racism.

Though Canada’s commitment to pluralism lies at the heart of the Aga Khan’s admiration of Canada, his affinity for her encompasses broader but less appreciated facets of Canadian society, fundamental for progress across the Developing World — from war-torn remote mountain villages in Central Asia to mega-metropolises. His understanding of both the intellectual disposition and the civic machinery essential for stable, harmonious, sustainable society, led him to recognise the genius that is Canada, though it alluded many Canadians.

I hope the extracts from the Aga Khan’s speeches and interviews, best-read in their entirety, together with my summations have captured his answer to “Why Canada?”


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About Mohib Ebrahim: An honours graduate of Simon Fraser University in Computer Science and Mathematics, Mohib Ebrahim has been involved in software development and the IT industry since the ’80s. His current IT project, MasterFile (see http://www.masterfile.biz), is a state-of-the-art evidence system for academic researchers, investigators, and litigators. Mohib presently publishes the twitter micro-blog NanoWisdoms (see http://twitter.com/NanoWisdoms) which broadcasts each day a few words of wisdom from the Qur’an, the Prophet Muhammad and the Shia and Ismaili Imams.

Other contributions by Mohib on this Web site:

Key Themes of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Speeches Made During His Golden Jubilee Celebrations

Key Themes of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Speeches Between 2000 and July 2007 (includes author’s full profile)

Timeline of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Awards and Honours

These readings are part of Simerg’s special series on His Highness the Aga Khan IV. See Special Series: His Highness The Aga Khan IV

Please visit our Home page. The What’s New page has links to all the articles published on Simerg since its launching in March 2009.


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