AGA KHAN CALLS FOR BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF ISLAM IN THE WEST
The Canadian Prime Minister, Mr. Brian Mulroney, today (Friday August 23rd) officially opened the Ismaili Centre, a major religious, social and cultural meeting place for the Ismaili community in the Vancouver area. Present at the ceremony were the Aga Khan, Imam of the Ismaili Muslims, Mr. Bill Bennett, the Premier of British Columbia, federal and provincial government ministers, diplomats, and Ismaili leaders from around the world.
In his speech the Aga Khan said that it was unfortunate that the industrialized world sometimes accepted the erroneous image that the Muslim world is a monolithic block of believers, whose national disputes are part of their religion.
“I believe it particularly important that the breadth and basic tolerance of the Islamic Faith should be appreciated in areas where Muslims are minorities”, he said.
The Aga Khan went on to say that the rest of the world needs to learn about the causes of disputes and upheavals in certain Islamic countries in order to help remove them and the threat they constitute to world peace.
“Muslims living in the West can, and indeed must, contribute to improving the comprehension of what their Faith does stand for and to dispell misconceptions which, both in the short and the long term, pose a serious threat to international understanding”, the Aga Khan stressed.
Referring to Canada's tradition of constructive internationalism the Aga Khan paid particular tribute to the country's peacekeeping efforts and aid programmes.
In respect of Canada's aid programmes the Aga Khan noted that the approach taken, recognised that the best way to build for the future is by helping people to help themselves and he cited the practical cooperation which Canadian institutions, including the Canadian International Development Agency and Alberta Aid, have given to the philanthropic activities of the Aga Khan Foundation particularly in its non–communal education, health, and rural development programmes in the Third World.
In addition, the Aga Khan noted the assistance given by McMaster and McGill Universities to the recently established Aga Khan University and its Faculty of Health Sciences in Pakistan.
Mr. Mulroney, in a tribute to the Ismaili community in Canada said “the tolerance, honesty and generosity which are such an important part of the Ismaili Faith are all essential in that unique blend of cultures, languages, religions and histories which we know as Canada”.
“Today in Canada, and throughout the world, through the industry of individual Ismailis and the assistance of the Aga Khan Foundation, the Ismaili community is building hospitals and schools sharing your energy, your industry and your vision with all of us”, said the Prime Minister.
The Ismailis, who live in over 25 countries, have been present in Canada from the early 1960's. The community has grown significantly in the past two decades, particularly with the expulsion of all Asians by Idi Amin Dada from Uganda in 1972.
The new Centre, the first to be specially built in North America, is situated in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver. It includes a prayer hall, classrooms, administrative offices and a reading room. The centre will also house the offices of the Ismaili National Council for Canada.
The building, which combines traditional elements of Islamic design with contemporary architecture, was designed by the Vancouver architect, Bruno Freschi.
23 August 1985
For further information,
Akbar V. Lalani, M.D.