AKDN Representative Dr Mahmoud Eboo and his wife Karima hosted the event, which was attended by members of the diplomatic corps, representatives of the Governor General, Parliament and the Government of Canada, as well as civil society leaders and members of the Ismaili community, including Ismaili Council for Canada President Malik Talib.
The Honourable Senator Peter Harder addressed the gathering on behalf of the government.
“I am delighted to mark the 59th anniversary since Prince Karim Aga Khan became the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims, having descended directly from the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family),” said Senator Harder. “Canadians appreciate the Aga Khan’s recognition of our country as a model for pluralism around the world. We also take great pride in His Highness’ acceptance of honorary Canadian citizenship.”
The Senator acknowledged the millions of Ismailis around the world who celebrate Imamat Day, and applauded the contributions that Canadian Ismailis make to Canada.
Approximately 100 guests were present at the evening event. They learnt of the scope and breadth of the work of the Ismaili Imamat, the many of countries in which the AKDN operates, as well as the activities of the various agencies in those countries. Some ambassadors, while aware of the Development Network’s engagement in their own countries, were astonished at the extent of its contributions in other parts of the world.
Explaining the significance of Imamat Day, Dr Eboo described the Ismaili Imamat as “the ancient and historical institutional office representing the succession of Ismaili Imams from the first Imam, Hazrat Ali ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet’s cousin and son-in-law.”
“Throughout history,” he said, “the Ismaili Imamat has been an institution that has sought to uphold the values of a thinking Islam, of pluralism as a fundamental ethic, of the inherent value of human dignity, and of our shared responsibility for the environment. The Imamat has pursued this through the building of civil society capacity in support of governments.”
Senator Harder recalled that he first met Mawlana Hazar Imam 27 years ago, and spoke of the lessons that he has learnt since — the need for greater understanding between the West and Muslim civilisations, the urgency for societies to foster a cosmopolitan ethic across an increasingly interconnected globe, and the importance of nurturing successful pluralist societies.
“Around the world, ignorance, intolerance and zealotry are equal-opportunity curses to all religions and are chasing faith out of public life — this needs to change,” observed Senator Harder. “The Aga Khan offers an effective antidote. Diversity, tolerance and human rights must be the path forward. I know Prime Minister Trudeau and His Highness affirmed those values in their recent meeting.”
Part of that antidote lay in the institutions that Mawlana Hazar Imam has established, which shed light on the contributions of Islam and Muslim civilisations to the shared progress of humanity.
“Here in Canada, the Global Centre for Pluralism, a 50/50 partnership between the Government of Canada and the Imamat, will formally open its headquarters at 330 Sussex in 2017 during Canada’s sesquicentennial and His Highness’ Diamond Jubilee,” said Dr Eboo. “Additionally, the Imamat has formal agreements with the provinces of Alberta and Ontario, as well as partnerships with British Columbia and Quebec and with Canadian universities including the University of Alberta, McGill, McMaster, University of Toronto, Simon Fraser University, and Seneca College.”
“In a troubled world, where Islam is often misperceived, misrepresented, mischaracterised and misunderstood, His Highness has sought to educate, through a multiplicity of programmes and physical spaces he has built in Canada and elsewhere, an understanding of Islam’s contributions to mathematics, art, culture, science, and knowledge,” added Dr Eboo.
The event highlighted the deep and extensive collaboration between the Government of Canada and the Ismaili Imamat in their efforts to enhance quality of life around the world. Senator Harder said that Canada looks forward to Mawlana Hazar Imam’s continued counsel on how the country can continue to “promote diversity and help build peace and stability around the world.”
“And next year, as Canadians celebrate our country’s 150th anniversary,” he said, “we will also celebrate His Highness’ Diamond Jubilee.”
“In marking those happy milestones together, let us find new opportunities to strengthen our friendship and advance our shared and deeply held values.”