Toronto, 28 May 2010 – Mawlana Hazar Imam and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper were in Toronto today to mark the Foundation of the Ismaili Centre, the Aga Khan Museum and their Park situated in the city's Don Mills area.
“Together, these three projects will symbolise the harmonious integration of the spiritual, the artistic and the natural worlds, in keeping with the holistic ideal which is an intimate part of Islamic tradition,” said Hazar Imam. “At the same time they will also express a profound commitment to inter-cultural engagement, and international cooperation.”
The development of these projects seeks to foster knowledge and understanding both within Muslim societies and between these societies and other cultures. The Aga Khan Museum and its collection reflect the plurality of the Muslim world, while the adjacent Ismaili Centre will create spaces for interaction and dialogue. Together, they will offer platforms for the search for mutual understanding among all communities and cultures.
Following an earlier meeting, Mawlana Hazar Imam and the Prime Minster arrived at the Wynford Drive site together. They were greeted by Prince Amyn, Prince Rahim, Prince Hussain and Princess Khaliya, who were present for the historic occasion.
Recalling the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat that he opened in Ottawa with Mawlana Hazar Imam in 2008, Prime Minister Harper said “the museum and the gorgeous formal gardens and the Ismaili Centre that are to accompany it, promise to be another stunning addition to Canada's growing array of architectural treasures.”
Designed by renowned architect Charles Correa, the Ismaili Centre, Toronto will be the newest addition to a network of Ismaili Centres worldwide, and will be the second in Canada after the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby which opened in 1985. The Centres are representational buildings for the Ismaili Muslim community, and will include a place of prayer, library and spaces for cultural activities.
The Aga Khan Museum has been designed by the award-winning Japanese architect, Fumihiko Maki, who also designed the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamat in Ottawa. The Ismaili Centre and the Aga Khan Museum will be united by a new landscaped park, designed by Lebanese landscape architect, Vladimir Djurovic. The park will incorporate the Islamic chahar-bagh or formal garden, and will include reflecting pools, walkways, and four-season components suited to the climate of Toronto.
“There are no superlatives to adequately describe the admiration that Canadians have for your work, that you and your organisation do for us all in the service of pluralism, peace and development around the world,” said the Prime Minister.
He used the occasion to formally announce the Canadian Parliament's unanimous decision to make Mawlana Hazar Imam an Honorary Canadian Citizen, and to present Mawlana Hazar Imam with a certificate of citizenship, as well as a Canadian flag that had previously flown on Parliament Hill, known as a “Peace Tower flag”.
“Welcome to our home and native land, Your Highness,” said the Prime Minister to Hazar Imam. “It is now and forever your home.”
Mawlana Hazar Imam expressed his gratitude for “the great honour which this country has paid to me today by extending this generous gift of Honorary Canadian Citizenship.”
“I have always felt very much at home in Canada,” said Hazar Imam, “but never more so than at this moment.”