Oct 28,2007
October 2007
The Institute’s Department of Graduate Studies welcomed its first cohort of students to the newly established Secondary Teacher Education Programme ( STEP) this month. The STEP is a large-scale initiative involving The Institute of Ismaili Studies, the Institute of Education (IOE) at the University of London, and the Ismaili Tariqah and Religious Education Boards ( ITREBs) of five participating countries.
The STEP aims to develop an international community of qualified religious education teachers who will deliver the Institute’s secondary curriculum throughout the worldwide Ismaili Muslim community. The programme is being piloted in six regions: Toronto and Vancouver, Canada; Mumbai, India; Karachi, Pakistan; Khorog, Tajikistan; and Houston, USA. The current pilot will run for two cycles: 2007-2009 and 2008-2010. Students from the first cohort, who will graduate in 2009, have already begun their studies.This programme is a collaborative endeavour between the IIS and the IOE, building upon a history of joint programmes spanning over 20 years. The students will complete a two-year course of study that culminates in two masters degrees awarded by the University of London: a Master of Teaching (MTeach) and a Master of Arts in Education (Muslim Societies and Civilizations). Following the two-year programme, participants will become secondary classroom teachers, employed by national ITREBs, to implement the secondary curriculum.

Recruitment began with a marketing launch in December, 2006, during which IIS staff and local ITREB personnel gave presentations in several cities in India, Pakistan, Canada, the USA and Tajikistan. The 41 participants were selected from 350 applicants through a competitive application process. This required candidates to submit material attesting to their qualifications and experience, to complete a teaching practicum at a local religious education centre (REC), and to attend an interview.

The breakdown of students in the first cohort by country is as follows: 12 from Canada, 6 from India, 7 from Pakistan, 6 from Tajikistan, and 10 from the USA. This year’s STEP cohort comprises a range of individuals with diverse academic backgrounds.

Reshma Panjwani, from Hyderabad, India entered the STEP with a master’s degree in Hospital Management. “I’m not a professional teacher,” she comments, “and my field of study is completely different. However, this programme provides me with a career and also affords methe privilege to serve the [Ismaili] Imamat institutions.

Shamsah Ebrahim, an American student with a PhD in Biochemistry, explains her decision to pursue a career as a religious education teacher: “I believe that true success – not only material plenty, but also emotional contentment – requires excellence of intellect to be balanced with inner strength, faith in a larger purpose, belief in the worth of every individual, and a developed conscience. If this is true, then to be successful and confident members of tomorrow’s world, students will need a spiritual and cultural education in conjunction with their secular studies. I wish to be part of that effort.”

Eraj Sodetsairov, a participant from Khorog, Tajikistan, concurs. For him, the most important aspect of this programme is its originality: “The reason why I chose the STEP over other career options is its focus on education, both in the religious and secular dimensions of human life. It is a unique programme.”

STEP students take courses from both the MTeach and MA degrees simultaneously over the course of two years. The academic terms are interspersed with practicum experiences that take place at Ismaili religious education centres and secular schools in London as well as at RECs in the pilot cities. The programme includes field visits to Cairo, Egypt and Cordova, Spain to explore two of the great cities of Muslim civilizations. Throughout the programme, participants are expected to reflect upon and to create and improve methods to make the richness and complexity of Muslim civilizations understandable to young people.

The second pilot, to be rolled-out in the same five countries, begins in September 2008. Deadline for submission of applications is 31 October 2007.

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Oct 20,2007

Prince and princess join local community in Winspear Centre cultural performance
Don Retson, The Edmonton Journal
Published: Saturday, October 20

EDMONTON – Masoud Habibi fills concert halls around the world with his band’s magical combination of traditional sounds and devotional lyrics. He’s used to playing for hours at a time, then returning for encores.

But at the Winspear Centre Wednesday, Habibi, who is from Iran, graciously ceded his place onstage after his band played just 15 minutes.

Short and sweet. That’s part of the deal of A Mystical Journey, a unique variety show involving more than 60 Muslim artists and musicans. The show celebrates the many creative forms of devotional expression in Islam, and demonstrates the ability of Muslim people to work in harmony despite differences in geography, language and traditions.

A Mystical Journey is an international initiative commemorating the Golden Jubilee of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan as imam or spiritual leader of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.

The Ismaili Muslims are a community of ethnically and culturally diverse peoples living in more than 25 countries around the world, united in their allegiance to the Aga Khan as the 49th hereditary Imam and direct descendant of Prophet Mohammad. There are about 75,000 Ismailis in Canada and 15 million worldwide.

Months in the planning, the show involves music, dance and poetry. It’s intended to showcase the richness of Islamic culture and faith.

No matter how big or popular an individual may be, or which branch of Islam they belong to, each of the nine acts is limited to about 15 minutes.

It all works. No ego trips. No tantrums.

In the case of Habibi, founder of the Dalahoo Sufi Ensemble, he has played on 200 albums and 100 pieces for films. Yet at the end of two musical numbers, Habibi reverently bowed his head in response to thunderous applause and made way for the next act.

In an interview, Habibi humbly says he was surprised and honoured to be part of A Mystical Journey: Sufi Music and other Expressions of Devotion from the Muslim World.

“It’s a surprise for all of us,” he said through an interpreter. “We get to see different Muslim people and different Muslim music bands, some of the best in the world.”

In terms of musicial diversity, the show is unlike anything Edmonton has seen.

It’s a journey through music pieces as diverse as qawalli’s, ilahis, kalams, rock songs and performances of whirling Sufi dancers.

The debuting of A Mystical Journey in Canada has a special relevance. As a country with a proud history of embracing diverse peoples and cultures, Canada was once described by His Highness the Aga Khan as “the most successful pluralistic society on the face of our globe.”

According to Diamond Tharani, project manager for the Canadian tour, each of the nine groups involved in the show are “world-class performers in their own right.”

Mohib Samnani, a member of the Ismaili Council for Edmonton, said the diversity of the show is part and parcel of the celebration and commemoration of the Golden Jubilee.

“I think the key message that you would find in this event is that Islam is not a monolithic bloc,” he said. “The pluralism that exists within Islam is very rich.”

Though different in form, Samnani said the musical acts of devotion are common in their peaceful search for the divine, and represent the pluralistic traditions and mystical unity that exist within Islam.

Salman Ahmad is a fine example of that diversity.

A doctor by training and a rock musician by profession, Ahmad founded South Asia’s biggest rock band Junoon, which has sold more than 25 million albums worldwide.

With his guitar in hand, and backed by a solo hand drummer, Ahmad was clearly a crowd favourite during the three-hour show.
A Mystical Journey began its world premiere in Vancouver last Sunday. The show is on tonight at the Stampede Corral in Calgary, then makes stops in Toronto and Montreal. It’s expected to resume early next year in the United States.

For many of the artists who performed here Wednesday, the show was extra special because Prince Hussain, the third son of the Aga Khan’s four children and his wife, Princess Khaliya, were among the sold-out audience.

The couple flew to Edmonton from France earlier this week.

Prior to the performance, the Prince was honoured at a gala reception attended by dignitatries as well as representatives of other branches of Islam and other faiths.

Government House leader Dave Hancock, who delivered greetings from the province, was one of three cabinet ministers at the function. Also attending was Calgary MLA Shiraz Shariff, who is Ismaili.

Mayor Stephen Mandel presented Prince Hussain with a framed certificate proclaiming him an ambasador of the City of Edmonton.

The proclamation notes that Prince Hussain is involved in cultural and environmental projects that seek to enhance the quality of life of concerned communities.

It also says the Prince has travelled to more than 50 countries and visited an array of development projects, acquiring first-hand experience in educational, health, housing, water and sanitation programs.

Meanwhile, about 200 members of the local Ismaili community, many of them children, huddled outside the Winspear, hoping to catch a glimpse of the prince and princess.

Nur Lakhani and her son Shakeel, aged seven, were among those holding up handmade placards of welcome. In one hand, Shakeel clutched two reds roses and a balloon inscribed with the words “I Love You.”

“He really wants to give it to the princess,” his mother explained. “It’s our symbol of love and affection for them.”

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Oct 18,2007

EDMONTON, Oct. 18 /CNW Telbec/ – A MYSTICAL JOURNEY: Sufi Music and otherExpressions of Devotion from the Muslim World, brought its world premiere tourto Edmonton last night, in the presence of Prince Hussain and Princess Khaliya Aga Khan. Over 60 artists and musicians from diverse Muslim countries including Algeria, Bosnia, Pakistan, Iran, India and Syria, took audiences on an entertaining and enlightening musical journey of the mind, body and soul.
The nine groups individually performed qawalli’s, ilahis, kalams, dhikr and contemporary songs, with dance performances by whirling Sufis, all of which contributed towards a uniquely rich performance. Some 1700 peopleattended the sold-out performance at Edmonton’s Winspear Theatre.

During the pre-event gala, City of Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel formally presented Prince Hussain with a Proclamation recognizing him as an Ambassador of the city of Edmonton. Mayor Mandel acknowledged Prince Hussain’s
involvement with various projects under the Aga Khan Development Network and said that the institution’s work and values are “an example for all Edmontonians to follow”.
Speaking at the Performance, Mohamed Manji, President of the Aga Khan Council for Canada, noted the appropriateness of this event making its world premiere in Canada. “Canada has promoted pluralism among its citizens by
welcoming people and traditions from all parts of the world,” he said. “We, as Canadians, are encouraged to celebrate our culture and tradition as part of the diverse social fabric of this country. It is this model of diversity, that His Highness the Aga Khan has called “Canada’s gift to the world”.
Kenan Hadzovinc of the Bosnian Choir, Hazreti Hamza, commenting about the tour said “In current times – Islam has a poor image and these types of international initiatives expressing the faith through music and dance help to
change stereo-types and show the diversity that exists within the Muslim world”

Music and musicians play a vital role throughout the Muslim world. From Indonesia through South and Central Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, music serves not only as entertainment for various Muslim communities,
but also as a way to express devotion and reinforce common values and traditions. “A Mystical Journey” focuses on music and devotional expressions, however this diversity can be found in all aspects of life and thought throughout the Muslim world.
“A Mystical Journey” continues its Canadian Tour with additional performances in Calgary (October 20), Toronto (November 4) and Montreal (November 5).
The performance is an international initiative commemorating the Golden Jubilee of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan as the Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims.The Ismaili Muslims are a community of ethnically and culturally diverse peoples living in over 25 countries around the world, united in their allegiance to the Aga Khan as the 49th hereditary Imam and direct descendant of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him and his family).

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