Empowering Indian Muslims Through Higher Education
New Delhi Aligarh Alumni Association
My fellow Aligarh alums, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I want to express my deep appreciation for your warm welcome. It is great to be here tonight with fellow Aligarians. I am delighted and honored to be with you tonight. Thank you for giving me an opportunity to address you tonight on the subject of “Empowering Indian Muslims Through Higher Education”.
I stand before you as a son of Aligarh and a brother to each of you. Looking at you today I never felt so blessed.
A lot of things bring us together as fellow Aligarians linked by common cause, common commitment, common goals, and common values. All of us are bonded by shared history, shared heritage, shared interests, shared background and shared belief. These bonds are stronger than the differences that too often drive us apart.
For all of us Aligarh remains an inseparable and an indispensable part of our life, our story, and our journey. Aligarh is a beacon of hope. Aligarh indeed is a true treasure. It is a precious possession. All of us owe a sense of gratitude to Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). All of you should be thankful for the opportunity to attend AMU and graduate. Its leaders have shaped our history. Its leaders have shaped our destiny. Its principles have always guided us. It has stood the test of time. AMU helped shape the lives of many generations. All of us have role and responsibility to shape AMU’s future.
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.
I do want to share one of my favorite quotes of Sir Syed, however, because it is relevant in terms of our shared heritage and responsibility.
At the founding of Aligarh, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan said,
…from the seed which we sow today there may spring up a mighty tree whose branches, like those of the banyan of the soil shall in their turn strike firm roots into the earth, and themselves send forth new and vigorous saplings; that this College may expand into a University, whose sons shall go forth throughout the length and breadth of the land to preach the gospel of free inquiry, of large-hearted toleration, and of pure morality.
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 this nation 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.
For us those values include:
a passion and love for education
eternal optimism about one’s hope and dreams
being collegial and candid toward all
keeping steadfast to standards of excellence, and
living in peace and harmony, by being tolerant and respectful of the dignity of each person
I know that each of you carry these and other values imprinted by Aligarh.
In a phrase, our Aligarh education has empowered us. I want to ask you to use that 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 study released by the U.S India Policy Institute at the end of 2013 titled Six Years After Sachar: Review of Socially Inclusive Policies in India revealed the “development deficit” was being reduced for some – but that Muslims as a group remained tremendously disadvantaged.
That disadvantage runs across the board. But, the U.S. India Policy Institute found that progress of Muslim Indians in the past decade in the higher education arena has been especially problematic.
Its study 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 are desperate and heart breaking. They are buried under the blanket of history and circumstances. It is the lack of education and poverty that breeds violence and that fuels frustration and desperation.
These are disturbing findings and in my opinion a call to action for me and you my fellow 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 globally economy, and the capacity to contribute to lifting fellow Muslims out of poverty and deprivation.
Higher 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, and am relatively confident, that it is true for the majority of many of you as well.
Indian Muslims across this country need all of the assistance and support they can get in order to pursue higher education opportunities and complete that pursuit successfully. They need more bridges built.
We Aligarh alumni can be those bridge builders by doing things such as investing in:
Providing scholarships at Aligarh and other prestigious institutions of higher education.
Building coaching centers and career counselling centers
Building institutions of higher education in states that are primarily Muslim.
Developing mentoring, apprenticeship and prevention of drop-out programs.
Making certain that young women have access to higher education and the job market.
Getting involved politically to ensure that our voices are heard.
Providing opportunities to study abroad.
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.)
Our highest priority should be the eradication of illiteracy among the Muslim children. We should:
a. Help Indian Muslims to contribute towards social, political, and economic development of India
b. Promote exchange of technology to develop entrepreneurial and leadership skills
c. Encourage excellence in Muslim Youths
When we invest in the education of the next generations, we will keep their hope and dream alive. Our educational goal should be 100 percent literacy among the Muslim masses of India by 2022.
Let us commit ourselves to give voice to those who are voiceless and let us commit ourselves to give help to those who are helpless. All of you can have significant and sustainable impact and influence on the lives of Indian Muslims. All of you can make a difference and all of you should make a difference. An old saying goes: To whom much is given much is expected. All of us should be reminded and guided by this phrase. My fondest hope and expectation is that you do well but also you do good. It is much more rewarding to give. It is far better to give than to receive. Giving is not just about money but it can take a variety of forms including the contribution of time, skills, and ideas.
Let us not forget the values that our community shares: the belief with education and hard work and with sacrifice we can give our children a better life. Let us dedicate ourselves to draw upon the values and the spirit that have always defined the greatness of our community. Remember all of us are in this together.
We will do well to remember that no country and no religion and no civilization has monopoly on the wisdom. Let us commit to working together and let us commit to pulling together and let us commit to push progress forward. If we move forward by working together in this cause, our best days will be ahead of us not behind us.
As I opened my remarks with a quote from Sir Syed, let me close them with another that should be meaningful and motivational for those of us who have been empowered by Aligarh.
Near the end of his life, Sir Syed said,
“You have reached a particular stage and remember one thing when I undertook this task, there were criticism all around against me, life has become so difficult for me that I aged before my age, and I lost my hair, my eyesight, but not my vision. My vision never dimmed, and my determination never failed. I built this institution for you and I am sure, you will carry the light of this institution far and wide, darkness will disappear from around the world”.
There is still much darkness for Muslims throughout India. We can help to eliminate that darkness by helping to bring more Indian Muslims into the higher education empowerment zone. Let us together fulfill Sir Syed’s dream and his vision. Let us work together to ensure his cause will endure and his dream shall never die.
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. I ask you to join me in this journey so that we can extend hope, help and our vision in shaping 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.
Let me share few thoughts of my own to Young Indian Muslim Youths:
a. Get a good education
b. Focus on your extraordinary potential
c. Be the best you can be
d. Aim high work hard and pursue your dream
e. Be focused and be passionate and be committed.
f. Never give up
g. Be a good citizen and get engaged in your community
h. When you are successful, help and invest in others and provide ladders of opportunity to others to succeed so that they can attain and achieve their dream
Thanks for your attentiveness today and in advance for your ongoing concern, caring and commitment to empowering Indian Muslims through higher education.
Once again thank you for this opportunity. It has been a privilege to be here.
When I look back the time we spent together, the miles we have travelled together, and memory that we have cherished together, I will always think of you.
I wish you all the best
God bless you all