OTTAWA (AFP) – Canada parliament on Friday extended honorary Canadian citizenship to the Aga Khan, the spiritual head of Ismaili community, said a statement. “This is recognition of the Aga Khan’s leadership as a champion of development, pluralism and tolerance around the world and of his remarkable leadership as Imam of the worldwide Ismaili community,” said Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
“In particular, we are grateful for the immense contribution the Aga Khan Development Network is making in Afghanistan, as we work together to help the people of that country build a better future,” he said.
The Aga Khan, Prince Karim Al Husseini, 72, is the spiritual head of the world’s 15 million Ismailis. He is the fourth such person to hold the post since the 19th century. Previously, only four people have ever been extended honorary Canadian citizenship: Myanmar pro-democracy activist and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi last year, and before that Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and Swedish diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who saved the lives of thousands of Jews during the Second World War. Most Canadian Ismailis arrived in this country after being forced out of Uganda by its former ruler Idi Amin in the 1970s. They now number roughly 70,000 in Canada. Canada has partnered with the Aga Khan’s agencies on development projects in Asia, Africa and Afghanistan, as well as to promote ethnic, cultural and religious tolerance