Congratulations on the Occasion of Eighty-Second Birthday
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, on Thursday, December 13, over 15 million Ismaili Muslims residing in 25 countries around the world will celebrate His Highness Karim Aga Khan’s eighty-second birthday.
Born in 1936 in Geneva, Switzerland, His Highness succeeded his grandfather as the forty-ninth spiritual leader of the Ismaili Muslims when he was just 20 years old.
For more than six decades, His Highness the Aga Khan has worked tirelessly to make our world a better place for all. His Highness has worked for 60 years in providing education for girls and equality for women as he continues to work hard for girls’ and women’s well-being.
Recently I was asked how His Highness has inspired me personally and professionally. I quickly came to the realization that everything I stand for and everything I have achieved is thanks to the guidance and sacrifices of His Highness the Aga Khan.
Honourable senators, I was appointed to the Senate of Canada in 2001 by then Prime Minister the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien. When I was appointed, I was the first Muslim senator, the first African-born senator and the first senator of South Asian descent. That is a lot of firsts. I truly believe this would not have been possible had it not been for the importance His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, and his grandfather before him, placed on girls’ education.
The Aga Khan has invested in more than 200 primary and secondary schools in Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Kenya, Kyrgyz Republic, Uganda, Tanzania and Tajikistan. I personally received a world-class education in Kampala, Uganda, at the Aga Khan nursery, primary and secondary schools.
Honourable senators, we are all incredibly fortunate. We live in an era of the #MeToo movement and women’s marches. Today, women’s empowerment is something politicians campaign on and pop stars write songs about. We forget that while women’s education may now be common and popular sentiment, 62 years ago this was most certainly not the case.
On the occasion of his eighty-second birthday, I would like to thank His Highness the Aga Khan for the tremendous sacrifices he has made throughout his lifetime, not only for Ismaili Muslims but for people all over the world, especially for those who are most vulnerable.
I want to say to His Highness that I personally would not have the honour and privilege of standing in this chamber had it not been for his investment and belief in women’s education.
Honourable senators, I ask you to join me in wishing one of our honorary Canadians, His Highness the Aga Khan, bon anniversaire.
On a personal note, senators, I am, as you know, struggling, and I know that my struggle would be much harder if I did not have you all helping me. For the many calls and notes from the Speaker and all of you, and for your love today while I have been in the chamber, I cannot thank you enough. All I can humbly say is thank you for your love, your support and your friendship. It will help me in my struggle. Thank you very much.