Saturday, April 2, 2011

"It's better to light a candle than curse the darkness"


By Malik Rashid Faisal
Successful Muslim students, who came from the length and breadth of India to participate in the recent international convention of the American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin (AFMI), held in Ahmadabad, Gujarat, stood as witnesses to the educational progress and advancement that is being seen among those in the 10th through 12th grades. AFMI, an organization of Indian American Muslims, has a mission to make every Muslim literate. Their efforts since 1989 have been increasingly rewarded by the achievements of young Indian Muslims who are taking advantage of scholarships, tutoring and other help to improve their academic scores.
“My father went to great pains in affording my educational expenses. He was living from hand to mouth at the time of my admission to an engineering course. Anyhow, at my mother’s insistence, he borrowed money to pay the fee. We are still repaying that amount. My father is a driver while my mother is a housewife,” Sheikh Muhammad Ismaeel told SPAN during the recent gathering in Ahmedabad, A second-year student of computer science, Ismaeel hails from Orissa. He secured 89.2 percent marks in 10+2 and was awarded a gold medal by AFMI. He says the American federation has encouraged him and extended monetary and moral support.
A few Indian American Muslims, who had a burning desire to help their Indian counterparts, established the American Federation of Muslims of Indian Origin in 1989 in Detroit, Michigan.

Founder of AFMI, Dr. Nakadar speaking at the 19th AFMI International Convention at Ahmedabad in Dec 2010.

“When we observed that literacy rate among the Indian Muslims was miserably low, we thought how to extend our help and cooperation in their uplift and development. First of all, we thought of scholarships to Muslim students, but it required a substantial amount of money. Construction of new schools, too, would have been a Herculean task. Then we thought to do something for the encouragement of students,” Dr. A. Raheman S. Nakadar, founder of AFMI, told SPAN. The medal program that recognizes academic achievements of Indian Muslim students was the result.
The Award Program of medals for distinguished students started in 1993. Zafar U. Khan, a professor at Eastern Michigan University, presented an analytical report on the success of the AFMI medal program. He compared students’ success and distribution of medals among them in different years, with the help of charts and tables. On the basis of this study, he concluded that the medal program has created a competitive spirit among Indian Muslim students. He writes, “Often, the competition becomes so tough that a mere difference of 0.1 percent draws a line of demarcation between the would-be gold winner and that of silver. Sometimes, in some states, a 96 percent achiever does not qualify even for a bronze medal.”

Students who were awarded medals by AFMI at Ahmedabad

AFMI has been holding two conventions every year for the last 20 years. Its annual convention is held in the United States. Political and academic figures from India are invited. The second annual international convention is organized in India. It always revolves around educational topics. Not only are medals and certificates awarded to deserving students, but morale boosting awards are presented to people who help the students. The 20th AFMI convention, held in Michigan on October 16, 2010, focused on “Pluralism: The Way to Peace and Prosperity.” The follow-up convention and award program in Ahmedabad on December 25 and 26, 2010 had the theme of “Peace, Unity and Progress.”
In Ahmadabad, medals and certificates were awarded to more than 100 students who passed their 10 or 10+2 exams in flying colors. They represented more than 20 states of India. Amber Afshaan of Karnataka secured 96.83 percent marks in 10+2 and won the gold medal. Talking about her educational plans and future dreams, she told SPAN, “I want to conduct research in aerospace science. I would like to join ISRO to see my dreams come true.” She further said, “The Muslim community lags far behind in paying proper attention to female education, although it is very important. An educated mother educates the whole family.”
Urooj Fatima, a student from New Delhi, secured 95 percent marks in 10th class and received the gold medal. She wants to make her career in economics. Hailing from Burhanpur, Madhya Pradesh, Aisha Siddiqui wants to serve the nation as a doctor. Her parents are also physicians. She gives credit to AFMI for her success. Similarly, Tanveer Ali Khan from Bangalore, Karnataka secured 94.56 percent marks in 10th class and received the gold medal by the hands of Indian Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily. Khan’s father is a driver, but shortage of funds could not stop him because of his strong willpower. He wants to be an IAS officer. He says, “I will work harder and harder for the upliftment of backward and exploited people. I will also extend my cooperation to AFMI because they are doing too much for us. It should carry on its valuable endeavors for the progress and development of the Muslim community.”
Farooqui Mohammad Abu Saad, from Maharashtra, secured 95.60 percent in 10+2 from Andhra Pradesh and received the gold medal from Kamla Beniwal, governor of Gujarat. Saad took admission in Tapassya Institute, Hyderabad and wants to work for the financial improvement of the community. His father has taken voluntary retirement from government service and keeps on encouraging Saad. He says, “Indian Americans are helping us. It is a boon for us. However, AFMI should also focus on moral values besides the educational advancement.”
Maulana Asrarul Haq Qasmi, who represents Kishan Ganj district of Bihar in the Lok Sabha, was awarded AFMI’s Sir Syed Award for his services in education. Addressing the audience, he said, “Sir Syed used to say, time and again, that we simply do not want to make our community literate only, we, instead, want to make them humans. We should not, therefore, brush aside the raison d’ĂȘtre of education itself. Today knowledge is regarded as power. It is nothing but education, which makes the solid foundation of any nation’s edifice. However, it is a pitiable state that we have political cadres in abundance, while educational cadres are rare.” He further said, “There is appalling illiteracy amongst the rural womenfolk. It is a matter of our serious concern.”
Justice Rajendra Sachchar participated in the convention as chief guest. He lauded the praiseworthy performance of Muslim students. He commented that the drop-out rate among Muslim students is, no doubt, high due to certain factors but efforts to remedy this should continue.

A section of the audience in the 19th AFMI International Convention at Ahmedabad.

Law Minister Moily commented that a man is not born wise; it is the education and training that makes him wise and intelligent. He further said, “Our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has declared the decade of 2010–2020 as a ‘Decade of Innovation.’ Therefore, we should focus on it sincerely.”
Almost every speaker dwelt upon the paramount importance of education. Convention coordinator A.M. Sethwala said, “Education is not … acquiring degrees only. In fact, education aims at character-building by the dint of which the raison d’ĂȘtre of life itself should be achieved, keeping all moral values intact. Education inculcates wisdom. It makes life elegant in the same way as burnishing makes a diamond glitter.”
During an interview with SPAN, Dr. Nakadar, founder trustee of AFMI, said, “Education is the best means to make people self-reliant. You can remove the illiteracy of generations altogether by educating an individual of your family. You may inherit…fatal diseases, but you cannot inherit poverty because you can eradicate it by means of education.”
On the second day of the program, the former student awardees, who are now successfully associated with different professions, also narrated their experiences. One of them was Dr. Moinuddin Sheikh, who stood first in order of merit in 10th class examination of the Gujarat Board. He said, “Earlier I wanted to be an engineer but changed my mind when I was awarded the gold medal. I observed that most of AFMI executives are doctors by profession. Moreover, it is a noble profession too. Since our success is indebted to AFMI, we should extend our whole- hearted cooperation to it.”
AFMI administrators such as Dr. Nakadar feel pride and joy over their role in alleviating illiteracy among Indian Muslims.
AFMI has established, so far, more than 100 primary and secondary schools besides three colleges in India including Ameena Aabideen School in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh, Lady Zubaida School in Pune and Kasa High School in Mumbai, says Dr. Nakadar.
The spirit to serve selflessly, will, enhance the rate of Muslim literacy which, in turn, alleviates poverty. Under the “Education for All” initiative, UNESCO aims at the admission of all school–age-children by 2015. AFMI too has received the initiative with open arms with a burning desire to bring the community and the nation at par with the advancing world.
Courtesy SPAN magazine

1 comment:

  1. This is good for the brilliant " MUSLIM " students; the deserve to be recognized and to be helped.
    HOWEVER , please consider 2 things also.
    (1) Why help just Muslim students . The deserving students heed our help irrespective of caste, creed , and the accident of birth which makes them followers of a particular religion.

    (3) How about helping the average child to become above average.