Today, Ismaili Muslims residing in 25 countries around the world will gather to celebrate the seventy-seventh birthday of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan.
As a proud Muslim woman, I would like to remark on the great work his Highness the Aga Khan, an honourary citizen of Canada, has done both here and abroad for the well-being of humanity. His Highness has given many gifts. Today, however, I would like to remember four specific gifts from His Highness that have made an impact on my life, and on the lives of Canadians.
First, the Aga Khan and his grandfather before him always emphasized the importance of obtaining a quality education. This is why the Aga Khan has invested in more than 200 primary and secondary schools in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Uganda, Tanzania and Tajikistan. Thanks to the Aga Khan’s belief in the importance of educating girls, in fact many women, including myself, were able to attend school and receive a quality education.
Second, he arranged with Prime Minister Trudeau for thousands of Ugandan refugees to seek asylum in Canada. He found us and many other Ismailis the best country in the world to live in, and he encouraged us to always call Canada our permanent home. As he said, “we should never become a demotivated, marginalized minority. [I]nstead, [we should] demonstrate the will to rebuild our future.” As a result, with enthusiasm and confidence we are doing our part to contribute meaningfully to Canadian society.
Third, he has partnered with our government to establish the new Global Centre for Pluralism so that other societies may benefit from our pluralist model. The Aga Khan has the highest respect for the strengths of our pluralistic society and has referred to our shared conviction that the progress of civilization depends on our ability to understand, embrace and energize the power of human diversity. Canada, as he has said, is one of the most respected pluralist societies in today’s heavily fractured world.
Finally, His Highness the Aga Khan’s visionary architectural patronage has resulted in new Canadian landmarks. As the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada recently noted in awarding His Highness its 2013 gold medal, these buildings include the:
• Ismaili Centre in Burnaby, BC
• Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa, ON
• Ismaili Centre, Aga Khan Museum, and park, that is currently being developed in Toronto, ON
• Islamic garden that will be built within the University of Alberta’s Devonian Botanic Garden outside Edmonton, AB
Since ascending to the position of Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, His Highness has dedicated his life to improving the quality of life not only for Ismailis but also for some of the most vulnerable populations throughout the world. Here in Canada, we share these values and aspirations. Please join me in extending warm birthday wishes and Khushiali Mubarak to His Highness the Aga Khan.