The Province
Friday, June 10, 2005

35,000 Shia Ismaili Muslims welcome Aga Khan

Glenda Luymes

After a month of quiet anticipation, more than 35,000 Shia Ismaili Muslims from across Western Canada will see the Aga Khan today.

The philanthropist spiritual leader arrived at Vancouver International Airport yesterday afternoon, before meeting with community leaders at a private dinner in his honour.

Today, followers from across Western Canada will attend two closed-door religious events at the Vancouver Trade and Exhibition Centre. Scores of buses have been hired to bring the crowds in from a staging area at the Pacific National Exhibition grounds.

The Aga Khan will address his followers and provide spiritual guidance on issues of brotherhood, tolerance and unity.

"It's really an honour that His Highness is here," Ismaili community volunteer Karim Kassam said yesterday. "We are very privileged to be a community with such a leader to guide us. I think this visit is a great opportunity to reconnect."

The Aga Khan was in Toronto earlier this week to receive an honorary Companion of the Order of Canada and attend the foundation ceremony for a new Ismaili building. Today's visit to Vancouver has been scheduled to allow him time to meet western Canadian followers.

The Aga Khan -- officially Prince Karim Aga Khan IV -- is revered as the 49th direct descendant of the Prophet Mohammed by his 15 million followers worldwide.

The spiritual leader is regarded for his charity, wisdom and keen business sense. He was a friend of the late prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

The Aga Khan Foundation -- established in Canada in 1980 -- supports social development projects in Africa and Asia.

The Vancouver Province 2005