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Why We Don't Need an Islamic Art Museum

(Especially not courtesy the Aga Khan and Stephen Harper)

by Sumayya Kassamali

The Aga Khan receives "honorary Canadian citizenship" from Stepher Harper (May 28, 2010)
The Aga Khan receives "honorary Canadian citizenship" from Stepher Harper (May 28, 2010)

On May 28, the Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the world's 15 million Ismaili Muslims, and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper were in Toronto to celebrate the foundation of North America's first Islamic Art museum. The grandiose project is part of a multi-million dollar development in the Don Mills and Eglinton area, set to include an Ismaili religious centre, the self-titled Aga Khan Museum, and vast gardens linking the two. The Museum will display Islamic art and artifacts said to date back up to 1400 years, primarily drawn from the Aga Khan’s private collection and ranging from miniatures to manuscripts to textiles.

Yet for all its palatable rhetoric around promoting diversity and cultural harmony, the Aga Khan Museum demands some closer scrutiny.  

To start with, the $300 million price tag on the privately funded project begs the immediate question: who is paying for this? A community notorious for its secrecy, Ismailis in Canada are among the richest citizens of the country, with famous names including former Conservative MP Rahim Jaffer and current CEO of Rogers Nadir Mohamed. In fact, a 2006 BC Business profile of the Ismaili community described it as almost “too good to be true”, listing BC’s richest Ismaili families including luxury hotel owners, mineral resource developers, real-estate moguls and more, many worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Ismailis are required to give 5 – 12% of their annual income to the Aga Khan, who is then said to allocate the funds to various non-profit ventures (concrete facts are hard to come by with the intense privacy restrictions – Ismaili centres are among the only Muslim places of worship in the world that are not open to outsiders).

Referred to as “His Highness” by global dignitaries, the Aga Khan IV is a billionaire tycoon who, alongside his status as a religious leader, is also the top breeder of thoroughbred horses in France, owns a bank in Pakistan, plantations in Kenya, and a chain of luxury hotels together with his private jet and massive walled estate in Chantilly, France – making his personal wealth estimated at over $15 billion. Publicly renown as a philanthropist, he individually oversees the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), one of the largest private development networks in the world. The AKDN employs over 70,000 paid staff and runs hospitals, universities, and similar public projects alongside private economic ventures claiming to promote development by “strengthening the role of the private sector” across the global south.

While there is no shortage of reasons to critique the globalized development industry that has seen many profit immensely off of poverty, it is worth pointing out that since 2001, the AKDN has focused much of its efforts in Afghanistan, where it currently operates as a primary partner of CIDA and USAID. Although framed as "aid" organizations, both CIDA and USAID have in fact been central to the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, enriching their own state corporations in the process (a full 44% of CIDA’s aid is tied to the purchase of Canadian goods and services), encouraging collaboration with the occupiers by conditionally distributing aid to those who assist the forces, and skewing public opinion in support for the war. Nor are CIDA and USAID the AKDN’s only international state partners – Israeli IsraAID has also proudly noted their close relationship in endeavors such as a 2005 joint health provider training in Kenya.

But it is not only the unnecessary extravagance, indirect corporate financing, and disturbing ties of the AKDN that should make one pause when it comes to the new museum. The opening of Canada’s first Islamic Art Museum is also happening in the context of significant state repression of the Muslim community in Canada and a global onslaught of Islamophobic wars, governments, and popular movements. Canada has been no stranger to this, evident in the legitimization of the invasion of Afghanistan by claiming the need to “save” oppressed Afghani women; the controversies around Shari’a Law in Ontario; Herouxville and the Reasonable Accommodation debates in Quebec; the five Muslim security certificate detainees, all but one now released (on strict conditions of house arrest) after years of later-deemed unconstitutional detention; the refusal to bring home Omar Khadr, Guantanamo Bay's youngest prisoner and only Western citizen despite global calls to do so; the ongoing trials of the Toronto 18, charged with allegations of terrorism despite a paucity of publicized evidence and the revelation of an RCMP informant heavily compensated to incite the young men involved; and the government’s explicit instruction to Syria and Egypt to torture numerous Muslim Canadians, of which Maher Arar is the most famous. And these are just the better-known examples.

Yet, Stephen Harper would like us to know that he does not hate Muslims and is committed to peace and diversity – after all, both he and notorious Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney were present to launch the new museum and heap praise upon the Aga Khan and the initiative. Why the seeming disconnect?

Mahmood Mamdani’s 2004 book Good Muslim, Bad Muslim opens by presenting a thesis: in contemporary political discourse, there is a clear division between the “good” Muslims – the peace-loving, open-minded, well-educated, secular-leaning, patriotic citizens – and the “bad” – the dogmatic, conservative, sexist, homophobic, likely-violent haters of the West and democracy (who often also happen to be non-citizens, poor, and bearded or veiled). With the elaborate Aga Khan Museum set to be located in an area with one of the highest proportions of lower-income Muslims in Canada, serving more to gentrify the neighbourhood than to support the resident community, it is thus unsurprising that Toronto Star reporter Christopher Hume says of the project, “Unlike most such religious/culture centres that have appeared recently in these parts, this one looks to the future, not the past”. His division of “past” and “future” is especially telling, as the bad Muslims are always stuck somewhere behind, backwards and obstinately refusing to get with the civilized times.

It is no great surprise then that the Canadian government is so ready to support the Aga Khan’s latest project. As noted above, the Canadian Ismaili community is often upheld as an example for immigrant integration and success: “In the last three decades they’ve built some of B.C.’s biggest companies, raised stacks of cash for good causes and quietly joined the golf and country club set”, writes BC Business. In September 2009, the Ismaili Centre in Burnaby even partnered with VANOC to host an “Olympic Truce Dialogue” led by the Canadian Governor General. While the 75,000 strong Canadian Ismaili community is in actuality diverse in socioeconomic status and ethnicity, its public face is dominated by an elite all too willing to position themselves as model minorities. Such are the good Muslims – as Hume notes about those who pushed to host the project in Toronto, these are "immigrants" who do not only take from Canada, but can give a museum back (reminding readers that the brown-skinned still remain perpetual outsiders, despite even this level of dedication to the state).

But what exactly will this museum bring us? An appreciation of a once-glorious Islamic past; of a civilization now frozen in monuments? It might be worth reminding ourselves of the central role of Canadian museums in the ongoing colonization of indigenous communities, taking traditions that have been systematically attacked for generations to then be displayed in exhibitions and violently erased into history. “Look!”, these museums can claim. “There were once totem poles, and we settlers have preserved them so well!” 

Just as Canadian history museums do not address the realities of colonization, an Islamic Art museum will not address Islamophobia. It will not bring Omar Khadr back from Guantanamo Bay, it will not shift the unwaveringly pro-Israel stance of the Conservative government, and it will not change the systemic, legislated racism that permeates Canada at all levels.

As for those of us whose Muslim communities are on the other side of this celebratory moment – those whose mosques are vandalized, whose religious scholars are regularly interrogated by state officials, whose youth are infiltrated by informants, whose charities are barred from operating – we don’t need a multi-million dollar museum. We need an end to Canadian support for war and occupation, an end to the policing of our communities, an end to surveillance and complicity in torture, an end to anti-Muslim legislation. And to Stephen Harper and the Aga Khan: we reject your glorification of a state that does not exist for our protection, and your pride in the close cooperation between your two institutions of power. The tradition of Islam is one of struggle, with submission only to God – and our struggles against what you represent are far too real to ever be placated by ancient artifacts.

 


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sumayya (Sumayya Kassamali)
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Aga Khan Museum

Dear Sumayya Kassamali

Your article about the Aga Khan Museum is not fairly written and tends to discredit the entire project by citing irrelavent and unrelated matters.  Your article reflects ignorance over the importance of Islamic culture and civilization - and in fact the project's goal is to address the very ignorance and lack of knowledge you display in your article!

You begin by criticizing the fact that the Museum is a $300 million project and is being funded by the Aga Khan.   Exactly what is the issue with this?  Should the Museum be funded by your tax dollars instead?  You mention that Ismailis give a percentage of their income to the Aga Khan and them go on to state that Ismailis in Canada are doing financially well.  The fact is that this practice of tithing a percentage of income to the Imam has been an Ismaili practice for centuries - it did not simply begin when the community began doing materially well in Canada.  Secondly, the Ismailis who practice this do so out of love and devotion for their Imam and not because they are under duress to do so.  You also fail to mention that the majority of the AKDN's budget is funded by the Aga Khan personally.   You can check their financial statements if you are unsure about this.

CIDA and USAID have nothing to do with the Museum project itself and you pour out random facts about them as a way to divert readers from the main project.  In fact, most of your article contains information that is totally unrelated to the Museum.  As for the war in Afghanistan, the fact remains that the Taliban regime was opressive, violated the rights and freedoms of the citizens and violated the Qur'anic command about there being no compulsion in religion.  Today Afghanistan is much better off - and while the media may choose to only report about the warzones, in the northern part of Afghanistan there is great development happening - villages are becoming self-sustaining, children are being educated, women are being educated, and the people are taking their dignity and destiny into their own hands.  The AKDN has played a major role in this.

You note that the Museum is being created in a context of Islamophobia.  Well, this is exactly why its being created!  It is true that there is a great knowledge deficit in the West today concerning Islam - what Islam is, what its values are and what the faith represents.  The Aga Khan Museum will expose the West to Islam's rich culture and civilization - which several centuries ago was the leading civilization in the entire world.  This I am sure you know!  So what, then, is the problem with exposing the best of Islamic civilization to the West? Doing so is the very cure to the Islamophobia which you speak of!
I know that you wish to see Islam come out of these current difficult times.  But this will not happen until the Ummah harnesses the power of the human intellect instead of fearing it.

The Aga Khan Museum will be an important contribution to both the West and the Ummah at large and its establishment will be recognized as a milestone in our history.  If you remain unclear on the merits of this project, please check out the Aga Khan's speech:

http://www.akdn.org/Content/993

War is Good?

The US led, Canadian backed "war on terror" is good for Afghanis? If that's your argument we don't need to look too much harder for nefarious connections, do we?

a brief response

the reason my article contains information seemingly irrelevant to the museum, is because the museum is irrelevant to the realities of Islamophobia in canada. that, i would argue, is exactly the point.

amazing!

"Today Afghanistan is much better off - and while the media may choose to only report about the warzones, in the northern part of Afghanistan there is great development happening - villages are becoming self-sustaining, children are being educated, women are being educated, and the people are taking their dignity and destiny into their own hands. "

 

Really? That's nice... sounds exactly like what the British were saying in the mid-19th century, like the Soviets in the 1990s or the West these days... nice to parrot colonial tropes ain't it?

No need for art?

That is exactly how you stop a war, by spending money in preserving the culture and the art of Islam, not by staying in the status of deffense, ignorance and exclusion! I wish people would at least respect a VISION, espacially that not every day You can come up with something peaceful to give to the wolrd yourself.

You seem very bitter my dear.

You seem very bitter my dear. Have any other far-fetched Israel-Ismaili connection to uncover, or is that the best you could come up with (2005 reference to a joint exercise for health).  Perhaps these rich Ismailis could invite you to a dinner or someting and get to understand your grievances.  I can only imagine that you as a Canadian seem only rude for not accepting such a generous gift.

Misplaced prejudice of a conspiratorial mind

Not at all surprised to read the crap from Sumayya Kassamali, There are many ways to Thank and express gratitude for Canadian generosity , CIDA also provides matching funds to organization doing humanitarian work all over the world, Perhaps Sumayya can elaborate how her kind of Muslims contribute to peaceful co-existence and humanitarian relief. Jews have been living in East Africa collaborating on Business and national projects with other communities since before independence, Ismail's don't see a religious conflict with the Jews perhaps the problem is Sumaiyya's up bring that teaches her to hate Jews, and Ismailis.

Ismailis don't hate Jews and but do see a political conflict between Israel and Palestinian that has been ignored for far to long, the solution is to befriend and engage the Jewish community and work towards, justice and peaceful co-existence.

With the conspiratorial mindset like yours what are the chances of peaceful co existence between Jews and Muslims If one is not even willing to acknowledge the other and you are mentally stymied by the recognition of moderate Ismaili Muslims , was it the Israelis that killed 400 Ismailis in Afghanistan in 1999 or was it Taliban, more Muslims have been murdered by other Muslims and not the Jews a point you want to ignore and also ignore the plight of likes of the Ahmediyya and Ismaili Muslims where you are the majority, Ismailis have been the victims of Jihadist or revisionist history so what is new.

Sumaiyya yours is a rather poor hack job that try's to deny the radical Islamist are a real threat to both to Canada and Muslims and Ismailis who have maintained a moderate pluralist attribute representing the other face of Islam that might actually help build a bridge between the clash of ignorance and enlightened world . Is the recognition of Ismailis which bothers you or you just hate the Harper Govt, Christians and Israel and love the Taliban, It is hard to tell can sectarian bigotry be the ghost even the intelligent Muslims like yourself living in the West harbor, where does such conspiratorial prejudice come from ??, Political activism is one thing , Sumaiyya you stink, Could the editorial board done better No I suppose not they don't know the historical divide between your opinion and the Ismailis.

i'm a shia, actually

i think you must have this confused with another article. this has nothing to do with jews.

Missing the Point...

I think we are missing the point that Kassamali is trying to make here.

Whereas it is nice that the Aga Khan has chosen Canada for the Islamic Art Museum, at this juncture in our socio-political discourse, this is not what Canada needs.

In fact a grandiose project like this with all its implications of cultural commodification, detracts from the real issues facing Muslims in Canada since 911 and especially since the conservative government has come to power.

It plays directly into the hands of those who would like to gloss over the erosion of our rights and freedoms as citizens and to glorify how well we have been accepted in this country.

This is not only a disservice to Muslims, but Canadians as a whole. It detracts, it placates and dangerously, it skews reality.

Artifacts from a bygone era are beautiful and interesting, but viewed in the vacuum of climate-controlled cases, they won't tell our stories and struggles.

And that is where the danger lies.

A misinformed, misrepresentative and highly biased piece!

A very one-sided article I would say that engages in nothing other than harboring intolerance, misinforming the reader and not presenting an adequately balance account.

As a fellow journalist myself, I find this article is in gross violation of principles and ethics of "Responsible and Informed Journalism" as set out by the Pew Research Centre for Excellence in Journalism. 

The Pew Centre for Journalism in its guidelines for all aspiring and seasoned journalists states that it is the obligation of every journalist to provide "a consistent method of testing information--a transparent approach to evidence--precisely so that personal and cultural biases would not undermine the accuracy of their work. The method is objective, not the journalist. Seeking out multiple witnesses, disclosing as much as possible about sources, or asking various sides for comment, all signal such standards."

Therefore, the main responsibility of every journalistic discourse is to provide verifiable and unbiased information to the audience. The journalist or writer does not make the decision for the reader rather the reader through an exercise of his/her own intellectual faculties comes to a conclusion and perception of the issue.

Ms. Kassamali, refuses to provide the reader , the liberty of free thought and independent decision making through her brazen one-sided portrayal and attack on the Ismaili Muslim community and her unethical allegations that she raises against their spiritual leader and humanitarian activities through-out the world.

The allegations about the intersecting relationships between AKDN, CIDA, USAID, ISRAID that she makes are not founded on factual basis and are pure speculation.  There is no solid evidence or reference to verifiable reports or accounts that she presents to support her story. Hence, this story is not a journalism or opinion piece but rather it is well-suited in the compendium of numerous  useless conspiracy theory  archives --- which by-the-way are the unfortunate production of the erratic human nature to jump to assumptions and irrational perceptions and rumors that people hear from various unverifiable sources with some malicious political agenda.

The charges that this writer levels against the Ismaili community and it's Imams have no place in newspapers, books or any academic literature for an informed audience because of its basis in rumors and other misinformed media-stories published by malicious and intolerant journalists.

Furthermore, she engages in a centuries-old fallacious tendency of certain individuals from the Muslim community that have historically tried to paint the Ismaili Muslim minority as different, exclusive, secretive and as the mysterious "other."

Similar instances of misinformative exercise that Ms. Kassamali has engaged in  has prompted intolerance and violent results against this strong academic and moderate voice of reason in Islam in present-times and through the continuum of history-which is a tragedy and against the pluralistic and humanisitc of the Islamic faith. 

There is nothing secretive about Ismailis themselves and those wanting to learn about this vibrant section of the muslim communities can easily find tons of information on its history and present existence and beliefs in numerous books available through the Institute of Ismaili Studies (IIS) where scholars from all Islamic sects and religious backgrounds are working hard to publish verifiable, academic and well-balanced accounts of this community and its present and past historical roots and interactions with the rest of the world. The IIS engages in providing factual evidence with citations and references to the reader and combats this notion of secrecy and mystery that Ms. Kassamali and others attach to this culturally vibrant and historically significant voice of Shi'i Islam.

 Furthermore, the official site of the Ismaili Imamat and its affiliated institutions also provide extensive documents and information on this Tariqah (path) of Islam to the general audience. Clearly, Ms. Kassamali has not managed to delve or even explore into the in-exhaustive information available to the public and she decided to jump hastily to misinformed accusations based on a few discredited news stories based on fairy-tale fables and assumptions rather than fact and reality.

Therefore, this defeats the writer's self-proclaimed agenda that she purports to combat Islamophobia through her writing because she is discriminating and criticizing and attaching wrong labels to a small section of the Muslim community and engaging herself in reverse-Islamophobia.

Islamophobia is internal and external in nature. It can arise from non-muslim actors outside of the Muslim experience who are not informed fully about the muslim faith and its ethos of diversity, pluralism and peaceful co-existence. Yet, it can also arise from inside the Islamic experience and often can have ugly consequences such as persecution, sectarian violence and oppression of human-rights against minority Muslim communities at the hands of a dominant Muslim majority as one can see in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Criticizing a community that is firmly rooted historically, theologically and culturally in the diverse and vibrant mileu of Islamic civilization for over 1400 years and through-out its history attempted to take  a moderate approach to spread tolerance, literacy, acceptance and understanding within Muslim communities themselves and the non-Muslim communities is unfair and misinformed attempt by the writer . 

I would also like to add that the sympathy Ms. Kassamali draws with her references to a $300 million museum in this section of Don Valley and its comparison to the miserable socio-economic status of muslim communities in the Wynford Drive area is also out of context. It is well understood that these communities are neglected and stagnating into poverty. Precisely, that is why the museum is even more important because it will uplift the socio-economic character of the area, draw investment from other institutions and activities associated with the museum and foster an enabling environment for economic enterprise with tourists. This in-turn should facilitate economic development of poor muslim and non-muslim neighborhoods and their businesses.

It is well-documented in numerous case-studies that museums, galleries, and other initiatives to draw tourists empower the neighboring communities. Therefore, this museum should create jobs and advance the livelihood of all communities Muslim and non-Muslims in the area and bring tourists and attention of Torontonians to that much neglected part of the city. Such case-studies of models of economic empowerment by hospitals, museums and community centres created by the Aga Khan are available in the case of Pakistan, Kenya and other countries where The Aga Khan has opened the door to development initiatives for the local populace.

From a journalistic perspective, I would argue that, this represents a prime-example of journalistic misconduct and misrepresentation of facts intended to fool and misinform the audience.

Focusing upon the theoretical and academic arguments put forth by the writer, I would say she appears very well-educated and engages in throwing out alot of critical race theory jargon to come off as "smart" and intelligently informed and so convince her less informed audience.

However, she makes the biggest mistake of misquoting and misappropriating Mamdani's theoretical methodology of Good Muslim vs. Bad Muslim argument that she bases her article's academic strength upon. This mistake certainly back-fires in the misrepresentation of her quotes.

The most strongest emphasis for Ms. Kassamali's criticism of the museum is drawn from Mahmood Mamdani's case-study of Good Muslim vs. Bad Muslim. However, it is completely sad how she took this entire book on Culture Talk by the Columbia University Professor "out-of-context" and the spirit in which it was written. Mamdani at the outset of his argument in Chapter 1 of his book  Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: America, the Cold War, and the Roots of Terror argues via case-studies of Colonial British, French, American and Western interference in traditionally Islamic lands to show how these binary terms have implications today and are perpetuated by false premises put forth to judge Islamic culture by fallacious measures and barometers set-out by orientalists at Harvard  such as Samuel Huntington who put forth the theory of "Clash of Civilizations." It is this conception of a conflicting relationship between West and East as provided by Huntington that Mamdani attempts to refute and argues that the main cause of Islamophobia and erection of barriers to understanding of 1400 years of Muslim civilizations is due to this three word phrase and a misinformed west with a mixture of politics rather than religion.

Ms. Kassamali forgets His Highness the Aga Khan's vision for the museum who plans to create this master-piece to instigate a fruitful and pluralistic "dialogue of civilizations" and put an end to the "clash of ignorance."

Mamdani and His Highness both attempt to portray in their work how ignorance , misunderstanding and monolithic framing of 1400 years of Islamic history and culture is dangerous towards pluralism and results in society's ignorance and leads to barriers to harmonious co-existence, peace, pluralism and critical- thinking and intellectual freedom that are the hallmark of Islamic civilization that has existed in a pluralistic setting extending from Fatimid Egypt, to Safavid Persia, to Ottoman Turkey and Andalusian and Saracen Europe where the exchange of cultures and open-dialogue removed barriers and ignorance that perpetuate racism, societal intolerance , discrimination violence and other problems.

That is exactly the reason why The Aga Khan at the opening ceremony of the museum stated:

“The 1,428 years of the Ummah embrace many civilisations and are therefore characterised by an astonishing pluralism. In particular, this geographic, ethnic, linguistic and religious pluralism has manifested itself at the most defining moments in the history of the Ummah. The Aga Khan Museum Collection will highlight objects drawn from every region and every period, and created from every kind of material in the Muslim world.”

Its saddening and this article by Ms. Kassamali is a hall-mark example of how a misinformed and non-critical reading of an academic text can lead to a fallacious and unrepresentative piece filled with unsupported and wrongful accusations against Ismailis and The Aga Khan's humble efforts to bless Toronto with this gem of diversity and pluralism.

I think this teaches us a lesson, that using references to prominent scholars and academic terms, to add authenticity to an article does not mean that it is right or strong. This represents a prime example of academic misconduct and misinterpretation of Mamdani's work.

Ms. Kassamali's words and accusations appear to reflect this very unfortunate side of the human-experience.

I would like to wrap up and leave the writer and the audience with one line of advice in the words of the Aga Khan who says "I don't think people are born into valuing pluralism, I think you educate people about pluralism."

This article is contrary to the ethos of pluralism and acceptance of our differences and rather than attempting to understand one another and co-exist, it promotes the opposite.

uplift? what a quaint

uplift? what a quaint euphamism for social cleansing!!

Tsk, tsk, get up on the wrong side of the bed, dear?

Goodness, that's a lot of bile to spew! Fortunately most Canadians are far more broadminded than the author of this article. I'm looking forward to visiting this splendid museum with my children one day and learning more about the Muslim world. We know woefully little about Islam, but I, for one, am eager to learn, and what better place than a museum? All of my Muslim friends, both Sunni and Shia, have expressed their great happiness that their histories and cultures will be represented as part of the fabric of Canada through the presence of this museum in Toronto. Mr. Aga Khan, you are a noble and generous man. You, your community, and the Muslims in general are a great asset to Canada.

Why we don't need dichotomies

(Especially not ones that are based on gross generalizations)

It's disappointing to see that the entire crux of this article lies in polarizing and divisive dichotomies. The very construction of the Aga Khan Museum in the landscape of a Canada which is marked by so much misunderstanding about Islam today, is in itself a step forward in the struggle to foster increased understanding and address Islamophobia head-on. So perhaps most disheartening is the last paragraph where the author chooses to frame the discussion as though it were a battle between "progressive" and "struggling" Muslims.

Citing the "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim" argument, Kassamali appears to have misunderstood the very basis of Mamdani's fight against "Culture Talk", which he argues rests upon notions as Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" thesis. The notion of a clash of civilizations or cultures is preoccupied with the events that are manifesting on a cultural and political scale and rather than addressing the root of these occurrences, chalks them up to a battle between “East” and “West”, “modern” and “past”. The very perception that these categories exist, let alone that there is an inherent disparity between them, is as the Aga Khan eloquently puts it, rather, a “clash of ignorances”, failing to recognize that the history of Muslim civilizations is one of diverse experiences, traditions, hardships and triumphs, and cannot be seen in the sweeping brush strokes of simplification that Kassamali posits here.

As for “struggle”, one need only look to experiences of Ismailis during the 1970s expulsion of so many refugees from Uganda who sought asylum in Canada, or the continued suffering of innocent lives at the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan to be reminded that “struggle” is shared across the frontiers of time and space. Instead, it is confined by Kassamali to those “Muslim communities who are on the other side of this…”, as if continued suffering were some sort of badge of authenticity marking who real the Muslims are. Just who are “we” anyway? The language of the article itself seems to be a deliberate attempt to polarize the discussion. Writing, “To Stephen Harper and the Aga Khan: we reject your glorification of a state that does not exist for our protection”, from the comfort of a country that affords at least enough freedom to criticize, speak out, protest, and practice, the author seems to neglect the privileges of living in a society comprised of so many cultures and peoples. Canada, of course, still has a long way to go, as the Aga Khan himself alluded to in his interview with the Globe and Mail, this past week (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/the-aga-khans-world-view/artic...). The fact remains there is a determination for plurality that drives Canadian society, whether it is because of its population or its government, and this is exactly why the construction of a museum of Islamic culture in the context of the cultural landscape of this country is such a strong symbolic statement.

Islam has a tradition of cooperation, dating back to Muhammad’s own lifetime, which the Aga Khan upholds today by working within the structures of various countries around the world to improve the quality of life for the world’s ultra-poor, not only Ismailis, and in the case of the museum, to serve as space in which to promote discourse about the diversity of Islamic traditions and foster knowledge and mutual cooperation. As the Qur’an says: “Hold fast, all together, unto the bond with God, and do not draw apart from one another.” As this article sadly reminds us, the struggle for a common humanity continues…

Illogical, Ignorant or Irresponsible: take your pick

This article appears to be driven by emotion and rhetoric rather than thorough analysis of all issues in as objective a manner as possible. Hence, it fails to mention significant pieces of information that are either unknown to the author or are deemed unimportant and hence omitted. Because of this non-thorough approach, the author mistakenly assumes that her thought process is a logical course of understanding and others must necessarily share this method of thinking. Some ideas that are not fully explored:

1)      The “secrecy” of the Ismaili community: how does the issue of religious privacy directly affect social, cultural, and charitable activities? Does the fact that Ismaili places of worship are somewhat private and restricted to those outside of the community somehow affect the intentions or consequences of the various projects the community undertakes? For example, the AKDN builds numerous hospitals and health centres around the developing world, which not only provide primary and emergency health care to populations that previously had no such access to these essential services, but also employ an increasing number of women across the sector. If we were to survey those individuals and communities directly involved or affected by such centres, would they be grateful for the AKDN’s investment in their well-being or would they be concerned with what goes on inside a North American Ismaili prayer hall? The latter is just silly, so it seems clear where their concerns would actually lie. The assumption that the private nature of Ismaili religious practice somehow affects the actual consequences and results of the AKDN’s numerous projects thus seems to be a false correlation. Hence, the future social, intellectual and cultural consequences of the Museum cannot be measured by the unrelated notion of religious privacy. The countless non-Muslim Canadians that supposedly harbor anti-Muslim sentiments will now have one further resource by which to educate themselves regarding Islam and Muslims and in time, will come to see how many common values and aspirations we all really share. I highly doubt that throughout this growth process they will wonder what Ismailis are saying in their “secret” prayers.
 
2)    The “wealth” of the Ismaili community: either the author intentionally omits modern history or simply does not know better. The Ismaili community in North America consists of a variety of ethnic groups, in particular those of South Asian descent (mostly from East Africa), Central Asia (Tajikistan, Badakhshan, etc.), Iran, and Afghanistan among others. Many people not familiar with this fact mistakenly assume that the South Asians are somehow representative of the Ismaili community, which is as uneducated as assuming that Christianity is somehow represented by Caucasians. Much of the Central Asian and Afghani Ismailis that live in Canada and the United States have only come here recently and hence, are far from financially well-off. Having spoken personally to individuals working with such families, it is safe to say that many Ismailis from Central Asia and Afghanistan experience poverty while adjusting to their new North American home. The few “wealthy” Ismailis whom the author erroneously uses to encapsulate the Ismaili community as a whole are predominantly from the South Asian community and have lived in Canada and the United States for a significantly greater period of time, allowing them to attain a better education and build financial stability. Even so, the South Asian Ismailis within modern times were for the most part expelled from East Africa by Idi Amin, leaving behind everything they possessed. To treat the results of their ambition and hard work to attain success in North American society for themselves and their families as something negative is simply Robin Hood syndrome: being “rich” does not equal being “evil;” i.e. there is no logical correlation. Even within Islamic history, many of the supporters and companions of Muhammad, Ali and later spiritual heads of the community were wealthy and in fact used this wealth to support the welfare of the growing Muslim civilization; Abu Bakr, Jafar as Sadiq, and Ibrahim ibn Adham are just a few historical examples of Islamic figures who gave their wealth for the sake of the betterment of the community. Hence, the wealth of both the Aga Khan and his followers is not somehow “tainted” or “corrupt”; this idea is not only silly but counterproductive. Rational deliberation insists that we judge money based upon the consequences of its investments. In this case, we should wait to see the intellectual, social, and cultural results of the Museum rather than criticizing a community and its leader based upon unfounded and impractical principles. Further, we should recognize that an issue such as poverty exists throughout the Muslim (and non-Muslim) population rather than one subsection or community. That is, not only are a significant number of Ismailis experiencing poverty in North America and around the world but at the same time, there are a large number of wealthy non-Ismaili Muslims (Sunni, Ithna Ashari, etc.) in both North America and around the world, many of whom hold positions of great political, social, and economic power (e.g. leaders of nations, intellectuals, and business-people in North America, UK, Europe, etc.) Rather than pointing the finger at wealthy Ismailis for investing in social initiatives, we should ask: what are their wealthy counterparts in the non-Ismaili Muslim world investing in? In doing so, we should keep in mind that many of the so-called “Toronto 18” were from privileged backgrounds, their parents being doctors and other prominent individuals in the Toronto Sunni Muslim community. Hence, the possession of wealth is neither negative in and of itself nor does it somehow detract from social, intellectual, and cultural investments. Similarly, the issue of poverty among Muslims is not as black and white as the author erroneously thinks.

 
These are just two of the issues that are not fully explored by the author. Rather than provide definite logical correlations between points, the author bases her argument on faulty preconceived notions of wealth, influence, privacy, and racial demographics. Hence, instead of proving or demonstrating anything factual or beneficial, she simply re-asserts and re-articulates her initial assumptions, which as stated above, is an exercise in rhetoric rather than a thorough analysis. She begins her argument by targeting the Ismaili community who she believes is “behind” the whole Museum venture but as her article clearly demonstrates, she either lacks basic knowledge regarding this community or simply ignores factual history for her own convenience. This allows her to construct an argument that may seem logical to herself but which is in reality logically unsupported and unsound, since the very premises are flawed.
 

wow

Wow, bitter is right. Perhaps the reason Ismailis are so successful is because they work hard, have strong values and are a supportive and generous community themselves. Have you ever heard of Karma? We get, what we give. The Rahim Jaffers of this workd are no different than the thousands of non Ismaili politicians ( not enough room to name them all , sorry) who have just as scandalous a past. Oh, I'm sorry! But they dont count becasue they arent Muslim! Only Muslims are bad and evil!!! Sad but true is that fact? I think not. Ismailis not only are successful and own businesses, they employ MANY non Ismaili Canadians. Infact, isnt htis particual site, owned by an Ismaili!!!!
Get over yourself and your hate, for others.

Thanks for the analysis!

Thanks for your article, I found it quite interesting.  I appreciate the discussion of "good muslim" vs. "bad muslim" and specifically how these photo-op rich moments plays a large role in building the credibility of the government of the day to illustrate how they aren't Islamaphobes.  The moral legitimacy that the Aga Khan lends to Canada is quite substantial, and reflects a sense of pragmatism rather than accuracy.  For example, the Aga Khan constantly appreciates Canadian plurality and democracy - in a land built on the systematic extermination of indigenous people with a legacy of race-based immigration policy, this is sometimes hard to stomach.

NGOs can do a lot of good, and the AKF does do some good grassroots projects.  But these projects treat symptoms of a larger and more sinister problem of the global liberal-capitalist problem that creates the economic inferiority of the so-called developing world.  These same forces rely on creating a distincion between the "good" and "bad" Muslim in order to keep the "good" muslims bending over backwards to demonstrate how unlike the "bad" Muslims they are.  As you rightly maintain, this allows the focus in the national agenda here in Canada to ignore the very real problems associated with anti-Muslim sentiment - entrapment, unjustified surveillence, exportation of torture, and refusal to take care of a child soldier being tortured in a kangaroo military court that lacks even the facade of legitimacy.

The Aga Khan does not address these issues with the government, and in pragmatically choosing to ignore the hard issues facing Muslims in Canada, facing the moral reality of Canada's existence on stolen native land, of Canada's role in immesirzing Afghan society by its continued occupation, etc, he provides Harper and his cronnies with the moral leverage to build an illussion of moral legitimacy.

thorough effort to destroy the writer

lengthy and technical, like a thesis.  Very clearly explained, the worthfullness and horrible nature of the writer.  commentary of clearly motivated, educated(and funded?) individuals, all with the same critique.  Class warfare? 

I think you touched on a sore spot Sumayya.  But don't worry your points on the warm dealings of the rich and the powerful, in the public and private sectors of Canada and the world didn't go over my head (or is it ring off deaf ears?).

I also think that the system of profit from (re)developement, transfer of public funds to private sector, ie. the War Machine, needs to be reckognized and destroyed.  We need to keep researching 'the Money" and publicizing the backroom deals.

The part about Canada's demonstrated rascist policies towards Muslims, as well as the brief mention of Jason Kenney who engages rascist policy against 'foreigners' of all creeds and colour, is important information.  The support of Israel and war crimes, as well as actions agaist Omar Khadr who is the only child soldier EVER to be accused and tried as a criminal, and the abuses more directly associated with muslim communities in Canada and worldwide named in the article are much more convincing and well documented (with references, and widely available) than the position that this article is "internal is lamophobia" from my perspective as a white person.  I don't believe that the intent was to defame or attack any sect or follower of a faith (aside from neoliberal capitalist dogs)

to The Critical Thinker, from Toronto, I think it is your long winded smear campaign that proves your own "lesson" (thanks for that daddy journalist),

"that using references to prominent scholars and academic terms, to add authenticity to an article does not mean that it is right or strong."

Anyways, there is way more value to the article, and critique of the defamation that followed that could go on. Thanks for the updates Sumayya.

to The Critical Thinker, Toronto

it's not your lack of critical thinking that is the most shocking, it's always the commitment to the neoliberal agenda that surprises and outrages me.

"It is well-documented in numerous case-studies that museums, galleries, and other initiatives to draw tourists empower the neighboring communities. Therefore, this museum should create jobs and advance the livelihood of all communities Muslim and non-Muslims in the area and bring tourists and attention of Torontonians to that much neglected part of the city."

This is called gentrification, meaning that the rich take a new neighbourhood and displace the previous community.  Obviously since there is no plan to solve poverty or homelessness (unless I haven't heard of the new official plan), a museum is not going to affect anyone but the property owners and the tourists.  Further more, your "should" gives you away as a bought and paid for neo-liberal fanatic.  The fact that you are willing to brainstorm prosperity, is far from benevolent I think, and a classic as far as taking part in choices you and other devout capitalists will never have to suffer the results of.

 

" It is well understood that these communities are neglected and stagnating into poverty."

Who is doing the neglecting?  What are the responsabilities they are neglecting?  Where are they putting their energies instead?

 

Good try Mr. Critical thinker, but your motivations blind you.  Your dissertation on journalistic integrity holds alot of factual claims and no citations either.  Did you even proof read your own position? This is not critical thinking.

A Response to Mike and his allegations.

I cannot just stop laughing , so when the writer runs out of defenses and her news-story comments post is filled with criticism of similar resonances of negative opinion as mine against her bad move to write this improperly composed article, she resorts to desperation and decides to call upon her colleagues such as Mike Hassel who works at the Vancouver Media Co-OP a subsidiary of the Toronto Media CO-Op above with the same agenda as Sumayya .

Mike actually previously posted and often composes stories for the Vancouver branch. His most recent story was entitled "On visits from Canada's spy agency: A community advisory" that is posted on:

http://vancouver.mediacoop.ca/story/3458

Ah what a pity! So when the Toronto Dominion News Cooperative and its staff get their forums filled with criticism for their lack of respect for sensitivity to other minority communities , they decide to call in their own writers and staff members to respond to the ever growing disapproving public opinion or try to abuse their leverage of control and majority opinion on the site. This is just pathetic and saddening!

If we want to know who else has engaged in such kind of activities and bought their own people in an attempt to hijack the media and public perception through sophistries, we don't need to go far back in history and just remember the American invasion of Baghdad. This action on the part of Mike , Summaya and the Dominion News Coopeative reminds me of, when President George Bush attacked Iraq in 2003, the majority of the civilian population of Baghdad was hiding fearing for their lives at the time of war, and then we see in the CNN and Al-Jazeera media coverage a large group of men hired by CNN walking up to Saddam's statues speaking a Syrian Arabic dialect rather than the Iraqi Arabic dialect (which by the way were paid volunteers recruited by the USA media companies from Syria because not enough Iraqis thought it safe to emerge from their safe-hidings) and they broke the statues of Saddam and engaged in praising American liberation so as to influence the world and American opinion against the war in Iraq. Through such clever set-up , the American Republicans attempted to hijack and manipulate the media for their purposes and political agenda.

Its saddening that the staff at the Dominion News Cooperative had to resort to such low standards and they have to get people of their own organization to compose replies in the defense of Ms. Kassamali's article because the public critique is sky-rocketing against this article.

As for Mr. Mike, I have one word for him, while I agree with his perceptions on injustices against Omar Khadr, Muslims and his fury and criticism of the Conservative Government, I and many other Canadians will not accept critique of His Highness the Aga Khan and the Ismaili community being un-necessarily dragged into this limbo.

Reason being that The Aga Khan and the Ismailis are not affiliated in any way with the Conservative Canadian Government or as a matter of fact with any government of the world . The $300 million dollar museum is solely financed by the Aga Khan and the Canadian Government had no role in its financing, construction , planning or erection.

Harper and Jason Kenney were fulfilling their protocol duties by attending the event and issuing statements as is the role of any Government leader whenever any major institution or building opens in their country.

The Aga Khan Development Network and the institutions of the Ismaili imamat are independent and in no way affiliated with any government whatsoever. They are an independent charitable entity on their own operated by the leadership of the Aga Khan and the Imamat institutions.

The charitable donations provided by the Ismaili community to the Aga Khan that Ms. Kassamali made reference to is a centuries old Islamic tradition practiced by Sunnis and Shi'ites and is akin to zakat, khums or any charity for humanitarian purposes given by all muslim and even followers of other faiths like Christians, Jews and Hindus practice similar kinds of alms giving.

Ms. Kassamali is from the Muslim faith herself and she should not be playing this blind-folded game as she is very well aware of this zakat /charitable tax that all muslims are encouraged to provide to assist the poor and needy. It is likely possible her family and she herself also pays this tax to her local mosque or religious place of worship.

Furthermore, the references to ISRAID,CIDA,USAID reports and other references Ms. Kassamali has made show no links of the Aga Khan institutions to this fictional "war-machine" you make reference to. Someone else previously bought the issue that it was a health-care promotion initiative only and jokingly evoked sarcasm at your paranoia. So whats the big deal here? Therefore, this is a very serious allegation against the community with no evidence whatsoever.

Whatever the Canadian Conservative Government and Harper does is not the business and does not fall within the humanitarian development platform of the Aga Khan and his institutions. Therefore, it is unfair and highly unethical to mix the two individuals especially with no evidence.

Hence, it is unfair that the Aga Khan is dragged into this and he bears the brunt of criticism for the Canadian Government's actions when he was not involved in any way.

The Aga Khan is the spiritual leader of the Ismailis and the face of Ismaili Islam. Many Ismailis and non-Ismaili muslims hold him in great reverence as member of Prophet Muhammad's family and regard his excellent humanitarian work ,religious devotion, pluralism and efforts to end human suffering and poverty in very high respect. Just as the Catholics respect the Pope or the Jews revere the chief Rabbi of Jerusalem.

Therefore, unfairly criticizing the leader of the community with no solid evidence and attaching malicious labels and promoting unfounded conspiracy theories around his humble efforts and museum is everything that spells defamation.

Aside from correcting your spelling mistakes and grammar errors Mr. Mike which I think you deliberately made to come of as the average "reader" and hide your affiliation with Media Coop, I recommend that you please go and open the dictionary to look up the meaning of the word defamation.

Defamation is defined by our standard Oxford dictionary clearly as "slanderous communication or false accusation against someone with no evidence and often due to malicious intent."

Ms. Kassamali has not been able to provide any solid documents to show any of the charges that she is making about the museum's, the Ismaili community and the Aga Khan's relationship with the Canadian Government, ISRAID, CIDA,USAID and Harper's political agenda. She mentions her self that "concrete" facts are hard to come by in the starting of her article and so she has no right to make erroneous claims with no evidence on her plate whatsoever .

Also Mr. Mike you stated before "we need to keep on researching and publicizing the back-room deals,"-- I wish you good luck on this incomplete research and I am sure you will not find anything of substance or solid evidence because you are looking for something that does not exist and is the result of your intolerant and overly hyperactive paranoid and conspiratorial mind trying to find something negative or evil or malicious in someone's good intentions.

I can guarantee you that if this story is taken to court for defamation charges it will be a win-win case as this is a clear-cut example of vilifying a community and its leader and attempting to spread rumors and misconceptions with no grounding in objective or factual reality and rather out of malicious intent.

I am going to end on a final note and not bother to reply to this site and Mr Mike's or anyone else' responses as Dominion News Cooperative has lost all credibility by promoting its people and intern staff to post on forums to change public perception and attempting to silence or change the face of debate.

The very "FAIR TRADE" principle that the company attempts to promote and their so called mandate to allowing all side to get their voice heard and its purpose is defeated when its own staff and interns start posting and not letting the public make their own decision and forcing to change the public opinion.

Whats the difference between Bush who did a similar activity in 2003 invasion of Baghdad and recruited paid people to express the American Goverment's pro-war view upon the fall of Baghdad and hijacking freedom of press.

This company will not gain it's respect in my eyes and many others when its employees like Kassamali and Mike stop encouraging their colleagues to post and let the intended public make their own decision and not try to force or coerce them by getting your people to post on the form.

Mr. Mike due to his affiliation with the MediaCoop should have stayed out and let the public and other readers post their opinion, its unethical for the people with corporate agenda and those that work at a corporation to post other than the author of the article herself as she has the only right to respond or clarify.

Its a pity that freedom of proper journalistic discourse and true expression is coming to this pathetic standard. I am actually wondering if this comment will even be approved and this opinion is allowed because people like Mike and the Media-Coop and its activities have been outed!

Regardless, I will not be providing any more lip-service to this story as its no worthy of responding to and response and comments simply give attention mongers and people like Ms. Kassamali a chance to advance their journalism portfolio by getting unnecesary attention for their provocative views not grounded in fact or evidence.

I was aware and cautious

I was aware and cautious about the potential to offend, in this culturally hot subject.  I am anti capitalist. I tried to keep my comments to an analysis of the financial, and the language of the arguments.  What has become more clear for me, is that culture and everyday life and challenges, are more obvious and occupy peoples thoughts more than the politics of the capitalist system we live in. 

I would maintain that I made no comments on muslim culture, nor the Aga Khan.  I believe that the author was coming from an anti-capitalist critique, on the power and dealings of those in the world who have capital, and take handshaking photo ops.  Maybe mixing culture, religion and politics is potentially explosive, but that certainly doesn't mean we can just remove or ignore politics. It's just not possible.

I have posted other articles to the media coop, it's true.  It's worth understanding though, that i am neither paid, employed, told what to do, or even requested to do anything; this is a co-operative effort.  I do not know any of the people in this article or thread.  Also,  This is not a company, corporation, or other organization with tha aim to 'build business'.  I think the language of this kind in this comment section demonstrates well the inability of western to see life in terms other than profit.  

I would also maintain that the response to this article is extemely angry.  I can understand that.  I would not criticize reacting.  I did think however that the personal attacking, and lengthy character descriptions, is hardly coming from the highest place.  I also think it's interesting to see how the language of capital and economic speak is ever present in some peoples vocabulary, no matter what they are talking about.

I think there is plenty of evidence in the world today, that the use of wealth is generally for the maintenance of wealth and priveledge, not for the benefit of the poor.  (I am not saying anything about ismailis or the AGA Khan.)  I think that any effort to mainain otherwise, or that we just have to hang in with the plan, is ignorant, childish or motivations of a class seeking to maitain it's own position.

I think the two topics of culture/religion and politics should have been separated earlier.  It's interesting to see though, how reactive, angry, and conservative canada really is.  When people feel hurt, their reaction is to hurt.  When people feel angry, their reaction is to destroy.  This is evident in ALL comment sections in canadian internet media.

 

Reply to Mike

Mike, I have clearly mentioned that the case-studies of museums, hospitals, and parks creating jobs for the people in their respective areas are well-documented. This has nothing to do with gentrification and the rich displacing the poor. Due to the text limit on the site, I had to restrict my responses but I will throw an example for you to chew on.

If you go to the AKDN's website, SIMILAR projects akin to the museum have been beneficial to their local communities with poor socio economic backgrounds. I reccomend you go and do some research before blurting out random flawed statements.

http://www.akdn.org/aktc_hcp_alazhar.asp

The most appropriate citation that I am going to provide is the $30 million Al-Azhar Park and Historical Monuments Restoration Project that reached its culmination in 2005 in Egypt. This project attempted to create a 30-hectare park for families, tourists and the locals to relax and un-wind in the neglected slum of the Al-Azhar district of Cairo. This park is now the greenest and one of the most environmentally friendly place in busy Cairo and promoting principles of environmental sustainability.

Aside from the park, the Historical Cities development project also included restoration of historical sites, forts, ancient ramparts, monuments and structures of the Ayyubid and Fatimid Dynasties of 12th Century Egypt that had been neglected and deteriorating in the vicinity of the park.

The entire construction of the park and restoration of historical sites, recruited horticulturalists, builders and artisans from different sectors such as shoemaking, furniture manufacturing and tourist goods production. Apprenticeships were also made available for automobile electronics, mobile telephones, computers, masonry, carpentry and office skills for the residents of the run-down Darb-al-Ahmar area of Cario.

Furthermore, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture also promoted and sustained Local housing. The houses of poor people were renovated and returned to their owners. Housing rehabilitation activities undertaken by the Aga Khan Trust for Culture is expected to average 50 houses per year until 2007.

In response to your fallacious argument of gentrification, this sustainable approach of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture, on the contrary, has been fundamental to stimulate rehabilitation without displacing residents, largely by ensuring that they have a stake in the future of their community—by helping create viable businesses through the provision of micro-credit and assisting owners restore crumbling houses and improve the outlook of their surrounding areas.

The success-story of the Aga Khan Trust for Culture in restoring the Historical neighborhood and its monuments along with the creation of the Al-Azhar park is a economic, cultural and sustainability friendly success story that is recognized by other non-profit organizations. It has been recognized as the world's Top-60 Great Public Places by the New York based international not-for-profit charitable organization entitled The Project for Public Spaces (PPS) and has also been the recipient of the Global Innovation Award for its unique approach to preventing gentrification and yet at the same time creating economic empowerment of the poor and restoring historical sites of touristic and cultural importance.

Therefore, Mr. Mike, I would like to say that you please do your homework before spreading and making false assertions about this projects and the work of the Aga Khan Development Network.

Secondly, I will emphasize that stop jumping to conclusions and assumptions. The Aga Khan Museum and the Aga Khan Park in Toronto Donmills area is similar in many aspects to the Al-Azhar project, the park project is identical more or less the same and the museum can be likened to restoration of monument in Egypt, and the construction process and hiring of technical staff in the construction and post-construction phase will certainly be empowering the local community. The previous projects by Aga Khan Trust for Culture has particularly focused on the needs of the poor communities and underprivileged and it has certainly paid attention to this in all the areas it is promoting cultural development. The Historical Cities Project takes great care of this issue because its purpose is to alleviate and empower the poor. Sadly, people like you are not doing your research and just throwing "crap" around and assumptions with no basis in reality .

In response to your argument:

" It is well understood that these communities are neglected and stagnating into poverty."

Who is doing the neglecting? What are the responsabilities they are neglecting? Where are they putting their energies instead?

Those questions are something you should ask the Canadian Government and local city councilors and other social advocacy organizations . The Aga Khan Museum and the Aga Khan trust for culture has shown by example in all their engagements in the past and you can access thorough documentation on their historical restoration and parks projects in India, Pakistan and Egypt that they prevent gentrification and create opportunities for the underprivileged. The AKDN I am sure will continue its spirit to serve the poor as it has shown by example in Delhi, Karachi, Cairo and other cities. But I think those questions should be posed to your Government leaders in Canada as they are perhaps not doing their job but the Aga Khan Development Network's website shows it has taken care in the past of those issues and I am positive it will continue its same spirit in the future.

I have one last leaving point for you. Every single argument you have bought up to date has been thoroughly refuted with sources. Please stop misinforming the public and I think you need to do critical thinking on your part.

Your motivations to dishonor , bring blame and to spread factually incorrect and non-supported or un-explained assertions reveals to the audience that you are the misinformed conspiracy theorist who just wants to throw gibberish and terms out but not back them up with examples or case-studies.

I've done my part and the case on my side remains closed.

I recommend, you to go and double check before blindly making factual claims. You will find contradictions and answers to all your questions you have bought up in the past.

I don't have the time to discuss this further. Please go and do your research. I have spoken enough. I'm not going to spend my time arguing with a boor who just keeps on throwing his favorite pet-name "neo-liberalist fanatic " across the room and just wants a podium to shout out his slogans and talk factually wrong crap with no back-up evidence. I have shown via parallelism the support that it is highly unlikely it will create gentrification because the Aga Khan Trust for Culture is running numerous development projects in the developing world and it has learned from experience many things and is effectively addressed this concern in all its 20 or so development projects in culture, history and parks around the world.

Therefore, Toronto is no exception to this rule.

Ignorance is bliss when you crash the anarchist myopia

Preview comment
Mon, 06/07/2010 - 01:56 — Yadayada (not verified)
Ignorance is bliss when you crash the anarchist myopia

Lets take into consideration that the praise and eulogy from Mike for the author assuming it is not from the The Haymarket Martyrs' Monument or violent protesters from Seattle 2000, and is informed opinion. The arguments by itself can only be valid in terms of excess of political interest and self serving capitalism, If not for mitigating circumstances What people forget is communism and socialism including Anarchy has not served society well either.

Worst people forget that Ethnic, religious and class hot buttons,are reactionary impulse Mike seems to buy into and readily justify its use by the author when directed towards the Ismaili who want to make the History of Islam available through Art, Poetry and Historical artifacts, Is it an unwanted threat to Canadian society get serious, This is an ignorant opinion and rather dogmatic wrt the author, and you don't have to look to far to the Spanish or Taliban inquisition, or the Shia Sunni conflict in Iraq or in which over a million Iranians died serving the Khomeini against Iraq or Taliban for real threat, Poor little innocent little boys whose fate was decided by the Clergy of Iran encouraged by theology of Martyrdom against Iraq/Sunni, Where is her outrage on the subject, Did the author tell Mike she has her spiritual and religious allegiance to Iranian Clergy of which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the prime Minister.

The Hypocrisy of the author is lost on Mike who does not realize that the author Sumaiyya Kassamali's Family was not always Shia twelvers and one time were followers of the Agakhan and who made a choice to follow the belief that a 1000 year old hidden Imam in Iraq will resurrect on judgment day and punish the infidels. There has always been unfair criticism of Shia Ismailis from Gujarati or Pakistani Shia twelvers and not necessarily the Shia Iranian and a choice between co-existence and exclusive Shia ideology a point of contention, the question is who speaks for the Shias, Ismailis believe it is the Agakhan The Author believes it is the likes of Iranian Clergy speaking on behalf of 1000 year old hidden Imam,Does Ahmadinejad care if all the Sunnis, Israelis and Ismailis are nuked. or is it that you think Hezbollah and Hamas are alternatives to Nelson Mandela, Mike get serious, Why don't you ask the Author what her religious beliefs are, Don't guess I will tell you She will tell you She is neutral, and there is no such thing as sectarian bigotry in Islam, Mike get real if you are buying into her argument that Canadian Govt under Harper is corrupt in terms of social justice don't be a fool, it is an argument made against all Govt's , Mike try and live in Iran and Saudi Arabia or Sudan and ask someone living in Darfur if he is willing to switch places with you

when you create a seeming paradox between the western political culture with Iranian Dictatorship which She is Theologically part off and One needs to make sure the criticism is objective, The Museum is not part of politics as far as the Ismailis are concerned and for you Mike and author are concerned I say Democracy is a fine way to express yourself you don't need a scapegoat in The Agakhan which is a poor attempt of the author, The Museum can stand or fall on its own Merits, The linkage of capitalism to discredit sincere humanitarian efforts of Agakhan Foundation employing 70,000 people worldwide providing Schools, Hospitals and micro-finance as infusion to economic survival in the third world, is really objectionable in which Ismailis make immense financial Sacrifice, Mike how you sustain your argument is a disgrace to the very poor and ignored you speak of , be it in Canada or around the world, Do you have to scrap to the bottom of the barrel to argue that the the author is not a sectarian bigot and is motivated by altruism for Social justice after all is that not the claim of her co-coreligionist leaders in Iran like Ahmadinejad. Seriously Mike if it was not funny I would say you are searching for Emma Goldman In the wrong person. Does She really need a trained parrot to speak for herself, So what are the motivations that blind you, I have seen better posters representing reverse evolution

Stop being defensive and try to understand what is written...

...while many seem to have been overly-offended by this article courtesy of their own hereditary prejudices, egos, and biases; in my humble opinion, the author has very intelligently articulated the reality of the situation today...we must start asking critical questions of ourselves - there are many, many issues today that take a back-seat because we choose to focus on the spin and the warm-and-fuzzy and refuse to ask the important questions and/or challenge the status-quo because deep down, we fear the truth that will manifest itself once we remove the layers of nonsense, superstition, and bullshit that we've so conveniently convinced ourselves as being our 'reality'...this author's viewpoint is a very valid one and has been very well articulated - it deserves to be understood in the context in which it has been written, and it deserves intelligent dialog - not biased, dis-informed counter-opinions...

Please read the article again...carefully this time

To Rahim Dawood,

I am sorry to see that you confuse logical and clear critiques with "hereditary prejudices, egos, and biases". Please read my response on this page entitled "Illogical, Ignorant or Irresponsible: take your pick" and you will hopefully get a better idea of why the argument of this article is flawed, namely, because it is based upon faulty premises. As I explain, the author attempts to demonstrate that Canadian (and to a larger extent, North American) Ismailis cannot be trusted in part due to their "secrecy" and "wealth". Not only is this a false image of the distribution of poverty and wealth throughout the Muslim community (ignoring the poverty amongst North American Ismailis of Afghani and Central Asian descent and the simultaneous wealth and influence of numerous non-Ismaili Muslims throughout North America, the UK, Europe, etc) but it is also based upon the unfounded assumption that religious privacy and personal wealth are somehow inherently negative qualities when logically speaking, they have no affect on the actual consequences and results of social, cultural, and intellectual investments (such as the Museum) or charitable projects (such as the countless hospitals and health centres that the AKDN builds across the developing world). I encourage you to re-analyze the premises of this article before making, as the other does, unfounded assumptions. 

Defending the indefensible

People actually understand the argument on its own merit, It is the slander, unsubstantiated prejudice, Linkage that is offensive, When you accuse Ismailis of hereditary, prejudice, egos and bias, your own hypocrisy as dawoodi Bohra becomes obvious, This is about an article that fundamentally lacks Ethics of Journalism, I hardly think you can compare human experiences and than try to relate to others in a vacuum ,There is a history of Sadaqa (Humanitarian Aid) being ignored It is shameful for anyone to link this with Globalisation when you can't even make a specific argument Wrt to the Museum, Agakhan Foundation and humanitarian Aid, or any of its projects,The Agakhan Partnership walk  is 100% aid NO administrative costs fundamentally borne by community volunteer efforts and The Agakhan, It actually addresses the negative impact of Globalisation,At the same time Hospitals and Schools worldwide initiated by the Agakhan does not discriminate, where is the prejudice you talk about, I have heard enough B.S rethoric on  power brokers and globalisation from you but how many of you have actually bothered to read the speeches of the Agakhan and other Ismailis on Globalisation and Civil society.

http://www.agakhanschools.org/academies/mombasa/pdf/speech_azim-nanji.pdf

 

Why we don't need dichotomies

(Especially not ones that are based on gross generalizations)

It's disappointing to see that the entire crux of this article lies in polarizing and divisive dichotomies. The very construction of the Aga Khan Museum in the landscape of a Canada which is marked by so much misunderstanding about Islam today, is in itself a step forward in the struggle to foster increased understanding and address Islamophobia head-on. So perhaps most disheartening is the last paragraph where the author chooses to frame the discussion as though it were a battle between "progressive" and "struggling" Muslims.

Citing the "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim" argument, Kassamali appears to have misunderstood the very basis of Mamdani's fight against "Culture Talk", which he argues rests upon notions as Huntington's "Clash of Civilizations" thesis. The notion of a clash of civilizations or cultures is preoccupied with the events that are manifesting on a cultural and political scale and rather than addressing the root of these occurrences, chalks them up to a battle between “East” and “West”, “modern” and “past”. The very perception that these categories exist, let alone that there is an inherent disparity between them, is as the Aga Khan eloquently puts it, rather, a “clash of ignorances”, failing to recognize that the history of Muslim civilizations is one of diverse experiences, traditions, hardships and triumphs, and cannot be seen in the sweeping brush strokes of simplification that Kassamali posits here.

As for “struggle”, one need only look to experiences of Ismailis during the 1970s expulsion of so many refugees from Uganda who sought asylum in Canada, or the continued suffering of innocent lives at the hands of the Taliban in Afghanistan to be reminded that “struggle” is shared across the frontiers of time and space. Instead, it is confined by Kassamali to those “Muslim communities who are on the other side of this…”, as if continued suffering were some sort of badge of authenticity marking who real the Muslims are. Just who are “we” anyway? The language of the article itself seems to be a deliberate attempt to polarize the discussion. Writing, “To Stephen Harper and the Aga Khan: we reject your glorification of a state that does not exist for our protection”, from the comfort of a country that affords at least enough freedom to criticize, speak out, protest, and practice, the author seems to neglect the privileges of living in a society comprised of so many cultures and peoples. Canada, of course, still has a long way to go, as the Aga Khan himself alluded to in his interview with the Globe and Mail, this past week (http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/the-aga-khans-world-view/artic...). The fact remains there is a determination for plurality that drives Canadian society, whether it is because of its population or its government, and this is exactly why the construction of a museum of Islamic culture in the context of the cultural landscape of this country is such a strong symbolic statement.

Islam has a tradition of cooperation, dating back to Muhammad’s own lifetime, which the Aga Khan upholds today by working within the structures of various countries around the world to improve the quality of life for the world’s ultra-poor, not only Ismailis, and in the case of the museum, to serve as space in which to promote discourse about the diversity of Islamic traditions and foster knowledge and mutual cooperation. As the Qur’an says: “Hold fast, all together, unto the bond with God, and do not draw apart from one another.” As this article sadly reminds us, the struggle for a common humanity continues…

Baby Steps...

First of, I would like to thank the author for penning this article.  I am unsure of the motive, for this article alludes to a lot of different areas, most of which are unrelated or extremely remotely related to what I believe is the focus of the article...the necessity of building this museum (Please correct me if that was not the focus).  Nevertheless, I wish to thank her, for the article generates dialogue and debate..and that is never a bad thing, for it can bring forth exchange of opinions, and understanding.  Thank you kindly, ma'am.

The author asks "what will the museum bring us".

I believe that the answer to that is simple and readily apparent,  INITIATING DIALOGUE.  That is what it will bring us.  Without DIALOGUE, there is no understanding.  Without understanding, there is fear and with fear, comes resistance to acceptance.  Without acceptance, there is no sustainable integration. Without integration, there is no harmony, and without harmony, there is conflict.

The author writes: QUOTE “Look!”, these museums can claim. “There were once totem poles, and we settlers have preserved them so well!” END QUOTE.  First of, this museum is not being built by the so-called 'settlers' but by the Muslims themselves (unless the author considers Agakhan and the Ismailis not to be Muslims).  Second, if those 'totem poles' generate curiosity or thought in even a few uninfluenced mind, who knows the degree of progress that could lead to, when compared with the status quo? 

Effective and sustainable change comes from the grassroots level, and comes from the changing of minds, not by enforced legislation.  It works best if it is bottom up, instead of top down.  This museum is a rung in that ladder of understanding.  How can that be a bad thing or an unnecessary thing?

Islam has been portrayed negatively extensively in the present times...  Some of it is phobia or fear (which stems out of not having an understanding and fear generated therefrom), and some of it is because it is misused as an all encompassing cloak...a reason to justify vile actions by a few, based on selective interpretation of The Holy Quran.  That is a separate debate altogether.  However, if this museum helps show what Islam is truly capable of... the people, the culture... that Islam gave birth to scholars like the father of modern medicine and pharmacology..Avicenna or the father of environmentalism..Al-Kindi...then it is a step in the right direction, for it will work towards removing the misconception that Islam is about taking away women's rights, and blowing up people that don't agree with you.

No, the museum is not a complete one-step solution (then again, what is???), but it is certainly a step in the right direction.   Yes, the museum won't bring back Omar Khadr, but it can help inform and influence why the Omar Khadrs of the world should not be treated different from John Doe.

In response to Baby Steps...

 

...and in response to the few comments out there (some for, but most against the author and the article) that have some merit, but in my humble opinion, don't seem to be reviewing/commenting on the original article in its entirety and - more importantly - in context...

...speculation of motive aside, there is very relevant content within the article that needs to be understood and engaged with...for example: while 'Torontonian' interpreted the 'settlers building museums' comment the way they did in the 'Baby Steps' comment, to me it begged for reflection on what contemporary museums (or endeavors like these) truly represent...reminded me of the famous Winston Churchill quote: "History is written by the victors"...and there are some very difficult questions (even within the historical context of the Ismailis) that need to be answered before one can articulate a fitting response to a question about the very motive of building something representing 'Islam' to a world that has only just begun to pronounce that word properly...if mainstream Islam isn't Wahabbism, then for a minority (often cult-like) Ismaili interpretation to claim being representative of the greater faith of Islam is equally dangerous - especially when there is no preceding dialog and understanding...

...understood that this is a GREAT initiative to engage people and encourage dialog to get to that level of understanding; as it stands today, an opinion like the one expressed by the author of the article we're discussing is both legitimate and accurate from the author's perspective - and especially (if you read on through to the end) when the author remarks that: "...Just as Canadian history museums do not address the realities of colonization, an Islamic Art museum will not address Islamophobia. It will not bring Omar Khadr back from Guantanamo Bay, it will not shift the unwaveringly pro-Israel stance of the Conservative government, and it will not change the systemic, legislated racism that permeates Canada at all levels."...an observation both relevant and important to the entire planet...

...we can, of course, debate this until the end of time and still have three camps (two at the extremes and one blowing in the wind) - those that will never get over the '300 million dollars' that could have hypothetically better been spent on the starving, illiterate, dying masses of this planet and those that will never be able to tolerate any negative publicity about the '300 million dollar' feel-good-about-my-heritage project and everyone in between - all of whom are right and wrong to varying degrees of interpretation - but all of whom need to answer each others' questions first before there is consensus...even if that consensus is an agreement to disagree...

...while the author does err in judgment by over-simplifying the 'partnerships' between the wealthy elite and their 'profit-driven' agenda under the guise of humanitarian and philanthropic endeavor; there are some harsh truths that need to be faced...Afghanistan is a very good example...while a very fragile and complex situation - and hardly within my expertise to even speculate on, let alone express an opinion - it is important for the masses to know why it is that the wealthy elite choose to put their support behind Karzai - and why Karzai's brother enjoy's autonomy in the highly-profitable heroin trade - and why the heroin trade is allowed to go on in the first place...I have physically visited these places where illicit trades are the ONLY source of employment and where the socio-economic realities are much more complex than the average sheltered westerner can even begin to imagine - and I can, to a certain extent, understand how sometimes you need to strike a deal with the lesser of the multiple 'evils' you have to choose from - but I refuse to believe that these issues can only be tackled behind closed doors and can only be dealt with by the elite few - who seem to have a much bigger conflict of interest in the bigger picture than the remaining 90 percent of the world that has to live with the less than 10 percent ownership of the wealth and resources of this planet...

...I will commend the author for bringing up that very relevant point - and many comments on this forum seem to (wrongfully) want to separate the issue from the 'museum' one, citing irrelevance - that these institutions, courtesy of the closed-door vision that they pursue, seem to only be serving to rake in profits for the elite that hold on to all the strings - and without clarity and transparency, there should (and will) always be questions like these that deserve to be answered...by attacking the author of this article, you and I don't change the fact that these institutions do indeed promote and protect the corporate-military agenda and rake in huge profits courtesy of their support for the same - however complex the situations that they face, however difficult the realities that they endure, however sour the grapes they themselves have to swallow...

...the influential power-mongers - amidst whom His Highness also stands to be counted - need to better articulate to the masses what this 'globalization' of the planet is truly designed for - the good, the bad, and the ugly...and it's okay to tell the truth - if there is merit to the movement, it will forge ahead regardless of the resistance it meets - but to enslave the masses to an 'ism' that today only seems to further consolidate and strengthen the stranglehold that the elite few have on the rest of this planet is not acceptable and needs to be challenged at every level of society...

...I know I digressed from the topic in question - essentially though, this is the kind of dialog that needs to start happening - and from the proverbial 'top' down...

I am not Muslim and I did not

I am not Muslim and I did not know of the Aga Khan very well before reading this article.  I must admit though, the title kind of threw me off: what could possibly be so wrong with someone that a museum should not be built by them?  And honestly, what's so wrong with a place which exhibits Islamic culture?

It's a good thing the people who have commented on this seemingly defamatory and dangerously unfocused piece of writing know better.

I encourage readers to go through the comments above as well as the links to which their authors make reference to get a better understanding of the sheer breadth of this undertaking and His Highness' sincere commitment thereto.

Sumayya Kassamali: I hope you consider writing an article on the Wynford projects after they are built and their programming is underway.  If you then still hold the view that we don't need a museum courtesy of the Aga Khan, I daresay that you will find yourself alone or in bad company.  Indeed, Egypt, Tanzania and the United Kingdom already have museums which are in various stages of planning and development under the direct support of the Aga Khan.

moderation

interesting that so many people have mentioned being unable to comment on this story, and i imagine it's no coincidence that they disagree with author. perhaps this will need to forwarded up the chain to a higher authority, since the author seems to be selective about allowing feedback. funny though, some of the media coop's very own are posting here without any trouble in defense of the author. what was all that about back-room dealings?

RE: Moderation

Hi everyone,

In response to the questions about moderation: all comments are pre-moderated. It can take up to 24 hrs for a comment to appear, and I can assure you that no comments have been held back because of their opinions about the article. We do have an editorial policy around comments considered homophobic, racist, etc, but we allow for a wide scope.

Also, while all local media co-ops (Vancouver, Toronto, etc) are part of the same network, those who have posted before (ie Mike & Sumayya) are not necessarily colleagues or even acquaintances of each other, but rather people who have actively participated on the site.

thanks for clarifying tim.

thanks for clarifying tim. several people i know were beginning to wonder why their comments weren't appearing. glad to see that media coop maintains the integrity of public feedback.

Moderation of Comments

Mr. Tim,

Your comments about moderating the article are not properly asserted. Many people on the weekend and even before the weekend on Friday or Thursday complained that their comments were with-held for more than 24-hours and in fact they were held till later on Monday.

Yet at the same time, replies by Summayya , Mike and others were allowed to be published online even when they were published at around the same time as the others whose were with-held.

As far as your assertions about the relation between Mike and Sumayya not being colleagues, another writer has firmly established the link that the two have published articles before and many media-coop writers know one another being affiliated with the same institution . Also, if you read Mike's defense of Sumayya's article, and carefully read between the lines it certainly appears as a friend defending another friend. Many others on the forum here agree that this is the case.

On a final note, please be advised that the company Media Coop and Sumayya's article has been referred to professional journalism guilds and regulatory bodies in operation for not respecting the laws of journalistic expression. Two of the major organizations have concurred and will soon be exploring this articles merits and dismerits in detail.

This article that was approved by your editorial board and it falls short of the criteria set-out in the manual for journalistic expression and even on the guidelines on your site. It is recommended that the editors review this article for a second time.

Freedom of Expression is a fundamental right of our Canadian and Western society and the ethical basis of journalism.

However, it should be emphasized that libelous claims against a community and it's leader, who is especially a Canadian citizen and whose members form an integral part of Canadian society are unwarranted as per the ethics and standards of professional journalism.

Investigative Journalism is important for our society but it carries the burden of proof and requires well researched assertions and accounts. Sumayya's article is promoting libels of secrecy, back-room deals and other allegations against a community and an individual (The Aga Khan)with no proof.

Furthermore, she has not bothered to interview the members of the other side such as individuals from the Ismaili Community to provide a varied account of her assertions. The assertions she is making have the potential to instigate hate-crimes and discrimination against a community by other uninformed readers viewing this article.

Those are four stark violations of Accuracy of Reporting, Harm Limitation Principle, Slander and Libel Considerations and improper representation.

In addition, the writer is mixing her personal beliefs as a Twelver Shi'ite in the article and she has to even refer to this religious affiliation in her response to comments to one individual. Argumentum ad hominmen further complicates this article's merits.

This article is a gross violation of journalistic standards set-out and the allegations need to be backed-up properly. This is a poor job of investigative journalism should the writer has attempted to do so.

Nevertheless, the main crux of journalism is that the viewer or reader makes the decision. In this case, despite the parody of principles of proper journalism the readers have expressed their opinion.

Mr Jean

I am curious as to what "professional journalism guilds and regulatory bodies" you have referred the Media Co-op to. As far as I am aware no such "regulatory [body]" exists in Canada.

I am Ismaili and I mostly agree with the article.

As I read about "Good" and "Bad" Muslims, and "past" and "future" I might say that there is a huge discrimination within the Ismaili "INSTITUTION. Within the Ismaili Community members from Central Asia and Afghanistan are "Bad" Muslims, looking back to the Past,taking the description  from the article and "Good", with vision to the future are the rest. The museum might bring the Islamic ar closer t to the Westerners, however, I doubt that it will bring other streams of Islam closer to itself. Again,  Ismailies might not let them in. Within the Ismailies they do like to call themselves Muslims, Which the Central Asian and Afghanish members resent all the time. If you speak up in the Ismili community you will be labeled as insane. Therefore, I think that for Aga Khan and Harper it was just mutual self interest, and I think  Rahim jaffer is safer now. His name has been bought. 

To Vancouver TO_TJ, I would

To Vancouver TO_TJ,

I would say this is a gross generalization on your part. While there is something to be said for some members in the older generation who may feel a particular affinity for their culture and traditions, the Ismaili faith is not limited to any one culture and because of the growing diversity within the tradition, there are some who may feel a certain nostalgia for "the way it was". But as a scholar of the Ismaili faith, I can tell you that this is certainly not the vision of the Imam and your observation does not represent the majority of Ismailis. This should be clarified. There is overwhelming initiative on the part of Ismailis from various cultures today to engage with one another and learn more about the traditions. This initiative is reflected also in the publications of the IIS, which seeks to unite Ismailis and non-Ismailis alike through the dissemination of knowledge and first-hand scholarship of the various cultural practices, beliefs, and traditions that make up this ever-growing and evolving faith.

The writer's re-assertion of the "good" Muslim "bad" Muslim dichotomy only serves to reinforce the divisions cast upon Islam by many an orientalist thinker and has unfortunately hurt and undermined years of effort on the part of Muslims and scholars of Islam to bring an awareness of the nature of Islam and Muslim civilizations to the world today. One hopes that the Aga Khan Museum will be a step forward in this regard and many Ismailis and non-Ismailis that I know personally look forward to the discourse that will occur in this shared and civic space.

 

 

First off- I have to say that

First off- I have to say that these comments are getting pretty ridiculous.

Most of the so-called critcisms simply change the subject and address issues that Sumayya wasn't even trying to get at. Nobody said it's a bad thing to appreciate Islamic culture. What's questionable is how this is being done and why. What's questionable is the collaboration and glamourization of a corrupt government with the idea that being apologetic and opening avenues of 'dialogue' is somehow going to reform the system. Will real change come through coddling with Harper? I highly doubt it, and we're naive to think that real change will come by working oppressive institutions as opposed to against them. That's what this article was about. Addressing the real issues, and working against oppressive institutions, not with them. And when Muslims or anyone for that matter, takes on this stance, the label bad muslim, or extremist, or leftist will be applied. When capitalism and excess wealth is seen as something negative, we'll see PR schemes like the absurd comments on this article take place.

The conclusion was epic: 

"We need an end to Canadian support for war and occupation, an end to the policing of our communities, an end to surveillance and complicity in torture, an end to anti-Muslim legislation. And to Stephen Harper and the Aga Khan: we reject your glorification of a state that does not exist for our protection, and your pride in the close cooperation between your two institutions of power. The tradition of Islam is one of struggle, with submission only to God – and our struggles against what you represent are far too real to ever be placated by ancient artifacts."

Thank you Sumayya- for a wonderful, thought-provoking, and informative piece! 

Sumayya, whatever your intent

Sumayya, whatever your intent here, I felt hurt and ostracized as an Ismaili. I felt as if you were saying my spiritual leader is garbage, that my faith is perverse and somehow wrong, and that I am not a true Muslim.

I share your anger and concern about the issues you raise regarding the Harper government, racism, and so forth. But all you have done here is make me feel worthless.

You may be fighting Islamophobia, but I certainly felt prejudice directed squarely at me when I read this. I am as much of a Muslim as you are.

the need for structural analyses

let me clarify -- there is nothing in this article that demeans Ismailis as a faith group. with regards to the comments about the closed-door policies of the community, it is one with which i have had numerous interactions and have constantly come up against secrecy and internal policing. another, perhaps more credible example: "as a religion reporter for the past decade trying to cover Canada's Ismaili Muslim community ... I've never experienced a major religious group so adept at keeping information away from outsiders" (Douglas Todd, The Vancouver Sun - http://morningchai.com/html/Canada%20Visit%20Articles.htm)

i am well aware of the diversity within the Canadian Ismaili community and the fact that they are not all pro-Harper venture capitalists as is presented in the public face of the community, be it the Business BC article quoted, the VANOC partnership, this museum, the CIDA-AKDN Partnership Walk, or numerous other examples.

that said, i am an anti-capitalist. it is unacceptable to me to live in a world with the types of gross inequalities that permeate our social realities. philanthropy and charity are not models i consider sustainable or even desirable contributions to our communities, as they are fundamentally premised on maintaining existing power structures, ie: it's ok to have lots of money because i give some of it away.

in turn, i am not making a statement about who IS a good, bad, better, or worse muslim. that is obviously up to God. but we live in a world where those divisions are created, and how this happens and our role within this needs to be seriously interrogated. so, i am instead presenting a critique of this process, wherein those Muslims deemed 'bad' are subject to multiple sorts of violences on a global basis, and those considered 'good' are applauded, upheld as models, and used to show that the same powers responsible for the aforementioned violences are in fact NOT racist, NOT islamophobic, and embrace things like "pluralism" and "diversity". in turn, those who are brutalized, policed, detained, deported, etc. must be deserving of it -- if only they were the better kind of muslim -- if only they invited jason kenney to their events and built expensive museums.

to say that is not a critique of a faith, it is a critique of the structures within certain people (claiming to represent a certain group) are operating. of course they are also not the only Muslim figureheads worth critiquing, but surely one article needn't say everything there is to say. and in response to all the accusations of defamation etc, i maintain my right to be angry in the face of the spineless pandering to the conservative govt that this museum has been responsible for. it is simply something i will not accept.

thanks for your honest response, however.

One hopes you don't need to

One hopes you don't need to be educated about the historical basis for prudence and privacy in the Ismaili tradition. The remarks you cite by Douglas Todd refer to the practice of keeping reliigous practice and ceremonies private in the Ismaili tradition. Todd writes: "Canadian Ismaili organizations remain among the precious few who don't welcome outsiders into their services."But as Todd learned, the Ismaili tradition is "an esoteric religious [one] and [has] a history of persecution." Ismailis still living in areas of political turmoil are "vulnerable to discrimination and oppression..." The privacy of religous practice doesn't need to be defended here, although I will say that the relationship between the Imam and his followers is particularly intimate and to preserve the integrity of that intimacy, Ismaili practices within their places of worship remain mostly private. Unfortunately for you, Todd's remarks have nothing to do with any back-handed dealings with the government or private money-grabbing intiatives. Nice try though!

As for your anti-capitalist label, frankly, get over yourself. Social disparity is the Aga Khan's most important cause, as attested to by his continous global efforts through building universities, primary schools, hospitals, museums and other long-standing institutions that will result in long term benefit. The ethic of generosity and charity are fundamental Muslim tenets, tantamount to faith itself. But since you deride philanthropy and charity, let me ask you: What alternatives do you propose? In the current climate of capitalist venture, the Aga Khan is working within the existing structures to promote change from within and acheive long-term solutions. It's not simply a matter of shouting "anarchy!" and overturning the system, but rather acknowledging that the institutions that govern our world today are interlinked, complex, and transforming them from within.

The fact is, the medium is sometimes more important than the message. Change is often accomplished more easily by partnering and building bridges with existing institutions than subverting them. This does not mean supporting their agendas or supporting any underlying motives, but it does mean gaining their cooperation to produce real outcomes. As valid as the arguments to bring back Omar Khadr and end the Gaza blockade may be, sitting up on the imagined moral pedestal and condemming the existing institutions have not yet yielded positive results either. Think about that the next time you jump to label yourself anti-this or anti-that - you could be detracting from the very legitimacy of your cause...

 

 

Your article is completly

Your article is completly factless and is totally driven by emotion and I agree you are a very, very bitter muslim. Do some actual accurate research before you decide to publish an article and write one that is based on facts not your own personal feelings or agenda. Clearly you are not intelligent or educated enough on the Aga Khan or the AKDN. You haven't a clue as to what his organizations accomplish in third world countries.

Thank you to the Critical Thinker for your comments and analysis.

Excellent article. Thanks for posting.

Perhaps some of the commentators here need a refresher (or an introduction) to the (ever evolving) law around defamation in Canada. The claim that this article is libel is ludacris, and demonstrates the lengths people will go to avoid legitimate critique of political and economic dealings between parties. Secondly, being offended is not a criteria for whether the article constitutes libel. This fear mongering in the comments section is nothing short of attempts to bully the author into silence. It won't work in making the critique go away, as I suspect you hope it will.

Having said that, I applaud the author for her intellectual courage in tackling this subject. Several years ago I had the fortune to read Mamdani's text "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim". Rather than being a departure from his critique Ms. Kassamali has merely applied his ideas to a specific context in Canada. It's how intellectual engagement works.

It saddens me that so many have fallen prey to Kenney's vocal and aggressive campaign of liberal multiculturalism, while he makes brutal, sustained, and racist attacks on Arab-Canadians, Muslims who have even an ounce of political opinion that isn't opposition to gay marriage & abortion, and those in solidarity with the aforementioned groups. The viciousness and lack of critical thinking displayed in the messages posted is exactly the point - so many have deluded themselves of the myth of multiculturalism that the smallest threat (in the form of you know, critical thinking) comes under intense attack.

Read carefully, the claim is not anti-any particular group, the necessary being asked is why Kenney and his ilk are only comfortable around a certain type of Muslim - wealthy, de-politicized, and representing the upper echelons of business and government? The issue is elitism - the Harper government uses the "good" Muslims to point to to affirm their supposed anti-racism, all the while furthering campaigns against the "bad" - unanswered police shootings of poor youth of colour; Abdelrazik's ordeal; the bombing of Afghanistan; choking of Gaza; security certificates; Bill C-11 and the list goes on.

This isn't about individual Ismailis, it's about power structures. As a Sunni Arab, do I cry foul at every exposure of the Saudi royal family? No, I welcome it as legitimate. As a Palestinian do I attack those who criticize the corruption and collusion of the Palestinian Authority? No, I welcome it.

I have been circulating this article, because it is a refreshing work in the face of silence and complacency that dominates so much of our public discourse.

An excellent attempt to ambiguate on the part of some commentors

I've read Sumayya's article about five times now in an attempt to understand what certain commentors were after.

These accusations of Islamaphobia, anti-Ismailism and so on are baseless as far as I can see. However, they just seem to keep coming, wapped around glorigfications of Aga Khan institutions.

For those that are making genuine comments on here, whether for or against this article, please note that there are some on here that are making a concerted attempts to muddy up Sumayya's anti-capitalist analysis with anti-Muslim bollocks.

If this is the work of Aga Khan supporters, it's frighteningly close to how Zionists try to turn everything anti-Israeli-apartheid into anti-semitism.

Even without her personal beliefs, this article is a critique of elitist hypocrisy. The fact that said elitist ^sy is veiling itself as being part of a religious/cultural minority should not stand in the way of critique.

Issac Dawood

Dear Isaac or Mr Dawood,

I've read Sumayya's article about five times now in an attempt to understand what certain commentors were after.

These accusations of Islamaphobia, anti-Ismailism and so on are baseless as far as I can see. However, they just seem to keep coming, wapped around glorigfications of Aga Khan institutions.

It is never to much to ask people to read the article perhaps another 5 times, and yet some people never get it. the accusations of Islamophobia was made by the author and not the greived posters.

Elitism the "Ism"

The belief: that government ought in principle, always and everywhere, to be confined to elites. Rarely a worked-out doctrine in its own right, more often a piece of unexamined value judgement, today a person like Obama a man from humble means is the President of USA, ever heard of Meritocrasy, Very hard to produce normative justifications of rule by elites in a democracy. More so in the current situation of a minority government,  one needs to get his head examined before suggesting this is a critique of Elitism.

 

"that said, i am an

"that said, i am an anti-capitalist. it is unacceptable to me to live in a world with the types of gross inequalities that permeate our social realities. philanthropy and charity are not models i consider sustainable or even desirable contributions to our communities, as they are fundamentally premised on maintaining existing power structures, ie: it's ok to have lots of money because i give some of it away."

From a speech by the Aga Khan (www.akdn.org/speeches/200506_Tutzing.htm):

"Reflecting a certain historical tendency of the West to separate the secular from the religious, they often describe [the work of the AKDN] either as philanthropy or entrepreneurship. What is not understood is that this work is for us a part of our institutional responsibility -- it flows from the mandate of the office of Imam to improve the quality of worldly life for the concerned communities."

 

Sumayya, what confuses me is

Sumayya, what confuses me is the kind of analysis you're applying here. You clearly object to the reigning economic, social, and political system. However, does being "anti-capitalist" mean rejecting everything about the system? Certainly you go to a university that is very well-connected among the Vancouver elite, power structure, and government at the highest levels. You knew that when you applied, you know that now, and you still attend that university. You paid for your internet connection provided by a company. You wear clothes provided by a company. I'm not saying you shouldn't do these things, but the fact that the Aga Khan or whoever else works within the exisitng structure to improve things does not make them evil. Or if it does, you are doing the very same thing. If you're not, then leave UBC.

get over yourself

it's a bit disingenous to throw out personal accusations given you know absolutely nothing about me, other than what google seems to have told you -- i haven't been a student at ubc for years. also, how i navigate the contradictions of being committed to a certain political ethic and embodying that, is not only a lifelong struggle (and not one i have ever claimed to have figured out or to enact purely), but frankly irrelevant to the critique i am leveling here.

i am not going to get into a huge debate about reformism, but my point is not that the Aga Khan is "evil" for "working within existing structures", but that the work of this museum is to sustain, enable, and enhance those existing structures in insidious and deeply problematic ways. so the "structures" (for example, an Islamophobic Canadian state) is/are not separate from the AKDN and this museum; they uphold each other. and it is absurd that the fact that i wear clothes from "a" company (not that you have any idea what my consumption practices are) is deemed a way to delegitimize that argument.

if you actually think the only people who can espouse a critique of capitalism are the ones who exist entirely outside of it, don't ever expect to see a different world. and while you're thinking about that, check your patronizing attitude and stop assuming you know anything about me.

There are not personal

There are not personal accusations, they relate to your central argument. You're suggesting that the work of the Aga Khan is to "susain, enable, and enhance" certain structures such as a "Islamaphobic Canadian state". My point is that by invoking his participation or engagement with current structures as evidence of support in and of itself, the same argument could apply to any number of people including yourself. The fact you use government services, pay taxes, and so forth regardless of whether you like it or not sustain, enable, and enhance the state. The question is why do you do these things. It seems you identify a "lifelong struggle" and one you do not claim to have "figured our or enact purely". Whilst you're more than willing to give yourself the benefit of the doubt, you hastily chastize the Aga Khan for his similar engagement. In the same way you participate with the state insofar as it may achieve some goal X for you, the Aga Khan does too.

You cannot decry carte blanche capitalism, elitism, the state and so forth when every day in your own life you support all of these insitutions whether implicitly or explicitly through your own voluntary actions.

 

All this Harper linking is a

All this Harper linking is a bit much. The Aga Khan was close friends with Pierre Trudeau, the former Liberal government, and other political leaders. NDP was certainly represented at this event. The plans were laid well before Harper came into power. Heck, his honoray citizenship was voted unanimously by Parliament not Harper himself.

Aga Khan works with whoever will work. Better to have a a presence in a country to create dialogue than let the media do it for you. You think Aga Khan loves harper? Sometimes you have to dance with the devil to do god's work.

An excellent attempt to ambiguate on the part of some commentors

 RE: Isaac's take - "...For those that are making genuine comments on here, whether for or against this article, please note that there are some on here that are making a concerted attempts to muddy up Sumayya's anti-capitalist analysis with anti-Muslim bollocks...it's frighteningly close to how Zionists try to turn everything anti-Israeli-apartheid into anti-semitism..."

 

dead on! this article is, as Isaac notes, a critique of elitist hypocrisy - enough with the spin from the commentators - many of whom seem to have taken the defensive stand without having read through and understood the article in context...

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