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Wednesday, 2002, October 9
Lesley Wroughton

The Aga Khan, the billionaire spiritual leader of the world's 15 million Ismaili Muslims, will build the English-speaking world's biggest Islamic art museum and cultural center in Toronto after plans to buy a site in London failed, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
The Aga Khan Development Network, one of the charitable institutions and businesses headed by the Aga Khan, said the museum would house artifacts from renowned private collections including those of the Aga Khan and of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London.

The development network did not disclose the cost of the proposed museum or when it would open to the public in a location close to downtown Toronto.

The Aga Khan said in a statement that the museum would be dedicated to the traditions of the Muslim world and would house ceramics, metalwork and paintings, covering all periods of Islamic history. It will include manuscripts of Avicenna's Qanun fi'l Tibb -- The Canon of Medicine -- dated 1052.

Prince Karim Aga Khan, 66, is considered the 49th hereditary Imam of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims and a direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammad. His father Prince Aly Khan was once married to Rita Hayworth, the Hollywood actress.

Nazeer Aziz Ladhani of the Aga Khan Foundation in Ottawa said the museum had been a dream of the Aga Khan for the past 45 years to educate people of the cultures of the Islamic world.

The Aga Khan outlined plans earlier this year to build the museum and cultural center in the historic heart of London, opposite the Houses of Parliament and next to the Lambeth Palace, the official home of the Church of England's religious head. But his proposal was opposed by a neighboring hospital that wanted the land to expand its facilities.

Ladhani said the Aga Khan had since decided on Toronto, home to some of Canada's 45,000 Ismaili Muslims and the largest Ismaili population in the Western world,

'In situating these two institutions in Canada, we acknowledge both a tradition of tolerance and inclusiveness as well as an environment that has permitted diversity to flourish, enriching civic life of each individual and community that has sought to make this country its home,' the Aga Khan said in the statement.

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