Roughly 3 years after the exodus of Ugandan Asians from Uganda and over 42 years ago, Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan shared inspiring messages with the newly settled Ismaili Muslims in Canada, most of whom traced their roots from Uganda and were directly impacted by the exodus decreed by Uganda’s Idi Amin.
We share with you excerpts from Prince Sadruddin’s address delivered to the Ismaili Muslim community on Tuesday, April 22nd, 1975 in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Excerpts sourced from various precursor issues of the community’s current and highly popular Ismaili Canada and Simerg’s outstanding post (details at the end of the excerpts).
“This, indeed is a very small world and one realises it every day, and my remarks this evening are made not in the spirit of the community as regards questions of jamati interests, religious interests, but mainly as High Commissioner for Refugees – someone who is deeply concerned with the welfare of the jamat and who at the same time has taken a personal interest in facilitating the immigration of the great many of the new Canadians who live in this country.
I would like to see every Ismaili and particularly every young Ismaili become an Ambassador, a real ambassador of the community.
… I want you to explain to your Canadian friends, to your neighbors, to the people that you work with, that you live with, the people that entertain you, or that you will be entertaining, what you are, where you come from, about your traditions, about your culture, about your religion, about the way in which the community functions.
What we have to seek, I think, is not only the physical integration in the economy and the social structure of the country but we have to seek a kind of integration of ideas in the small world that we live in.
… you should explain to your Canadian friends what the Ismaili Community is all about. Explain the role of the Imam, not only his religious functions but also the economic and social advice that you receive from the Imam and what has happened to the community as a result of its unity in other parts of the world without forgetting that the community always owes allegiance, above all, to the country in which it lives, which is something also that the Canadians should understand – that you are going to be good Canadians, and that your allegiance will be first and foremost to the country which has opened doors to you.
I don’t want the Ismailis to be known in their new countries only because of their business qualifications, only because they are clever businessmen, only because they are good at getting along on business. I want Ismailis, especially the young people, to be known for their culture, for their extra curricular interests, for their sporting activities, for their culture, their religion, for their intellect – and young people have so many opportunities here.
I flew over parts of this country and I saw how nature is beautiful, how the Canadians love their country, and you must love it too and go out and camp and go visit the lakes and the forests. Go out and find out what nature has to offer you also. The young people should get interested and involved in conservation, in ecology, in all the things that the Canadians attach such an importance to, and which are so important in a highly industrialized world. Don’t think only all the time about business, about your own family interests, or your own community interests. Try to raise your sights, try and look beyond and, especially the young, try to be ambitious not only in the field of business but all the other callings which are available here in the country.
I think it is very important in Canada to be able to speak French. I would like to be able to come back here – although I know that British Columbia is largely British and therefore English-speaking and unlike Quebec, Montreal. But I would like to come back here and speak to you in French and to have everybody understand.
So, in conclusion, I would like you very much to bring the qualities of your culture to this new land and at the same time to recover the qualities, the advantages, the assets which Canada offered you so generously.
Please try and learn from the mistakes of the past. Please remember that sometimes in the past, we like other people, tended to be parochial, isolated, living too much in our own closed units. Instead of looking outwards, we tended to look inward.
As you go ahead, think of your minds, think of your children, think of their minds, how can they develop their minds, how can they develop their education and don’t stand in the way of your children’s education and their progress.
My wife joins me again in thanking you for your welcome. We wish you all happiness, prosperity, a very happy life in Canada and remember that it is by becoming a better individual, by trying to improve as a single human being, that you can do more for your community and your country in general.“
For an extensive account and additional details of Prince Sadruddin’s remarks, we encourage our readers to visit Simerg | Words of Wisdom from Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan to the Canadian Jamat That Everyone Can Benefit From
In the YouTube below, at time marker 2:50 min, an account of the Ugandan refugees is narrated and shown followed by that of Bangladesh and other places in Asia, Africa and Europe.
The ideas that Prince Sadruddin elaborated at great length to the newly arrived Canadian Ismaili Muslim community are eloquently featured with examples of the Prince’s undertaking of UN and associated engagements by Diana Miserez, author of Prince Sadruddin’s biography in the book titled Prince Sadruddin Aga Khan: Humanitarian and Visionary.
3 options to get a copy of Prince Sadruddin’s biography by Diana Miserez
- eBook version
- Hardback English version via The Book Guild
- Hardback French version via Editions Cabedita
Book Launch Event Details
Research, Insight & Perspective by A. Maherali
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