Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 40th Parliament,
Volume 145, Issue 3

Thursday, November 20, 2008
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

His Highness the Aga Khan

Congratulations on Golden Jubilee

Hon. Mobina S.B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, as many of you are aware, His Highness the Aga Khan, a great friend of Canada, was welcomed to our shores on Tuesday by Ministers Baird and Kenney. This visit is part of a celebration that marks His Highness’ fiftieth year as the imam of the Ismaili community. Fifty years ago, at the age of 20, the Aga Khan succeeded his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mahomed Shah Aga Khan, as the forty-ninth hereditary imam, spiritual leader, of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. The Aga Khan leads a community of 50 million Ismaili Muslims living in some 25 countries. He is the direct descendent of the Prophet Muhammad, may peace be upon him and his family, through his first cousin and son-in-law, the first imam and his wife Fatima, the Prophet’s daughter.

In keeping with the Shia tradition of Islam, the mandate of the imam extends to both spiritual and worldly matters. Since assuming the office of the imamate in 1957, Prince Karim Aga Khan has honoured his grandfather’s concern for the well-being of the Ismaili community, the wider Muslim community and those amongst whom they live. He has emphasized Islam as a thinking, spiritual faith that teaches compassion and tolerance and upholds the dignity of mankind.

In this golden jubilee of His Highness, the community has begun to launch new social, cultural and economic development projects. In keeping with the ethics of the faith, these projects aspire to improve the quality of life for the most vulnerable in society. These new golden jubilee initiatives join current projects as part of the Aga Khan Development Network, AKDN, which is a group of agencies with mandates ranging from health and education to architecture, microfinance, disaster reduction, rural development and the promotion of private sector enterprise and revitalization of historic cities, all of which are catalysts for development. Guided by the Islamic ethic of compassion for those less fortunate, the AKDN works for the common good of all citizens regardless of their gender, origin or religion.

The AKDN spends in excess of US$320 million annually on social and cultural development activities. It operates more than 200 health care institutions, including nine hospitals and over 300 schools in the developing world. AKDN is one of CIDA’s most important partners as Canada aims to improve the lives of others around the world.

On a personal note, honourable senators, I am very much aware that I am in this place because of the education that the Aga Khan personally provided to me. Today I take the opportunity on the auspicious occasion of his golden jubilee to thank him for enriching my life.

Honourable senators, I know you will join me in wishing His Highness the Aga Khan and Canadian Ismailis a most wonderful visit and celebration.