Muslim leader plays down 'clash of civilizations'


The Aga Khan says a "clash of civilizations" is not inevitable despite ``an array of symptoms'' that might appear to suggest otherwise.


xOTTAWA - The Aga Khan says a ''clash of civilizations'' is not inevitable despite ''an array of symptoms'' that might appear to suggest otherwise.

''(The) symptoms are more dramatic than they are representative,'' the Aga Khan said at an Ottawa press conference Wednesday. ''These symptoms are rooted in human ignorance rather than human character.''

The imam of the world's 15 million Ismaili Muslims visited Parliament Hill to announce his partnership with the federal government to open a Global Centre for Pluralism in Ottawa. Drawing on Canadian experience, the centre would be a think-tank for studying and fostering pluralism around the world. The Aga Khan said such a centre could help address the ''problem of ignorance.''

Ismailis are a branch of the Shiite stream of Islam.

The 69-year-old Aga Khan said housing the centre at Canada's former war museum would be a worthy ''testament to Canada's global leadership in the cause of pluralism.''

The imam has long-voiced his admiration for Canada's multicultural policies. Wednesday he pointed to the successful experiences of thousands of Ismaili Muslims who arrived in Canada in 1972 after being expelled from Uganda by then-dictator Idi Amin.

The idea for a Global Centre for Pluralism started to take shape roughly five years ago, when the Aga Khan launched an initiative to study how Canada's pluralist policies work and if those policies could be exported around the world.

Last year, the Canadian government pledged $30 million towards the centre. At Wednesday's press conference, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said his government would provide a ''substantial financial contribution'' towards the centre's endowment fund. The government will also provide a lease agreement allowing the centre to be housed at the former War Museum, he said.

The Aga Khan, who also sits at the helm of the Aga Khan Development Network that spends roughly $350 million on development projects annually, said pluralist ideas have deep roots in Islamic tradition. But he added that today's increasingly globalized world requires the acceptance of secular pluralist values for its very survival.

He is making his second visit to Canada in as many years.

Ottawa Citizen


Story Tools

We encourage all readers to share their views on our articles and blog posts. We are committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion, so we ask you to avoid personal attacks, and please keep your comments relevant and respectful. If you encounter a comment that is abusive, click the "X" in the upper right corner of the comment box to report spam or abuse. We are using Facebook commenting. Visit our FAQ page for more information.

More Stories


Also on