Aligarh Alumni Association of Washington's Iftar-dinner a Great Success
By Zafar Iqbal, PhD
“Education is important because it prepares us with expertise that is required in helping us realize our potential,” said Dr Tariq Husain, a retired World Bank Executive. He was the keynote speaker for the evening at the annual iftar-dinner organized by the Aligarh Alumni Association of Washington (AAA) on Saturday, July 12, 2014 at Rockville, Maryland to raise funds for the scholarship program. He acknowledged the vision of the founders and praised the untiring efforts of succeeding generation of association members in spearheading the scholarship program that made a significant contribution in uplifting the educational standard of its Alma Mater, the Aligarh Muslim University. “The seed you sowed decades ago in Washington area has now become a tree and its branches are spreading all over the country,” he remarked while applauding the contributions of the association. He specifically appealed to the younger generation to take the program to greater heights.
The program started with the recitation of a Qur'anic Sura and its translation by teen-agers Hiba Usmani and Aiza Usmani, respectively. Welcoming the audience, President Dr Fazal Khan thanked them for their attendance and briefly outlined the significance of the program that supports education of underprivileged children. He also recognized the presence of senior Aligarians, dignitaries, and community leaders. They included: Mr Tufail Ahmad (founding president of AAA) and his wife Mrs Salma Ahmad, Ms Mohsina Sultana (granddaughter of Allama Shibli Nomani), Mrs Dilshad Bano Aufandi, Mr and Mrs Tufail Ahmad (longtime supporter of Association), Mr Yazdani Siddiqui, Mr Mohammad Sayeed, and Ambassador Islam Siddiqui and Mrs Tabassum Islam Siddiqui. Professor Iqbal Ahmad Niyazi (AMU graduate of 1948), Dr Sultana Niyazi, and Mr Mohammad Naseem Ansari (AMU Engineering College, 1958) also graced the occasion. The Niyazi and Ansari families were visiting from India. Besides AAA participants and supporters, a large number of members of different literary, educational and cultural organizations like the University of Karachi Alumni Association, Hyderabad Association Washington, Islamic Society of Frederick, Global Organization of People of Indian Origin,and Montgomery County Muslim Council, were also present at this important event.
The audience was enthralled when Dr Fazal Khan asked seven-year old Ali Amir Abdullah (also AAA) to stand up on the chair and introduced him as the youngest donor to the scholarship program. He contributed his Aqueeqa money to AAA Washington to establish a full endowed scholarship.
Dr Aftab Ansari, Chairman of Scholarship Committee, traced the history and progression of the program that had a humble beginning with 10 scholarships a few years ago, and 240 scholarships awarded last year. This number is projected to increase by 8-10 additional scholarships. Further, the amount of scholarship has also been increased from Rs 5,000 to Rs 6,000 per recipient. He also outlined the process of selection of deserving candidates, which involves several factors, such as students’ grades, family income, and donor’s preference for subject and geographical location. Scholarships are renewed based on the performance of the recipient. More than 1800 students have been awarded scholarships at the AMU producing many doctors, unani medicine graduates, dentists, nurses, scientists, engineers, computer scientists, lawyers, economists, and teachers, etc. Scholarships are funded through the income generated by investment of the endowment fund. The total fund spent on both programs was about $43,000 in 2013.
Dr Razi Raziuddin, in-charge of feeder program, apprised the audience of its dire need at the primary and secondary school level to prepare students for colleges and universities. In addition to providing tuition, each scholarship recipient also gets additional financial support for buying books and stationary. In 2013, the program funded 16 feeder units benefiting 800 students in various parts of India at a cost of $19,200. Recently, a new program was also initiated to provide coaching facilities to college-level students. Last year, the association was able to support seven coaching centers with 590 students in UP, Bihar, Jharkhand, Kashmir, and Assam. The total cost for the two programs was $43,200.
Dr Aquilur Rahman, Guest Speaker, emphasized the need for uplifting the educational status of the community to empower them to compete for jobs in the modern world. Dr Rahman and his family have been strong supporters of the scholarship program. He appealed to the audience for donation saying that a small token from our bounty can help the future of many students.
Adeeb Raziuddin, who seems to have inherited the “Alig” gene in his Y chromosome, emphasized the importance of education for progress. He added that in addition to financial support, children need community network to achieve success in life.
Dr Atia Khan, a longtime proponent of educational program à la manière de Sir Syed made passionate appeal for supporting the scholarship program. She narrated the famous Starfish Story: One step toward changing the world adapted from Loren Eiseley’s book The Star Thrower. Addressing the audience she emphasized that a single, ordinary person can make a difference and "people like you are doing it by empowering underprivileged children by providing much needed support through the scholarship program."
It is very encouraging to see that our younger generation is joining the ranks of their elders in organizing these activities. Azam Husain—a freshman in college—did a splendid job as Master of Ceremony. He was a real delight to watch.
Mrs Shakila Raza thanked the speakers, donors, audience and AAA volunteers for making the program a great success. She concluded the program with an appeal for donations for the scholarship program that was spearheaded by her late husband, Mr Ahmed Raza. She mentioned that donation of one endowed scholarship also gets the privilege of Life-time Membership of the Association.
The program was coordinated by Dr Rafat Husain.