AIM Holds Silver Jubilee Celebrations
By Kaleem Kawaja
L to R: Dr Sayyid M Sayeed, Kaleem Kawaja, VA State Delegate
Jim Scott, Teaneck, NJ Mayor, Hameeduddin, Dr AQ Shaikh, and Dr Anwar Munshi
|L to R: Prof Iqbal Hasnain, Dr Omar Khalidi, Dr AQ Shikh,
and Dr Ahmad Meer
Last week in Washington DC it was the silver jubilee celebration time for the Association of Indian Muslims of America (AIM). The Association observed the 25th anniversary of its founding with a panel discussion and dinner attended by over 300 members of the community. Major Indian-American organizations and several prominent Indian-American leaders attended the event and participated in a panel discussion focusing on “Being a Muslim in India and in America”. Another attractive feature of the event was a poster exhibition tracing the chronology of the growth of the Muslim community in various spheres in India, starting with the eighth century when Arab-Muslim traders introduced Islam in Malabar, Kerala.
The event was moderated by Kaleem Kawaja, one of the founders of the Association, and saw a string of star speakers enliven the attendees with interesting observations about the Muslim and Indian communities in the US.
Datta Paslikar the new minister for community affairs at the Indian Embassy in Washington DC, spoke on behalf of the Government of India and India’s ambassador to US, Meera Shankar, congratulating AIM on its meritorious services to the community and boonding its members together.
The star attraction at the event was the young Indian-American Muslim, Mohammad Hameeduddin who was elected mayor of the city of Teaneck, New Jersey, a few months ago. Hameeduddin who is originally from Hyderabad in India described his success in American politics as the result of a well thought out strategy of making special efforts to become a part of the mainstream and making alliances with diverse ethnic groups.
Virginia State Delegate from Fairfax County Jim Scott was another attraction whose advice the audience solicited for becoming a part of mainstream America. Scott told the community that perseverance was the key to success in the American political system. He told the aspirants for public office that they must work for every single vote and take nothing for granted, as in reality every vote does count. He narrated his own experience of winning the Virginia state delegate seat by a single vote. Scott told the Muslims in the audience not to be fazed by some anti-Muslim media news reports as Americans at large hold very positive views about the Muslim community.
The keynote speaker of the evening, Dr Sayiid Mohammad Sayeed, who is the head of the Islamic Society of North America, spoke with wisdom, vision and optimism about the future of the Muslim community in the US. He repeatedly told Muslims that the world has changed much in the last few decades and has embraced diversity as its motto. He exhorted Indian Muslims in America to utilize their pre-existing bonds of growing up in the diverse multi-religious society in India, by forging closer bonds with non-Muslim Indian-Americans who are experiencing resurgence in the US. He told the Muslim community that the old days of empires are gone and instead of thinking of past glory, they have to take greater initiative in building alliances and bridges today with a wide range of people of diverse nationalities and religions. He narrated his own political journey from organizing Muslim students in the university where he studied in 1960s to organizing the Muslim community at the national level in the US twenty years later.
Earlier in the afternoon Dr AQ Shaikh, the first President of the Association, moderated a very thought-provoking panel discussion highlighting the current problems that the Muslim community in India is facing and the approaches to resolving them. The panelists included Padamshree professor Iqbal Hasnain, former vice-chancellor of Calicut University, Calicut; Dr Omar Khalidi of Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and Dr Ahmad Meer, former senior official with the US Foreign Service and NASA.
While some panelists highlighted the lack of government protection of the Muslim community from sectarian violence perpetrated by some anti-Muslim forces, others exhorted the Muslims to dedicate themselves whole-heartedly to imbibing higher education even if they have to go through physical hardships. Professor Hasnain argued that while Muslims in South India are now competing well with others in acquiring quality education, the Muslims in north India, where most of the Muslims live, are still embroiled in other issues and not giving due priority to higher education.
Padamshree Rajan Devdas, Dr and Mrs Ram Singh, Mr and Mrs Kumar Singh, Mr Jay Bhandari and Mr and Mrs Ashok Batra were some of the heads of Indian Associations who attended the event.
The very vibrant program that began in the afternoon with Dr Anwar Munshi’s welcome address, ended with an enchanting entertainment show comprising of a youth talent hour and scintillating Bollywood music.