Khoja Heritage Festival (6th-7th April 2019)
The weekend of 6th and 7th April was marked by the Khoja Heritage Festival which took place at Al Zahra Centre in Watford. During those two days, we had the opportunity to welcome Dr Hasnain Walji, chair of the Khoja Heritage Project of The World Federation and Raza-Aly Bhai Hiridjee, founder of Mulla Asghar Resource Centre in Toronto.
The opening of the ceremony was done by CoEJ president Dr Akber Mohamedali introducing this very important initiative of Khoja Heritage.
This was followed by Raza-Aly Bhai Hiridjee’s speech explaining how The World federation had invested in securing 11K Sqf of space within the Bathurst project in Toronto on which the foundation of Mulla Asghar Resource Centre is built. This was The World Federation’s first property.
Dr Hasnain Walji enlightened all present on the measures The World Federation was taking to preserve our Khoja Heritage. One of the initiatives has been to register around 80 books about Khoja history on www.KhojaPedia.com. Dr Hasnain Walji and his team also do a bi-monthly teleconference meeting to analyse old books and their validity which is called “Reading Circle”. They have also launched a Khoja Heritage Exhibition presenting their work, their findings about Khoja history and most specially, some old photos of the first Khoja martyrs, the founders of the first Khoja mosque. The exhibition also displayed the first Khojas who travelled to meet the Ayatullah of that time and wrote a book about Islamic Laws. Here are some photos of the exhibition.
This exhibition was a great learning about the Khoja History especially highlighting some of the great personalities who pioneered the Khoja Shia Ithna-Asheri community in search of the true path (satpanth).
A large panel of Gujarati books, some being unique, are accessible on these websites. A part of the exhibition showcased on how the Khoja community travelled from India to East Africa and Madagascar and from thereon, their migration to North America and Europe.
As part of our history, our passion for sports was highlighted and retraced from its inception and the recollections of sports events that were introduced in 1920, almost a 100 years ago.
As Khojas, food is an integral part of our culture, and hence a great lunch was served after the exhibition.
Seminar on Khoja Community: Past, Present and Future
The Festival attendees had an opportunity to listen to scholars, intellectuals as well as community activists as they reviewed the past, reflected on the present and gazed at the future.
Reviewing the past, Sheikh Kumail Rajani presented a critical analysis of how the British Courts in India in the 19th Century sealed the fate of the Khoja Community, while Br Jaffer Manek offered a comparison between now and how things were 150 years ago. Br Nazir Jessa in his illustrative paper traced the evolution of the Khoja Community in the UK form the Ithnasheri Union in the early sixties to the formation of the World Federation in the seventies.
Linking the past to the present, Dr Hasnain Walji reflected on how community’s appreciation of heritage is gauged by the preservation of its intellectual history and the amount of scholarship it has produced. Addressing our present challenges, Sr Sabira Lakha passionately pursued a case for financial dignity and independence for married women while Dr Annie Shamsi and Sr Farzana Kara Walli evaluated the Community Health Action Model for mental health issues for the Khoja Community
In the futures panel, Dr Sibtain Panjwani connected the present with the future by way of suggesting ways to harness the power of the Community by Integrating Mimbar with Madrasa and Family. Finally, Dr Morgan Clarke and Dr Ali Reza Bhojani, presented their future research study of what it means to follow the sharia in Khoja Shia Muslim communities of Europe, in the context of the complexity of the ways in which sharia- mindedness is interwoven within a particular spiritual and cultural identity.
Mulla Roshan Versi entertained participants with his characteristic wry humour while Afzal Somji and Sarfaraz Jeraj played Phua and Phida, in the skit called Pan Shop Polemics of Phua and Phida, abstracted from a column written by Dr. Hasnain Walji, amusing the audience with a spirited discussion on whether the Khoja Community should be a single coloured soup or a colourful bowl of salad.
Capturing the history of the Khoja community in Europe
Constituent European Jamaats’ had the opportunity to share their history in which numerous Jamaats participated. These were:
- Paris North Jamaat
- Birmingham Jamaat
- Peterborough Jamaat
- Essex Jamaat
- Switzerland Jamaat (through a video received)
- Leicester Jamaat
- Hyderi Jamaat
- Marsta Jamaat
- Hujjat Jamaat
- Gloucester Jamaat
We also had the opportunity to hear the special testimony of Nazir Bhai Jessa, who witnessed the development of London Jamaat. He mentioned how Peterborough goes down in history as the first purpose-built mosque in the UK by the Khojas after the Woking mosque nearly century before. It also gave us the opportunity to understand the situations during those times. He was also a part of the creation of The World Federation in 1976.
Formation of a Team to lead Khoja Heritage from CoEJ
This was the opportunity to form a team leading the Khoja Heritage Project. Dr Akber designated Br. Chaïk Moussabay, a passionate and active youth from Paris Jamaat to lead this project. His team includes Nazir Bhai Jessa, Zulfikar Bhai Kassam and Sister Zainab Master.
Br. Chaïk Moussabay was born and bred in Paris. At 16 he took the responsibility of making the announcement in Paris North Jamaat, Mehfile Zainab which are all in Gujarati. His passion for Gujarati shows through his dedicated services within the community. He is a Pharmacist by profession. He developed a passion for the Khoja Heritage during the premiere of “Khoja a Journey of Faith”, held in Paris a few days prior to the Khoja Festival. He was nominated as lead of Khoja Heritage, from CoEJ, after his enthusiastic discussion with Dr Akber. His team have been tasked with a few action points, one of which is to have a Khoja Heritage Exhibition within all European Jamaats.
The team will also gather every Jamaat’s creation history to have this invaluable information compiled and published in a book format for generations to come.
They will be working with the chair of The World Federation, Dr Hasnain Walji, to start the part 2 of the film “Khoja a journey of faith” to narrate how Khojas migrated from East Africa, Madagascar to Europe and North America and other countries in the world.
Alhamdulillah, these two days were very rich in information, history and learning and we would like to thank all present to make it a successful event.