Ismaili Muslims have been urged to give generously of their time and talents during this celebratory Golden Jubilee year for their spiritual leader, the Aga Khan.

For Calgarian Mansoor Ladha, a career journalist, that has translated into writing a book he hopes will shed light on the history, culture, spirituality and success stories of Canadian Ismailis.

“Religion plays a pivotal role in our lives,” said Ladha, 65. “Volunteerism, duty and a sense of service to your community and your faith are stressed from a very young age.”

Ladha’s book, A Portrait in Pluralism, chronicles the development of the Ismaili community in Canada, which expanded rapidly in the 1970s as thousands fled the persecution of the Idi Amin regime in Uganda.

He also highlights the unique relationship that has developed between the Aga Khan and Canada, which the spiritual leader holds up as a global beacon of pluralism — a nation where many diverse cultures and faiths live side-by-side in peace.

Ladha says the book, more than two years in the researching, writing and publishing process, is his attempt to shed light on the Ismaili story and address the stereotypes of Islam that remain in the western world.

“Many conflicts in the world involving Muslims have been termed ‘religious,’ when they are basically politically-motivated,” says Ladha.

Born in Tanzania, Ladha wrote for a number of daily newspapers in East Africa before immigrating to Canada in 1972. He worked for the Edmonton Journal before publishing weekly newspapers in Morinville and Redwater for 25 years.

While in Edmonton, Ladha led the Ismaili community during a period of rapid growth fuelled by those arriving in the wake of Amin’s forced expulsion, often leaving behind successful businesses and careers.

“Of course, there was a period of adjustment, but many Ismailis have become integral parts of the Canadian communities they settled in,” says Ladha.

He notes Calgary has Canada’s third-largest Ismaili community, behind Toronto and Vancouver.

His book chronicles the Aga Khan’s interest in Canada, which has become the Ismailis’ North American headquarters. Ottawa has been chosen as the home of the Global Centre for Pluralism, which will be housed in the former Canadian War Museum.

There are hopes the Aga Khan may visit Canada later this summer or fall as part of the 50th anniversary of his coming to leadership of the international Ismaili community.

“He’s been very active in building bridges between members of the Muslim umma (global community),” says Ladha. “We have strong relations with other Muslims here in Calgary.”

An official launch for A Portrait in Pluralism is set for August, with the book already available in a number of local retail outlets and online.


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