Toronto, May 29 (IANS) Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper Friday bestowed honorary citizenship on the Aga Khan and laid the foundation stone of what would be one of the largest Muslim art and culture centres in North America.
The Aga Khan is the Imam of over 15 million Shia Ismaili Muslims spread around the world.
‘Conferring honorary citizenship upon His Highness the Aga Khan is a recognition of His Highness’s leadership as a champion of international development, pluralism and tolerance around the world and of his remarkable leadership as Imam of the worldwide Ismaili community,” the Canadian Prime Minister said.
The Canadian parliament had passed a resolution last year to confer the honour on the Aga Khan who becomes the second religious figure after the Dalai Lama to get the country’s honorary citizenship.
Laying the foundation stone of the museum with the Aga Khan, the prime minister said, ‘Canada is honoured to have been chosen as the site for these important institutions. They will serve to promote pluralism, peace and tolerance through greater understanding of Islam.”
Called the Aga Khan Museum for Islamic Art and Culture, the seven-acre centre will be completed by 2013 at a cost of $300 million.
The museum will display of artefacts related to the intellectual, cultural, artistic and religious heritage of Muslim civilizations.
Thanking Canada for the honour, the Aga Khan said, ‘I have always felt at home in Canada, but never more so than today.”
The 75,000-strong Ismaili community in Canada wields an influence which is way beyond its numbers. Most Ismailis – who have come mostly from Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya – have established themselves in businesses and professions like law, medicine, and politics.
Rahim Jaffer, a Ugandan-born Ismaili, was elected as Canada’s first Muslim MP in 1997.
Mobina Jaffer, who also came from Uganda with her family, is Canada’s first senator of South Asian origin, nominated to the Canadian Upper House in 2001. An Ismaili of Gujarati origin, she is also a very successful lawyer in Vancouver.