SPEECH GIVEN BY
FRANK F ISLAM
Empowering Indian Muslims through Higher Education
UAE Aligarh Alumni Association
Mr. Vice Chancellor, Dr. Muthanna, fellow Aligarh alums, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
Good Evening. Assalm Alaikum. My deep appreciation for that warm welcome.
I am delighted and honored to be here in Dubai with my fellow Aligarians tonight to speak on the subject of “Empowering Indian Muslims through Higher Education.” Before I get to the heart of the matter, however, I must do some acknowledgements.
First, let me recognize Ameer Ahmed who has made a positive and meaningful difference through his leadership and his service to AMU. My sincerest thanks to Ameer Ahmad and Aligarh Alumni UAE for inviting me to speak here.
Second, thanks to you Mr. Vice Chancellor and Dr. Muthanna for joining us this evening for this discussion. Please give the Vice Chancellor and Dr. Muthanna a big round of applause.
Third, let me say few words about the Vice Chancellor.
He is a true leader. He is a source of inspiration and strength. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for his service and contributions which have made Aligarh Muslim University an outstanding educational institution. .
I am confident that The Vice Chancellor will continue to build and strengthen AMU in the future. But he needs your help and support in order to make AMU one of best universities in the world.
Aligarh is already the leading force for empowering Indian Muslims through higher education. You know and understand that because like me you are part of the Aligarh family.
It is truly a pleasure and blessing to be here with the members of my Aligarh family. Because of Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, our spiritual, educational and philosophical grandfather, we are an exceptionally strong family.
Sir Syed was not only one of the greatest leaders in the history of India but also of the world. His accomplishments are legendary, multi-faceted and well acknowledged.
We are convened here as the manifestation of and living testimony to the realization of Sir Syed’s vision.
We are the seeds from the Aligarh family tree. We have gone across India and around the world. In the process, we have planted new trees and helped make India and the world a better place.
We were able to do that because our Aligarh education not only gave us a strong knowledge base. It also instilled in us a sense of values.
Those values include:
- a passion and love for education
- eternal optimism about one’s hopes and dreams
- keeping steadfast to standards of excellence,
- Be the best you can be
- Exploit your fullest potentials
- When you are successful, help and invest in others by giving them ladders of opportunity to succeed
Our Aligarh education was a powerful equalizer. It opened doors of opportunity. It has enriched and empowered us. It was a gift that keeps on giving and demands that we give back in return.
That is why I ask you to join me in reciprocating by using our empowerment to empower other Muslims in India through higher education. Our cause should be to use education as a tool to improve the socio- economic status of Indian Muslims.
Let me explain why helping to empower our Indian Muslim brethren is so critical at this point in time. (Pause.)
I am certain that you are familiar with the Sachar Committee Report of 2006 which disclosed a “development deficit” for minorities in many areas and resulted in the creation of an across the board program for the development of minorities in India.
A U.S. India Policy Institute study released in 2013 showed that only 11% of Muslims in India pursue higher education compared to a national average of approximately 19%. Most significantly, the study revealed that “the general category of Muslims” in higher education has seen a significant decline.
These numbers tell us the seriousness of the situation. It reminds us how entrenched poverty in the Indian Muslim Community has become.
The situation for many Indian Muslim Youths is desperate and heart breaking. They are smothered by the blanket of history and circumstances. It is the lack of education which leads to lack of opportunity that breeds violence and fuels frustration and desperation.
These research findings are disturbing and in my opinion should be a call to action for we Aligarians. Given our legacy, we should join together and focus our attention like a laser beam on ensuring appropriate educational opportunities at the level that brings Indian Muslim citizens into the social and economic mainstream. That level is higher education.
By higher education, I don’t mean just 4 year colleges or universities. I include technical, vocational and professional education at the secondary and post-secondary levels.
Education in those areas also provides avenues for participation in 21st century careers, the competencies to compete in a global economy, and the capacity to contribute to lifting fellow Muslims out of poverty and deprivation.
Education is the bridge that one may cross in order to build bridges for others. I know how true that was for me personally and I assume that it is true for many of you as well.
Indian Muslims across India need all of the assistance and support they can get in order to pursue education opportunities and complete that pursuit successfully. They need more bridges built.
We Aligarh alumni can be those bridge builders by promoting the inclusion and full participation of Indian Muslims in public and private sectors and advance their leadership skills and knowledge.
By being the bridge builders of today, we can ensure that those Indian Muslim bridge builders of tomorrow get the knowledge, skills and abilities that they will need to ensure that all Muslims throughout India become first-class citizens in the future.
Inclusive policies will no longer be the issue then. Inclusive opportunities will be. (Pause.)
Although I have focused on higher education as the key means, we also need to make eradicating illiteracy among Muslim children a priority because that is the starting point to learning and success. Our goal should be 100% literacy by 2030. WE CAN DO THIS!
One of the ways to build the bridge between education and becoming literate in the primary grades is by significantly expanding the number of teachers and schoolhouses serving Muslim. Other means that will contribute to achieving that end would be using educational resources to:
- Help Indian Muslims to contribute towards social, political, and economic development of India
- Promote exchange of technology to develop entrepreneurial and leadership skills
- Encourage excellence in Muslim youth
I have no doubt that in concert we Aligarians can have a significant and sustainable impact and influence on the lives of Indian Muslims. We can make a difference and we should commit to making a difference.
To paraphrase President John F. Kennedy, “We have been given much and of us much should be expected.” Those are not just idle words on my part. .
I am putting my money where my mouth is: My wife Debbie and I have committed $2M to support the building of a new school of management with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and innovation at AMU.
My contribution in the school of management is a way of saying THANK YOU to AMU for empowering me and investing in the empowerment of those business students at AMU who will leave AMU and go out and empower others.
I know that you in this audience, my fellow Aligarian and others here tonight are already engaged. I know that I am preaching to the choir. But I am asking you to join me in committing to do even more.
Let us continue to carry the torch handed to us by Sir Syed Ahmed Khan. Let us work together to ensure his dream shall never die and his cause will endure. Let us be bridge builders.
Empowerment breeds empowerment. We Indian Muslim graduates of Aligarh understand that from our experiences and that is why we should take the lead in enabling similar experiences for other Indian Muslims.
I pledge to make this a personal cause and priority over the rest of this decade and into the next. I ask you to join me in this empowerment vision and in extending our hopes, hearts, help, and hands to shape the fate and future of Indian Muslims.
If we act together, we can make sure that all of our children enjoy lives of opportunity and dignity. If we empower Indian Muslims by education and economic mobility, they will change the face of India. When they succeed, ALL of us succeed, India succeeds, and the world succeeds.
Once again thank you for this opportunity. It has been a privilege to be here in Dubai with you my fellow Aligarians.
I wish you all the best
God bless you all