Arzina Zaver: Building a Civil Society: The Role of Pluralism, Education and a Cosmopolitan Ethic

Arzina Zaver: Building a Civil Society: The Role of Pluralism, Education and a Cosmopolitan EthicBy Arzina Zaver for State of Formation

On February 28 2014 I received an invitation to attend a reception in Massey Hall, Toronto, held by Prime Minister Stephen Harper in honour of His Highness the Aga Khan. This reception was especially important given His Highness’ Parliamentary address in Ottawa the previous day.

His Highness the Aga Khan is the 49th hereditary Imam (spiritual leader) of the Shia Ismaili Muslim community and is a direct descent of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) through his cousin and son-in-law Ali, and Ali’s wife and Prophet’s daughter, Fatima. In the Aga Khan’s recent speeches and interviews in North America, he discusses the potential of a civil society ….

….As a Canadian Ismaili, this was a proud moment for me. Historically, this is the third time since 1941 that a non-siting head of state has had the privilege of addressing Parliament and the only time a faith leader has had the honor of addressing both the Upper and Lower Houses. Sitting in Massey Hall, I was reminded of Max Van Manen’s categorization of silences, specifically ontological silence which “fulfills yet seeks fulfillment.” There is much work to be done, and the cosmopolitan ethic can be sustained only through an authentic understanding of each other. Education will be the crucial building block of a civil society.

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Arzina Zaver is a PhD student at McGill University in the Faculty of Education. She graduated from the Secondary Teacher Education Programme in 2010 from the IIS and the IOE in London, UK. Arzina is interested in the intersection of religious education, teacher identity and procedural neutrality. Arzina is a Contributing Scholar at She can be reached at

Author: ismailimail

Independent, civil society media featuring Ismaili Muslim community, inter and intra faith endeavors, achievements and humanitarian works.

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