Leader to build museum for Islamic art
The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of the world's estimated 15 million Ismaili Muslims and one of the world's richest men, is planning to build a museum in midtown Toronto to house valuable collections of Islamic art -- the first of its kind in the English-speaking world.
The museum will also include an academic and cultural centre focused on the study and practice of pluralism.
"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 a statement.
"It is to this commitment to pluralism that we will turn in seeking to make these institutions both a repository of heritage and a source of inspiration for societies the world over in the future."
The museum and cultural centre are to be built on Wynford Drive, near Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue, adjacent to the site for the Aga Khan's proposed Ismaili Centre. The land is currently occupied by the corporate offices of Bata shoe stores.
The Aga Khan said the museum will be dedicated to the traditions of the Muslim world, and will include ceramics, metalwork and paintings covering all periods of Islamic history.
The collection will include manuscripts of Avicenna's Qanun fi'l Tibb -- The Canon of Medicine -- dated 1052.
The plans for the Toronto buildings come after the Aga Khan recently withdrew a $50-million bid to purchase a site for the proposed facilities on the Thames River in London from a British medical school.
Doctors from King's College medical school threatened mass resignation if the sale went ahead.
Nazeer Ladhani, a spokesman for the Aga Khan Development Network, a group of eight development agencies that work mainly in Asia and Africa, said plans for the museum and cultural centre will be incorporated into ongoing discussions with city officials regarding the proposed Ismaili Centre.
That facility is expected to be bigger than the organization's similar centres in Vancouver, London and Lisbon, making it the largest Ismaili Centre in the English-speaking world.
The Ismaili Centres, the Aga Khan said in a statement, are designed to "contribute toward an improved understanding of the many cultures and civilizations of the Islamic world."
The Toronto Ismaili Centre is being designed by Charles Correa, an award-winning Indian architect.
Ladhani declined to speculated on the cost of the proposed facilities, saying they are still in the planning process. He said no timetable has been set, but that the organization hopes to begin construction "as soon as possible."
The museum is expected to house artifacts from renowned private collections including those of the Aga Khan and of the Institute of Ismaili Studies in London.
The complex will also house educational and administrative facilities, offices of a number of Aga Khan agencies, an auditorium and conference facilities.
The development network said the initiative on pluralism follows talks between the Aga Khan and Canadian leaders, including Jean Chrétien, the Prime Minister.
The Aga Khan succeeded his grandfather as imam of the Ismaili sect of Muslims in 1957. He was educated at Le Rosey in Switzerland, and later studied Asian history at Harvard University in the United States. He married a British woman, Sarah Croker Poole, in 1969.
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