Houston, Texas, July 2: The twelfth annual convention of the Federation of Aligarh Alumni Associations (FAAA) was held on June 28-30, 2013 at Crown Plaza Huston River Oaks, Houston, TX. The theme of the 2013 convention was â€œNew Generation Alumni & Aligarh Movementâ€ and Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) Alumni Association of Texas hosted the convention. Representatives from across the United States and Canada attended the convention. It has been one of the most widely attended conventions of the Federation.
The program started on Friday, June 28th with alumni reunion and dinner followed by a cultural program in the evening in which participants showed their talent. The Saturday program started with a recitation from the Holy Qurâ€™an by Dr. Tahir Hussain. The official proceedings of the convention were kicked off with the first session chaired by Mr. Perwaiz Jafri, and a welcome address by Dr. Moyeenul Haque, Chairman of Board of Trustees of the host Association followed by the presentation of annual reports by Drs. Irfan Beg (Treasurer), Nausha Asrar (Secretary), Tariq Haqqi (President), and Mr. Perwaiz Jafri (Chairman, Board of Trustees). The second session was chaired by Prof. Wasi Siddiqui and included the introduction of various Alumni Associationsâ€™ official representatives from across USA. Each representative presented a brief account of the background and activities of their associations in the previous year. The theme of the third session was â€œAlumni and Alma Materâ€, chaired by Mr. Ali Rizvi and included a presentation by Mr. Faisal Saleem, entitled, â€œInteraction between alumni and AMUâ€. Mr. Saleem summarized the results of recently conducted survey among the random sample of alumni to determine how they can help their alma mater which will have the maximum positive impact. The second presentation of the session was given by this writer, entitled, â€œContribution of alumni towards AMUâ€. In this presentation, contributions of various alumni associations and individuals for the spread of Aligarh Movement in general and their contributions towards their alma mater and its student community were highlighted. It was emphasized that alumni have to get involved in organized philanthropy for the greater good of the university and its student body. It was suggested that the department of alumni affairs should be created at Aligarh Muslim University. This department should be managed by someone well known, with impeccable credentials, supported by professional staff who knows how to interact with alumni – with clear objectives. The fourth session started after lunch break, Chaired by Prof. Habib Zuberi included a presentation by the Vice Chancellor.
Vice Chancellor Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Zameer Uddin Shah spoke for about an hour and used a PowerPoint presentation. It is not possible to incorporate all the details of his speech in this report. Only main points of his talk will be presented here. Vice Chancellor started off by thanking the federation for the invitation and providing the opportunity to interact with AMU alumni spread across North America. He said that his mission (God willing) is to make AMU a top ranking university in India within two years. He said that he was going to Inshaâ€™Allah turn the University around so that its graduates can meet the new demands of both the market and the nation.
Vice Chancellor Shah said that he faced some immediate issues and pointed out student indiscipline on campus as the main cause of concern. He added that these problems were difficult but were not insurmountable.
He said that he is on â€œhead huntingâ€ mission and looking to add more new and qualified faculty at AMU. Shah Sahib did take the opportunity to visit the campuses of University of Houston and Rice University.
Lt. Gen. Shah said that AMU would continue to be a liberal-secular institution but primarily for the Muslims. â€œIt is a secular institution, primarily for the Millat as Sir Syed wanted it, and we are going to keep it that way,â€ he said. He added that the focus should remain on â€œmodern-scientific education,â€. He said that AMU needs to move beyond the blackboard and chalk era into the computer age. He also said that unfortunately the university had a setback on its minority character status and that he would focus on getting it restored.
The Vice Chancellor said that foreign dignitary visits to the campus have dried up in recent years mainly due to its own fault. Indiscipline and rebelling against visitors has caused damage to our reputation. He said that will have to change and that some important foreign dignitaries have already accepted his invitation to visit AMU when they visit India next.
Lt. Gen. Shah Sahib dwelled a great deal on the need to improve the facilities at AMU especially the housing which is in pathetic shape. He added that this was one of the main reasons why foreign studentâ€™s numbers have declined. He stressed the need of modernizing the existing facilities and the building of new ones on campus. He informed the audience that the government has sanctioned funds for the construction of a hall of residence for 1000 boys and another one for 1500 girls. He was seeking additional assistance from the government and the Aga Khan Foundation for upgrading the campus infrastructure. He said university is paying special attention to providing sports facilities for students. He said that AMU should produce well-rounded graduates.
On entrance standards for AMU he said that all aspiring students should pass an entrance exam (not just for engineering and medical students). He also added that foreign languages, including Chinese, French, German and Hebrew need to be taught on campus. He also encouraged AMU students to consider training for and joining Indiaâ€™s defense services and said that he had already started working on required logistics where the students could be prepped for the competition. He also said that he would like to share students with other campuses like Jamia Millia and Jamia Hamdard, in areas where these universities excelled. â€œI would like to send students, who want to study mass communications to Jamiaâ€™s AJK Mass Communication Research Center and to Jamia Hamdard for training students for civil services and AMU can train students for the defense services,â€ Shah said.
Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Zameer Uddin Shah expressed pride in Aligarh Muslim University Alumni all over the world and hoped that they could assist him in his mission to achieve top spot for AMU in the nation. He mentioned the need for â€œSmart Class Roomsâ€ equipped with modern teaching tools and asked for the help from alumni. He added that the Alumniâ€™s help will be appropriately acknowledged, and complete transparency will be maintained in financial matters. He also said that department of alumni affairs is already on the cards and he has identified a person to take charge of the department. The VC took questions after his speech.
The fifth session was chaired by Mr. Umar Farooq and included the Panel discussion. Panelists included, Profs. Habib Zuberi, Wasi Siddiqui, Tariq Haqqi, and Tahir Hussain. Panelists debated on the topics which were discussed in earlier sessions and made recommendations for plan of action moving forward.
The proceedings of the day were concluded in this session with the election for the post of president. The names of all office bearers of the federation along with their contact details will be 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 6:00 pm for Banquet Dinner. The program began with the recitation of Quran by Mr. Shakeib Mashood followed by welcome by Dr. Syed Abuzar, President of the host association.
The guest of honor Mr. P. Harish, Consul General of India (Houston) was introduced by Mr. Latafath Hussain. Mr. Harish spoke eloquently and suggested the AMU alumni should move from ritual of Sir Syed Day celebration to spread of Sir Syedâ€™s mission of imparting modern education. His speech attracted a great deal of interest from Aligarh alumni and local Houston community.
Chief Guest of the evening, Lt. Gen (Retd) Zameer Uddin Shah was introduced by Prof. Tahir Hussain, newly elected president of the federation. Mr. & Mrs. Shah were presented with bouquet of flowers and symbolic gifts. Dr. Nausha Asrar, â€œNashâ€ presented a framed copy of his Nazm (poem) which he recited the previous night. Lt. Gen. (Retd) Shah started off by thanking everyone for the honor and the wonderful gifts. Lt. Gen. (Retd.) Shah reiterated many of the pointes he mentioned in his talk earlier in the day and affirmed his core mission of making AMU one of the top universities in India through pursuit of excellence in teaching and research. This goal also happens to be close to the hearts of many AMU alumni in the US who would like to see their alma mater present even better opportunities for future generations of AMU students.