Sixth Annual Aligarh Alumni Meeting
By Shaheer Khan, Ph.D.
Foster City, CA–The sixth annual convention of the Federation of Aligarh Alumni Associations (FAAA) was held on July 27-28, 2008 at Doubletree Hotel, Cleveland, Ohio. The AMU Alumni Association of Cleveland hosted the convention. Representatives from across the United States and Canada attended the convention. It has been the most widely attended convention of the Federation so far.
The program started on Friday, July 27th with alumni reunion and dinner followed by a light entertainment in the evening.
The Saturday program started with a recitation from the Holy Qurâ€™an followed by a minute of silence by the attendees and few words by Dr. A. Abdullah in memory of Mr. Ahmad Raza, a member of board of trustees of the federation who passed away in January this year. The official proceedings of the convention were kicked off with the first session chaired by the senior most Aligarian present, Prof. Asad-ur Rahman, AMUAA-NY and a welcome address by Mr. Zahid Siddiqi, President of the host Association. In the opening remarks Mr. Ashfaq Qureshi, Chairman Board of Trustees emphasized the vision of the Federation and its role in bringing all the alumni associations together. The address was followed by introduction of the various Alumni Associationsâ€™ official representatives from across North America. Each representative presented a brief account of the background and activities of their associations in the previous year. The second session was chaired by Dr. A. Abdullah and included reports by President of the Federation, Mr. Hasan Kamal and Treasurer Mr. Siraj Muzaffar. Mr. Kamal highlighted the accomplishments of the federation in the previous year that included the establishment of computers with free internet service in girlâ€™s hostels at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), Aligarh, donation of large number of books to AMU library and a significant donation to Aligarh Muslim Universityâ€™s polio eradication program. Last year AMU received the prestigious Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Partnership Award in recognition of the community service and polio-eradication program.
The third session, Chaired by Ms. Amtul Suhail included a presentation by incoming president Mr. Qamar Khan sharing the future goals of the federation. At the end of this session, the congregation took a short coffee break.
The fourth session was chaired by Dr Tariq Haqqi and included discussions regarding the Scholarship Program, Girls Education and mentorship project which are being run by various member alumni associations and literacy projects run by ASHA and AFMI in India. A moving speech by Dr. Aslam Abdullah of AFMI prepared everyone for the fundraising part of the evening.
The post-lunch sessions of the program started with Mr. Frank Islam, a successful businessman from Washington DC who gave a thought provoking talk on entrepreneurial success and its role in improving the condition of minorities in India.
The sixth session focused on Aligarh Education Endowment Fund (AEEF), Aligarh Institute of science and workshop results from Atlanta convention. Professor Asad Ahmed, AMU alumnus presented his dream project â€˜Aligarh Institute of Scienceâ€™, which he envisions to setup in or around Aligarh with the help of other supporting academics.
This writer presented the detailed business plan for Aligarh Education Endowment Fund (AEEF). The purpose of the AEEF is to provide assistance to, and seek funds for underprivileged communities in India for upgrading their educational standards and infrastructure (www.aeef.net). This session concluded with a presentation by Dr. Rasheed Ahmad highlighting the results from a workshop at Atlanta Convention in 2006.
The seventh session of the program started with Mr. Umar Farooq, former president of the federation inviting the representatives from each delegation and member organization to come forward and give their input on the various ongoing literary projects of the federation and to discuss the role and relationship of federation with member organizations, and plan future activities of the Federation.
The proceedings of the day were concluded in the last session chaired by Mr. Hasan Kamal. Elections were held for new office bearers and Board of Trustees of FAAA and the Elect team of previous year came into effect. The names of all office bearers of the federation along with their contact details are listed on federationâ€™s website (www.aligs.org). This marked the closing of the day-long sessions of the convention.
All guests then proceeded to rest for a little while to gather again at 7.00 pm for Banquet Dinner. The program began with Mr. Qamar Khan, incoming president welcoming the guests, this was followed by presentation of Dr. Zakir Hussain Award for Community Service in India to ASHA. This is the first time this award has been presented to an organization. Ms. Fahmida Kapadia accepted the award on behalf of ASHA. Previous recipients of the award include Dr. A.S. Nakadar, Secretary General, American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI) and Mr. Manzoor Ghori of IMRC.
The chief guest and keynote speaker Mr. Ramjethmalani (Member of Parliament and Former Law Minister) attracted a great deal of interest from Aligarh alumni and local Cleveland community.
For those who had not listened to him speak before this event, one can add that they were in for a treat. Mr. Jethmalani possesses rare oratory skills that he demonstrated quite well here.
He talked about the secular traditions of India and Sir Syedâ€™s role in taking the community out of despair after the first war of independence in 1857. He reminded the audience to focus on secular education.
He referred to few prominent points about which he thought that they greatly influenced Sir Syedâ€™s thinking and course of action. He said this sensitive young man could not have failed to be influenced by what was happening to one Islamic country after the other. European powers were grabbing them subjugating them and exploiting them as colonial powers always did. The Muslim experience inside India was equally depressing. Though there was a titular Mughal ruler in Delhi, he was a king without troops and without subjects. The real ruler was East India Company which propagated the fiction that it was ruling on behalf of the Mughal kings.
â€œThe chief components of Sir Syedâ€™s priceless legacy were that religion and its teachings are not inconsistent with science and its view of the universe and Indian Muslims must no longer look out of India and waste their energy on recovering their Arab, Turkish or Persian roots but strive to be the most beautiful flower in Indiaâ€™s bouquet of numerous religions, races and tribes,â€ he said.
â€œI have no objection to Moslems looking back and trying to recapture their lost glory. But what was it that made Islam glorious? In just one sentence let me answer this question: It was the Moslems intellectual curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge; certainly not rule over others by war,â€ he added.
He said that a successful democracy requires the highest education of the citizen. It is trite that â€œdemocracy without education is hypocrisy without limitationâ€. Right to education is, therefore, more fundamental than any other right.
He emphasized that the education of the Muslim minority urgently needs a dramatic improvement in the qualifications and characters of teachers. The modern teacher must be a convinced secularist committed to maintaining a pluralistic society. Sir Syed Ahmed Khan imported teachers from England. They had their British imperialist prejudices but they were the best the school or university could afford.
He said that teachers must also be aware that poverty and extreme inequality within a society and growing gaps between rich and poor societies and of course false religious indoctrination are the causes of conflict and brutal violence. The young minds must be trained to concentrate on removing these causes.
He continued by saying â€œIt is unfortunate that one of the shortcomings of democracy is that people and political leaders only debate short term issues which are likely to influence the course of the next election. The short term and the long term aims which the teachers must concentrate upon are reasonable prosperity for all global peace and human security. The teacher must by his moral influence persuade the politician to do likewiseâ€.
Education is not important only by the teachers. It is also the duty of the intelligentsia. Those who are proud of the Aligarh movement must take the lead in this direction and that is the greatest tribute you can pay to Sir Syed whose memory you are commemorating at this Convention and whose legacy you want to preserve for posterity in the centuries to come said Mr. Ramjethmalani as he concluded his speech to a standing ovation.
It was heartening to note that in spite of the long wait for the music program, the audience did not loose the focus to help the education of underprivileged children in India. AEEF volunteers distributed the project outlines and pledge forms and Mr. Afzal Usmani and this scribe made passionate appeal for donations. A good amount of money was raised from the audience in a short time. This effort involved both direct writing of checks, pledges and the auctioning of books.
The night was still young and the audience was anxiously waiting for the final portion of the program. The floor was then given to Alamgeer to begin the cultural program of the evening. He took the center stage and mesmerized the audience with his captivating voice and vocal magic. His magical and soulful vocals transported the Cleveland community and visiting alumni into an evening of fun and loud cheers. The program continued till 1:00 am in the night with requests for favorites pouring in from the audience.
After a vote-of-thanks by Mr. Qamar Khan, the official proceedings of the convention concluded with the singing of university anthem, â€œTarana-e-Aligarh.”
The next day was marked by a semi-formal round of discussion with Prof. Asad-ur-Rahman who urged the FAAA to become a global organization with all the Aligarh Alumni Associations coming under a common banner and to work for the betterment of the society.
It was exciting to renew old friendships and establish new ones at the convention and to get to meet prominent Aligarians and well wishers from all across US & Canada. It was also good opportunity for the Aligs of Cleveland area to interact with other delegates and make their presence felt and learn about the work that was being carried on by other member organizations of the federation. For two days we were all transported to the good old days at AMU. The Convention gave alumni and well wishers of AMU an opportunity to turn mere reunion into tangible plans for their part in furthering the Aligarh movement. This shows that there is a common thread that binds all of us, so let us work to strengthen it further for the good of our mother institution not only in words but through deeds as well.
In conclusion, one needs to commend the AMUAA team in Cleveland for putting together this very successful convention. It was heartwarming to see not only the local community but also attendees from other states and Canada contributed in this very worthy cause, AEEF. Thanks are due once again to all members and volunteers, and especially the donors who helped make AEEF fundraiser a success. And it appears that the AMU alumni in USA are not done yet because AEEF is planning fundraising programs later this year in many cities across USA.
Chicago Muslims express concern over wiretap bill
CHICAGOL, IL–Chicago area Muslims are concerned over increased erosion of citizen rights in the light of a recent vote in Congress which will allow the feral government to eiretap phone calss and emails without a warrant. They were surprised at how two Illinois lawmakers voted, reports the WBBM newsradio.
Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Chicago chapter of CAIR, said he was disappointed with Cong.Dan Lipinski and Cong. Melissa Bean votes in favor of such legislation.
Rehab says heâ€™s especially surprised and disappointed in Lipinski â€œwho comes from district that has a lot of Arab and Muslim citizens who may be hurt by this policy being used overzealously.â€
Ahmed Rehab said, â€œWiretapping I can understand. What I donâ€™t understand is the warrantlessâ€.
He says thereâ€™ll be a push in Congress next month to change the law.
Muslim advocates community supported agriculture
NEW ARK, NJ–Faith communities are actively promoting community supported agriculture (CSA) programs and Muslims are not lagging behind in the effort.
Hisham Moharram, founder and chief executive of a company that promotes small, rural-based agribusiness in developing nations, is seeking community support for a Muslim organic farm in central New Jersey, one that would sell its produce at farmers markets and through CSAs, reports the Napa Valley Register.
The programs are a good match for the Muslim community because they share mutual environmental and social justice concerns. They also help draw new congregants and strengthen the sense of community according to observers.
Principal of Arabic themed school resigns
NEW YORK, NY–Debbie Al-Montasser, the principal of the proposed Khalil Gibran International Academy in New York, has resigned following a nasty campaign to oust her. The immediate cause was her supposed failure to condemn the use of the word â€œintifadaâ€ on T-shirts.
â€œThis morning I tendered my resignation,â€ she said in a statement. â€œI became convinced yesterday that this weekâ€™s headlines were endangering the viability of Khalil Gibran International Academy, even though I apologized.â€
She has said the school will be teaching culture, not religion. The academy, named after the famed Lebanese-American Christian poet who promoted peace, would be one of a few in the country that incorporate the Arabic language and culture.
Almontaserâ€™s departure comes on the heels of an editorial flaying in the New York Post and an article this week that connected Almontaser to Arab Women Active in Art and Media.
That group is selling shirts imprinted with the words â€œIntifada NYC.â€ It shares office space with the Saba Association of American Yemenis, which counts Almontaser among its board members.
Love Affair at Center of Assault Case
NEW YORK, NY–Four Brooklyn men from a Pakistani Muslim family are charged with assaulting and torturing a man to get him to disclose the whereabouts of his nephew, who was in a romantic relationship with the daughter of one of the attackers. The daughter, aged 15, had been betrothed by her family to a wealthy man in Pakistan, but instead chose â€œa poor Brooklyn boy,â€according to The News, which has an exclusive report on the case.
The girlâ€™s father, 53, and three of his kinsmen face up to 25 years in prison for the attack.
Muslim community project breaks ground in Arkansas
LITTLE ROCK, AK–The Islamic Center for Human Excellence broke ground for the first five homes of the New Africa subdivision last week. The subdivision will be a â€œmodel Muslim community,â€ according to the project developers,reports the Northwest Arkansas News.
â€œWhat weâ€™re trying to do is give people an example of how to live Islam,â€ said Ima Aquil Hamidullah, â€œso you donâ€™t have people going around strapping bombs on their backs, saying â€˜Allahu Akbarâ€™ and saying thatâ€™s part of the religion. Itâ€™s not.â€
Over the next three years, the centerâ€™s leaders hope to build 22 houses, a mosque, a school and a community center on 6 acres at 40 th and Potter streets in the John Barrow neighborhood. Because of a lack of land, the group has dropped plans to build a shopping center in the neighborhood.
In October 2004, the Little Rock Board of Directors approved zoning changes that allowed the center to build single-family houses in an area previously zoned for apartments. Some residents initially opposed the project but since then the Muslim community have put their fears to rest through outreach.
The center is building the first five houses in partnership with Black Community Developers Inc., a Little Rock nonprofit group founded by the United Methodist Church in 1967. The group focuses on urban renewal, including the construction of affordable housing in the city.
Salaam said the two groups have received a grant that requires that the first five lots be available to any qualified firsttime home buyers.
Darryl Swinton, director of housing for Black Community Developers, described the relationship between the nonprofit group and the mosque as a â€œmentoring collaboration.â€
â€œItâ€™s not just us telling them what to do,â€ he said, â€œbut itâ€™s also them watching and learning about housing development as a whole.â€
Arsonists blamed for Mosque fire
ANTIOCH, CA–An early-morning fire at an Antioch mosque that originated in multiple areas of the building is being investigated today as an act of arson, according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The one-alarm fire occurred Sunday at the Islamic Center of the East Bay, located at 311 W. 18th St., said Contra Costa County Fire Protection District spokeswoman Emily Hopkins.
The fire was reported at about 12:30 a.m. Six engines responded and it was out by about 12:55 a.m., Hopkins said.
Mosque officials said there also was a break-in at the center several days ago.
Vandals have reportedly targeted the Islamic Center of the East Bay on numerous occasions. Shots have been fired through the window and halls of the center, according to the CAIR.
Investigators are following a lead, but there is no evidence that this arson was related to it being an Islamic center, Hopkins said.
There were no injuries. The blaze caused an estimated $200,000 in damage.
Anyone with information regarding the fire is asked to call the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District arson tip line at (866) 502-7766.