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Lawyer sued by Aga Khan keeping the faith

|Written By Michael McKiernan

A Toronto lawyer says he will still follow the Aga Khan despite a lawsuit the hereditary imam has filed against him.

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Alnaz Jiwa, a lawyer with Jiwa & Associates, could find himself facing down the spiritual leader in a Canadian court after the Aga Khan named him as a defendant in a copyright infringement case launched in the Federal Court last week.

The Aga Khan is the spiritual leader of the Ismailis, a branch of Shia Islam to which Jiwa and his co-defendant belong.

“I still follow him, absolutely, without any doubt,” Jiwa tells Law Times. “You will get the answer to this when I file the defence,” he says, noting he has yet to appoint a lawyer to act on his behalf.

“I don’t want to make any comments now until my defence is filed. Once I file it, I will set out the circumstances and answer the questions,” he adds.

The Aga Khan alleges in the claim that Jiwa and Montreal businessman Nagib Tajdin infringed his copyright and moral rights by compiling a book that collected addresses delivered to Ismaili communities around the world between 1957, when he assumed his title, and 2009.

The materials include 589 Farmans - addresses the Aga Khan gives as imam to his followers - and 77 Talikas, which are brief religious messages to Ismailis in writing. The suit claims the Aga Khan is the sole author of those materials.

According to the claim, Jiwa and Tajdin, as well as other unknown defendants, sold the book for $50 per volume in multiples of four. Buyers allegedly got 14 MP3 audio files featuring extracts read by the Aga Khan free with the book.

The imam is seeking punitive and exemplary damages in addition to damages for the alleged infringement of his copyright and moral rights. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

Brian Gray, a senior partner with Ogilvy Renault LLP who is representing the imam in the suit, provided an e-mailed statement from an Aga Khan spokesperson claiming the defendants had been cautioned numerous times to halt their operation, warnings that included personal pleas from the Aga Khan himself and his brother.

“The Aga Khan has taken this matter extremely seriously,” the statement notes. “He would not have taken this course of action if there was an alternative.

The only recognized legal way to stop them is through the courts.”

The Aga Khan traces his lineage back to Ali, the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad. Although he was born in Switzerland, he lives in France and is a British citizen.

The statement of claim says the imam’s mandate is to interpret the faith for Ismailis who live in more than 25 countries around the world.

Colleen Spring Zimmerman, a partner with Fogler Rubinoff LLP in Toronto, says she has never seen a case like this one with a religious leader taking on one of his own followers. Nevertheless, the statement of claim alleges Tajdin was asked to stop a similar operation in the early 1990s.

Zimmerman says that piece of information could be crucial when it comes to deciding whether to award the Aga Khan the punitive and exemplary damages he’s looking for in the case.

“They’re asking for broad sweeping relief against these defendants,” Zimmerman notes. “The court has in the past granted punitive and exemplary damages in certain circumstances, but there has to be behaviour which goes beyond normal copying of a work, something that goes to the very root of misconduct.

If a defendant was warned in the past not to do this and now they’ve done it again, the punitive and exemplary damages may come to bear.”

The religious dimension of the case makes the outcome much less predictable, she adds. That could explain why the Aga Khan is claiming a breach of moral rights.

“It’ll be interesting to see from a moral rights point of view whether the defendants have said anything to which he would object and to what extent he has the right to stop the reproduction and distribution of this work solely on the basis of moral rights rather than copyright,” Zimmerman says. “I’ll be very interested to see what the court has to say on that.”

Without seeing the materials herself, Zimmerman says it’s hard to tell whether the Aga Khan’s works have been amended but she’s not the only one in the dark.

The statement of claim says the Aga Khan himself hasn’t verified the accuracy of the infringing materials but leaves the door open to a moral-rights breach by pointing out that “any act of omission that is contrary to the moral rights of the author is an infringement” of them under the Copyright Act.

“As has been his systematic practice for many years, the Aga Khan often annotates and edits his texts in accordance with established criteria and well-established guidelines before any publication of them,” the claim states.

Zimmerman says the plaintiff’s decision not to claim an independent copyright on the MP3 recordings was noteworthy.

The recordings are in the Aga Khan’s own voice, but the claim alleges only that they breach his copyright inasmuch as they are “a copy in substantial part” of the Farmans and Talikas in the book.

“So if there’s any issue with the ownership of those literary works, that’s going to be a problem for the plaintiff,” Zimmerman says.

In the e-mailed statement, the spokesperson for the Aga Khan explained he felt the issue of the sound recordings would unnecessarily complicate the claim. It also indicates that photographs in the book raise another question around personality rights, another issue the plaintiff avoided in the claim.

“It was hoped to keep the matter simple by focusing only on the copyright in his written works,” the statement says. “If necessary, these other matters may have to be asserted later.”

Comments for this article have been closed.

  • kanjiyani amir
    When Hazar imam says don't then it should be final.
  • Common Sense

    The five vices in play. Lust, Anger, Greed, Attachment and Ego. When not in check, they tend to blind us.
    The above article outlines the lawsuit. Nothing to do with anything but the issues as defined in the Statement of Claim.
    Why then spend our time sensationalizing, debating and making false statements. Such comments tend to mislead and commit injustice.
  • Nagib Tajdin\'s intention in publishing

    Response to Latimah Peerwani

    You have stated in your post that Nagib and his whole family are very faithful to the Imam and they would never do anything which is derogatory against the Imam... You also stated that you have gone through the book and found nothing derogatory against the Imam...On such basis you find it pathetic that "the tables have turned and Nagib is painted black" since there is nothing contained in his publication that is morally damaging to the Imam.

    I think you have missed the point altogether. The tables have turned and Nagib & Co. are painted black not because the publication is morally damaging to the Imam but because they have infringed upon his moral rights and copy rights. Essentially, these people usurped the Imam's prerogative by publishing his priviledged communication to his murids without any authorization. The Imam in his infinite love, mercy and wisdom used every possible means to stop such activities, including approaching these people through the top leadership and through personal communication but everything failed. It is quite clear that your so called "faithful" people did not submit to the Will of the Imam. How faithful can they be?

    Therefore, I would respond that I find it pathetic that Nagib CHOSE to have the tables turned and his name painted black because he did not submit to the Will of the Imam.
  • The real reasons

    Latimah. Nagib has been publising for many years and providing through their websites much needed and used resources and materials including the book they have publised. Alnaz Jiwa is a lawyer. The very book and resources they have published has guidance given to followers including but not limited to ethics, values, unity, pluralism, resolving differences, and helping & respecting each other as brothers and sisters, giving time money and knowledge to those in need and forgiveness. As followers of the Imam Nagib and Alnaz are not following the very same guidance and have left every one guessing so far. The Aga khan would not issue a lawsuit lightly and if Nagib and Alnaz think that the Imam may not be fully aware then they should make sure the Imam is aware. Unless of course is the real motivation all about making money and or fame and or excessive greed and or some kind of revenge. Go on guys do the right thing !
  • Organized Religion, HUMPH!

    Proud to be an Apostate
    Unfortunately this will not happen in my lifetime, but happy will be the day in human history when God, Jehovah, Allah, Moses, Jesus, Mohammed, etc. all join the likes of the Oracle of Delphi, Zeus, Vulcan, Isis, Horus, Osiris, Artemis, Juno, etc. in the dustbins of history!
  • A matter of Privacy NOT Pluralism

    salim e-a ebrahim
    In his comment Canuck49 makes two pertinent points to which I give my answers:

    1. "The Aga Khan who champions pluralism in Islam cannot wish to stifle those who want his 'exact' words widely circulated." _Canuck49

    I should say that the term "pluralism" is being misapplied here. It is really a matter of "privacy" and Canadians are more resolute about the sacred nature of privacy than any other nation I know. For anyone in his own community to make public what was offered by the Aga Khan in a private setting of his community is a remarkable demonstration of betrayed trust. Therefore, the copyright infringement reduces FUNDAMENTALLY to a question of "MORAL" rights of the Aga Khan, that is, is it acceptable for any individual, his follower or not, anywhere in the world, to surreptitiously tape his PRIVATE words knowing that it is against the will of the speaker to do so and then reproduce them without any REAL GUARANTEE that those words will not appear in print in some distorted form? As a man of international stature how can he allow anyone to hold him to ransom every time he speaks in the privacy of his community halls? Does he have to follow every single publication by whosoever sees it fit to publish his words to ensure that they have not deviated from his speech by omission or by commission? And if there is such a discrepancy where does he go to seek redress except to bear it at his cost and well-being? Why would he have his role as a leader of a congregation compromised by the fear that what he speaks will be published without his oversight and cause him emotional, financial or even severe political fallout since his followers span all six continents? Does the Vatican allow such license? Does any church or any community anywhere tolerate such affronts?

    2. "Public figures who want to 'edit' their speeches for different audiences invite suspicion as to integrity." _Canuck49

    It is one matter to speak publicly in a PUBLIC forum and where the Aga Khan has done so often and with the full awareness of the nature of a public address, that is, the give-and-take in terms of publicity versus the risk of misquotation. It is another matter altogether where privacy and not publicity is the issue.

    salim e-a ebrahim
  • A matter of Privacy NOT Pluralism

    Dear salim e-a ebrahim, I appreciate your wise response. Thank you
  • Mansoor Ladha
    The issue here is that the book contains farmans and talikas from the Aga Khan as Imam of the Ismailis. Farmans and talikas are confidential addresses by the Imam delivered to his murids or spriritual children and they should not be distributed publicly unless authorized by the Imam or his official nominee. Despite several pleas by the Aga Khan and by his brother Prince Amyn, the defendents ignored them and published the book in defiance of the Imam whom Mr. Jiwa still pledges allegience, which I find it hard to believe. I submit that Mr. Jiwa should give up and plead guilty as he has no case to fight.
  • Ms

    Zina Khan
    Can someone please explain how they got hold of all this material?

    It must be understood that it has been reproduced and not "produced" by come from some 20 million people these handful of individuals managed to gather all this sensitive or private material ?

    Who else is complicit or culpable ? are there any other "masterminds" who have facilitated one way or the other and thus betrayed the trust placed in them?

    Who are the biggest buyers and distributers of this material?

    Who else is involved in this fiasco? and what is the extent of such involvement, if any? did these guys raid any vaults? Should there also be a criminal investigation, depending on what evidence surfaces?

    Who would keep and have such materials? who would be it's guardian? and so where did the breach originate from? when? and how before it was extended and subsequently propagated ?

    So who are the real perpetrators of this betrayal and breach? just these two? OR are there some more who too need to be exposed?
  • Nagib Tajdin\'s intention in publishing

    Latimah Peerwani
    I met Nagib several times in Montreal and in London. A fine educated chap from McGill in islamic Studies and a faithful servant of the Imam. His catalogue of ismail works in European languages has been useful to many. He personally presented to me the the firman books and informed me that the Jamat is thirsty for reading the firmans of the Imam, to which I agreed, because once something is written and published one can reflect upon it more and follow. I went throughthe firman books published by him and there is nothing derogatory in those publications agains the Imam, besides Nagib and in fact his whole family being very faithful to the Imam and the Imam's family would never do anything which is derogatory against the Imam. Further, the copy-right is for the published works and not for the speeches and talikas. We are living in the post-modern world when everything is published when an importan person gives the speeches. A while back when Nagib published those firman books many Jamati members were exremely happy including the missionaries who had now the material in their hand to deliver to the Jamat. But now the tables have turned and Nagib is painted black. This is pathetic. Since there is nothing morally damaging to the Imam in those firman published by Nagib to be helpful to the Imam and community so why this fuss about him?
  • Mariam
    Are you seriously saying that it's not wrong d him produce a book (compile farmans of our beloved Imaam) and sell them to Ismailies and none-Ismailies alike? What happened to our faith being for us only? The Ismailies and Mawla's farmans solely produced for us? Despite all this, are you still defending the guy who published Mawla's work? We all know it's a modern world, but does that mean stepping over Your faith? One more thing, if the jamat wants to hear Mawla's farmans, they should be regular in jamat Khana.
  • Guest
    It is the matter of who knows what the best for whom?
  • Jalal Haji
    When H'Imam says don't then it should be final.
  • GF
    [quote name="Jalal Haji"]When H'Imam says don't then it should be final.[/quote]
    Well, some of us have a mind - we rely on scientific principals rather than faith to determine what is best for us
  • Greed

    Proud to be an Ismaili
    I think Mr Jiwa needs help. He may have mental health issues. Its greed thats fuelling this disobedience. What a shame?? Hazar Imam has so many murids to worry about and has dedicated his life to better our lives , and then he has this nonsense to deal with. Mr Jiwa is forgetting had it not been Hazar Imam and Sultan Mohamed Shah we would be still somewhere in Gujarat, poor and uneducated. The progress this community has made is the sacrifice and guidance of Hazar Imam, Canadians who are enjoying the wealth and life is all because of the hard work of Hazar Imam. So they have accumulated so much wealth, they have lost the plot.
  • nick
    Would like to know further
  • conflict of Intellect and faith

    I went to someone's house to pick up this book. I did not know this man who answered the door. I gave him $50 and asked to purchase the Firman book. He handed me the book without asking me if I was an Ismaili.
  • conflict of intellect and fath

    Could you imagine how many volumes he may have SOLD and the profit he may have made. ?
  • conflict of Intellect and faith

    If it is true that the Aga Khan and his brother personally spoke to defendants before the lawsuit was filed, then it makes no sense whatsoever for Mr Alnaz to say "I still follow him, absolutely, without any doubt,” This should have been settled without the need for a lawsuit. As Zimmerman points out the case, if it proceeds, will be legally challenging & tactically intersting in limiting the claim of infrigement to try to keep the claim simple.. This is so also becase the book is alledgedly sold & distributed only to Ismailis, and the related websites have been publishing similar and other material for many years
  • whose not keeping faith?

    "Keeping the faith" is perhaps Mr. Jiwa's way of avoiding retribution from his co-religionists, so he does not suffer the fate of the Sikh lawyer who was physically attacked.

    Anyway, whats the big deal here? Surely,the Agakhan who champions pluralism in Islam, cannot wish to stifle those who want his "exact" words widely circulated. Public figures who want to "edit" their speeches for different audiences invite suspicion as to integrity.
    As to not being "humble" enough, clearly when the Agakhan choses to sue a lawyer in Canada, he should expect the lawyer to avail himself of any opportunity to air his defence. Is'nt that what's pluralism is all about.
  • Keeping the faith?

    I'm not sure how the defendant, Alnaz Jiwa is keeping the faith when he is going against the Imam's wishes!
    If he really has faith, I believe he should be humble and do away with all this fiasco...

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