Apr 16, 2008

Aga Khan makes rare visit to U.S.

By Tricia EscobedoCNN

(CNN) -- The leaders of three world religions will be visiting the United States this week, and although the media spotlight is focused on Pope Benedict XVI and the Dalai Lama, thousands of Ismaili Muslims are celebrating a rare U.S. tour by the Aga Khan.

The Aga Khan says a "clash of ignorance" has led to friction between Islam and the West.

The Aga Khan doesn't exactly fit the image that may be expected for the spiritual leader of 20 million Ismaili Muslims across the world; he usually wears a suit and tie.
But his followers see him as the final authority on interpreting the Quran. One one Muslim scholar said that in that regard, "he is more powerful than the pope."
The Aga Khan, 71, arrived Friday in Austin, Texas, where he met with Gov. Rick Perry and signed a memorandum with the University of Texas on behalf of his Aga Khan University.
The two schools agreed to share research and cooperate in what was described as "a move towards narrowing the gap between the West and Islam."
Aga Khan University is an international University with teaching sites in eight countries: Afghanistan, Kenya, Pakistan, Tanzania, Uganda, Syria, Egypt and the United Kingdom.
The agenda for the Aga Khan's first U.S. tour in 20 years includes stops in Chicago, Illinois; Los Angeles, California; and Atlanta, Georgia; places he described as having "particular importance to the Ismaili Community over the last half century." Watch the Aga Khan's arrival in the U.S. »

His trip to the United States and to other Ismaili communities around the world is in celebration of his "Golden Jubilee" -- which actually fell last year -- marking 50 years as the spiritual leader.
"It's not very often that the Ismaili community gets this opportunity," said Saloni Firasta Vastani, a volunteer community leader in Atlanta.
The Aga Khan "has a worldly responsibility in addition to spiritual," Vastani explained. And that is why the centerpiece of his role is his $150 million nonprofit, nondenominational foundation that focuses on helping the poor.


Ismailiworld - Be Unite

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