Saturday, April 12, 2008

Aga Khan - Building Bridges

Mike Ghouse; Indeed building bridges is part of the Muslim heritage, as Muslims, our roles is to mitigate conflicts and nurture goodwill. The Aga Khan is doing just that

Building Bridges through Art, Chris Pedersen, Gauntlet News
Chris Pedersen, Gauntlet News

April 10, 2008
Khalil Shariff explained the exhibit showcases the values of the Aga Khan organization.

Tearing down the walls that block development and promoting the development of poverty-stricken countries is the main theme of the Nickle Arts Museum exhibit, Bridges that Unite running until Tue., Apr. 13. The exhibit focuses on how Canada has partnered with the Aga Khan Development Network, providing evidence of Canada's work over the last 25 years in underdeveloped countries. The title Bridges that Unite comes from the idea that the world must build bridges of communication between developed and underdeveloped countries.

The Aga Khan Foundation of Canada is a cell of AKDN, an international development organization that focuses on underdeveloped regions of the world. AKFC has worked to improve the lives of the poor in marginalized communities in Asia and Africa.

"The organization was named after the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili Muslims," stated Aga Khan CEO Khalil Shariff. "Aga Khan works to support high-impact initiatives in the world. We work as a family to create a link between Canada and the developing world and we actually build real bridges as well."

The exhibit begins with a showcase of values that the AKFC has chosen to promote in the developing world. It focuses on the Canadian values of pluralism, democracy and a vibrant civil society. Shariff explained pluralism is the capacity to manage differences in a country and use them to better a society. Canada's vibrant landscape outside of government expresses the energy of its citizens to improve the world.

"These are important assets Canada can share with the world," he said. "Our aspiration for the exhibit is to bring to attention of students and the public that Canada has been doing work in the Third World. The exhibit uncovers the bridges that do unite Canada and the developing world."

The second focus of the exhibit shows how the AKDN provides help to countries at a community level. The major community developments AKDN implemented are the Circle of Chairs and Flipchart. A community gathers together and outlines what they want to accomplish, then AKDN provides help where needed.

"In communities, it is important to give a hand up and not a hand out," said Aga Khan Canada employee Laurie Peters.

Shariff explained work at the community level was an important section of Aga Khan's work.

"The Circle of Chairs and Flipchart is a symbol for bringing communities together to address their own problems," he said. "Communities need to feel they are in charge of their path. We help communities to solve their problems, [we don't] solve the problems for them."

The exhibit also features the individual stories and major projects AKDN has completed around the world. Projects include the restoration of the Royal Gardens in Kabul, Afghanistan and the creation of a 30-hectare Azhar Park in the historic district of Cairo. These projects promote urban renewal in some of the world's most congested cities. AKDN is also embarking on a project to build three universities in Asia.

Shariff noted the exhibit is important for teaching students about the work Canada is involved in.

"The government of Canada has provided millions of dollars and major collaboration over the last 25 years," explained Shariff.

Shariff explained that interaction with the exhibit is important, noting that there are numerous computers and movies designed for people to interact with--as well as displays posing questions designed to prompt discussion.

"I want Canadians to be inspired to be an agent of change," said Shariff. "There are many ways for Canadians to explore their own ways of helping international development. I want young people to understand what international development is. It is not just handing out food. It looks like a big circle of chairs, [like] universities in Asia and university graduates in underdeveloped countries."

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quraan burning

Planned Muslim Response to Qur'an Burning by Pastor Jones on September 11 in Mulberry, Florida

August 19, 2013| Dallas, Texas

Mike Ghouse
Text/Talk: (214) 325-1916

Mirza A Beg
(205) 454-8797


We as Muslims plan to respond to pastor Terry Jones' planned burning of 3000 copies of Quran on September 11, 2013 in positive terms.

Our response - we will reclaim the standard of behavior practiced by the Prophet concerning “scurrilous and hostile criticism of the Qur’an” (Muhammad Asad Translation Note 31, verse 41:34). It was "To overcome evil with good is good, and to resist evil by evil is evil." It is also strongly enjoined in the Qur’an in the same verse 41:34, “Good and evil deeds are not equal. Repel evil with what is better; then you will see that one who was once your enemy has become your dearest friend.”

God willing Muslims will follow the divine guidance and pray for the restoration of Goodwill, and on that day many Muslim organizations will go on a “blood drive” to save lives and serve humanity with kindness.

We invite fellow Americans of all faiths, races, and ethnicities to join us to rededicate the pledge, “One nation under God”, and to build a cohesive America where no American has to live in apprehension, discomfort or fear of fellow Americans. This event is a substitute for our 10th Annual Unity Day Celebration ( held in Dallas, but now it will be at Mulberry, Florida.

Unwittingly Pastor Jones has done us a favor by invigorating us by his decision to burn nearly 3000 copies Quran on September 11, 2013. Obviously he is not satisfied by the notoriety he garnered by burning one Qur'an last year.

As Muslims and citizens we honor the free speech guaranteed in our constitution. We have no intentions to criticize, condemn or oppose Pastor Terry Jones' freedom of expression. Instead, we will be donating blood and praying for goodness to permeate in our society.

We plan to follow Jesus Christ (pbuh), a revered prophet in Islam as well as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) – that of mitigating the conflicts and nurturing good will for the common good of the society.

We hope, this event and the message will remind Muslims elsewhere in the world as well, that violence is not the way. Muslims, who react violently to senseless provocation, should realize that, violence causes more violence, and besmirches the name of the religion that we hold so dear. We believe that Prophet Muhammad was a mercy to the mankind, and we ought to practice what we believe and preach. We must not insult Islam by the negative reactions of a few.

We can only hope it will bring about a change in the attitude of the followers of Pastor Jones, and in the behavior of those Muslims who reacted violently the last time Pastor sought notoriety – We hope this small step towards a bridge to peaceful coexistence would propel us towards building a cohesive society.

Like most Americans a majority of Muslims quietly go about their own business, but it is time to speak up and take positive action instead of negative reaction. May this message of peace and goodwill reverberate and reach many shores.

Lastly, we appreciate the Citizens of Mulberry, Florida, Honorable Mayor George Hatch, City Commissioners, police and Fire Chiefs for handing this situation very well. This will add a ‘feather of peace’ in the City’s reputation. We hope Mulberry will be a catalyst in showing the way in handling conflict with dignity and peace.

We thank the Media for giving value to the work towards peace rather than conflict.


Thank you.


The people in Dallas are making an effort to understand and clean their own hearts first, when we are free from bias, it would be easy to share that with others. Islam teaches us in so many ways to "respect the otherness of others" and it is time we find simple practical ways of doing it.