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My journey at the Aga Khan Academy

Introduction

BY ZIYAAN VIRJI
(Current status: Student, Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, Kenya)

I wrote the poem, below, about my journey at the Mombasa Aga Khan Academy in commemoration of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee.

The Aga Khan Academies (AKA) are a system of schools being built up by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in nations across South and Central Asia, Africa and the Middle East. With an emphasis on the Approaches to Teaching and Learning (ATL) strategies and skills that permeate the International Baccalaureate (IB) teaching and learning environment, the Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, is the first to be propelled by Mawlana Hazar Imam’s vision that education provided at the academies should enable young people to develop the capacity to become future leaders of civil society.

Aga Khan Academy Photo-Mombasa-Premises-7lThe Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, Kenya, inaugurated in 2003. Photo: The Aga Khan Academies.

Two others academies are operating in Hyderabad, India, and Maputo, Mozambique. Eventually the network of Academies will form a global learning community of 14,000 boys and girls studying at 18 schools in 14 countries. Each year, approximately 1500 exceptional students will graduate from these academies. 

I have a hidden love for poetry, and it is my desire to use the literary medium to educate and enlighten readers around the world about my school, and how it has positively contributed towards my development as a person. The poem also reflects the skills my beloved 49th Imam wishes us to attain, and shows what an institution created by the Imam is like. As a young man, I hope that readers will support me in my passion for poetry. 

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My Journey

BY ZIYAAN VIRJI

Ziyaan Virji Flower 2s

Like a seed that would never grow into a plant,
I came

Although a fruitful seed,
never exploited to the correct necessities

No proper soil or water,
until came a point where they said I have no possibilities
But then light shone on me,
it was time to reclaim

With good teachers and facilitators,
soil and water was gradually provided
Through the affable people,
I adjusted

Facilities and opportunities wouldn’t be regarded
as a need anymore

 A seedling I grew as,
something they would adore

Aga Khan visits Academy Staff in Mombasa s

Like the detrimental pests,
came the emotional breakdowns too

But with the joyful environment created,
I would simply breakthrough

AKA strands, ATL skills,
Profiles and Attributes,

was the regular water
I would intake to be the best of me

Although I’m just a unique seedling
in this colossal garden,

away from my original roots,
but the pluralistic and diversity present in every recruit,
wouldn’t allow anyone to use family as a madden

Through the constant motivation and leadership opportunities,
I’ve grown

I’ve grown into a young plant
from a seed that once was equal to a stone

Through the good nurturing,
I’ve cultivated into a plant that stands up for himself

But that’s not where it ends

Ziyaan Virji Flower 1s

Although I’ve become a young plant
With many leaves and flowers,
I’ve to face the world,
The world that will step on me
And the world that will adore me
I will strive to become enormous one day,
and when I do

Just like my gardener taught me,
I will emanate back to where my roots really are
And ripen my garden into a huge forestry one day

Date posted: June 10, 2017.

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Ziyaan Virji, Aga Khan Academy, Mombasa, KenyaBorn and raised in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, 15 year old Ziyaan Aalkarim Virji currently studies at the Aga Khan Academy in Mombasa, Kenya. As a sportsman he plays many games and his favourite are badminton, cricket and soccer. His hobbies include drawing, composing sonnets and watching documentaries. He also likes dressing-up and taking pictures of himself, everyone around him and the environment.

His favourite subject is Mathematics and he is particularly interested in the actuarial profession. Ziyaan says that there is talent everywhere but that opportunities are not. He feels that through the good fortune that he has to study at an educational establishment like the Aga Khan Academy, he will be able to open doors for himself for his future well-being as well as have opportunities to serving society at large. 

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Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. You may choose to remain anonymous. Please note that we never show your email address when we publish your comment, and don’t share it with others without your express written permission.

For links to all the posts in this special project on His Highness the Aga Khan, please see the drop down menu bar at top of this page or click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah’s faceboook page http://www.facebook.com/1000fold.

The Aga Khan and the Nation Media

BY TAZMIN JAMAL

Summary: When we asked Nairobi’s Tazmin Jamal to write a short piece about the Nation Media, which was founded in the late 1950’s by His Highness the Aga Khan, she went the extra step to interview a key staff member at the newspaper’s head offices in Nairobi as well as approached numerous Nation readers to give their views on their favourite newspaper. We sincerely thank Tazmin for her great effort and enthusiasm. Her informative piece appears below under 3 sub-titles. — Ed.

“When I think back to the founding of the Nation, and when I reflect on how much has changed and how far we have come, I think especially about the hopes and dreams with which we launched this company. Our goal then was to create a news medium that belonged to the whole of the nation of Kenya — and that of course is why we chose our company name. That dream moved ahead in a big way when we took the company to the public shareholding market, so that today a majority of Nation shares are owned by the general public of Kenya” — His Highness the Aga Khan, March 17, 2016.

1. The Aga Khan and the Nation: A brief history

Aga Khan with Kibaki Daily Nation 50th anniversaryHis Highness the Aga Khan, Their Excellencies President Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, President Kagame of Rwanda and Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga touring an exhibition commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the Nation Media Group (NMG) with Editorial Director of NMG Joseph Odindo. AKDN/Gary Otte.

“A newspaper’s primary office is the gathering of news. At peril of its soul, it must see that the supply is not taunted. Comment is free but facts are sacred” — C. P. Scott, Editor, Manchester Guardian, 1926.

The Aga Khan’s foresight

Michael Curtis, at 34, was Fleet Street’s youngest editor when he took over Charles Dickens’ old chair at the News Chronicle in London, 1954. At a crucial time at the Chronicle, he was introduced to the newly enthroned 49th Ismaili Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, who asked Curtis to accompany him on his enthronement ceremonies in East Africa and South Asia as his publicity organiser.

Curtis later would recall in an interview:

“The Aga Khan was obviously interested in newspapers during that tour. I said to him: ‘Look, I better go, I don’t think this PR stuff is really my métier and I want to get back to journalism’.

“The Aga Khan then said, ‘Well, how about starting a newspaper in Kenya’?”

“I made it very clear that I could not be involved if he wanted a newspaper for the Ismaili community and he said immediately, ‘No, no, that’s the last thing I want. I want a completely independent paper’.”

“He wanted a newspaper to give a voice to Kenya’s nationalists, who were not being heard in the political debate.”

Daily Nation 1st issue
Seen above is an image of the Number 1 issue of The Nation, dated March 20, 1960. Price 50 cts. Initially the paper started off as a weekend Sunday paper. The daily weekday edition was introduced later in the year on October 3. Image: Mohib Ebrahim Archives, Vancouver.

With that began a long engagement between Michael Curtis and the Aga Khan spanning several decades. First, he was at the Nation Group for several years, and when he stepped down in 1977 at the culmination of the process of Africanising the Nation Group, Curtis had also pioneered the introduction of the first web-offset presses installed outside the United States. He also increased the Nation’s daily circulation to a healthy 165,000 with a readership reputed to touch three million. Curtis then moved to the Aga Khan’s Headquarters in Aiglemont, France, where he oversaw the Ismaili Imamat’s rapidly expanding non-denominational health and educational activities throughout South Asia and East Africa, until his retirement in 1994. He died from cancer in 2004 at the age 84.

Kenya’s population in 1959 was 6.4 million when the Nation group first got rolling on 28th April, 1959 with the acquisition for £10,000 of a tiny Kiswahili weekly Taifa (meaning ‘Nation’). Nairobi at that time was the prime city between South Africa and Egypt. 

A few months later, in June 1959, Michael Curtis would report:

“There is every prospect that the company will be earning a respectable profit within two, or at the most three years.  It was never in doubt that the Aga Khan wanted to extend his reach beyond the borders of Kenya.”

The Ismaili Imam had a vision to have an influence on the social health of Kenya and the under developing world. Taifa was swiftly curved into a daily, an English-language Sunday paper was inaugurated in March 1960 and the Daily Nation appeared in the stands in October 1960. By early 1961, the Sunday Nation was being distributed in British-ruled Aden, and the Aga Khan suggested majestically:

“At some future date, we might move south into Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland and west into Rwanda, Burundi and the ex-Belgian Congo. I hope EAN [East African Newspapers] will one day have its own company, flying newspapers over half the continent.”

Bringing of Journalism Education in Kenya

The Nation Day of JoyTop: Jomo Kenyatta signs the instruments of Independence; at left how the Nation carried the story of Kenya’s independence celebrations of Friday December 13, 1963. The paper cost 30 cents. Photo: 50 Golden Years, Nation Media Group Souvenir Issue, via AKDN.

In 1962 the Aga Khan asked the International Press Institute (IPI) to organise a three-month training course for African sub-editors. By June 1963, Nation journalists were attending IPI classes. The Switzerland-based IPI ran a training establishment in Nairobi and in Lagos. Specialist trainer Frank Barton managed the Nairobi centre, which became the School of Journalism at the University of Nairobi.  Barton reflected in an interview:

“I got to Kenya in 1963 and we trained a helluva lot of Nation people, four or five on every course. Our job was to put black faces behind desks. I remember Michael Curtis saying, ‘We want to get as many Africans in as early as possible, how long will that take?’

“I said, ‘You’re talking five-ten years if you start now’.”

Barton continued: “And they started right away.  There were very few black journalists at the time and you had to hand it to Michael, it must have been hell in the early days.”

By 1964, Curtis was able to state that the reporting staff had been more or less Africanised.

nation-staffStaff of the “Daily Nation” and “Taifa Leo” in a jovial mood as the Mayor of Mombasa (white cap) visits their Nairobi office in 1964. The Mayor is seen talking to Harry Sambo of Taifa, while Joe Rodrigues of the Nation watches from across. Bill Fairbairn is seen next to the Mayor looking straight ahead. Photo: Bill Fairbairn Archives, Ottawa.

president-jomo-kenyatta
The late Kenyan President, Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, addressing hundreds of thousands of supporters at a political rally in Kenya. The photo appeared in the “Daily Nation” around the 20th of October, 1965. The photo was shared with the editor of this blog by Nation reporter, Bill Fairbairn, who was present at the rally.  Photo: Bill Fairbairn Archives, Ottawa.

The Nation goes public

After investing more than £1 million in His Highness’s first project (at least £ 12 million at today’s rates), the group moved into profit in 1968.

By 1971, the newspaper company was bringing in revenue of £250,000 per annum.  Kenya’s 10th year of independence was one of its finest, with export earnings from agriculture up, foreign investment flooding in and a balance of payments surplus of £ 96 million.  In the month of the stock-market listing, the NPP (Nations Printers and Publishers Ltd.) Board was told that forecast profit –- before tax for March 1974 was £361,000 and the Aga Khan loans of £1.3 million had been squared in full.

The Aga Khan had always projected that the Group should go public, with more than 8,000, mostly Kenyan shareholders; once it accomplished financial security. In March 1973, it was decided that the Nation should go public in September. The Aga Khan availed 40% of his holding, 1.2 million shares at 5/= each, and this offer was more than twice over-subscribed among 3,200 different individuals and institutions. This reduced the Aga Khan shareholding to 60%, which was later lowered to 44.73% ownership. Another issue in 1988 was almost three times oversubscribed, reducing the Aga Khan’s shareholding to 45%, while 10,000 individual Kenyans bought a stake in their own newspapers. The Aga Khan became the principal rather than majority shareholder. Two stock offers made it a Kenyan majority-owned and managed company, with transparent, indigenous command and control. In 2003 the Aga Khan transferred His 23.9 million personal shares to the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development [AKFED], which worked to bring jobs and services to poor countries.  

Jomo Kenyatta final farewellOn 1st September, 1978, during the funeral of President Jomo Kenyatta, Nation readers were presented with a view of soldiers in bright red uniforms marching by the gun carriage that carried Kenyatta’s coffin, shielded by the green, red and black national flag. Overhead was the signal word ‘Farewell’. When the paper was opened out, the photograph doubled in scope and the complete headline read ‘The final farewell.’ The colour was rare through those days. Photo: 50 Golden Years, Nation Media Group Souvenir Issue, via AKDN.

The Aga Khan’s response to UNESCO’S new world information order

During the time of President Moi there were controversial proposals by UNESCO for a new world information order.  The developed nations strongly opposed a proposal to license journalists, arguing that this was a way towards government control while the developing countries protested against the imbalance in the flow of new and superficial, sensationalist and belittling reporting of their affairs. The Aga Khan suggested another option to the new order:

“Why not turn newspaper companies and news organisations between the developed world and developing world? These could provide mutually beneficial exchanges of managerial, technological and editorial experience and news?”

The Aga Khan himself encouraged long exchange visits with journalistic and management counterparts at the St. Petersburg Times in Florida; under a twinning planning initiated by him in 1981.

Simultaneously, the Aga Khan advised the Nation Group to explore the postgraduate level for more steady candidates. Over the years, the Nation broadened its training policies from in-house and School of Journalism courses to include postgraduate study at the University of Wales where many senior editors accomplished a one year MA course; attachments to universities in Europe and the U.S.A.

Over the years, journalistic standards improved immeasurably. This happened because the suggestion by the Aga Khan was widely welcomed by delegates. As the Aga Khan’s idea was spontaneously implemented by the Nation, a rapport was observed of numerous Nation managers cross the Atlantic in succeeding years.

The Nation and the digital age

Aga Khan speech recognizing long serving Nation Media staffHis Highness the Aga Khan speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Nation Media Group to recognise long serving staff, distributors and directors.
AKDN/Gary Otte.

The trend throughout the world since the advent of the worldwide web is producing and distributing newspapers on the Internet. Hard copy sales of newspapers have declined considerably. However the Daily Nation and its sister paper Sunday Nation had a market share of 53% in 2011, which increased to 74% in 2013 with their main competitor being The Standard, published by the Standard Group. The Nation is the most sold daily in Kenya, with a circulation of around 1,700,000 copies.

Its digital editions are accessible free of charge, and the site’s daily hit rate is more than three million. 

In March 2016, Nation Media Group commissioned a new state-of-the-art printing press in Nairobi. This facility has capacity to print 86,000 newspapers per hour.  Today, the Nation media includes the Daily Nation, the Saturday Nation, the Sunday Nation,  Business Daily Africa, the Swahili Taifa Leo, Daily Monitor in Uganda and The Citizen in Tanzania)

Conclusion

The Nations first editorial cartoon in 1960
The Nation’s first editorial cartoon in 1960. It reads: “He’s is a cute little fellow, but will he behave?” Photo: 50 Golden Years, Nation Media Group Souvenir Issue, via AKDN.

Over the years The Nation has enabled the voiceless to speak; it spoke out for the conscientious, fortified the toothless, accused the remorseful, and derided the larcenist.  Nation asked the obdurate questions, investigated, compelled, persevered, exhumed and caused distress to those who lacked integrity. Nation had to bare, over many years, severe authoritarianism and unrelenting aggression and to do so it needed resolute valour from the journalistic worth and an assiduous, risk taking idealism from the ownership. One of its prized mottos that used to hang on the newspaper wall was:

‘Aim for accuracy,
Check your facts
Then check again.’

The Nation Media Group was founded by the Aga Khan at the time of intense economic uncertainty in the crepuscular light, of empire; which has grown to be the largest publishing organisation in East and Central Africa.

Nation_CenterThe Nation Building with the red telecommunications tower stands on Nairobi’s Kimathi Street. Photo: By Arthurbuliva at English Wikipedia, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=21877253

If we reflect on the past sixty years, we can observe the targets the Aga Khan has met, innovative technology he has embraced and a courageous reaffirmation of the commitment to the truth in journalism.

Finally, we can celebrate that Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, with all his efforts, from the time he became the Imam has brought out the awareness, that, the democratic concept of Press independence is most desirable and by far the most effective method of national and international communication globally!

2. Readers on their favourite newspaper

Aga Khan Daily Nation new prnting press 2016-03-kenya-zr1_3343-04.jpg

His Highness the Aga Khan admires the first print copy of the Daily Nation off the new printing press with, from right to left: Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology, Mr. Joe Mucheru; Head of Production, Gideon Aswani; NMG Group CEO, Joe Muganda; the Governor of Machakos County, Dr. Alfred Mutua; and Chairman of NMG Board, Mr. Wilfred Kiboro. Photo: AKDN/Aly Ramji.

As I was preparing this brief piece about the Nation, I felt that I should find out what the Nation’s readers felt about the newspaper. The following are edited transcripts of my interviews with Kitui Mukhepi and Denis Simiyu, both day guards at an estate, Tony Kimani, a barber, and Michael Onsarigo, a mechanical engineer. All the interviews were conducted between noon and 7 pm on May 9, 2017 in Nairobi. The responses to my question as to why the Nation was their newspaper of preference were as follows:

Kitui Mukhep: I read Sunday Nation because I like the story of Mwalimu Andrew. He informs a lot about Western Kenya, which is my part of the world. Mwalimu talks about people, culture, problems of the teachers, etc.

The paper reflects news on ‘heated politics’ –- where a tremendous amount of information is described about politics, what is happening now; as we are in the midst of the elections. Nation Media is truthful in politics.

The world page is very comprehensive with the international news, and I even enjoy Nation’s articles on sports.

Denis Simiyu: I thoroughly enjoy reading the Daily Nation regularly. The writers know how to make the stories interesting. The format is excellent. The writers know how to attract the readers, as the story flows smoothly. It is fun reading these stories and one gets educated with the use of different vocabulary, which improves the proficiency of English. Nation informs us what is happening in the country and in our environment. I think that the Nation is the best newspaper among the others! It has brilliant colouring effects, which makes it appealing for the visual people. 

I enjoy reading articles written by Yusuf K. Dawood. He talks about real experiences of the patients and the operations which take place. He narrates the procedures carried out. This gives an enlightenment if one would have to go through a surgery. As he is writing about the topics, Mr. Dawood is also creating humour, which livens the scenario and makes it more alluring to the readers.

Tony Kimani: I enjoy reading the Daily Nation, because of the sports section. Over the weekend there is an article about agriculture, where there are fantastic tips on farming. These are my favourites. The agriculture aspect has influenced my life, as I use some of those methods at home, which Nation describes and I find it a very productive advice. 

I find Nation open-minded, transparent; even when it comes to politics. Nation Media has a positive impact on the Kenyans. It informs the people in all the sectors, it is very holistic and has very interesting articles.

The NTV has the same principles of being transparent. It even has cool cartoons for the Children. Another awesome feature about NTV is the channel on National Geography, which makes it very valuable in terms of information.

Michael Onsarigo: I read online as a preference. I like reading the articles on sports, the sport activities in England. The Nation elaborates the news to make it interesting.

In terms of politics of our country, the writer goes deeply and the journalists investigate intensely. 

I read the Nation online all the time, in the morning and after work. The Nation news is very broad, gives a lot of information and important information.

The discussion of politics is there every day on the front pages now, but before it was less on the front page.

I like reading about cars on weekly news.

The pieces on opinion are very enlightening, they broaden our minds on different perspectives.

There is health professionalism coverage from many places, it is a universal topic.

3. A corporate insight 

Aga Khan delivering speech at Nation 50th anniversaryHis Highness the Aga Khan delivering the Founder’s Address at the Pan Africa Media conference, celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Nation Media Group. AKDN/Gary Otte.

I also met Mr. Clifford Machoka, the Head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Department at the Nation Place in Nairobi, to get his insight into the newspaper. He began by handing me a copy of the book ‘Birth of a Nation’ which he said would answer all the questions I had. He also presented me with a Nation notepad as a gift. He admitted that because he had been at the Nation for only 1 year, he might not be the best person to answer all the questions, but here is his comprehensive response to my question on how he felt the Nation and its founder, the Aga Khan, had made an impact in Kenya: 

Mr. Clifford Machoka: Starting the Nation newspaper and the other annexed media has brought ‘voice to the voiceless.’ The Nation gave a claim for democracy, i.e. it allowed ‘Freedom of Speech’. Nation was at the forefront for the Multi-Party Democracy.

In 2010, Nation promulgated the constitution. Nation made people widely aware about the new constitution. Democratic values, social values and economic values were expanded through the Nation Media. Nation moved spontaneously without fear or favour. The reputation of Nation Media is ‘fearless’. The Nation Media has a mantra of a promise of TRUTH!

The Aga Khan’s vision is to have the media change the society for the better. Whenever the Aga Khan interacts with the Group, he always reminds the Group to give voice to the voiceless.

The Nation Media according to the Aga Khan’s aspiration is for Africa, for the Africans. The Aga Khan took public for the public owned shares for the Kenyans. He gave the Kenyans an opportunity to own shares. The Nation Media is the only media which has gone public.

His Highness the Aga Khan being greeted by Mr. Michael Curtis of the Nation Group. Photo: Azhar Chaudhry. Sultan Jessa Collection.His Highness the Aga Khan with Mr. Michael Curtis (1920 – 2004) of the Nation Media Group. Photo: Azhar Chaudhry. Sultan Jessa Collection.

As a young man of 24 years, the Nation Media was the Aga Khan’s first company, his first ‘baby’. The Nation Media expanded in Kenya and became a regional force in Eastern Africa.

The Nation Media is a company that takes a cause of which you can see the results because the company gained the credibility of saying the TRUTH.

Through the flaws, the Nation Media strived to ensure to be objective, fair, factual, transparent and at all particular points of time the journalists stick to the policies.

Throughout its interactions, the Media uses ‘critical thinking’. The sense of integrity at the Nation Media is noshy.

The Nation Media is the only media which has the Office of Public editor, it has the only independent Public Editor who takes care if there are any complaints from the public and the people who operate the Nation Media are not shy to accept that they have gone wrong.

Nation Media has boosted Kenya’s way of thinking, it has increased the public opinion of the Kenyans. It has contributed to knowledge, which has the power to push for democracy, constitution and the economy.

The Nation Media has a wider scope and increases the public knowledge. It aims to educate, it gives a form of information for the public, entertainment for social values and education; which in turn pushes the nation forward.

The Nation Media has a civic duty for various reasons. The Nation Media gave awareness to the people about their constitutional rights during the multi-party period and brought out the awareness about ‘what we are not’.

The mission of the Nation Media is to inform, entertain and educate; to promote literacy -– open to everything and all the benefits. The Nation Media is an Anchor Institute for Tusome Program, for the Early Grade Reading Activity, for between the classes of 1 -– 3 grades. More than 12 million books have been launched. The Anchor Institute has printed complimentary story books to give to all the public schools in Kenya. 

Being a signature initiative and having a focus, the Nation Media needs to take a frontline, promoting literacy in Kenya and move to East Africa.

The target of the company is to empower East Africa through literacy to the society.

Tazmin: Thank you so much Mr. Clifford, your answers have been ‘eye opener’.  You are so passionate and proud of your leadership and the institution.  I am very impressed with your sense of commitment and diligence, which reflects tremendous amount of zest! 

Date posted: May 5, 2017.

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Tazmin Jamal is a freelance writer. She is a qualified teacher by profession and has written articles in the past for education and health related issues.

Tazmin obtained her teaching qualification, a Bachelors of Philosophy in International Teacher Education, from Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya. She has taught at international schools in Nairobi, and has added qualification and experience in the fields of Multiple Intelligences, Very Able Children and the Early Childhood Development Program.

In the recent past, she has been awarded with a certificate from the Sustainable Developmental Goals Academy for Early Childhood Development.

She is passionately looking forward to writing more about His Highness the Aga Khan Hazar Imam in her future endeavours.

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Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. You may choose to remain anonymous. Please note that we never show your email address when we publish your comment, and don’t share it with others without your express written permission.

For links to all the posts in this special project on His Highness the Aga Khan, please see the drop down menu bar at top of this page or click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah’s faceboook page http://www.facebook.com/1000fold.

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References:

  1. Digital newspaper, http://epaper.nationmedia.com/;
  2. Press opening in 2016, http://www.ismaili.net/heritage/node/32138;
  3. Family Safari, H. H. The Aga Khan on Kenya Tour, Pictures – Azhar Chaudhry;
  4. Birth of a Nation, The Story of a Newspaper in Kenya, by Gerard Loughran; and
  5. Newsletter, Souvenir issue, Vol. 6, No. 4, December 1986.

Please also watch video entitled “A milestone in media technology: Opening of the Nation Media Group printing plant” by clicking https://youtu.be/A-2TI-334wU.

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The Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee: First song featuring Ismaili artists from around the world is released as tribute to their beloved 49th Imam

REPORT ADAPTED FROM THE ISMAILI

With 40 days until the inauguration of the Diamond Jubilee of Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, The Ismaili, the official website of the worldwide Ismaili community, has released a musical tribute composed by duo brothers Salim – Sulaiman Merchant and performed by Ismaili artists from around the world. The video can be watched on Youtube (see top).

The video rendition of the song “honours 60 years of Mawlana Hazar Imam’s glorious Imamat,” says Sulaiman Merchant, “and offers an expression of deep gratitude through the musical voices of Ismaili artists from all corners of the world.”

The first of many devotional songs that are expected to be released in the course of commemorating this milestone anniversary, the music video features dozens of Ismaili musicians and singers from Australia, Canada, India, Iran, Kenya, Pakistan, Tajikistan, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. They perform in a variety of settings, singing in different languages and playing a range of musical instruments.

“In making this video, we wanted to show the diversity of talent in the Jamat, and demonstrate the harmony and strength that comes from joining together,” says Salim Merchant. “And the beauty of that diversity can be seen and heard in the final production.”

For the Merchant brothers, the song is also part of their personal commitment to nurture a living tradition of devotional music that appeals to a new generation of Ismaili youth.

“When you think of Mawla’s Silver Jubilee and Golden Jubilee, it is impossible not to recall the loving lyrics and tunes of geets from Silver Melodies, Shaan-e-Karim and so many others that spring to mind, a lot of them also composed by our dad, Sadruddin Merchant,” says Sulaiman. “Music has always been part of how the Jamat celebrates its love and devotion for the Imam.”

Salim adds that “this tribute brings that tradition forward in a way that mirrors the reality of the Jamat of this Jubilee — an Ismaili community which is more global and more connected than ever before.”

“It is a precious tradition,” he says, “and it is our privilege to help carry it forward.”

Date posted: June 1, 2017.
Last updated: June 8, 2017 (Video Youtube link).

Recent pieces on the Aga Khan at Barakah:

  1. FILMS/VIDEOS: The Aga Khan and David Johnston inaugurate the Global Centre for Pluralism;
  2. NEWS: Great photos of a “GREAT DAY” at 330 Sussex: Aga Khan and Canada’s Governor General open Global Centre for Pluralism Photos by Jean-Marc Carisse
  3. NEWS: Aga Khan arrives in Canada to open Global Centre for Pluralism; and photos of opening ceremony setting;
  4. THEMES: The Aga Khan on pluralism in an interdependent world;
  5. ESSAY: Not all heroes wear capes – A Christian reflects on the Aga Khan by Andrew Kosorok; and
  6. SEE Table of Contents.

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Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. You may choose to remain anonymous. Please note that we never show your email address when we publish your comment, and don’t share it with others without your express written permission.

For links to all the posts in this special project on His Highness the Aga Khan, please see the drop down menu bar at top of this page or click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah’s faceboook page http://www.facebook.com/1000fold.

Slide Show: The Aga Khan and David Johnston inaugurate the Global Centre for Pluralism

Barakah is pleased to present a special slide show highlighting the inauguration of the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa, Canada, on Tuesday May 16, 2017.

 Date posted: May 26, 2017.

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For links to all the posts in this special project on His Highness the Aga Khan, please see the drop down menu bar at top of this page or click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah’s faceboook page http://www.facebook.com/1000fold.

Great photos of a “GREAT DAY” at 330 Sussex: Aga Khan and Canada’s Governor General open Global Centre for Pluralism

PHOTOGRAPHS BY JEAN-MARC CARISSE AND OTHERS;
TEXTUAL MATERIAL COMPILED BY ABDULMALIK MERCHANT.

Summary: The International Headquarters of the Global Centre for Pluralism (GCP) was officially opened on May 16, 2017 at a ceremony with His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, and His Highness the Aga Khan. In this special post, we present photos captured at the event by renowned Ottawa based Canadian photographer, Jean-Marc Carisse, as well as excerpts from the Aga Khan’s address.

Aga Khan, photo Jean-Marc Carisse 2017 0517_0510His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency, the Right Honourable David Johnston during the singing of the Canadian National anthem at the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Others in the photo are Princess Zahra Aga Khan and Prince Aly Muhammad Aga Khan in the first row, with Azim Nanji, a member of the Global Centre’s Board of Directors, in the second row immediately behind Prince Aly Muhammad. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

Music is regarded as the universal language of mankind, and two amazing music performances by Ottawa River Singers, a group of First Nations individuals living in Ottawa, and Orkidstra, an organization that empowers children from low-income families to build their potential through music, marvellously complemented His Highness the Aga Khan’s message that “what happens at 330 Sussex Drive in the years ahead will radiate out well beyond its walls, to the entire world.” The event at which the Aga Khan spoke was the official opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism on Tuesday May 16, 2017 in the presence of Canada’s Governor General, His Excellency, the Right Honourable David Johnston. The soul-stirring performances by the music groups drew long applauses in a ceremony that lasted just under 90 minutes.

The Algonquin drummers of Ottawa River Singers add their voices of welcome and the heartbeat of the drums. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.P5161339Global Centre Musical Performance.jpgChildren from the musical group Orkidstra performing just before the unveiling of  the plaque (see photos below) to officially open the Global Centre for Pluralism on May 16, 2017. Photo: Simerg/Barakah.Aga Khan, photo Jean-Marc Carisse 2017 0517_5340 webThe Aga Khan applauds the performance by the children’s musical group Orkidstra.  Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

His Highness the Aga Khan pictured during the opening of the Global Centre of Pluralism.The Aga Khan applauds the performance by the children’s musical group Orkidstra.  Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

In his opening remarks, John McNee, the Secretary General of GCP underlined that the Centre would serve as a positive voice in the global conversation about living with differences “at a time of rising populism and exclusion.”

Global Centre for Pluralism Opening PreparationsThe International Headquarters of the Global Centre for Pluralism at 330 Sussex Drive in Ottawa, shown above a day before its opening, will serve as a global hub for research, learning and dialogue about the values, policies, and practices that support respect for diversity both in Canada and globally. Photo: Simerg/Nurin Merchant.

The beautifully restored building is a designated National Historic Site of Canada. It was completed in 1906 and first served as the National Public Archives of Canada until 1967, and then as the Canadian War Museum over the next 38 years. It became vacant in 2005 and the Aga Khan with a $35 million investment has brought this landmark heritage building back to life.

The Aga Khan delivering his remarks at the official opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa, Canada, on May 16, 2017. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse.The Aga Khan making his remarks during the opening of the Global Centre of Pluralism on May 16, 2017, in Ottawa, Canada. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

The Aga Khan in his remarks said that the Centre had been from the start a true partnership — a breakthrough partnership — a genuine public-private partnership between him and the Government of Canada. He expressed his gratitude to all of those who made this partnership so effective. He added: “It was with Prime Minister Jean Chretien, that we first discussed the idea of founding a new pluralism centre, and it was Prime Minister Paul Martin who helped develop the plan. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government sealed the partnership and Minister Bev Oda then signed with me the establishing Agreement. Minister Mélanie Joly has also given strong support to the GCP. And Prime Minister Trudeau has articulated, with conviction and with passion, the need for pluralism in our world.”

Guests listen to the Aga Khan as he delivers his remarks at the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism on May 16, 2017. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

While the Aga Khan mentioned the progress that had been made with the opening of the Centre he also noted the concern about the growing challenges to its mission as nativist and nationalist threats to pluralism rise up in so many corners of the world. In responding to these challenges, he mentioned that the Global Centre for Pluralism has planned a variety of new initiatives. Among them are the new Global Pluralism Awards which will recognise pluralism in action around the world, as well as a distinguished series of new publications.

Minister of Canadian Heritage, the Honourable Mélanie Joly, making her remarks at the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism with the Governor General and the Aga Khan looking on. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

The Aga Khan’s brief speech was followed by a keynote address by the Right Honourable David Johnston, remarks by the Minister of Canadian Heritage, Honourable Mélanie Joly, representing the Canadian Government, and closing remarks by the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, who is one of the director’s on the board that governs the Global Centre for Pluralism.

Adrienne Clarkson closing remrks Global Centre for Pluralism in the presence of David Johnston and the Aga Khan. Photo: Malik Merchant.The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson giving remarks at the conclusion of the ceremony marking the official opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism on May 16, 2017, in Ottawa, Canada. Photo: Simerg/Barakah.

The full list of directors, with His Highness the Aga Khan as the Chair, are: Princesss Zahra Aga Khan (France), The Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson (Canada), Kofi Annan (Ghana), Iain T. Benson (Canada), Rudyard Griffiths (Canada), Huguette Labelle (Canada), Marwan Muasher (Jordan), Azim Nanji (Canada), Margaret Ogilvie (Canada), Khalil Shariff (Canada) and Eduardo Stein (Guatemela). 

Joining the Aga Khan for the opening ceremony were his daughter Princess Zahra and youngest son Prince Aly Muhammad.  

Excerpts from the Aga Khan’s speech, and more photos

A photo of the actual program distributed to guests and members of media who attended the opening ceremony of the Global Centre for Pluralism. 

“…the War Museum Building was designed well over a century ago by the great Canadian Architect, David Ewart. For its first half century, it was the home of the Dominion Archives, and then, for another half century, we knew it as the War Museum. For over one hundred years, all told, it was a place where the record of Canada’s proud and confident past was preserved and honoured. 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.” — Aga Khan, May 16, 2017.

Global Centre for Pluralism close-up photo from Gatineau's Jacques Cartier Park.A telephoto lens was used to take this close-up picture 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 the Canada’s capital city, Ottawa. Photo: Simerg/Nurin and Malik Merchant.

“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.” — Aga Khan, May 16, 2017.

A view of the Global Centre for Pluralism from Jacques Cartier Park in Gatineau, across the Ottawa River. Photo: Simerg/Nurin and Malik Merchant. 

“Water, after all, has been seen, down through the ages, as the great source of life. When scientists search the universe for signs of life, they begin by looking for water. Water restores and renews and refreshes. And opening ourselves and our lives to the water is to open ourselves and our lives to the future…Throughout the history of Canada, the Ottawa River has been a meeting place for diverse peoples, originally the First Nations, and then the British and the French, and more recently Canadians from many different backgrounds. It symbolizes the spirit of connection.” — Aga Khan, May 16, 2017.

Guests at the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

“Let me emphasize a point about the concept of pluralism that is sometimes misunderstood. Connection does not necessarily mean agreement. It does not mean that we want to eliminate our differences or erase our distinctions. Far from it. What it does mean is that we connect with one another in order to learn from one another, and to build our future together.

“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.

“From the start, this has been a vision that the Ismaili Imamat and the Government of Canada have deeply shared.” — Aga Khan, May 16, 2017.

His Highness the Aga Khan invites the Governor General  to deliver the keynote address at the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa on May 16, 2017. Photo: AKDN/The Ismaili. Copyright.

“As we look today both to the past and to the future, we do so with gratitude to all those who have shared in this journey, and who now share in our pursuit of new dreams. Among them is someone whom we welcome today not only as a distinguished Statesman, but also as one whose personal support has inspired us all.

It is a pleasure and an honour to present to you His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada. Thank you. ” — His Highness the Aga Khan.

Aga Khan, photo Jean-Marc Carisse 2017 0517_5319 web

His Excellency David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada, gives his keynote address on pluralism at the official opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism, as His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th Ismaili Imam, looks on. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

AgaKhan&GG,photoJean-MarcCarisse20170517_5293A close-up photo of His Highness as he listens to His Excellency David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada, giving his keynote address on pluralism at the official opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism on May 16, 2017. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.Former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, essayist and philosopher John Ralston Saul, and his wife, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, listen to a musical performance by children from the organization Orkidstra during the opening ceremony of the Global Centre for Pluralism on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Both Annan and Clarkson are on the Board of Directors of the Centre that is chaired by the Aga Khan. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

Aga Khan, photo Jean-Marc Carisse 2017 0517_0523 webHis 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. The performance preceded the unveiling of the plaque, below. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright. 

Unveiling of the Commemorative Plaque and Departure

Aga Khan, GG Johnston, Global Ctr For Pluralism, © Jean-Marc Carisse 2017 0516 _0564 webHis Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency David Johnston joke as they prepare to unveil the commemorative plaque of the official opening of the International Headquarters of the Global Centre for Pluralism. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

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. His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency David Johnston in a jovial mood 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.

The Aga Khan and David Johnston shake hands after they unveil the commemorative plaque to officially open the Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

_MV16044.jpgThe Aga Khan and David Johnston face the cameras after unveiling the plaque. Photo: AKDN/The Ismaili. Copyright.

The plaque. Photo: Simerg/Barakah.

English text (in 1st column) reads:

THE INTERNATIONAL HEADQUARTERS OF THE
GLOBAL CENTRE FOR PLURALISM
WAS INAUGURATED BY
HIS EXCELLENCY THE RIGHT HONOURABLE DAVID JOHNSTON
GOVERNOR GENERAL OF CANADA ON SIXTEENTH MAY 2017
IN THE PRESENCE OF
HIS HIGHNESS PRINCE KARIM AGA KHAN
FORTY-NINTH IMAM OF THE SHIA IMAMI ISMAILI MUSLIMS
AND CHAIRMAN OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS OF THE
GLOBAL CENTRE FOR PLURALISM
Aga Khan, photo Jean-Marc Carisse 2017 0517_5348 webHis 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. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

AgaKhan&GG,photoJean-MarcCarisse20170517_0585His Highness the Aga Khan and the Governor General, the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, leave the stage after the completion of the ceremonies marking the official opening of  Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa on May 16, 2017. Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse. Copyright.

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

Date posted: May 20, 2017.
Last updated: May 27, 2017 (more photos).

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Recent pieces on the Aga Khan at Barakah:

  1. NEWS: Aga Khan arrives in Canada to open Global Centre for Pluralism; and photos of opening ceremony setting
  2. THEMES: The Aga Khan on pluralism in an interdependent world;
  3. ESSAY: Not all heroes wear capes – A Christian reflects on the Aga Khan by Andrew Kosorok; and
  4. SEE Table of Contents.

_______________

Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. You may choose to remain anonymous. Please note that we never show your email address when we publish your comment, and don’t share it with others without your express written permission.

For links to all the posts in this special project on His Highness the Aga Khan, please see the drop down menu bar at top of this page or click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah’s faceboook page http://www.facebook.com/1000fold.

Photo May 15 2017 Global Centre for Pluralism Ready for Opening. Photo: Simerg/Barakah. Copyright.

Aga Khan arrives in Canada to open Global Centre for Pluralism; and photos of opening ceremony setting

BY NURIN AND ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

Summary: The post highlights the arrival of His Highness the Aga Khan to Ottawa for the opening of the Global Centre for Pluralism and, through a pictorial presentation, situates the Global Centre within the overall picture of Sussex Drive as well as offers glimpses of some buildings and monuments close to it.

Aga Khan arrives for opening of Global Centre for PluralismHis Highness the Aga Khan and Prince Aly Muhammad at the Global Centre for Pluralism, accompanied by Ismaili Council for Canada President Malik Talib and Farhad Mawani, Project Manager for the renovation of 330 Sussex Drive. Photo: The Ismaili/Moez Visram.

His Highness the Aga Khan, Mawlana Hazar Imam, arrived in Ottawa this afternoon, accompanied by his daughter Princess Zahra and youngest son Prince Aly Muhammad.  Soon after their arrival, they visited the Global Centre for Pluralism, and were given a tour of the building by John McNee, Secretary General of the Centre.

Tomorrow, May 16, 2017, His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Canada’s 28th Governor General of Canada who assumed office in 2010, will welcome distinguished guests to the official opening of the new permanent international headquarters of the Global Centre for Pluralism (GCP) located at 330 Sussex Drive in the nation’s capital. During the event, the Governor General will deliver an address on the importance of pluralism and the role the Centre and Canada can play as leaders in this globally significant issue.

His Highness the Aga Khan is greeted by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa, on October 7, 2010. Photo: John W. MacDonald, Ottawa.His Highness the Aga Khan is greeted by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa, on October 7, 2010. Photo: John W. MacDonald, Ottawa.

Global Centre for Pluralism Opening Preparations330 Sussex Drive: The permanent international headquarters of the Global Centre for Pluralism, all prepared and set for the opening on Tuesday, May 16, 2017, at 10:30 am. Simerg/Nurin and Malik Merchant.

Photo May 15 2017 Global Centre for Pluralism Ready for Opening. Photo: Simerg/Barakah. Copyright.330 Sussex Drive, another view: The permanent international headquarters of the Global Centre for Pluralism, all prepared and set for the opening on Tuesday, May 16, 2017, at 10:30 am. Photo: Simerg/Nurin and Malik Merchant.

A view of the Global Centre for Pluralism from the parking entrance driveway of the National Art Gallery. Photo: Simerg/Barakah. Copyright.Located immediately to the south of The Global Centre for Pluralism is Canada’s National Art Gallery. This shot was taken from the gallery’s parking driveway entrance. Photo: Simerg/Malik and Nurin Merchant.

IMG_3656The back part of the Global Centre for Pluralism building. Photo: Simerg/Nurin and Malik Merchant.

Founded in Ottawa by His Highness the Aga Khan in partnership with the Government of Canada, the Global Centre for Pluralism is an independent organization. Inspired by Canada’s experience as a diverse and inclusive country, the Centre was created to advance positive responses to the challenge of living peacefully and productively together in diverse societies.

Some buildings and monuments around the Global Centre for Pluralism

As long time residents of Ottawa – I was born and raised in Ottawa some 24 years ago; my dad, Malik, has lived in the city since the early 1980’s – we decided to offer our readers an interesting pictorial insight into what surrounds the newly restored Global Centre heritage building that is being officially inaugurated today by the Aga Khan and the Governor General. The building was formerly the Public Archives of Canada (1905-1967) and the Canadian War Museum (1967-2005).

This will be of interest to our world wide readers who don’t know much about Ottawa’s ceremonial street, where the Global Centre is situated at 330 Sussex Drive! For a general panaromic view of the historic building (last photo, below) and to put it into perspective with other important landmarks we crossed the bridge over the Ottawa River to Jacques Cartier Park in Gatineau, Quebec. The river separates the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec.

Ottawa Map Sussex DriveSussex Drive is denoted by the yellow line. Going East, you start at Rideau Street (blue line) where the 700 Sussex Condominium building is located. Between Rideau Street and #35 on the map, you pass the Connaught Building (550 Sussex) and the US Embassy (490 Sussex). The National Gallery of Art (380 Sussex) and the Basilica (385 Sussex) as well as Reconciliation Monument are located at or around #35. Then just a hundred metres east of #35 are located the Global Centre for Pluralism (330 Sussex), the Royal Canadian Mint (320 Sussex) and the Embassy of Kuwait (333 Sussex). The Saudi Embassy (201 Sussex) and the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building (199 Sussex) are at #36, with the Lester Pearson Building (125 Sussex) and the John G. Diefenbacker or the Old City Hall (111 Sussex) approximately 100-200 metres further east. At #37 you reach Rideau Falls Park (50 Sussex) and the French Embassy (42 Sussex). Finally, Sussex Drive winds down (or starts if you are travelling South!) at #38, the residences of the Prime Minister (24 Sussex) and the Governor General (1 Sussex) as well as the High Commission of South Africa (15 Sussex).  Map credit: The National Capital Commission (with minor edits by Nurin Merchant to represent Sussex Drive more clearly).

Immediately to the North of the Global Centre for Pluralism is Royal Canadian Mint. Photo: Simerg/Barakah. Copyright.Located immediately north to the Global Centre for Pluralism is the Royal Canadian Mint shown above. Photo: Simerg/Malik and Nurin Merchant.

The National Gallery of Canada, with the huge spider sculptor dominating the front side, just by Sussex drive. Photo: Simerg/Nurin and Malik Merchant. Copyright.Malik Merchant, Ottawa. CopyrightThe National Gallery of Canada, with the huge spider sculptor dominating the front side. The Gallery is just a few metres south of the Global Centre for Pluralism. Photo: Simerg/Nurin and Malik Merchant, Ottawa.

Children enjoy some free time during their visit to the National Art Gallery which is located just metres south to the Global Centre for Pluralism.School children from different backgrounds enjoy a break together during their visit to the National Art Gallery. Photo: Simerg/Nurin and Malik Merchant.

An unnamed sculpture with Major Hills Park behind it, and the Parliament of Canada in the distant, about a kilometre away. This picture was taken from the front of the National Art Gallery where the spider sculpture is exhibited. Photo: Simerg/Nurin and Malik Merchant.

Designated a National Historic Site of Canada in 1990, the Basilica is the oldest and largest church in Ottawa and the seat of the city’s Roman Catholic archbishop. It is less than 200 metres from the Global Centre for Pluralism. It is pictured from Major Hill’s Park where tulips are in abundance for the annual tulip festival. The Basilica’s twin spires and gilded Madonna  are easily identifiable from nearby Parliament Hill and the surrounding area. Governor General Georges Vanier and Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier both were given state funerals at the Cathedral.  Photo: Simerg/Nurin and Malik Merchant.

Statue of French explorer Samuel de Champlain at Nepean Point in Ottawa. The explorer is seen holding his famous astrolabe upsidedown. Nepean Point overlooks the Ottawa River, Parliament, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and other features of downtown Ottawa and Gatineau. It is located between the National Gallery of Canada and Alexandra Bridge The sculpture was made by Hamilton MacCarthy in 1915. Photo: Simerg/Nurin and Malik Merchant, Copyright.Statue of French explorer Samuel de Champlain at Nepean Point in Ottawa. The explorer is seen holding his famous astrolabe upsidedown. Nepean Point overlooks the Ottawa River, Parliament, the Canadian Museum of Civilization, and other features of downtown Ottawa and Gatineau. It is located between the National Gallery of Canada and Alexandra Bridge. The sculpture was made by Hamilton MacCarthy in 1915. Photo: Simerg/Nurin and Malik Merchant.

A monument celebrating Canada's contribution to peace and reconciliation, just 100 metres from the Global Centre for Pluralism. Photo: Simerg/BarakahA monument celebrating Canada’s contribution to peace and reconciliation, less than 200 metres away from the Global Centre for Pluralism. Photo: Simerg/Malik and Nurin Merchant.

The Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat. Photo: Simerg/Nurin and Malik MerchantAround 400 metres to the north of the Global Centre is the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat Building. It is one of the most popular buildings visited during the annual “Open House Weekend” when several landmark buildings in Ottawa are open to public at large. Photo: Simerg/Malik and Nurin Merchant.

Royal Canadian Mint, the Global Centre for Pluralism and twin spires of the Basilica seen from Jacques Cartie Park.Royal Canadian Mint, the Global Centre for Pluralism (centre, with flag) and twin spires of the Basilica seen from Jacques Cartier Park. Photo: Simerg/Malik and Nurin Merchant.

Panorama Delegation of Ismaili Imamat and Global Centre for Pluralism from Jacques Cartier ParkA panoramic view of the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat and the Global Centre for Pluralism from Jacques Cartier Park, Gatineau. Photo: Simerg/Nurin and Malik Merchant.

Panorama from Jacques Cartier Park in Gatineau, Quebec: (1) Royal Canadian Mint; (2) Global Centre for Pluralism; (3) Basilica; (4A and 4B) National Art Gallery; (5) USA Embassy (top mast only); (6) One Hundred Foot Line Sculpture; (7) Statue of French explorer Samuel de Champlain at Nepean Point; (8) Alexandra Bridge over Ottawa River connecting Ottawa (north side) to Gatineau; and Ottawa River. Photo: Simerg/Nurin and Malik Merchant. Please click to enlarge.

Date posted: May 15, 2017.
Last updated: May 21, 2017, 10:52 PM.  

__________________

Recent pieces on the Aga Khan:

  1. The Aga Khan on pluralism in an interdependent world
  2. ESSAY: Not all heroes wear capes – A Christian reflects on the Aga Khan by Andrew Kosorok
  3. 1936 -1957: The Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee – Glimpses from “an incomparable occasion” Introduced by Abdulmalik Merchant;
  4. Also see Table of Contents.

_______________

Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. You may choose to remain anonymous. Please note that we never show your email address when we publish your comment, and don’t share it with others without your express written permission.

For links to all the posts in this special project on His Highness the Aga Khan, please see the drop down menu bar at top of this page or click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah’s faceboook page http://www.facebook.com/1000fold.

The Aga Khan on pluralism in an interdependent world

EXCERPTS COMPILED AND SELECTED BY ZAHIDA RAHEMTULLA AND ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

…What we must seek and share is what I have called “a cosmopolitan ethic,” a readiness to accept the complexity of human society. It is an ethic which balances rights and duties. It is an ethic for all peoples.

His Highness the Aga Khan and Mr John Ralston Saul, prominent Canadian essayist and novelist during a conversation on the challenges of pluralism which followed the lecture. AKDN / Zahur RamjiFeaturing His Highness the Aga Khan, the 10th LaFontaine-Baldwin Symposium held October 15, 2010, was a huge success. The Aga Khan spoke about pluralism and diversity to a sold out audience at Koerner Hall in the Royal Conservatory’s Telus Centre for Performance and Learning in Toronto. John Ralston Saul, a  prominent Canadian essayist and novelist then took the stage and discussed citizenship and pluralism in Canada with the Aga Khan. Telus streamed the event and it was shown in 60 Ismaili community centres across the country; approximately 20,000 people watched the lecture online. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.

Excerpts from the Aga Khan’s lecture at 10th Annual LaFontaine-Baldwin Lecture, Institute for Canadian Citizenship, 15th October 2010:

Pluralism is a process and not a product. It is a mentality, a way of looking at a diverse and changing world. A pluralistic environment is a kaleidoscope that history shakes every day.

Responding to pluralism is an exercise in constant re-adaptation. Identities are not fixed in stone. What we imagine our communities to be must also evolve with the tides of history. As we think about pluralism, we should be open to the fact that there may be a variety of “best practices,” a “diversity of diversities,” and a “pluralism of pluralisms.”

In sum, what we must seek and share is what I have called “a cosmopolitan ethic,” a readiness to accept the complexity of human society. It is an ethic which balances rights and duties. It is an ethic for all peoples. It will not surprise you to have me say that such an ethic can grow with enormous power out of the spiritual dimensions of our lives. In acknowledging the immensity of the Divine, we will also come to acknowledge our human limitations, the incomplete nature of human understanding.

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Developing support for pluralism does not occur naturally in human society. It is a concept which must be nurtured every day, in every forum — in large and small government and private institutions; in civil society organisations working in the arts, culture, and public affairs, in the media; in the law, and in justice

His Highness the Aga Khan welcomed by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands at Prince Klaus Fund's Conference.His Highness the Aga Khan delivered a keynote speech to an international gathering of some 1800 people in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, on  September 9, 2002 at the conclusion of a conference on Culture and Development held to commemorate the sixth anniversary of the founding of the Prince Claus Fund. In the photo, His Highness the Aga Khan is being welcomed at the conference by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Photo: Prince Claus Fund.

Excerpts from the Aga Khan’s concluding address at the Prince Claus Fund Conference on Culture and Development, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 7th September 2002:

…The inability of human society to recognise pluralism as a fundamental value constitutes a real handicap for its development and a serious danger for our future. Since the end of the Cold War, a number of factors appear to have been common and significant ingredients, if not the primary cause, of many of the conflicts we have witnessed. Perhaps the most common of these ingredients has been the failure of those involved to recognise the fact that human society is essentially pluralist, and that peace and development require that we seek, by every means possible, to invest in and enhance, that pluralism. Those groups that seek to standardise, homogenise, or if you will allow me, to normatise all that and those around them must be actively resisted through countervailing activities.

Whether it be in Central Europe, the Great Lakes region in Africa, or in Afghanistan — to cite just one example from three different continents — one of the common denominators has been the attempt by communal groups, be they ethnic, religious, or tribal groups, to impose themselves on others. All such attempts are based on the principle of eradicating the cultural basis that provides group identity. Without cultural identity, social cohesion gradually dissolves and human groups lose their necessary point of reference to relate with each other, and with other groups.

A necessary condition for pluralism to succeed is that the general education of the populations involved must be sufficiently complete so that individual groups, defined by ethnicity, religion, language and the like, understand the potential consequences of actions that might impinge on others. This is, for example, one of the principal reasons why today there is so much uninformed speculation about conflict between the Muslim world and others…..

…..I would like to leave you with a final thought, and some questions and conclusions that flow from it. Developing support for pluralism does not occur naturally in human society. It is a concept which must be nurtured every day, in every forum — in large and small government and private institutions; in civil society organisations working in the arts, culture, and public affairs, in the media; in the law, and in justice — particularly in terms of social justice, such as health, social safety nets and education; and in economic justice, such as employment opportunities and access to financial services.

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I deeply believe that our collective conscience must accept that pluralism is no less important than human rights for ensuring peace, successful democracy and a better quality of life.

Their Excellencies Governor General Adrienne Clarkson and Mr. John Ralston Saul with His Highness the Aga Khan at Rideau Hall, Ottawa. AKDN/Zahur RamjiOn May 19, 2004, participated in the closing sessions of the 2004 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference held from May 19 to 21, 2004, in Ottawa-Gatineau. At 7: pm that evening, the Aga Khan delivered the closing keynote address to the delegates and guests at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now known as the Canadian Museum of History). He is pictured during with their Excellencies Adrienne Clarkson and Mr. John Ralston Saul at Rideau Hall, Ottawa. Photo: AKDN/Zahur Ramji.  

Excerpts from the Aga Khan’s keynote address at Canadian Leadership Conference: ‘Leadership and Diversity’, Gatineau, Canada, 19th May 2004.

Our long presence on the ground gives us an insight that confirms the UN’s detailed assessment in Latin America, which is that a democracy cannot function reasonably without two preconditions.

The first is a healthy, civil society. It is an essential bulwark that provides citizens with multiple channels through which to exercise effectively both their rights and duties of citizenship. Even at a very basic level, only a strong civil society can assure isolated rural populations, and the marginalised urban poor of a reasonable prospect of humane treatment, personal security, equity, the absence of discrimination, and access to opportunity.

The second precondition is pluralism. Pluralism means peoples of diverse backgrounds and interests, coming together in organisations of varying types and goals, for different kinds and forms of creative expression, which are valuable and deserving of support by government and society as a whole.

The rejection of pluralism is pervasive across the globe and plays a significant role in breeding destructive conflicts. Examples are scattered across the world’s map: in Asia, in the Middle East, in Africa, in Europe, in the Americas. No continent has been spared from the tragedies of death, of misery and of the persecution of minorities. Are such high-risk situations predictable? If the answer is, “Yes”, then what can be done about them, to pre-empt the risk that the rejection of pluralism will become the spark that sets human conflict aflame? Is the onus not on leadership, in all parts of the world, to build a knowledge base about such situations and consider strategies for preventing them? For, I deeply believe that our collective conscience must accept that pluralism is no less important than human rights for ensuring peace, successful democracy and a better quality of life.

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A pluralist, cosmopolitan society is a society which not only accepts difference, but actively seeks to understand it and to learn from it. In this perspective, diversity is not a burden to be endured, but an opportunity to be welcomed.

His Highness the Aga Khan spoke as part of the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture series, which provides for “the delivery of lectures by eminent and well-qualified persons for the promotion of tolerance, understanding and good will among nations, and the peace of the worldHis Highness the Aga Khan spoke at Harvard University as part of  the Samuel L. and Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture series, which provides for “the delivery of lectures by eminent and well-qualified persons for the promotion of tolerance, understanding and good will among nations, and the peace of the world”. Photo: AKDN/Farhez Rayani.

Excerpts from the Aga Khan’s Samuel L & Elizabeth Jodidi Lecture, Harvard University, Cambridge, USA, 12th November 2015.

For a very long time, as you know, the term most often used in describing the search for human understanding was the word “tolerance.” In fact, it was one of the words that was used in 1955 text to describe one of the objectives of this Jodidi Lecture. In recent years our vocabulary in discussing this subject has evolved. One word that we have come to use more often in this regard is the word “pluralism.” And the other is the word “cosmopolitan.”

You may know that our AKDN Network, a decade ago, cooperated with the Government of Canada to create a new Global Centre for Pluralism based in Ottawa, designed to study more closely the conditions under which pluralist societies can thrive.

A pluralist, cosmopolitan society is a society which not only accepts difference, but actively seeks to understand it and to learn from it. In this perspective, diversity is not a burden to be endured, but an opportunity to be welcomed.

A cosmopolitan society regards the distinctive threads of our particular identities as elements that bring beauty to the larger social fabric. A cosmopolitan ethic accepts our ultimate moral responsibility to the whole of humanity, rather than absolutising a presumably exceptional part. Perhaps it is a natural condition of an insecure human race to seek security in a sense of superiority. But in a world where cultures increasingly inter-penetrate one another, a more confident and a more generous outlook is needed. What this means, perhaps above all else, is a readiness to participate in a true dialogue with diversity, not only in our personal relationships, but in institutional and international relationships also. But that takes work, and it takes patience. Above all, it implies a readiness to listen. What is needed, as the former Governor General of Canada Adrienne Clarkson has said, and I quote, is a readiness “to listen to your neighbour, even when you may not particularly like him.” Is that message clear? You listen to people you don’t like!

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…Pluralism, in essence, is a deliberate set of choices that a society must make if it is to avoid costly conflict and harness the power of its diversity in solving human problems.

His Highness the Aga Khan signing the funding agreement for the Global Centre for Pluralism in the presence of The Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage. Looking on are Prime Minister Harper and Conservative Caucus Chair, Mr Rahim Jaffer. | AKDN / Gary OtteThe Global Centre for Pluralism to be opened on Tuesday May 16, 2017, by His Highness the Aga Khan and His Excellency David Johnston, the Governor General of Canada, is a major new international centre for research, education and exchange about the values, practices and policies that underpin pluralist societies. Drawing inspiration from the Canadian experience, the centre will function as a global repository and source for knowledge about fostering pluralistic values, policies, and practices. On October 25, 2009, the Aga Khan met on Parliament Hill with The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada, and The Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage, to sign a funding agreement for the Global Centre for Pluralism. He is seen signing the funding agreement in the presence of The Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of Canadian Heritage. Looking on are Prime Minister Harper and Conservative Caucus Chair, Mr Rahim Jaffer.  Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.

Excerpts from remarks made by the Aga Khan at the signing for the funding for the Global Centre for Pluralism, Ottawa, Canada, October 25, 2009.

In my own role as Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims over the past half century, I have come to appreciate the importance of pluralism in ever-expanding ways. The Ismaili community, after all, is itself a global family, spanning many geographies, cultures, languages and ethnicities — and sharing its life with people of many faiths. In addition, much of my work over this time has dealt with highly diverse societies in the developing world, often suffering from poverty, violence and despair. In such circumstances, a commitment to pluralism comes as no accident. For pluralism, in essence, is a deliberate set of choices that a society must make if it is to avoid costly conflict and harness the power of its diversity in solving human problems…..

……Comme les Canadiens le savent si bien, l’idéal du pluralisme n’est pas nouveau en ce monde. Il a des fondations honorables et anciennes, y compris des racines profondes dans la tradition islamique. Ce qui est sans précédent aujourd’hui, c’est une société mondialisée, intimement interconnectée et extraordinairement interdépendante.
[Translation: As Canadians know so well, the idea of pluralism is not a new one in this world. It has honourable and ancient foundations, including deep roots in Islamic tradition. What is new, today, is that society is globalised, intimately interconnected and extraordinarily interdependent.]

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By its very nature, civil society is pluralist because it seeks to speak for the multiple interests not represented by the state. I refer, for example, to organisations which ensure best practices such as legal societies and associations of accountants, doctors and engineers. The meritocracy they represent is the very foundation of pluralism. And meritocracy is one of the principles of democracy itself.

His Highness the Aga Khan delivers his address entitled, His Highness the Aga Khan delivers his address entitled, “Democratic Development, Pluralism and Civil Society”, at the Norwegian Nobel Institute to an audience of academics, diplomats, civil society leaders, and representatives from the Norwegian government and the private sector. Photo: AKDN/Gary Otte.

Excerpts from the Aga Khan’s Keynote Address to the Nobel Institute’s Seminar: ‘Democratic Development, Pluralism and Civil Society’, Oslo, Norway, 7th April 2005

The effective world of the future will be one of pluralism, a world that understands, appreciates and builds on diversity. The rejection of pluralism plays a significant role in breeding destructive conflicts, from which no continent has been spared in recent decades. But pluralist societies are not accidents of history. They are a product of enlightened education and continuous investment by governments and all of civil society in recognising and celebrating the diversity of the world’s peoples. What is being done to support this key value for society and for democracy in Asia and Africa, to preempt catastrophe, rather than simply respond to it?

The Aga Khan Development Network intends to help create some permanent institutional capacity to address this critical issue through a Global Centre for Pluralism. It will be based in Ottawa to draw from Canada’s successful record in constructing and sustaining pluralist civil society. The centre will work closely with governments and with academia and civil society around the world. The centre will seek to foster legislation and policy to strengthen developing countries’ capacity for enhancing pluralism in all spheres of modern life: including law, justice, the arts, the media, financial services, health and education. I believe leadership everywhere must continuously work to ensure that pluralism, and all its benefits, become top global priorities.

In this effort, civil society has a vital role.

By its very nature, civil society is pluralist because it seeks to speak for the multiple interests not represented by the state. I refer, for example, to organisations which ensure best practices such as legal societies and associations of accountants, doctors and engineers. The meritocracy they represent is the very foundation of pluralism. And meritocracy is one of the principles of democracy itself.

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A pluralistic attitude is not something with which people are born. An instinctive fear of what is different is perhaps a more common human trait. But such fear is a condition which can be transcended and that is why teaching about pluralism is such an important objective at every educational level.

His Highness the Aga Khan delivering his Convocation address at the University of Alberta in Edmonton on June 9, 2009. AKDN/Moez VisramHis Highness the Aga Khan received an Honorary Degree from the University of Alberta and also delivered a Convocation address at the University in Edmonton on June 9, 2009. AKDN/Moez Visram.

Excerpts from the Aga Khan’s address made at the University of Alberta Graduation Ceremony, Edmonton, Canada, 9th June 2009.

Pluralism means not only accepting, but embracing human difference. It sees the world’s variety as a blessing rather than a burden, regarding encounters with the “Other” as opportunities rather than as threats. Pluralism does not mean homogenisation — denying what is different to seek superficial accommodation. To the contrary, pluralism respects the role of individual identity in building a richer world.

Pluralism means reconciling what is unique in our individual traditions with a profound sense of what connects us to all of humankind.

The Holy Qur’an says:

O mankind! Be careful of your duty to your Lord Who created you from a single soul and from it created its mate and from them twain hath spread abroad a multitude of men and women.

What a unique and profound statement about the Oneness of humanity!

And yet, just recollect the number of situations where pluralism has failed, dramatically and detestably, in just the last ten years: in Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, Sri Lanka, in Kenya, Rwanda, Darfur and the Congo, in Iraq and in the Balkans and in Northern Ireland — and the list could go on. No continent has been spared.

A pluralistic attitude is not something with which people are born. An instinctive fear of what is different is perhaps a more common human trait. But such fear is a condition which can be transcended and that is why teaching about pluralism is such an important objective at every educational level.

In the final analysis, no nation, no race, no individual has a monopoly of intelligence or virtue. If we are to pursue the ideal of meritocracy in human endeavour, then its most perfect form will grow out of a respect for human pluralism, so that we can harness the very best contributions from whomever and wherever they may come.

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Pluralism is no longer simply an asset or a prerequisite for development, it is essential for the functioning of civil society. Indeed, it is vital to our existence.

the-aga-khan-by-james-macdonald-lHis Highness the Aga Khan. Photo: John MacDonald.

Excerpt from an article the Aga Khan contributed to Politique Internationale (English edition of special issue on Agence française de développement), number 134, winter 2011-2012. The piece appeared under the title “His Highness the Aga Khan: a life in the service of development.”

…the experience of the past 50 years in practically all the countries in which AKDN is operating has shown that — whether in times of peace or crisis — one of the recurrent societal characteristics is the difficulty which peoples of different backgrounds experience in living together. Individuals and families identify closely, of course, with the civil structures which they have inherited from birth, but they live invariably in situations which are not monolithic and they must therefore learn to accept, understand and value the pluralism of their societies, rather than seeing diversity as a liability, a threat, or an opportunity to be abused. Because this feature of human life has been so consistently prevalent over so many decades in so many countries, AKDN views this issue as a major societal problem, one that will need to be addressed successfully if the peoples of both industrialised and developing countries are to live together in peace.

Tolerance, openness and understanding towards other peoples’ cultures, values and faiths are now essential to the very survival of an interdependent world. Pluralism is no longer simply an asset or a prerequisite for development, it is essential for the functioning of civil society. Indeed, it is vital to our existence.

Date posted: May 14, 2017.

Other recent posts of interest:

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Zahida_Rahemtulla

Zahida Rahemtulla is a graduate of New York University (2015), where she studied Middle Eastern Studies, Literature, and Arabic. She completed her senior honours thesis on the modernisation and identity of the Ismaili community under Aga Khan III and IV. She currently works in the refugee and immigrant nonprofit sector with Pacific Immigrant Resources Society in Vancouver.

Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. You may choose to remain anonymous. Please note that we never show your email address when we publish your comment, and don’t share it with others without your express written permission.

 For links to all the posts in this special project on His Highness the Aga Khan, please see the drop down menu bar at top of this page or click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah’s faceboook page http://www.facebook.com/1000fold.

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References:

The most up-to-date internet resource for speeches of His Highness the Aga Khan is http://www.nanowisdoms.org.  Official Ismaili Imamat and community institutional websites that also contain speeches, but not as complete as those found at Nano, are http://www.akdn.org, http://www.iis.ac.uk and http://www.theismaili.org.

Not all heroes wear capes – A Christian reflects on the Aga Khan

BY ANDREW KOSOROK, UTAH
(Artist, educator, bridge-builder and inter-faith chaplain)

As Imam for the NizaRi Ismailis, his responsibility and sacred calling is to provide for the security of his people, guide them in interpretation of the Faith, and do everything possible to ensure for them a worthwhile quality of life. Although these facets of leadership can be applied exclusively to the welfare of the worldwide Ismaili community, the Aga Khan sees his responsibility in a more expansive way.  If good can be done for the sake of the Ismaili family, that good is also extended to the areas within which the Ismailis are found — and by extension, to the world.

The New Prince Karim Aga Khan Iv In Switzerland After The Death Of The Aga Khan Iii. Portrait du prince Karim AGA KHAN IV devant une photographie de son grand-père l'AGA KAHN III. (Photo by Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images)
Prince Karim Aga Khan pictured in Switzerland in front of a framed portrait of his grandfather whom he succeeded as the 49th hereditary Imam of the Ismaili Muslims on July 11, 1957 at the age of  19 while he was still at Harvard University. Photo: Philippe Le Tellier/Paris Match via Getty Images. Copyright.

Years ago, if I had been asked about the Aga Khan I would have immediately thought he was one of the plausible, vaguely threatening characters in a Bond film — perhaps from “The Living Daylights” or “From Russia with Love”. Honestly, the possibility he was a real person was not even on my radar.

Then 9/11 happened.

Over 3,000 people lost their lives and as a frightened public we were told precisely where to lay the blame. It was terrifying to learn that a full quarter of the world’s population was dedicated, in their religious fervor, to the utter destruction of myself and everyone around me.

Muslims became the new boogeymen.

And this despite the fact that many Muslims had also been victims of the terrorist attacks, including an unborn child!

Thankfully, the wisdom of my parents kicked in and I realized how horribly wrong it is to blame the actions of two dozen men on an entire religious tradition.

Education overcomes fear, so I began to learn about Islam.

I read the Qur’an and the hadith, I connected with local Muslim leaders and families, and I emailed every Muslim leader and scholar I could — asking questions and trying to find out what these people actually believed.

Islam, just like my own Christianity, is a faith seated firmly in Biblical tradition — the Qur’an was recited to the Prophet Muhammad by the same angel Gabriel who announced the conception of Jesus to Mary. Christians and Muslims are both monotheistic, both value a personal relationship with our Creator (in his last prayer, Jesus called to “Eloi”, the Aramaic pronunciation of Allah — we even pray to the same God), and like Christianity, Islam is expressed in a vast, multi-hued rainbow of spiritual traditions.

One of the first of my international correspondents to write back to me and share his faith with me was an Ismaili gentleman. From him I learned that the Aga Khan was not a James Bond character at all but a real man. An incredibly decent, thoughtful, and generous man. Although my studies should have prepared me for this, learning about Ismailis and the Aga Khan was a significant shock.

My own Christian tradition is one which arose from the American religious revival beginning shortly after the chaos of the Revolutionary War. As a member of a minority faith within the umbrella of a larger religious and political structure, I could identify with much of what I learned about Ismailis. There are about as many Ismailis around the world as members of my own faith tradition — perhaps 15 million — and they have received an unseemly amount of persecution and forced relocation, also shared in the history of my own faith. Surviving hardships like these lead to a number of mindsets common among the survivors.

A strong identity is formed with the group which is expressed as a tight, although greatly extended, familial bond. Members realize they may be the only sample of their faith with whom others will ever interact, so they make a conscious effort to set good examples and try to properly represent their beliefs. As a minority group, members are very conscious of their own faith’s guidance on coexisting with others as well as respecting, celebrating, and learning from differences. And members of the minority faith rally around and support a strong, capable leader who emphasizes and encourages these traits, and — in the very best of cases — a leader who brings to the world the very best the faith has to offer.

This man, the strong and capable leader who is a beacon to all the world for the very best Ismailis have to offer, is the Aga Khan or “Commander of the Faithful”.

agakhan_portrait_pixel_sampleThe closer you come, the more you will see him” is the title of this remarkable digital snapshot by Toronto’s Akbar Kanji that portrays the Aga Khan’s life and dedications through thumbnails. View the pixel strip further from the screen to see the facial features and move closer to the screen to see more of his dedications. The full facial portrait is made up of 1500 ‘digital mosaic’ pieces. Copyright. Akbar Kanji. Toronto.

Many prophets of the Bible recorded their prophetic lineage, just as Matthew and Luke in the New Testament stressed Jesus’s ancestry.  In similar vein, although only the fourth Aga Khan (the title was bestowed within the last couple hundred years), Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan, is the 49th Imam directly descended from the Prophet Muhammad.

He is a rarity among royalty, a Royal without a country — although each of his followers throughout the world would gladly make him welcome in their own home. He is also one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet which becomes something of another irony — he views himself as a caretaker of his family’s funds, redistributing almost everything back into Ismaili communities around the globe.

As a typical Westerner, when I began learning about this odd contradiction of a world leader I immediately began looking for ulterior motives. This is ridiculous, I thought, where are the scandals, the paparazzi revelations of unscrupulous behavior, the dirty back room deals, the absurd examples of self-indulgent excess?

The Aga Khan is odd indeed.

He is what he is. A world leader who takes his job, his heritage, his responsibility incredibly seriously.

His grandfather, the 48th Imam, groomed Prince Karim from early childhood to be his successor. Every action the young man took growing up seemed to be taken in light of this awareness of great responsibility. An Olympic athlete, he never smoked or drank; while his friends carried on and had fun at school he studied; when his friends were playing he worked. This drive expressed so firmly in his early years has borne serious fruit — at eighty years old this kind, thoughtful powerhouse of a man is still going strong.

Upon his grandfather’s passing, in 1957 the mantle of leadership skipped a generation and Prince Karim became the Aga Khan. His father, although passed over in the succession, traveled extensively and encouraged every Ismaili to support his son’s leadership. Friends noticed a remarkable transformation — overnight the serious student and athlete became a world leader, and felt the burden of his calling.

As Imam for the Nizari Ismailis, his responsibility and sacred calling is to provide for the security of his people, guide them in interpretation of the Faith, and do everything possible to ensure for them a worthwhile quality of life. Although these facets of leadership can be applied exclusively to the welfare of the worldwide Ismaili community, the Aga Khan sees his responsibility in a more expansive way.  If good can be done for the sake of the Ismaili family, that good is also extended to the areas within which the Ismailis are found — and by extension, to the world.

So the Aga Khan uses his resources and status to increase education and literacy; to revitalize entire communities; to rebuild historically significant Islamic structures and landmarks; and to encourage builders and thought-leaders in applying Islamic principles to the betterment of our global community.

The desperate poor receiving hope are not just Ismaili poor.

The neighborhoods rescued, the people educated, the monuments restored and history reclaimed are not just for Ismailis, but for all the world.

With all this, how can he possibly resist tooting his own horn?

Speaking with the Today Show in 2010, he shared a very telling observation: “I’ve always taken the attitude that the work should speak rather than the individual.” This strikes me because it so closely mirrors a statement from another of my personal heroes: “For the tree is known by his fruit.” (Matt 12:33).

The Aga Khan is welcomed by throngs of thousands, walks on red carpets, is accompanied by military honor guards, and has received awards, commendations, knighthoods, and honorary degrees from dozens of countries around the world. Yet he loathes discussing his personal accomplishments, and would rather turn the conversation to focus on what people can do to give hope for the future, build stronger families and communities, and draw closer together as a human family.

Al Azhar Park 1992 through to its inuaguration in 2005
In the 1980’s the Aga Khan turned his attention to a site in Cairo, where garbage had been dumped for more than 500 years and was nearly 25 feet deep. After more than 15 years of work masterminded by his Trust for Culture, his vision has transformed the derelict site into a sequence of formal gardens filled with groves of fruit and flowering trees, fountains and an artificial lake studded with a modern lakeside café and a central allee of royal palms lines a path that has views of Islamic Cairo’s minarets and domes. Atop the dump site sit three new sunken reservoirs that provide invisible succor and a children’s playground and other special features. Shown in the image are: the 1992 park site, Al Darassa municipal dump (top left);  on going work in shaping the Al-Azhar Park site in 1999 (top right); and the completed Al-Azhar Park which was inauguarted in 2005. Photos: Aga Khan Trust for Culture via Archnet. 

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.

In a media sea where all Muslims are labeled either as terrorists or terrorists-to-be, the Aga Khan and the Ismailis stand out profoundly. The Ismailis and the Aga Khan have been described by the media as representing “moderate Islam”. From my perspective, the media label “moderate” actually applies to the vast majority of Muslims around the world, but that editorial aside is a topic for an entirely different conversation.

The fact is, terror groups are terrified of Ismailis, the Aga Khan, and all they represent. In a world where girls are educated alongside boys, people use their education to build better lives for themselves and their neighbors, and the hopelessness of extreme poverty is realistically transforming into a memory, terror groups lose their strength and support.

Edmund Burke famously taught that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing; the fact so much good is done by the Aga Khan and the millions of people he inspires is a horrifying prospect for those whose lives and livelihoods depend on the victimization and destruction of others.

What is the vehicle by which all this good is done, under the direction and encouragement of Prince Shah Karim Al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan IV?

In addition to his guidance and encouragement through a number of media channels and networks, there is the happy monolith of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN). This is an interrelated grouping of regional and international organizations, coordinated in their efforts to build a brighter future for mankind all around the globe.  With an estimated annual budget of about $925 million, the AKDN is able to do a remarkable, astounding amount of good. This impressive amount of funding comes from the Aga Khan’s personal fortune and tithes of the faithful from all walks of life around the world as well as financial resources provided by several Western countries.

Darb al-Ahmar CairoAdjoining the Al Azhar Park, was one of Cairo’s poorest neighbourhoods, Darb al Ahmar. Some 200,000 inhabitants had been living there for centuries amid the ruins of Cairo’s oldest buildings. The project quickly became a great archaeological adventure, uncovering and restoring ancient walls and gates, six historic mosques, and dozens of houses and palaces. Local residents were trained in restoration skills and some 200 are now permanently employed at the site. Photo: Aga Khan Trust for Culture.

Working primarily in the most desperately poor areas of Asia and Africa, the development agencies and institutions support efforts to revitalize neighborhoods struggling to survive, encourage conservation and respect for our environment, promote civil discourse and pluralism, and in general, improve the quality of life for every living thing on the planet.  Although the Aga Khan is the Head Honcho (not his official title) of this network of do-gooding organizations, he has help from 80,000 employees in thirty countries, and a potential pool of 15 million Ismaili volunteers — a countless army of hands anxiously waiting for excuses to make the world a better place.

He does not view this as “philanthropy”, but as a completely natural extension of the spiritual principles of Islam; in interviews and comments the Aga Khan even implies his confidence that other faith groups would happily follow suit, given the opportunity.

This is the thing that I admire about the Aga Khan and, to be honest, the thing which I found just a bit unnerving. Like his rare contemporaries on the world stage after the order of Mahandis Gandhi and Mother Theresa, the Aga Khan personifies the very best qualities which make us human — and assumes that, if given the chance, each of us would do the same.

This encouragement inspires me to want to live up to his assumption.

The Prophet said, “Charity does not decrease wealth, no one forgives another except that Allah increases his honor, and no one humbles himself for the sake of Allah except that Allah raises his status.”

If I sound like a fanboy, that’s because I am.

We are constantly bombarded with media “heroes” — people of dubious character whose claims to fame revolve around soundbites and sensationalism. A hero should be someone who saves the day, makes the world a brighter place, helps to build a better and more hopeful future for everyone with whom he or she comes in contact — with or without a cape.

The Aga Khan does all this, and inspires millions around the world to do the same.  And as Christian, I’m glad to have him as a hero.

Copyright: Andrew Kosorok/Simerg. 2017.

Date posted: May 9, 2017.
Last updated: May 10, 2017 (typos).

Other recent posts of interest:

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Andrew KosorokAndrew Kosorok is an artist, educator, and bridge-builder. A professional stained glass window-maker, stained glass sculptor, and university instructor, he is also an interfaith chaplain and a writer. Andrew examines the Christian/Muslim interface looking for opportunities to use art and the creative process to strengthen friendships, encourage exploration, and build community.  He writes: “Art is the language which communicates outside of words — it allows us to embrace our similarities and celebrate those wonderful elements which make each of us unique.  At the heart of every faith tradition is the knowledge we are all intentionally made different by a wisely governing Creator; understanding these differences is a fundamental part of building a wonderful future for humanity.” Andrew is the author of two forthcoming books Faith, Alchemy, and Stained Glass: Four Lessons for Grownups and Windows in the Cities of Heaven: An Artist’s Guide to World Peace.

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Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. You may choose to remain anonymous. Please note that we never show your email address when we publish your comment, and don’t share it with others without your express written permission.

 For links to all the posts in this special project on His Highness the Aga Khan, please see the drop down menu bar at top of this page or click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah’s faceboook page http://www.facebook.com/1000fold.

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References:

The caption for the Al-Azhar Park photos was compiled and adapted from http://www.archnet.org and Zahid Sardar’s piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, “Garden City once again…” Please click:
http://www.sfchronicle.com/homeandgarden/article/Cairo-to-be-Garden-City-once-again-The-building-2724046.php.

The Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee: Glimpses from “an incomparable occasion”

Introduction

Let us through this short post relive the 48th Imam’s “incomparable” Diamond Jubilee, and make a commitment to ensure that each one of us today — from the very youngest to the oldest — is present and united behind the 49th Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to make his Diamond Jubilee the happiest event in his life.

September 1, 1885: The 7-year-old Aga Khan III at his enthronement ceremony as 48th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Ismaili Muslims in Bombay. He is surrounded by community elders. Photo: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images, CopyrightSeptember 1, 1885: The 7-year-old Aga Khan III at his enthronement ceremony as 48th Imam of the Shia Ismaili Ismaili Muslims in Bombay. He is surrounded by community elders. Photo: Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images, Copyright.

INTRODUCED BY ABDULMALIK J. MERCHANT
(publisher/editor barakah, simerg and simergphotos)

This website is dedicated to the current 49th Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, Mawlana Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan. He was entrusted with the sacred hereditary authority of Imamat on July 11, 1957 by his predecessor, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, whose 72 year reign that began in 1885, when he was 7 years old, included the celebration of three glorious jubilees — golden, diamond and platinum — to mark the completion of his 50, 60 and 70 years of Imamat. 

As we are now about to commence the Diamond Jubilee year of the current Imam, we felt it appropriate to bring you glimpses from the last “Ismaili” Diamond Jubilee celebrated some 71 years ago! The combined reign of the 48th and 49th Imams is 132 years. Can one imagine that there are still thousands of Ismailis who were present for the last Diamond Jubilee as very young children, teenagers or youth in their 20’s or perhaps even 30’s and are still alive! This year, those who are fortunate to be alive, will take part in the (second) Diamond Jubilee of successive Imams!

The late Imam had described his Diamond Jubilee as an incomparable occasion. 

Let us through this short post relive the 48th Imam’s “incomparable” Diamond Jubilee, and make a commitment to ensure that each one of us today — from the very youngest to the oldest — is present and united behind the 49th Imam, Mawlana Shah Karim Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, to make his Diamond Jubilee the happiest event in his life.

Aga Khan III Jubilee Dates

The jubilees of the late Aga Khan were often described in fantastic terms by the media around the world for their pomp and the precious metals — gold, diamond and platinum — that were used to weigh him. The were equated with the golden jubilees of other potentates in India, who were weighed in gold, as was customary.

The Ismailis, however, saw these celebrations as a symbolic affirmation of the spiritual ties that linked them with their beloved Imam. The Imam had guided them in spiritual and temporal matters for decades and had been responsible for their material and spiritual advancement, keeping them on the course of the straight path (siratal mustaqim). While the first half of the 20th century resulted in significant development for the Ismaili community under the leadership of the 48th Imam, the greatest impact resulted from the proceeds that the Imam gave back to the community from the three Jubilee events weighing him in gold, diamond and platinum.

Troubled world conditions delayed the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee in Bombay and Dar es Salaam

The Memoirs of Aga Khan in seven languages. A gujarati translation was also published.
The Memoirs of Aga Khan in 7 languages. A gujarati translation was also published.

Recalling his own Diamond Jubilee, the late Aga Khan wrote in his Memoirs in 1954:

“The sixtieth anniversary of my inheriting my Imamat and ascending the “Gadi” [throne] fell in 1945. But in the troubled conditions at the end of the Second World War it was neither possible nor suitable to arrange any elaborate celebrations of my Diamond Jubilee. We decided to have two ceremonies: one, including the weighing against Diamonds, in Bombay in March 1946, and another five months later, in Dar es Salaam, using the same diamonds.

“When the time came, world conditions were only just beginning to improve…my followers gathered for a wonderful, and to me at least, quite an unforgettable occasion. There were Ismailis present from all over the Near and Middle East, from Central Asia and China; from Syria and Egypt; and from Burma and Malaya, as well as thousands of my Indian followers. Telegrams and letters of congratulation showered in on me from all over the Islamic world, from the heads of all the independent Muslim nations, and from the viceroy; I was proud and happy man to be thus reunited with those for whom across the years my affection and my responsibility have been so deep and so constant.”

The Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee vision of goodwill and expansion

With the Diamond Jubilee dawns a new era, full of hopes and opportunities for economics, educational, social and religious uplift of my beloved spiritual children all over the world. It is a time to go ahead and leave a mark on the world history like the glorious Ismailis of the past – The Aga Khan

The Aga Khan in full regaliaHis Highness the Aga Khan (November 2, 1877 – July 11, 1957), pictured in full regalia, became 48th Imam of the Ismaili Muslims in August 1885 at the age of 7. His reign lasted a total of 72 years during which he celebrated three jubilees marking 50, 60 and 70 years of his reign. He was the longest serving Imam in Ismaili history. He entrusted his throne to his grandson, Prince Karim Aga Khan, who at the age of 80 is the oldest serving Imam in Ismaili history. Photo: Golden Jubilee Souvenir, Fidai magazine.

In a special message to the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir the Aga Khan said: 

“The Ismailia history has passed through several stages of development. My Diamond Jubilee marks such a stage in the present times. With it a phase of consolidation and co-operation has been achieved among my spiritual children in various countries, and now lies ahead a period of goodwill and expansion. With the Diamond Jubilee dawns a new era, full of hopes and opportunities for economics, educational, social and religious uplift of my beloved spiritual children all over the world. It is a time to go ahead and leave a mark on the world history like the glorious Ismailis of the past. Let the Diamond Jubilee message for my spiritual children be that of doing their best and devoting their best in the best cause of their beloved faith.”

Artistic and literary expressions for the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee

Through these sixty historic years of his rule His Highness has had a career of the utmost devotion and untiring service to the cause of human welfare. The Ismailis owe their all to his profound wisdom and  most enlightened leadership…Even though diamonds are the most precious and the most valuable of all minerals, their value is of insignificance compared to the value of the boundless affection and loyalty which the Ismailia community has for him.

Aga Khan III Diamond Jubilee Medal obverse & reverseObverse and reverse views of the medal produced to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of the Aga Khan. Photo: Nizar Noorali Collection, Pakistan.

Obverse of a medal commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Aga Khan III. Photo: Nizar Noorali Collection, PakistanA close-up of  the obverse of the medal commemorating the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee. Photo: Nizar Noorali Collection, Pakistan.

An intriguing poster created in the 1940's by Major Lakhpaty. Poster from the Abdulmalik Thawer Collection. Photo Scan by: Guy Martin Studio, Ottawa.An intriguing poster created in the 1940’s by Major Lakhpaty to commemorate the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee. Poster credit: Abdulmalik Thawer Collection. Photo: Scanned by Guy Martin Studio, Ottawa.

Daimond Jubilee SouvenirCover of  the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir published by the Ismailia Association of Africa in 1946. See genealogical chart from the magazine, below.

The All-Africa Celebrations of the Diamond Jubilee of the 48th Ismaili Imam, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III took place in Dar-es-Salaam on August 10, 1946. The Ismailia Association of Africa published a special souvenir issue (partial cover page is shown above) with the following forward:
A page from the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir published by the Ismailia Association of Africa in 1946. See genealogical chart from the magazine, below.

Excerpts from the Diamond Jubilee Souvenir:

“In this eighth month of the year 1946 we are witnessing an even which is as historic as it is unique. In this year, His Highness the Rt. Hon Sir Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan, P.C., G.C.V.O., G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E., LL.D., etc., is being weighed against diamonds for the second time. The Aga Khan ascended the Holy Throne of Imamate in the year 1885 at the tender age of seven years. In the year 1945 he completed sixty glorious years of his Imamate. The Ismailis of India weighed His Highness against diamonds during March of this year. Now the Ismailis of Africa are paying their homage to their spiritual father by weighing him against diamonds for the second time. Through these sixty historic years of his rule His Highness has had a career of the utmost devotion and untiring service to the cause of human welfare. The Ismailis owe their all to his profound wisdom and  most enlightened leadership.

“Even though diamonds are the most precious and the most valuable of all minerals, their value is of insignificance compared to the value of the boundless affection and loyalty which the Ismailia community has for him.

To mark the Diamond Jubilee or sixty years of Imamat of Prince Karim’s predecessor, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, a genealogical chart of the forty-eight Ismaili Imams was published in a special 1946 souvenir issue. The genealogy represents and defines the principle of direct hereditary descent of the Ismaili Imam from the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.), starting with Hazrat Ali (a.s.), the first Shia Imam.To mark the Diamond Jubilee or sixty years of Imamat of the Aga Khan, the genealogical chart shown above was published in a special 1946 souvenir magazine published by the Ismailia Association for Africa. The chart represents the principle of direct hereditary descent of  forty-eight Ismaili Imams from the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.s.), starting with Hazrat Ali (a.s.), the first Imam, to the Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 48th Imam. 

Examining the diamonds before the weighing 

Aga Khan III examining the diamonds that would be used to weigh him in both Bombay and Dar es Salaam. Photo: Ilm, London.
At his residence in Bombay, Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah examines some of the diamonds before the day of the Diamond Jubilee Ceremony at Bombay’s Brabourne Stadium.

10th March, 1946: The Jubilee in Bombay

The Aga Khan received the gift and returned it to the Ismailis, adding his blessing and his advice that the large sum of money should be used for their betterment.

10 March 1946: 48th Imam of the Ismailis, His Highness the Aga Khan III, accompanied by smiling Ismaili leaders, walks by a cheerful and happy group of volunteers at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations held in Mumbai's Brabourne Stadium. The diamonds that he was weighed against were worth 640,000 British pounds and the money was returned by the Imam for the community's social uplifment programs. Photo Credit: Karim Jassani Collection, Ottawa. Mr. Jassani's late father, Itmadi Ebrahim Meherally Jassani, is seen at the right, and walking immediately behind him with a stick is Vazir Kassamali Javeri. In the centre is Varas Daya Vellji, holding an envelope.10 March 1946: The Aga Khan, accompanied by smiling Ismaili leaders, walks by a cheerful and happy group of volunteers at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations held in Bombay’s Brabourne Stadium. The diamonds that he was weighed against were worth 640,000 British pounds and the money was returned by the Imam for the community’s social uplifment programs. Photo: Karim Jassani Collection, Ottawa. Note: Mr. Jassani’s late father, Itmadi Ebrahim Meherally Jassani, is seen at the right, and walking immediately behind him with a stick is Vazir Kassamali Javeri. In the centre, holding an envelope, is Varas Daya Vellji.

At a quarter past five on the afternoon of Sunday, March 10, 1946, a deep hush fell upon the Brabourne Stadium in Bombay. Here, over 100,000 people from various parts of the world had come to witness one of those magnificent ceremonies which arouse wonder and amazement in the minds of men. It was on this day, and at this hour, that His Highness the Aga Khan was to be weighed in diamonds to celebrate the sixtieth year of his Imamat. Seldom before can Bombay, even in its pageantry and glory, have looked upon such pompous ceremonies, such splendour and colour. Vast congregations of people lined the routes and filled the great stands surrounding the central platform and figure. The huge multitude present in the ceremony included fourteen ruling princes, among them the Maharajas of Kashmir and Baroda and the Jam Saheb of Nawanagar.

aga-khan-iii-dj-brabourne-stadium-bombay1The value of diamonds was 640,000 British pounds at the Bombay weighing ceremony on  March 10, 1946 which was attended by 100,000 people. Photo: Jehangir Merchant collection.

The flags waved and the colours of the Aga Khan — green and red — draped the buildings. For hours before the event the procession passed through the streets of Bombay to the stadium to await the arrival, first of all, of the high notabilities and personalities who had come to pay homage and to look upon the magnificent spectacle, and then at 5.15 the Aga Khan with his retinue preceded by Her Highness the Begum Om Habiba Mata Salamat strode into the arena, mounted the platform and took his place.

10 March 1946: His Highness the Aga Khan III shows his appreciation and blesses the crowd after the diamond weighing ceremony at Mumbai's Brabourne Stadium to mark his 60 years of Imamat. Credit for Photo: Karim Jassani Collection, Ottawa. Mr. Jassani's late father, Itmadi Ebrahim Meherally Jassani, is seen at the right of the scale.His Highness the Aga Khan III shows his appreciation and blesses the crowd after the diamond weighing ceremony at Bombay’s Brabourne Stadium to mark his 60 years of Imamat. Photo: Karim Jassani Collection, Ottawa.

Once the Aga Khan had mounted the stage, the caskets of diamonds were raised on high one by one, shown to the public, and then placed on the scales. The scales tipped when 243 lbs. weight of diamonds were so placed. These diamonds were worth 640,000 British Pounds — a gift to their Imam from the Ismailis in India. The Aga Khan received the gift and returned it to the Ismailis, adding his blessing and his advice that the large sum of money should be used for their betterment.

10 August, 1946: The Jubilee in Dar es Salaam

The Imam’s weight in diamonds would represent a fortune and the weighing-in was a sumptuous display of wealth, power and charity in one spectacular event.

aga-khan-iii-ng-motani-version-crowdA section of a large crowd at the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee held in Dar es Salaam.  Photo: David Carnegie, National Geographic, March 1947.

Exactly 5 months after the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Bombay, Tanganyika’s capital, Dar es Salaam, hosted its Jubilee celebrations for the Aga Khan on August 10, 1946. Thousands of people came from all parts of the world, especially India, Europe and the Middle East. Hundreds made the journey by air, thousands by train, by car and by lorry, from all parts of Africa, many enduring hardships as they travelled from Belgian Congo and Uganda. Convoys of cars came from South Africa.

The specially chartered mailboat, S.S. Vasna, flew the Ismaili flag, and brought thousands of Ismailis to Dar es Salaam. The celebrations lasted 10 days with a special exhibition that highlighted needlework, local craftsmanship, artistic works and toy-making. Merry-go-rounds and miniature railways delighted the young and kept the old entertained. A day was dedicated to a large procession, which included decorated floats, and a portrayal of the history and activities of the Ismailis.

A cA close up of the Diamond Jubilee arch, shown in the previous photo.A close-up of the Diamond Jubilee arch in full illumination.

aga-khan-iii-npg-08“A dark eyed beauty” was how the National Geographic described this lady, adding that “her tolerant leader champions women’s education; opposes their segregation in purdah.” Photo: David Carnegie, National Geographic, March 1947.

Fezzed Tanganyika Police Keep Order and Guard a fabulous Diamond treasure at the Jubilee celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan in Dar-es-Salaam on August 10, 1946. National Geographic Magazine, March 1947.Fezzed Tanganyika Police keep order and guard a fabulous diamond treasure. Photo: The National Geographic, March 1947.

The highlight of the celebrations had to be the morning of August 10, 1946 when 70,000 pairs of eyes, mesmerised by the hand on the large round dial of an enormous weighing scale, watched as it inched its way up and up. The flash of diamonds — thousands of diamonds — in small hermetically sealed glass containers, tantalised the huge gathering seated around the high platform erected in the middle of grounds that had been converted into Diamondabad in the city of Dar es Salaam.

aga-khan-iii-npg-03The Aga Khan facing the scale at his Diamond Jubilee weigh-in ceremony held in Dar es Salaam on August 10, 1946. Photo: National Geographic, March 1947.

The crowd watched spellbound as container after container put on the scale shook the hand and forced it upwards. Some craned their necks, others squinted, and all focused on the dial, willing more and more diamonds onto the scale as the hand moved clockwise, very slowly towards its target – the weight of the regal person seated at the end of the platform, serenely awaiting the outcome.

The Imam’s weight in diamonds would represent a fortune and the weighing-in was a sumptuous display of wealth, power and charity in one spectacular event.

Ismailis from all parts of the world sat tense with suppressed excitement. Finally the weight on the scale matched the weight of the Imam and a tremendous cheer broke from their lips in praise of their leader on the platform, His Highness, Sultan Mahmed Shah Aga Khan. He had succeeded to the Imamate at the age of eight in 1885 and they were celebrating his sixtieth anniversary as Imam.

Bulletproof caskets of transparent plastic rest on the scale. These contain industrial diamonds on loan from London for the weighing. The setting was Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika, East Africa, a stronghold of the Ismailis. Scarlet-robed members of the Aga Khan Legion surround the Imam. Photo: National Geographic, March 1947Bulletproof caskets of transparent plastic rest on the scale in Dar es Salaam. These contain industrial diamonds on loan from London for the weighing. The setting was Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika, East Africa, a stronghold of the Ismailis. Scarlet-robed members of the Aga Khan Legion surround the Imam. Photo: National Geographic, March 1947.

His Highness the Aga Khan speaks into a “Mike” at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Dar-es-Salaam. His weight in diamonds was the equivalent of over 640,000 Britsh pounds Photo: David Carnegie for the National Geographic, March 1947.The Aga Khan speaks into a “mike” at the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in Dar es Salaam. His weight in diamonds was the equivalent of over 640,000 Britsh pounds Photo: David Carnegie for the National Geographic, March 1947.

The Aga Khan, moved by this presentation, explained how the gift would be used.

“As everyone is well aware, the value of these diamonds has been unconditionally presented to me on this occasion. I do not wish to take this money for myself but to use it for any object that I think is best for my spiritual children. After long reflection, I have come to the conclusion that the very best use that I can make of it is that after expenses of these celebrations, in the wider sense of the word, have been paid for, then the whole of the residue must be given as an absolute gift to the Diamond Jubilee Investment Trust.” He added that it had been created to build up “a totally new financial outlook among the Ismailis. Co-operative Societies, Corporations, and, I hope and believe very soon, Building Societies, too, will draw from the Investment Trust sums equal to their capital but at a level of three per cent. And they are not allowed to charge more than six per cent under any conditions from their borrowers.”

With this internal banking system, the Aga Khan was setting up the means to ensure financial security for all his people. Stirred by his wisdom and his concern for them, his followers  felt reaffirmed in their faith and in their leader. It was an occasion each individual would cherish forever.

Aga Khan: “White, black and brown are complementary members of a common body politic”

Where there is fear there is no love, but hate easily enters through the windows even if the door is shut.

Aga Khan 036
A message from the Aga Khan dated July 7, 1946, before the Diamond Jubilee celebrations were held in Dar es Salaaam on August 10, 1946.

Complementing the above message, are the following remarks that were made by the Aga Khan at Dar es Salaam’s Exhibition Theatre on August 10, 1946: 

“Now one word, if I may be allowed to say it, of general advice to inhabitants here, whatever their race, colour or creed.

“I have had some experience of the causes of strife and I was a very active member of the League of Nations and of the Disarmament Conference for some seven years. Why did it fail? Ultimately because of hate. And yet why did people hate each other? Fear. Where there is fear there is no love, but hate easily enters through the windows even if the door is shut.

“I appeal to all of you, Africans, Europeans and Indians — do not fear each other. Work together. The country is big enough. There is virgin soil which has hardly been scratched. Unlike China, India and Europe, the population is still very small. We have no need to struggle for existence here for a century at least, so why foresee trouble for your great-grandchildren. There may be none. 

“To-day, strife here on racial lines is imaginary. The onlooker sees most of the game, and I have been here an onlooker. There is no getting away from it — if you will throw fear out of your minds and you will soon realise that white, black and brown are complementary members of a common body politic.”

Date posted: May 6, 2017.
Last updated:
May 9, 2017 (typo corrections).

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For links to all the posts in this special project on His Highness the Aga Khan, please see the drop down menu bar at top of this page or click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah’s faceboook page http://www.facebook.com/1000fold.

Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. You may choose to remain anonymous. Please note that we never show your email address when we publish your comment, and don’t share it with others without your express written permission.

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Material for this post was adapted and compiled from the following sources:

1. The Khojas A Vanished Community, for description of the weighing ceremony in Dar-es-Salaam, blog entry at http://gonashgo.blogspot.com

2. A Tribute to Hazrat Imam Sultan Muhammad Shah, by Bashir F. Ladha, Ilm magazine, November 1977, Volume 3 Number 2, Ismailia Association for the U.K. (now Ismaili Tariqah and religious Education Board)

3. Diamond Jubilee of Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan by Mumtaz Ali Tajddin S. Ali. 

4. Web site of the Aga Khan Development Network, http://www.akdn.org

5. Folly of Hate and Fear from The Aga Khan and Africa by Habib V. Keshavjee, Pretoria, 1946, and also Tanganyika Standard, Dar-es-Salaam, 11 August 1946.

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The Aga Khan’s spirit for a better world is “amongst the purest expressions of human fraternity”

BY THE LATE RENÉ-LÉVESQUE
23RD PREMIER OF QUEBEC (IN OFFICE 1976 – 1985) 

René-Lévesque
René Lévesque (1922-1987)

The following remarks were made by the late René Lévesque, Premier of Quebec, on the occasion of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Silver Jubilee visit to Montreal between April 24-26, 1983. The speech appeared in French and English in a special Silver Jubilee souvenir published by His Highness Prince Aga Khan Regional Council for Quebec and Maritime Provinces.

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“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. I wish with all my heart that on the occasion of your visit not only do we become more clearly aware of the extent of the mission you carry out, that you have set for yourself, but also that we remember it as a lesson, if I may say of ‘savoir-vivre’, a true way of living in a world that needs it so badly.” — René Lévesque addressing the Aga Khan on the occasion of his Silver Jubilee.

The Aga Khan and Rene Levesque have an animated conversationThe Aga Khan in an animated conversation with René Lévesque during his Silver Jubilee visit to Montreal in April 1983. Photo: Aga Khan Regional Council for Quebec and Maritime Provinces. 

Your Highness,

I am delighted, for many reasons, with your visit here on the banks of the Saint-Lawrence where, almost four and a half centuries ago, a francophone America was born, a minority “America” in numbers, but which remains no less lively, dynamic and confident of the future. Of course, four and a half centuries of history is very little compared to the millenary tradition that you incarnate. But as far as North America is concerned, speaking in North American terms, I think you know that it takes us back 450 years, directly to the origins of colonization. This old corner of America, thanks you deeply for having included us in the more than heavy itinerary of your Jubilee year. We also know that our co-citizens of Ismaili faith, as you told me, I think Ismailis is the right way of saying it, consider your too short a visit to us as a moment of deep joy and we rejoice with them for the honour you have given us in allowing us to welcome you.

It is said, perhaps too generously, that Quebec’s hospitality is warm and spontaneous. I must say that having had the opportunity of talking with you, of briefly discussing the work you pursue with exemplary persistence, that you are yourself a very spontaneous and extremely warm man. We would like to keep you longer with us. Besides, it is the essential quality of faith and civilization that you represent of constantly having an open mind and the hospitality towards others, which you raise to a universal dimension. And that, Your Highness, you personally incarnate.

The colossal work which you achieve day after day towards a better living standard in the countries, and most of the time, in the most deprived countries, wherever you can, is not unknown to us. The spirit on which this action is based is amongst the purest expressions of human fraternity. This relates to what we, in the West, call humanity and I wish with all my heart that on the occasion of your visit not only do we become more clearly aware of the extent of the mission you carry out, that you have set for yourself, but also that we remember it as a lesson, if I may say of “savoir-vivre”, a true way of living in a world that needs it so badly.

The attention that you constantly give to issues on education, health, housing, affect the foundation, the changes of life itself, in all societies and especially in the most disillusioned societies, and God knows how many there are of those in the world.

Premier René Lévesque speaking in Montreal during the Aga Khan's Silver Jubilee visit to Montreal.Premier René Lévesque speaks at a luncheon hosted at the Ritz Carleton Hotel by the Government of Quebec during His Highness the Aga Khan’s Silver Jubilee visit to Montreal in April 1983. From left to right: Prince Amyn Mohamed, Mme Corinne Côté-Lévesque, the Aga Khan, René Lévesque, Princess Salimah and Mayor Jean Drapeau. Photo: Aga Khan Regional Council for Quebec and Maritime Provinces. 

You carry out your activities in more than 25 countries throughout the world including ours, and I wish to underline publicly, and I hardly apologize for underestimating your modesty, I wish to underline publicly that this intervention is as much characterized by an open mind to the diversity of cultures and religious convictions of people. Without a sense of tolerance, there is  no hope for the future of humanity and alas, we get proof of it almost every day. We have to hope that examples such as yours become more and more convincing and communicable.

There is also another field where your experiences or the way you use your power is particularly worth remembering and can serve as an example to the people of Quebec here. Please allow me to quote here a few of your grandfather’s words when he designated you as his successor.

“I am convinced,” he said, “that it is in the best interest of the Shia Muslim Ismaili Community that I should be succeeded by a young man who has been brought up and developed during recent years and in the midst of the new age and who brings a new outlook on life to his office as Imam.”

You have successfully faced this challenge and your achievements are a proof of adaptation to new circumstances and today, your community has made this transition which was extremely difficult, and in which you succeeded admirably. These profound changes which you undertook, which you guided since 1957 did not prevent the maintenance with all their strength of the fundamental values and the essential traditions as well as the beliefs of your community. And  this is again, an example from which many societies in the world could and should inspire themselves and we also have a lesson to learn from that flexibility. I mean that societies that are faced with the challenge of change and the double requirements it always carries, that is not only to adapt, of course, but also to adapt without weakening or losing one’s identity, that is that very difference which contributes to the richness of the world.

Aga Khan toasted by Rene Levesque, Montreal 1983Premier René Lévesque toasts the Aga Khan at a luncheon hosted by the Government of Quebec at Montreal’s Ritz Carlton Hotel in April 1983. Photo: Aga Khan Regional Council for Quebec and Maritime Provinces. 

Your Highness, I do not intend, in these few moments to pronounce a panegyric to you, but simply to express to you what we in Quebec remember as the essence of your hard work over 25 years and to tell you that we too feel the benefits of it here. I therefore join all those here representing constituted bodies, with all my heart, your co-citizens of Ismaili faith in wishing that your active presence to the service of humanity and civilization, in the true sense of the word be ensured to us for a long time to come. I myself can assure you of the sincere friendship of the people of Quebec and whatever be the drink served, I would request everyone to raise his glass to the health of their Highnesses and to the success of your humanitarian enterprises.

Date posted: April 9, 2017.

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For links to all the posts in this special project on His Highness the Aga Khan, please see the drop down menu bar at top of this page or click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah’s faceboook page http://www.facebook.com/1000fold.

Barakah welcomes your feedback. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or send your comment to simerg@aol.com. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. You may choose to remain anonymous. Please note that we never show your email address when we publish your comment, and don’t share it with others without your express written permission.

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René-LévesqueRené-Lévesque, was the founder of Parti Québécois and as its leader and the Premier of the Province of Quebec led the “Yes” side to the first referendum on Quebec’s political independence from Canada in 1980. His side lost the referendum by a wide margin.

He had risen to political prominence in the 1960s, after pursuing law, which he did not finish, and working as a reporter, during a global era of radical and often violent nationalism and took Quebec’s separatist movement, which was dominated by hardliners and gave it to the everyday people of the province. He pursued his objective in the legislature, and respected the democratic process. When his side lost the referendum  he accepted the result and urged Quebeckers to find ways of working with the federal government. When he resigned as PQ leader in 1985, it was partly to protest the party’s move toward a more hardline position. However until his very last days before his death in 1987, he continued to believe on the notion of an independent Quebec.  

(Profile compiled from The Globe and Mail and Wikipedia).

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