Sixth Annual Convention
of The Federation Of Aligarh Alumni Associations
By Shaheer Khan, PhD
Speakers at the Sixth Annual Convention
of the Federation of Aligarh Alumni Associations
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 an alumni reunion
and dinner followed by light entertainment in the evening.
The Saturday program started with a recitation from the Holy
Qur’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 Associations’ 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 girls’ hostels at Aligarh Muslim
University (AMU), donation of large number of books to AMU
library and a significant donation to Aligarh Muslim University’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 'Aligarh Institute of Science’,
which he envisions to set up 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 federation’s website (www.aligs.org). This marked
the closing of the daylong 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
He talked about the secular traditions of India and Sir Syed’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 Syed’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.
“The chief components of Sir Syed’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 India’s bouquet of
numerous religions, races and tribes,” he said.
“I have no objection to Muslims 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,”
He said that a successful democracy requires the highest education
of the citizen. It is trite that “democracy without
education is hypocrisy without limitation”. 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, “It 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 likewise”.
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 lose 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 Alamgir 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 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
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
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 and 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 a 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
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 contribute 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.