A recent Salon article exploring the “surprisingly warm” relationship between Texas Gov. Rick Perry and the Muslim community leans on the Republican presidential candidate’s ties to the Aga Khan, religious leader of the Ismailis — a sect of Shia Islam — as evidence he is well-connected to at least one group of Muslims.
Its headline wonders if Perry will be considered “the pro-Shariah candidate,” during his bid to win the GOP nomination, a label sure to make some conservative voters cringe.
Perry has embraced small sects of Islam like the Ismailis, while avoiding close ties to the broader Muslim community.
Perry’s cozy relationship with the Aga Khan, an extremely affluent jet-setting billionaire, is mutually and monetarily beneficial. Khan’s far-reaching network spends $350 million a year on projects in South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The governor has capitalized on the leader’s scope and influence, agreeing to partnerships, including a deal with The University of Texas and the Aga Khan University in Pakistan to bring Muslim history and cultural studies to high school educators.
The pair have shared about a decade of friendship, hosting and attending various invitation-only events. For instance, in April 2008 the Austin American-Statesman reported on Perry’s plans to host a private dinner “to honor the Aga Khan, a descendant of the Prophet Muhammad celebrating his 50th year as the spiritual leader of a Muslim sect.”
The powerful alliance between the West Texas politician and the Kenyan-raised Ismaili leader may have some pivotal right-wing voters thinking twice about a Perry ticket — especially in light of the hard-line approaches against Islam voiced by his opponents — but is the bond really indicative of Perry’s larger relationship with Muslims? READ MORE