The history of the Ismailis in Canada is a timely reminder of the need to reject crude, one-dimensional depictions of Islam.
Canada’s Ismaili Muslim community was thrust into the spotlight recently following Justin Trudeau’s New Year’s getaway to a private island in the Bahamas owned by the Aga Khan. However, commentators from both sides of the political spectrum have refrained from casting aspersions on the Aga Khan himself, spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims and one of the world’s most respected figures.
One testament to this near-universal admiration came in 2010, when the Aga Khan became just the fifth person to be named an honorary citizen of Canada — a truly remarkable accolade. No less remarkable is the history of Canada’s Ismaili community, which, since arriving in Canada in the early 1970s, has woven itself into our societal fabric to a degree that’s perhaps unmatched among non-Western migrant communities.
The jamaat (Ismaili community) is well represented in business, political and cultural circles. Prominent Ismaili Canadians include Rahim Jaffer, Canada’s first Muslim member of Parliament, the former Rogers CEO Nadir Mohamed, the Mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, Malala Fund CEO Farah Mohamed, and the Giller-Prize-winning novelist M.G. Vassanji.
Rahim Mohamed is a PhD candidate in political science at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and a research fellow with the True North Initiative. His writing has appeared in The Independent Review, EH.net, and the UBC Journal of International Affairs.
Previously on Ismailimail…