Perspectives and opinion pieces on the Aga Khan by distinguished Canadians

Introduced and compiled by ABDULMALIK MERCHANT

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, concluded his Diamond Jubilee visit to Canada when he departed Calgary on Saturday May 12, 2018. Barakah sought to provide coverage of his 12-day Diamond Jubilee visit through a special post, The Aga Khan in Ottawa and Western Canada. With a lot to follow and read from numerous sources, many readers may have overlooked some significant opinion pieces on the Aga Khan by several prominent Canadians that appeared in the media across the country. For the benefit of everyone, we are providing in this post very brief excerpts from every opinion piece that we came across or were made aware of, with links to full articles that offer perspectives on the breath and scope of the Ismaili Imam’s  phenomenal work around the world in all aspects of human endeavour.

“What was true 17 years ago in the dark days following 9/11 is as true today in a world that in many ways seems often angrier and more frightened – especially here in the West. Now entering his seventh decade as leader of his faith, he keeps persevering, undiminished and undeterred. And we need his passion and his message more than ever. Perhaps it’s not too surprising that I should be drawn to the Aga Khan and his example. In many ways, his credo of bridge-building, respect for human dignity, his devotion to moderation and decency, his celebration of diversity and pluralism, are what our own country, Canada, is all about.” — Jean Chrétien, former Prime Minister of Canada, READ MORE


“For 60 years, His Highness has been the spiritual leader of 15 million Ismailis throughout the world. His teachings emphasize human reasoning, the acceptance of racial, ethnic, cultural and intra-religious differences, and social justice. The Ismailis are the only Shia Muslim community led by a living hereditary Imam in direct descent from the Prophet. The Aga Khan is, in effect, a head of state without a geographic territory. In the past, Ismailis had a 200-year empire in Egypt but, since the 11th century, have existed as a diaspora.” — Adrienne Clarkson, former Governor General of Canada, READ MORE


“I had the good fortune of getting to know the Aga Khan when I first met him as Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. I soon came to admire his inspired and visionary thinking, which he advances as a part of a comprehensive and yet practical approach to addressing some of the world’s most complex and challenging problems. His constant emphasis on a compassionate, peaceful, and pluralistic conception of Islam in a world too often dominated by sectarian strife, is truly remarkable. I have come to consider him, not only the leader of the Shia Ismaili community, but also a rare figure in our world today.” — Bill Graham, Canada’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs, READ MORE


“In my faith tradition, a common prayer roughly translates as “may God accept your service, and may the community be blessed by it.” Indeed, this country, and many around the world, have reaped the blessings of the service of Ismailis and ultimately that of the Aga Khan. For that, all of humanity can be deeply grateful.” — Naheed Nenshi, Mayor of Calgary, READ MORE


“He is the spiritual leader of 15 million Ismaili Muslims, a significant number of whom call Canada home. He is a diplomat, social innovator, global humanitarian and someone with an unshakable belief in the values of pluralism, diversity and equality. In his work and words, he articulates a timeless language of values and ethics grounded in the rich history and heritage of the Muslim world. A belief in pluralism, a commitment to education for all, and a respect for the inherent dignity of humanity are values that also resonate strongly in Canadian society.” — Anne McLellan, former deputy Prime Minister of Canada, READ MORE


When the Aga Khan’s (and Canada’s) efforts secured the safety of many, including Ugandan Ismailis, he called on Canada’s new Ismaili community to put down roots and to advance the quality of life of their fellow citizens, regardless of faith or background. The seeds planted by the Aga Khan took root, and the Ismaili community has excelled. The ethic of volunteerism that the community is known for, and the commitment to improving the lives of the poorest and most vulnerable, have made a big difference here in Calgary and the rest of Alberta. — Jim Dinning, a former Alberta finance minister and chancellor emeritus of the University of Calgary, READ MORE


“….God works in mysterious ways and the Aga Khan’s own unconventional ways—the overlapping of temporal and spiritual realms, philanthropy that dovetails with business interests, and stressing local community while acting globally—have clearly uplifted his followers and informed the ethos of Ismaili life. This Ismail version of the “art of living” has not only yielded great material riches for this community, but has made it the paragon of pluralism.” — Jagdeesh Mann, media professional and journalist based in Vancouver, READ MORE


“In Arusha, Tanzania, I had the opportunity to tour the future site of Aga Khan University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences in East Africa. To invest in such a campus speaks to both the importance of a liberal arts education that is firmly grounded in the African context but also to the importance of critical and interdisciplinary thinking, as well as pluralistic thought in the world today.” — Brian Heidecker, Chair of the Board of the Edmonton Public Library and Sawridge Trusts, READ MORE


“The Aga Khan is perhaps the leading community builder of our time, taking deliberate and repeated measures to cultivate a sense of community from the smallest villages on the other side of the planet to, literally, the entire world. At the basis for all this work is a deep-rooted commitment to improving people’s quality of life — from safe drinking water to telecommunications, from high quality education and health care to park preservation. He looks at communities holistically, recognizing that how we find contentment as individuals and societies is the sum of many, many parts.” — Dave Mowat, President & CEO of ATB Financial, READ MORE


The celebrations of His Highness the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee is particularly reminiscent for me. Todays Diamond Jubilee mirrors the memories I have of his first coronation in Kampala, Uganda in 1958. As a young child, I closely trailed my father, who organized his coronation and had the incredible opportunity of witnessing High Highness’s first steps as the spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims. — Mobina Jaffer, Canadian Senator, READ MORE


“In volatile times, when, sadly, people tend to talk about what divides us rather than what unites us, it’s important to look to communities such as Canada’s Ismaili Muslims — those who don’t see the world through the lens of lines and divisions. The Ismaili community values social foundations that are valued by us all such as health care, education and family. Shia Ismaili Muslims are a people of faith. Just as importantly, they’re a people who strive to create strong, vibrant and resilient communities.” — Barbara Grantham, president and CEO of the VGH & UBC Hospital Foundation. READ MORE


“I am inspired by this work, and by that foundational belief that everyone — no matter where you are or what you have — deserves the best opportunities, tools and resources. As a basic principle of international development it is not only rare, but also ambitious and deeply human. It speaks both to equality and to dignity, and to an approach that is making our world a better place to live.” — Tamara Vrooman, president and CEO of Vancity credit union, READ MORE

Date posted: May 13, 2018.


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For links to all the posts please click on Table of Contents. Also join/like Barakah at and follow us at

This website, Barakah, is a special project by and is dedicated to the textual and visual celebration of His Highness the Aga Khan as he celebrates his Diamond Jubilee or 60 years of Imamat.


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