Item(s) for the ‘General’ Category

Feb 18,2010

When Nasreen Jessani was a little girl growing up in Kenya, she recalls her grandfather talking about McGill University as a place to aspire going to, a place with a reputation both for the quality of education it provided and for the warmth of its welcome to international students.

Years later, Jessani finds herself not only at McGill, but playing an active role in providing that friendly welcome to non-Canadians as the president of the McGill International Students’ Network.

“My grandfather, who didn’t go to any university, knew of McGill,” says Jessani, who is in her fourth year in a BSc program, majoring in anatomy and cell biology, with a minor in psychology.

Jessani began working with the MISN last year as vice-president, communications. She sought the presidency last year with a few ideas in mind for improving the lot of the University’s 3,000 international students.

For instance, one of her priorities is finding a housing solution for exchange students who number roughly 400 annually. Because these students stay only four months, they frequently have trouble finding accommodation.

Working with Off Campus Housing and the Student Exchange Office, Jessani hopes to enlist the “buddy system,” whereby recent arrivals are matched with well-settled students, to help such students find accommodation. She also plans to lobby nearby landlords to offer short-term leases.

Her work on this dossier has impressed Pauline L’Ecuyer, the International Student Adviser. “I’ve met lots of students with great ideas and projects, but she realizes them fast; she’s very pro-active,” says L’Ecuyer.

Fostering communication seems to be one of Jessani’s strong points. Last year, for instance, she initiated the newsletter MISiNformed, to keep MISN members abreast of information. A glance through the current issue reveals articles on the Network’s new home in the new student services building, a regular advice column penned by L’Ecuyer, a page on culture and events listings.

Winter events, such as skating at the Bell Amphitheatre and planned trips to the winter carnivals in Quebec and Ottawa, figure in the list.

“We try to give people Canadian experiences,” says Jessani, who has become an enthusiastic floor hockey player since coming to McGill — she played field hockey in Kenya as a child, and, later, in the United Arab Emirates, where her family moved when she was a teenager. She has also become an avid skier.

Still, Jessani recognizes that adapting to this culture, this climate and this distance from home is harder for some international students than for others. While Jessani herself is Kenyan-born, she lived in Canada for a few years when she was a toddler. Her mother’s family lives in Alberta. “I suffered no culture-shock nor weather-shock,” she laughs.

Many members of the MISN “are like me” and have some previous Canadian experience, she says. There are also members who are not international students but who join MISN out of an interest in helping the newcomers and in learning about a whole slew of countries. Among McGill’s roughly 3,500 international students, 145 countries are represented.

Next year, Jessani hopes to find herself doing volunteer work in the health field, in some corner of the developing world. Last year, while working in Pakistan teaching children how to read, she caught the bug for development work.

She enjoyed the experience of rubbing against the realities, as opposed to the stereotypes, of people from other cultures. The people she encountered found Jessani to be something of a revelation as well.

In the village in northern Pakistan, for instance, “They couldn’t believe that we [of Indian origin] could speak French and English so well and they couldn’t believe that [Canada’s] prime minister is not Muslim,” chuckles Jessani, herself a Muslim of the Ismaili community.

“It’s amazing the questions you get, which is why it’s so important to work or travel internationally.”


Jun 26,2009
Madrid is hosting an exhibition “The Islamic Worlds in the Aga Khan Museum Collection” which shows some of the greatest treasures of Islamic art.
Madrid is currently hosting the exhibition “The Islamic Worlds in the Aga Khan Museum Collection” which shows some of the greatest treasures of Islamic art, from ancient al-Andalus to India.

The exhibition, available until September 6, 2009, will travel several other cities such as Barcelona, said.

The art, the history, the traditions and the geographies of the Islamic world from the Far East to the Iberian Peninsula are the subjects of the exhibition The Worlds of Islam in the Aga Khan Museum Collection.

The event is organised by “la Caixa” Social and Cultural Outreach Projects in cooperation with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture –the cultural arm of the Aga Khan Development Network and hosted at the CaixaForum Madrid.

Aga Khan shows 190 art objects spanning 1400 years of history and summarizing, in wood, stone, gold, bronze, ivory, glass, ceramic, fabric, parchment and paper, the finest artistic accomplishments of a world that stretched from ancient al-Andalus to India, said.

The exhibition sets out to question current commonplaces about the polarity between East and West and reconcile points of view about Islamic culture. Through works of art of different periods and geographical origins across world, the exhibition reflects the splendour of Muslim culture in its full diversity, bringing out the pluralism of Islam, both in interpretations of the Koranic faith and the variety of styles, materials and techniques involved in the creation of these works.

Among the outstanding works on show is a rich group of manuscripts and miniatures with figurative representations, which are among the finest productions not only of the Islamic sphere, but of universal art. They help refute the widespread commonplace of the prohibition of images in Islamic art, since although Islam does not use animal or human motifs in buildings or objects related to religion, in the official or private civil sphere there have been representations of living beings, often profuse. It was merely a matter of aesthetic preferences and historical moments.

These provide an overview of the Islamic world’s finest artistic achievements in wood, stone, gold, bronze, ivory, ceramics and textiles, and on parchment and paper. The different Islamic dynasties can be seen, identifying the territories over which each dynasty ruled following the Abbasid caliphate at the end of the 9th century. The Umayyads held sway over al-Andalus, the Fatimids and the Mamelukes reigned in Egypt, the Ottomans in Turkey, and the Safavids in Iran and the Mughals in India.

The essential characteristics of Islamic courtly culture can be seen in generic portraits of respective sovereigns in profile. The works of art on display also emphasize the high cultural level of the Islamic courts responsible for spreading knowledge of Ancient Greece to the west via translations in Arabic.


The exhibits are divided into three large sections. The central section is devoted to The Qur’anic Faith while the other two guide viewers through various Islamic courts using as a metaphor a journey in two stages –From Cordoba to Damascus and From Baghdad to Delhi.

Apr 24,2009

Milad-e-Nabi : Celebration of Birth of
Prophet Mohamed (Peace Be Upon Him)

Coastweek — Six years ago The Aga Khan Council for Mombasa initiated and hosted annual Milad event in Mombasa .

Since then, every year there after, Milad-e-Nabi has been an annual event of pride and joy for the community, where Muslim Men and women from all sects and ethnic communities come together to celebrate Milad and reflect on the Life and Teachings of Prophet Mohamed (Peace be upon him) and refresh their understanding and practice of Faith, Peace and Harmony.

It is through this forum as the Milad-e-Nabi, that we try to bring together Both Regional and International Scholars from all Muslim orientations and traditions to one platform where they are able to share their Wisdom and knowledge, relating The Essence Of the Faith of Islam to The Challenges that The Future Beholds In a Global Society of Opportunities.

This year, Milad-e-Nabi was held at The Multipurpose Hall in beautiful environment of The Centre of Excellence, The Aga Khan Academy Mombasa.

It enhanced the brotherhood of Muslim Ummah through the intellectual discourse of the renowned Islamic Scholars representing different geographical locations around the world as well s different sects and schools of thoughts within Islam.

The Theme of this year was ISLAM : Pluralism and Diversity in the Ummah.

The discussions were focused on the reflection and celebration of Pluralism and Diversity of the Ummah.

The messages that came across clearly were, that whilst the different ethnic and cultural backgrounds as well as wide spread geographical locations and political affiliations make the Local and World Muslim Ummah diverse, this plurality is also bound by a unifying factor in the form of Prophet Mohamed (Peace be upon him) and his teachings.

The Speakers covered the concept exceptionally well and the audience was amazed and enlightened by the light of know-ledge shared by the speakers.

Dr. Farouk Topan is a well renowned Islamic Scholar, writer and playwright.

He was Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Department of Africa at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London .

He has published on various aspects of Swahili literature, religion, spirit possession and identity in East Africa .

He has co-edited a book entitled Swahili Modernities.

Dr. Topan served at the Institute of Ismaili Studies from its inception in 1977 until 1993.

He is currently Chair of the Regional Committee of the Madrasa Programme in East Africa . Dr Topan spoke on “Islam and Plurality: Lessons for our times”.

Dr. Gurdofarid Miskinzoda is a Research Associate and Shi‘i Studies coordinator in the Department of Academic Re-search and Publications of Institute of Islamic Studies in London , UK .

Dr Gurdofarid obtained her Doctorate in the History of the Near and Middle East from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London . Gurdofarid’s areas of specialization are the study of Muslim literary and historical tradition, origins and early development of Islam and Shi‘i Islam.

Her topic of discussion was “The Prophet Muhammad: the unifying core in the diversity and pluralism of Islam.”

Professor Mohamed Hyder, a very well respected name in intellectual circles of East Africa and beyond Internationally, was kind enough to grace the occasion and talk on, “Islam: The Religion of People.”

Mr Abdul Rahman Mwinyifaki, is an Islamic Scholar, Assistant Registrar at Kenyatta University Campus in Mombasa .

He spoke on the topic of “Al Quran” and emphasized on the importance of reading and understanding the Book of Allah.

Al Waez Shafin Verani performed the duties of Master of Ceremony.

He trained at The Institute of Ismaili Studies, London , UK . and completed an MBA from Karachi University , Pakistan .

He is currently with Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Board Nairobi Kenya .

The Milad was attended by prominent leaders and Members of the diverse Muslim Communities of Mombasa, who co-exist among the other Muslim sects and the wider Kenyan population in peace and harmony.

The event was also attended by many Muslim Business and Professional Men and Women.

The Aga Khan Council for Mombasa envision continuity of such forums.