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The Museum will display Islamic art and artifacts said to date back up to 1400 years, primarily drawn from the Aga Khan’s private collection and ranging from miniatures to manuscripts to textiles.Yet for all its palatable rhetoric around promoting diversity and cultural harmony, the Aga Khan Museum demands some closer scrutiny.Such are the good Muslims – as Hume notes about those who pushed to host the project in Toronto, these are "immigrants" who do not only take from Canada, but can give a museum back (reminding readers that the brown-skinned still remain perpetual outsiders, despite even this level of dedication to the state). An appreciation of a once-glorious Islamic past; of a civilization now frozen in monuments? “There were once totem poles, and we settlers have preserved them so well!It might be worth reminding ourselves of the central role of Canadian museums in the ongoing colonization of indigenous communities, taking traditions that have been systematically attacked for generations to then be displayed in exhibitions and violently erased into history. ” Just as Canadian history museums do not address the realities of colonization, an Islamic Art museum will not address Islamophobia.Canada has been no stranger to this, evident in the legitimization of the invasion of Afghanistan by claiming the need to “save” oppressed Afghani women; the controversies around Shari’a Law in Ontario; Herouxville and the Reasonable Accommodation debates in Quebec; the five Muslim security certificate detainees, all but one now released (on strict conditions of house arrest) after years of later-deemed unconstitutional detention; the refusal to bring home Omar Khadr, Guantanamo Bay's youngest prisoner and only Western citizen despite global calls to do so; the ongoing trials of the Toronto 18, charged with allegations of terrorism despite a paucity of publicized evidence and the revelation of an RCMP informant heavily compensated to incite the young men involved; and the government’s explicit instruction to Syria and Egypt to torture numerous Muslim Canadians, of which Maher Arar is the most famous. Yet, Stephen Harper would like us to know that he does not hate Muslims and is committed to peace and diversity – after all, both he and notorious Canadian Immigration Minister Jason Kenney were present to launch the new museum and heap praise upon the Aga Khan and the initiative. Mahmood Mamdani’s 2004 book Good Muslim, Bad Muslim opens by presenting a thesis: in contemporary political discourse, there is a clear division between the “good” Muslims – the peace-loving, open-minded, well-educated, secular-leaning, patriotic citizens – and the “bad” – the dogmatic, conservative, sexist, homophobic, likely-violent haters of the West and democracy (who often also happen to be non-citizens, poor, and bearded or veiled).With the elaborate Aga Khan Museum set to be located in an area with one of the highest proportions of lower-income Muslims in Canada, serving more to gentrify the neighbourhood than to support the resident community, it is thus unsurprising that Toronto Star reporter Christopher Hume says of the project, “Unlike most such religious/culture centres that have appeared recently in these parts, this one looks to the future, not the past”.In fact, a 2006 BC Business profile of the Ismaili community described it as almost “too good to be true”, listing BC’s richest Ismaili families including luxury hotel owners, mineral resource developers, real-estate moguls and more, many worth hundreds of millions of dollars.Ismailis are required to give 5 – 12% of their annual income to the Aga Khan, who is then said to allocate the funds to various non-profit ventures (concrete facts are hard to come by with the intense privacy restrictions – Ismaili centres are among the only Muslim places of worship in the world that are not open to outsiders).

Nor are CIDA and USAID the AKDN’s only international state partners – Israeli Isra AID has also proudly noted their close relationship in endeavors such as a 2005 joint health provider training in Kenya.

The AKDN employs over 70,000 paid staff and runs hospitals, universities, and similar public projects alongside private economic ventures claiming to promote development by “strengthening the role of the private sector” across the global south.

While there is no shortage of reasons to critique the globalized development industry that has seen many profit immensely off of poverty, it is worth pointing out that since 2001, the AKDN has focused much of its efforts in Afghanistan, where it currently operates as a primary partner of CIDA and USAID.

You can check their financial statements if you are unsure about this.

CIDA and USAID have nothing to do with the Museum project itself and you pour out random facts about them as a way to divert readers from the main project.

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