Keywords: multiculturalism, Canada, minorities

Abstact: The word 'multiculturalism' was coined in the early 1970s, from which time various pundits worldwide have given it differing, often contradictory, interpretations; based on their own socio-cultural contexts. Similar to Rumi's elephant in the dark house, the pachyderm of the title was understood differently by those who could only touch certain parts of its body.

Prof. Karim follows with a discussion on the history of cultural pluralism in Canada, the first country to enshrine multiculturalism into official policy.

The policy has been linked to 'integration' as well as 'assimilation' and has both supporters and critics; with the latter believing that it threatens to destroy the nation's integrity.

'Public sphericules' of minority interests are seen as co-existing and intersecting with the dominant public sphere, conceptualising civic participation in pluralist societies. The article concludes with how multiculturalism should be reinterpreted in the 21st century where globalisation has challenged the traditional structure of nations.

Today, immigrants are both comfortable with multiple identities and are often in greater contact with their diasporas than formerly. His Highness The Aga Khan has praised Canadian efforts to support pluralist values, which he sees as essential in the future of the world..


Professor Karim H. Karim

Professor Karim H. Karim was Co-Director of the Institute of Ismaili Studies from 2009 to 2011. He previously was Director of Carleton University’s School of Journalism and Communication in Ottawa, Canada. Prior to joining academia, Professor Karim held positions as a Senior Researcher and Senior Policy Analyst in the Department of Canadian Heritage, was a reporter for Inter Press Service (Rome) and Compass News Features (Luxembourg), and worked as a Religious Education Co-ordinator in the Ismailia Association for Canada.