Apr 11, 2008

Texas welcome for Imam

By The Editorial Board Thursday, April 10, 2008, 04:41 PM
Had you read or heard that the governor of Texas was to break bread with a Muslim Imam only 10 years ago, you might have thought it highly improbable. It’s a new Texas, however, and a new world.
Gov. Rick Perry is scheduled to welcome the Aga Khan, a religious leader with a global reach and immense wealth with activities that include a formal dinner on Saturday. The Imam is celebrating 50 years as leader of the world’s Shia Imam Ismaili Muslims with a world tour, and Texas is the first stop on the U.S. leg of it. The current Aga Khan, 71, has led the community since 1957.
His followers number 12 million to 16 million worldwide, including 15,000 to 20,000 in Texas who are engaged in a wide variety of businesses and professions. They don’t generally attract a lot of attention, but the visit by the Aga Khan and the recognition by the state’s top elected official will change that.
The community led by the Aga Khan values self-reliance, tolerance and human worth. He is founder and chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network - a group of nine private non-denominational development agencies, with an annual budget of $350 million.
The immense wealth of the Aga Khan has stirred controversy in the past, including from other Muslims who have disassociated themselves from the Ismailis.
The first of the Ismailis arrived in Texas 40 or so years ago and are concentrated in the state’s metropolitan areas: Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio.
The visit to Texas is clearly a message that the Aga Khan wants to pierce stereotypes of Muslims that have grown since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by extremist Muslims in the United States. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan stoke suspicions of Muslims in this country. Lamenting that climate of suspicion, the Aga Khan - who was educated at Harvard - has described the religious conflict “as a clash of ignorance.”
Though the visit is more symbol than substance to official Texas, the participation by Perry sends a positive message to both the Ismailis and their fellow Texans. It’s a message of understanding and tolerance that we would all be wise to heed: Peace be with all of us.


Ismailiworld - Be Unite

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