Toronto

Stephen Harper on hand for Aga Khan museum opening

The first museum in North America devoted to Islamic art will help promote an understanding of a religion that is based on tolerance and pluralism, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday at the new landmark's opening ceremony.

$300 million museum is the first in North America devoted to Islamic art

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper (left) give a helping hand to the Aga Khan (right), spiritual leader of the world's 15-million Shia Ismaili Muslims, after the Aga Khan addressed the House of Commons, on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Thursday February 27, 2014. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

The first museum in North America devoted to Islamic art will help promote an understanding of a religion that is based on tolerance and pluralism, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Friday at the new landmark's opening ceremony.

The Aga Khan — spiritual leader of the world's Ismaili community — joined Harper in Toronto to celebrate the opening of his namesake museum, the $300-million Aga Khan museum and Ismaili centre.

"We celebrate today, then, not only the harmonious meeting of green gardens and glass galleries, or of Italian marble and Canadian maple. We rejoice above all in the special spirit which fills this place and gives it its soul, " Harper said.

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      "For a very, very long time this priceless gift will bring joy to the eyes and jubilation to the hearts of countless visitors."

      On display will be more than 1,000 artifacts from the 8th through 19th centuries sourced from various countries.

      Renowned architects from Japan and India designed the main buildings, while a Lebanese architect designed the landscaped park that links them on the 6.8-hectare site.

      The project aims to foster knowledge and understanding within Muslim societies and between these societies and other cultures.

      "The decision to establish this significant initiative in Canada reflects the deep and longstanding partnership between the Imamat and Canada," Harper said.

      "This partnership stems from our shared commitment to pluralism, to civil society, human dignity, peace and understanding."

      The museum opens to the public on Sept. 18.

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