By Tariq Choudry-Florida
It was in the summer of 2007, some academics, professionals and community members met to review the prevalent misconcepts about educational status of Muslims in the US and to assess academic performance of the next generation of Muslims in the US. The starting point of discussion was the 2006 survey conducted by CAIR (American Muslim Voters, A demographic Profile and Survey of Attitudes) which amongst other things, stated that 62% of Muslims in the US had at least a bachelors degree. However, it was felt that this assessment may be true for the 1st generation of American Muslimâ€™s, who for the most part, had obtained their first degrees overseas and had migrated to the US in pursuit of higher education or economic goals. All were in agreement; the same assessment can not be categorically made about the 2nd generation of Muslim Americans as well as the Afro American Muslims, who form the bulk of the Muslim presence in the US. There was preponderance of anecdotal evidence suggesting that for every one, 2nd generation academically high achieving Muslim student; there were at least another 19 who were not meeting their full academic potentials.
If this evidence was correct, all participants to these discussions agreed, that there will be serious consequences for the Muslims presence, not only nationally, but also globally. Lacking credible academic achievements, in a challenging and highly competitive economic ambient, such as now a days, the next generation of Muslims will end up being either underemployed or even unemployed, with serious social and economic repercussions not only for the society at large, for the Muslim community, the family but most importantly, for the individuals themselves. This scenario, if it was to materialize, would result in dangerous marginalization of Muslim presence in the US, economically, socially and politically. Lack of parental awareness and apathy, majority of whom were educated overseas and without direct exposure to the USâ€™s educational system, lack of students awareness and motivation, lack of community focus and sensitivity towards excellence in education and above all, lack of awareness of the significance of achieving higher standards in education were all seen as the root causes of this dismal performance of the young Muslim Americans.
This group of Muslim Academics, professionals and the community leaders felt reminded by the blessed Qurâ€™an, in Surah Raaâ€™d ( V. 11), where in Allah (SWT) tells the believers,
â€œVerily, never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselvesâ€
So rather then burying their heads like the proverbial ostrich i.e. leave the things as they are, or to recognize the problem, but being too busy with other â€˜goodâ€™ things in life, this group of academics, professionals and community members decided to consult and organize other like-minded community members, those who care to understand the nature and extent of the problem Strategize and devise practical solutions.
This effort led to the formation of Excellence in Education Initiative (EEI) in Central Florida in spring of 2008. EEI organized its 1st Annual â€œRecognizing and Rewardingâ€ reception to honor and to motivate the graduating Muslim High School seniors (Class of 2008) on behalf of the Muslim Community of Central Florida which was a success. Graduating seniors were given general recognition and cash rewards and there were also recognition and higher rewards for super achievers, students who were declared as Valedictorians, or those who achieved the highest SAT scores, or the highest accumulative GPA, or the most improved GPA from junior year to senior year. EEI also announced the launching of their 2nd component of the program i.e. SAT Workshop and Chemistry tutoring, starting in Oct 2008, at the end of Ramadhan.
To continue this noble and in many ways, ground breaking initiative for the Muslim Communities across North America, EEI will be holding the 2nd Annual â€œRecognition and Rewardingâ€ reception for the Class of 2009, on 7th June, 2009 at the University of Central Florida (UCF). This event will also provide recognition and rewards to the high school students who participated in the EEI organized SAT I workshop and the Chemistry tutorials
The fundraiser for this event was held on 16th April, 2009 at the Muslim Academy of Greater Orlando (MAGO). The occasion was held to raise funds for the event and to raise awareness among parents, community members and student body to encourage and participate in the program.
Although it was a successful event in which many parents were present and showed their support, however, not as many general body members of the community at large participated, which remains a matter of deep concern. The whole idea of EEI is to prepare Muslim students for the highly competitive and important SAT examination which holds the key to a studentâ€™s future and defines the path towards success and failure.
The members of EEI are highly educated, genuinely dedicated professionals and academia deeply concerned about the wellbeing of the communityâ€™s growing next generation. As was stated by Br. Asif Javed, representing the general feeling of the EEI members, theirs is labor of love, where the EEI team of academics and professionals, devote immense amount of their personal time and financial resources voluntarily to enable our next generation to successfully compete in a highly competitive educational world. Academic success of the next generation of Muslim Americans will be the defining moment of the Muslims presence in the US for generations to come. If the next generation of Muslims grow up to be highly motivated, committed and confident Muslims, coupled with attainment of highest possible academic and professional standards, the Muslim Americans will be able to play their role mandated by Allah (SWT) Himself, in the blessed Quran, i.e. to be the leaders of the nations.
In his opening remarks at the Fundraiser, Br. Asif Javed, representing the EEI board, noted, â€œif we are to maintain a position wherein Muslims can have social, economical and political impacts on the larger society in the US, our next generation must be given all the tools, encouragement and motivations towards academic success, then as a community, we must invest in and support programs such as the EEI program and we must not turn away from itâ€. He continued to note, other ethnic and minority groups have devoted enormous time, resources and have produced quality teaching environment for their next generations and have furnished them with tools and techniques needed to compete and succeed in academic challenges. Dr. Nakadar, the visiting host, also stressed the facts about learning and importance of higher education. He also encouraged parents to participate in these types of activities and encouraged others to participate vehemently to promote this worthy cause.&nb sp; All childrenâ€™s are alike and their should be no distinction whether someoneâ€™s children attend the EEI supplemental tutoring or not is beside the point. The purpose must be to keep this program of high value at the top of everyoneâ€™s agenda because of its sheer intent and strategic objectives, which are worthy of devotion and promotion by all sincere Muslims.
Content and narration edited and approved by Br. Asif Javed, Florida.