Ismailis prepare to celebrate Vancouver visit of Aga Khan to B.C. Place

Tomorrow (November 25) will mark an important day for the estimated 15,000 members of the Ismaili community in Vancouver as they celebrate Aga Khan’s return to Vancouver.

Aga Khan, who the Ismailis believe to be a direct descendent of Islam’s prophet Muhammad, arrived in Canada on November 18 as a part of his world tour celebrating the Golden Jubilee Year.

This marks the 50th anniversary of him becoming the Imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslims. His appearance at B.C Place tomorrow is set to draw everyone from politicians to some of the most prominent business owners in B.C. as well as thousands of Ismailis who will make the trip in from other cities.

He became the successor to his grandfather, Sultan Muhammad Shah Aga Khan, on July 11, 1957 at the age of 20 while attending Harvard University.

Aga Khan is known for his progressive interpretations of Islam, in particular his interest in the elimination of poverty, his advocacy for women’s rights, and the promotion of tolerance and compassion in Islam.

He is the founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), an organization which over the last 25 years has collaborated with several institutions in Canada, including universities, government departments, the private sector and civil-society organizations.

Last April AKDN joined BC 150 in the World Partnership Walk, a walk established in 1985 by a group of volunteers from Vancouver’s Ismaili Women’s Organization Committee.

It is Canada’s largest annual event helping raise funds to battle world poverty, and last year raised raising $5.5 million.

In early 1970s, during a time of great political turmoil and racism, Ismailis living in Uganda were expelled by then-president Idi Amin, despite being citizens of the country and having lived there for generations.

Most resettled in all different parts of the world including Europe and North America. Former prime minister Pierre Trudeau invited Ismailis to come to Canada, where they have been one of the most successful immigrant communities.

Ismailis have done well in business, politics, and the professions. They include Firoz Rasul, former CEO of Ballard Power Systems, B.C. Hydro chairman Mossadiq Umedaly, Larco Group of Companies owner Aminmohamed Lalji, Senator Mobina Jaffer, Liberal MLA John Nuraney, immigration lawyer Zool Suleman, CBC broadcaster Salma Nurmohamed, and entrepreneur and policy analyst Taleeb Noormohamed.

The Jubilee celebration to take place at B.C. Place is a symbolic affirmation of the ties that link the Ismaili Imam and his followers. Aga Khan has met Governor General Michaelle Jean and while in Vancouver, he is expected to meet Premier Gordon Campbell and the Mayor Derek Corrigan of Burnaby, which is home to the sect's most spectacular mosque in B.C.