Saturday, April 12, 2008

Aga Khan visits Atlanta

Famous Muslim philanthropist, businessman to visit Atlanta
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 04/12/08 Avoiding the paparazzi won't be a problem for the Aga Khan when he dines at the Governors Mansion Friday.

The lack of photographic gadflies in Atlanta will be a break for the man born Karim al-Hussaini, one of the world's premiere philanthropists and businessmen who gets mentioned in the social pages of European newspapers.

The Aga Khan, right, shows his delight with jockey Mick Kinane, left, after his horse Azamour won the Prince of Wales Stakes on June 15, 2005.

Though he is not as well known here as billionaires such as Bill Gates, the Aga Khan has a cachet no American will ever have.

He traces his descent from the Prophet Mohammed. Thanks to his high-living father, the 71-year-old also once called actress Rita Hayworth his stepmother.

He is a man of other seeming contradictions in Western eyes. His interpretation of the Quran, Islam's holy book, guides the 15 million Ismaili Muslims who follow him. But strict Muslims from other groups frown upon his stables of race horses on which people gamble.

He is deferred to by Ismailis as if he were a medieval prince, but he is a force for modernization and pluralism in Islam. He is fabulously rich but runs one of the world's largest private development networks focusing on the poor.

This socially conspicuous but very private man arrives in Georgia Thursday. He is visiting Ismailis around the world to celebrate his 50th anniversary as imam, a hereditary title conferred on him by his grandfather.

He will also make time to chat with people from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about cooperating with some of his Middle Eastern and south Asian medical facilities to keep an eye on infectious and chronic diseases.

Friday, he dines with Perdue and about 75 guests in his honor. "He has the sort of head of state equivalence when he meets with people, just as the Dalai Lama has head of state equivalence. We are talking about someone who, if you will, is kind of a prince or lord and leader of this group," said Gordon Newby, professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies at Emory University.

The Ismailis are one of several minority offshoots of Shiites, one of the two major branches of Islam. Westerners know Shia Muslims as those who control the government in Iran and as the religious order of Sheik Muqtada al-Sadr, the glowering Iraqi power broker whose militias often clash with American soldiers.

But the Ismailis know what it is to clash with other Muslims, who have persecuted them in the past. Because of that, and because of their community's emphasis on education and its entrepreneurial spirit they have dispersed around the globe. Ismaili students arrived in Georgia in the 1960s and 1970s planting the seeds from which the community has grown. There are about 5,000 in Georgia.

Ismailis pay the Aga Khan a tithe of their money every year, and he in turn uses the money to support his development network. He also inherited the family fortune, which includes global business interests.

The personal worth of the man, who lives in France and has British citizenship, is a closely held information, but his works and interests are evident in Africa and south Asia, where his family roots lie.

He mixes business with philanthropy, providing jobs and infrastructure to poor parts of the world. His widely diversified business interests include dams, power plants, communications and manufacturing. They finance micro loans of less than $100 and control banks and insurance companies that hold billions in assets. There are hundreds of schools and two universities, and hundreds of health clinics, and cultural centers. He has helped preserve and restore millions of dollars worth of culturally important historic sites.

He has said in rare interviews that he is building the infrastructure that is the foundation for countries' successes.

Vartan Gregorian, the president of New York's Carnegie Corporation, has known the Aga Khan for 30 years.

"He is not only a spiritual leader, but he sets the tone as a kind of constructive bridge builder between East and West," Gregorian said by phone.

The Aga Khan encourages his followers to participate in the cultures where they find themselves. He embraces change and the best of modernism, such as science, education for women and interfaith dialogue, he said.

In Atlanta, Ismaili youth help coordinate the annual Partnership Walk, which raises money for Third World relief. It attracted about 7,000 participants last year. They volunteer at charities such as MedShare International in Decatur and Habitat for Humanity.

Newby said, "You don't hear about him a lot, but those who do know him find him to be someone who is working steadily and quietly for peace and for making the world a better place."


There are an estimated 15 million Ismailis worldwide out of more than 1 billion Muslims. They take their name and divide with other Muslims over an eighth-century disagreement over religious leadership. They are the followers of Ismail bin Jafar, whose descendants now hold the title Aga Khan, referred to by followers as His Highness.

The Aga Khan's family roots lie in Iran, but the family fled to Pakistan and India in the 1840s after political troubles.

Ismailis believe in more esoteric, layered meanings rather than literal translations of the Quran, Islam's holy book. The Aga Khan, called the imam (religious leader) of the time, is the final authority on interpretation and religious questions.

Part of Ismailis' religious duty as defined by the Aga Khan is allegiance to and participation in the country they live in, along with self-reliance, education and charity.

Ismailis meet, as do other Muslims, on Friday for religious services. Non-Ismailis may not participate because of religious requirements of ritual purity. A distinctive part of their ceremonies includes ginans, which are poetic songs and recitations of spiritual wisdom and theology.

There are differences with other branches of Islam, such as praying three times a day rather than the five times required by mainstream Muslims.


• 1959 graduate of Harvard with a degree in Islamic history.

• 49th Ismaili imam (religious leader) descended from Muhammad.

• The Ismaili community once weighed his grandfather, the preceding Aga Khan, and gave him his weight in diamonds, reported to be 243 pounds.


• Owns stakes in 90 companies worldwide.

• Employs more than 30,000 people and produces annual revenues of more than $1.5 billion.

• Oversees 325 schools and two universities.

• Operates nine hospitals and 190 clinics and community health centers in 30 countries.

• Established a $58 million endowment at Harvard and Massachusetts Institute of Technology to promote and preserve Islamic architecture.


• Nonprofit working in relief, education and development.• Nonprofit working in relief, education and development.

• Collected $38,986,474 in donations and $14,645,583 in grants.

• Held $115,041,902 in total assets in 2005.

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Ismaili Muslim leader to tour U.S. for community's Golden Jubilee

AUSTIN -- The Aga Khan, spiritual leader of 20 million Ismaili Muslims around the world, was expected to arrive in Texas on Friday for an eight-day U.S. visit which includes meetings with officials and adherents.

Stops in Georgia, Illinois and California are also scheduled.
The visit was planned as part of the Shia Ismaili Muslim commemoration of the Golden Jubilee, which marks the Aga Khan's 50th year as imam of the community. Tens of thousands of Ismaili Muslims live in Texas.

On Saturday, Gov. Rick Perry and the Aga Khan were expected to attend the signing of a student and professor exchange agreement between the University of Texas and Aga Khan University, which has campuses in Pakistan and other countries.

The governor was scheduled to host a private dinner Saturday night and then a fireworks show near Austin for the Aga Khan, a Harvard-educated businessman and philanthropist who is a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

Perry and the Aga Khan became friends nearly a decade ago with the spiritual leader. Their friendship resulted in a University of Texas program that exposes state teachers to Muslim history and culture. It's funded by the Aga Khan Development Network, one of the world's largest private system of development agencies.

The Aga Khan was scheduled to attend an event Saturday at the Texas Disposal Systems Exotic Game Ranch and Pavilion in Buda and speak in San Antonio on Sunday.

Information from: Austin American-Statesman,

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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.