Aga Khan on eight-day visit to Canada


Toronto : The Aga Khan, the spiritual head of Shia Ismaili Muslims, is on a eight-day official visit to Canada to meet his followers and the country’s leaders to discuss collaboration for work in developing countries.

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The Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), founded by him, is the world’s largest non-governmental organisation (NGO), spending about $500 million a year on poverty alleviation and education development programmes in developing countries.

The Aga Khan or Maulana Hazar Imam, as he is known among his followers, was officially received when landed in the capital, Ottawa Tuesday.

Among those who received him at the airport were Canada’s transport minister John Baird, immigration minister Jason Kenney, Senator Mobina Jaffer and MPs Justin Trudeau and Yasmin Rattansi.

During his visit, the imam of the world’s Ismaili Muslims will also visit Toronto, Vancouver and Calgary to address his followers and meet premiers of various provinces.

The Aga Khan’s visit to Canada marks the golden jubilee of his imamhood of his estimated 15 to 30 million followers worldwide.

He had succeeded his grandfather, Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah, in 1957 while he was still a 20-year-old student at Harvard University.

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.