(A Press Note with photographs and a few comments of AFMI delegates)
By Nilofar Suhrawardy, MMNS India Correspondent
NEW DELHI: Delegates of American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI) wrapped up their India-visit last week (January 10) on a satisfactory note. AFMI has been engaged for more than two decades in promoting literacy among Indian Muslims by establishing and/or aiding the existing educational institutions. As a part of its aim to achieve 100 percent literacy rate, the AFMI delegates hold an international convention every year in a different city of the country. This is followed by zonal conventions in several areas. Since the early 1990s, the AFMI has awarded medals (gold, silver & bronze), certificates and cash prizes to students having scored high percentage in Class 10th and 12th board examinations. While recipients of the awards are selected from across the country for the international convention, the zonal convention includes students of that particular zone.
Expressing satisfaction with increase in literacy rate of Indian Muslims, its key founder member, Dr. A.S. Nakadar said: â€œAFMI has made a difference.â€ Literacy among Muslims has increased by 60%, with 2008 being witness to greater upward trend than earlier, he said. He drew attention to increasing number of Muslim students scoring above 90%. Besides, Nakadar pointed to Muslim applicants to â€œhigher educational institutions being higher than before.â€ He supported this point by referring to 50% quota in Muslim-minority educational institutions being now filled by Muslim students, which â€œearlier was not the case.â€ Nakadar, a retired cardiologist in Detroit, Michigan, visits India regularly to pursue AFMIâ€™s literacy mission.
A key recipient of AFMIâ€™s aid is Mijwan Welfare Society run by actor Shabana Azmi in the town called Mijwan (Uttar Pradesh), from where her father- renowned poet late Kaifi Azmi hailed. Azmi showed AFMI delegates the areas in which the students of this institution are engaged in. She expressed the need to further expand this organization with possible aid from AFMI, which is under consideration. The AFMI delegates were here last Thursday (January 8). AFMI delegates addressed the Zonal Educational Conference at Shibli National Inter-College, Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh the same afternoon.
The two-day international convention was held (January 2-3) at Indore in Madhya Pradesh. Among Indian dignitaries who addressed AFMIâ€™s 18th annual convention were Union Minister of State for Corporate and Minority Affairs (Independent Charge) Salman Khursheed, Justice MSA Siddiqui, Chairman National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions, Mayor of Indore Krishna Murari Moghe and others. It was the first international conference to be held in Indore this century. It was also the first one, where people from diverse political backgrounds, spoke only on importance of enhancing the literary rate of Indiaâ€™s largest minority community- the Muslims.
The Indore convention was followed by a tour of several towns and villages of Uttar Pradesh, with Amroha being the first to be visited by AFMI delegates (January 5). They addressed the Zonal Educational Conference at the institution run by Hakeem Sirajuddin Hashmi. AFMI delegates addressed a similar conference at Hira Public School at Hanswar (January 6).
Summing up his opinion, AFMI President Dr. Iqbal Ahmed expressed that though â€œIndian Muslims have developed the awareness about importance of education,â€ â€œpoverty remains a major hindrance in achieving education.â€ He cited instances of people who had approached him in Indore about their children having secured admission to B. Tech but were dropped as their loan application was rejected by banks. â€œRich segments of Muslims, Wakf boards and other Muslim groups must come forward and share the responsibility,â€ he said. Ahmed is a medical doctor (gastro-enetrology) in Cleveland, Ohio.
Dr. Shakir Mukhi, also a medical doctor (New York) said that AFMI delegates were â€œimpressedâ€ by increase in involvement of Muslims in pursuing higher education. Describing AFMI awards for bright students as providing the needed â€œincentiveâ€ to students to move forward, he said that AFMI plans to come forward with more incentives to help students and educational institutions pursue higher goals.
Reflecting on AFMIâ€™s achievements in UP alone, Ali Quraishi said: â€œWe strengthened about 25 schools and built two new ones. It is not easy to complete this job.â€ Nevertheless, expressing confidence, he said: â€œAFMIâ€™s aim is to promote education among Muslims so that no child is left behind. Our aim is to specially educate female students to help educate a whole family.â€ Quraishi, runs a business in Albuquerque, New Mexico and has built a number of educational institutions in Pune, Mumbai and elsewhere.
Psychiatrist Dr. Razia Ahmed (Cleveland, Ohio) said: â€œI am proud of AFMI which has definitely contributed to increasing awareness of importance of education among the Muslim community.â€ Laying emphasis on the need of involvement of other organizations to help in progress of Indian Muslims, she said: â€œI wish everyone joins us (AFMI) for this cause.â€
During their India-visit, the AFMI delegates also met several leaders, including Ahmed Patel (Congress). They voiced their concern about â€œplightâ€ of Muslim community in Gujarat. In a letter addressed to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, AFMI stated: â€œThe Muslim community in Gujarat feels that opportunities that ideally should be available to all communities are denied to it because of its religious identity. Obstacles are created in its way to establish new educational institutions. State grant is not available to deserving institutions and meritorious students are discriminated in scholarship. In fact, the state government has failed to disburse the full Federal scholarship and grant money to deserving students which they were promised.â€ The letter also states: â€œThe delegates of AFMI strongly feel that implementation of Mishra Commission as well as Sachar Commissionâ€ reports â€œwould pave the way for ensuring rights of minorities in Gujarat in all walks of life.â€
The signatories to the letter addressed to Congress chief include the AFMI delegates visiting India. These include Dr A.S. Nakadar (AFMI-Trustee), Dr. Aslam Abdullah (Trustee), Dr. Iqbal Ahmed (AFMI President), Dr. Shakir Mukhi (former AFMI President), Sheikh Muhammed Quraishi (former President) and AFMI members from various parts of USA and Canada. These are: Rizwana Quraishi (New Mexico), Dr. Razia Ahmed (Ohio), Dr. Khalid Khan (Nevada), Dr. Abdul Aziz (Florida), Dr. S. Ashraf (Washington DC), Dr. W. Baig (Ohio), Dr. Shahida Akhtar (Florida0, Dr Abdur Razzak (Massachusetts) and Mr & Mrs Gahffar Shaikh from Canada.
AFMIâ€™s next international convention is scheduled to be held this December in Ahmedabad, Gujarat.