Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Calgary based Mansoor Ladha’s book “A Portrait in Pluralim: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims.” Mansoor is being featured in the series for the second time, following our interview with him on March 6, 2021 on his more recent work, the highly acclaimed “Memoirs of a Muhindi” that was published in 2017. We follow the same Q/A format as our earlier presentations of books written by Azim Jiwani (Vancouver), Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (Montreal), Shairoz Lakhani (London, UK), Shelina Shariff Zia (New York), Ali Lakhani (Vancouver), Nizar Sultan (Toronto), Nargis Fazal (Vancouver), Nazlin Rahemtulla (Vancouver), Azmina Suleman (Calgary), Alnasir Rajan (Mississauga), Shafeen Ali (USA), Mansoor Ladha (Calgary), Zeni Shariff (Toronto) and Shamas Nanji (Edmonton). We encourage Ismaili authors from around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses accordingly to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Simerg’s Interview with Mansoor Ladha
Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book?
Mansoor Ladha: “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims” was published to coincide with the Golden Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan. By the time of his Golden Jubilee celebrated during 2007-08, Ismailis had been established in Canada for more than 30 years, but Canadians had many sincere and honest questions about who we were, where we came from and so on. Thus, in the book I have attempted to answer these questions and give additional information about Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Canadian projects and his philosophy on pluralism. In addition to that, I was able to interview some Uganda refugees who settled in Canada starting in the autumn of 1972 after being forced to flee from their homeland by Idi Amin. I also talked to Canadian officials who were responsible for processing refugees in Kampala. The book is a portrayal of the Ismaili community.
I may note however that at the end of his Golden Jubilee Mawlana Hazar Imam established and opened with Prime Minister Stephen Harper the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building in Ottawa, and over the past decade we have seen the opening of the Aga Khan Museum, the Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Park, all in Toronto, the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa and the beautiful Aga Khan Gardens in Edmonton.
Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?
Ladha: A Portrait in Pluralism and my more recent second book, Memoirs of a Muhindi: Fleeing East Africa for the West that you interviewed me on in March 2021, contain historical events affecting the Ismaili community. The book provides history, background, culture as well as success stories of Canadian Ismailis. Hence, they should be compulsory reading not only for adults but especially for the younger generation who didn’t experience what their parents went through. It’s important to educate our youngsters about our past. In this regard, I find it appropriate to quote a paragraph from Dr. Nizar Motani’s review of the Memoirs of a Muhindi:
“Besides being a valuable addition to one’s own library, it would be a suitable gift for your colleagues and neighbours who often ask the diasporic muhindis: “What is your nationality?” But they actually are curious about your country of origin, why you are not black if you came from Africa, and reasons for being in “their” countries.”
Simerg: What inspired you to write A Portrait in Pluralism?
Ladha: A couple of major events had taken place at the beginning of this century. In 2001, there was the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York. Then some years later we saw the publication of a series of cartoons of Prophet Muhammad in Denmark. Both events created a lot of controversies and incorrectly presented Muslims in a very negative manner. These two events and other negative depictions about Muslims provided me with an opportunity to particularly highlight the Ismaili Muslims, who through the guidance of their Imam, the Aga Khan, were quietly revolutionizing the world and improving the lives of people all around the world by establishing schools, hospitals, universities, factories, and power through AKDN (Aga Khan Development Network). This was also a time when Ismailis were celebrating Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Golden Jubilee and hence I was proud that the book was published as a Golden Jubilee Edition, becoming a collector’s item.
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Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?
Ladha: The book is now a rare item, but readers may be able to acquire a new or used copy at Amazon.com as well as at affiliated Amazon stores around the world. I have very limited copies still available, and will be pleased to mail out signed copies at a special price (plus postage and packaging). Please write to me at email@example.com.
Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?
Ladha: Writing a book is an enormous project but publishing it is a mammoth undertaking. Most book publishers will not accept any submissions from an author unless the query and proposal come through a literary agent. It is very difficult to get a literary agent interested in your submission. There are authors whose submissions have been rejected by 20 literary agents, which is not considered to be unusual. I researched for publishers who would accept individual submissions and was fortunate to get Detselig Enterprises based in Calgary to publish A Portrait in Pluralism. The University of Regina Press published the second book Memoirs of a Muhindi.
Those authors who have not been successful to get their books published through a traditional publisher can resort to getting their books published by self-publishing companies, such as Amazon, Friesen etc. You do not have to pay anything if your book is published by traditional publishers and the author gets a portion of the revenue while one must pay the entire cost of publishing when self-publishing.
Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?
Ladha: Once a publishing company accepts your manuscript, it is contracted to provide all editorial services, including an editor and graphic designer. The editor would suggest some revisions/alterations and seek your approval until the final document is ready. The designer would suggest a couple of book covers for your approval. I was fortunate in that as a copy editor on daily newspapers, my job involved editing stories written by reporters. Hence, this background helped me to send a clean, edited submission to publishers.
Simerg: Which was your first book and how many have you written?
Ladha: My first book, Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims, is the subject of this interview. It was published in 2009. Then approximately ten years later I got my second work Memoirs of a Muhindi: Fleeing East Africa for the West published by University of Regina. I was also among a group of journalists and scholars invited to contribute a chapter in a book called “The Story that Brought Me Here” published by Brindle & Glass.
May I also note that I have just finished another non-fiction and a novel — my first novel — that I plan to publish sometime in 2022.
Simerg: How long did it take you to write Portrait of Pluralism — from start to finish and to begin marketing it?
Ladha: As a writer, one must be disciplined and follow a regular writing schedule. I try to write every day but take breaks in between to revitalize. You also must revise what you have written. There is no set time to finish the manuscript.
Marketing is another major problem for writers. Your traditional publisher will provide some help in sending the book to bookstores, arranging interviews with the media, and sending out review copies to newspapers, but the main responsibility of promoting the book lies with the author. I held book launches in various parts of the country at my expense, and I also ended up selling my own books. Often Ismaili stores in Calgary will keep my books for sale. Indeed, I have sold more books on my own than the publisher, who has a staff assigned to promote their publications.
Simerg: Would you like to offer further thoughts about your work?
Ladha: With regard to A Portrait in Pluralism, I was deeply touched to hear from Dr. David Zaborac of Iowa who sent me a personal note. He said:
“I have got a lot of reflections after reading A Portrait in Pluralism – Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims. I feel I was greatly educated by my reading. Muslims were an alien world, not just to me, but also to many people whom I shared your story with. It was inwardly comforting to discover that a religion I once felt was extremist, was not necessarily so. The humanism displayed by the Ismailis is astounding. The way the Ismailis meld theology and sociology is inspiring. Most comforting of all was how it dawned on me how similar the goals of the Ismailis and my branch of Christianity are…helping fellow man, creating a better world, involvement with community life, etc.”
Comments such as this should make all Ismailis very proud and I feel all the members of the Jamat can play their own individual part by articulating our ethics and values to Canadians and the world at large.
Date posted: June 8, 2022.
Mansoor Ladha has held senior editorial positions as a copy editor in Canada (Edmonton Journal & Calgary Herald), features editor (The Standard in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania), copy editor (Daily Nation, Nairobi, Kenya) and was the only owner/publisher of colour of a mainstream English newspaper in Canada for 25 years. Since retiring, he has been travelling around the world as a travel writer on assignments and has published travel features in leading Canadian newspapers and magazines. He has numerous awards to his credit including being a Citizen of the Year in the Town of Morinville, Alberta; Silver Quill Award by the Alberta Weekly Newspapers for distinguished service to newspapers as well as Canada’s Caring Canadian Award for “outstanding and selfless contribution to your community and Canada” by the Governor General of Canada. He has most recently completed another non-fiction book and a novel, both of which are scheduled to be published in 2022. Ladha was also contributor to Simerg’s highly acclaimed series I Wish I’d Been There with a remarkable piece His Name is Jawhar. He was among the first of the Ismaili journalists to have ever interviewed Mawlana Hazar Imam; please click to read Ismaili Journalist Mansoor Ladha’s Precious Moments with Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.
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Calling all Ismaili Authors
We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.
The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):
- “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
- “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
- “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021, and see also 15, below, by the same author)
- “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
- “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
- “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
- “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
- “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
- “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
- “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
- “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)
- “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021).
- “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (February 26, 2022)
- “Humanizing Medicine – Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim Jiwani (March 9, 2022)
- “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims” by Mansoor Ladha (June 8, 2022, and see also 3, above, by the same author)
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