SYED DAY 2003 IN NORTHERN CALIFORNIA
Report by: Ras H. Siddiqui
On Saturday, October 11, 2003 more than 600 people gathered at
the Chandni Restaurant in Newark, California where the Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association (AMUAA) held its annual
International Mushaira (Urdu Poetry Recital) and Banquet Dinner to the delight of many in our community. This event has become
a tradition of sorts here as the AMUAA (of Northern California) brings together people from all over this region to honor
the founder of a great center of learning, one which is not as well known in the western world as it should be. But it remains
unforgettable for those who have benefited from it either directly or indirectly to this day.
The man that we come to honor, Syed Ahmad Khan (also known as Sir Syed), established MAO College in Aligarh, India
in 1872. This became a Muslim University (AMU) in 1920.
What immediately struck visitors as they entered the doors to
the hall was the lead role that women (the local AMUAA President included) have taken in this alumni association and how an
environment established at a Muslim University in Northern India has facilitated this role. Other impressions that were noteworthy
were the warmth of the greetings, the family type atmosphere and the cohesiveness that the AMU has created through its legacy.
The Chandni Chefs were in good form this evening as the banquet
dinner went off to a fine start. A number of dishes representing the Muglai tradition of cooking from India and Pakistan made
a delicious impact. And as the formal program got off to a start with a recitation from the Holy Quran and emcee Suhail Farrukh
invited our attention to the two-part nature of the evening activities (beyond dinner). He explained that the flag present
behind the stage was that of the AMU and one that transcended many borders. He also invited current AMUAA president Amtul
Suhail to address the gathering.
Amtul Suhail welcomed everyone, the old and the new faces to this event.
She mentioned that people from as far as Oregon and Los Angeles were in attendance and how proud we should be of the association.
She expressed satisfaction and pride in the community and thanked it for its continued support. She said that the AMU Alumni
were present all over the world. She asked, What is behind this closeness to Aligarh?
She asked people to read and share Sir Syeds vision and described AMU Alumni as symbolic flowers through which we honor
his work. She commended the alumni for their continued fundraising efforts towards
the Sir Syed Scholarship Program and thanked all, especially the patrons who made it possible. (Readers are invited to visit
www.amualumni.org for more details on how they can contribute towards this
AMUAA Secretary Dr. Shaheer Khan next came to the stage with the details
of the newly established Aligarh Educational Endowment Fund (AEEF). This effort goes beyond the Scholarship Program and is
an ambitious attempt to uplift the weaker sections of society through higher education. Armed with a Power Point presentation,
Shaheer explained the short and long term goals of this fund, its philosophy and goals, including aiding minorities to enter
the social mainstream via higher education (details will be posted at Federations website, www.aligs.org).
As mentioned the goal of this fund is ambitious both in logistical
and fiscal terms. And in this regard Drs. Hasan Kamil and Talat Hasan were thanked for providing the initial $100,000 seed
money to get this project going. Shaheer also touched on the demographics of the Aligarh Alumni and ended on the lessons learnt
from Mother Teresa and presented her as an example to emulate. He thanked all
the sponsors of this event tonight including Mr. Abdus Salam Qureshi, Drs. Hasan Kamil & Talat hasan, Mr. Kanwal Rekhi,
Syed Sarwat Mahmood, Dr. Waheed Qureshi and Mr. Zafar Hamdani along with a group from Sacramento and Davis.
The Chief Guest and Keynote speaker Dr. A. R. Kidwai has a long
list of credentials associated with him. Some took him far beyond the Chemistry Department at Aligarh as he became the Governor
of the Indian States of Bihar and West Bengal. Dr. Kidwai started off by mentioning how the former students of AMU are still
spreading the message of Sir Syed and how this message today has gone beyond India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to the Middle
East, Europe and North America. He said that over 27,000 students currently studied at AMU and that new departments were being
added to the curriculum there. He congratulated everyone for their efforts and contributions towards AMU and spoke on the
new economic policies in India where software exports have risen tremendously and new industry is emerging. He spoke of poverty
and hunger removal from the region and how non-residents could help in the uplift of the social sector there.
The first segment of the evening ended with the usual singing
of the Aligarh anthem known as the Tarana-e-Aligarh. This year it was accompanied by a slide presentation of various building/departments
on campus along with some pictures of the notable personalities associated with the university.
The second segment was the International Mushaira or Urdu poetry
recital conducted by Dr. Abdullah from Washington. Noteworthy amongst the poets presenting their works this year were Dr.
Shahryar (India), Saleem Kausar (Pakistan), Zakia Ghazal (Pakistan) and Girgit Ahmadabadi (India) along with A. M. Sayeedi,
Mahnaz Naqvi and Faisal Azeem from right here in North America. Needless to say Shahryar made us wonder and wander down memory
lane, Saleem made us think, Zakia swept us away in thought and Girgit (real name Pathan Roshan Khan) made us laugh (as did
Sayeedi). And Mahnaz along with Faisal made us proud because they represented our local poetry circle. Going into the details
of what was presented would require another report by itself but all one can say is that if you love the Urdu language, do
try and catch the appearances of these poets if they happen to be in your area because, they will mesmerize you.
In conclusion let us mention the fact that the vision of Sir Syed Ahmad
Khan is becoming all too important once again in post 9/11 America, if not the world. Islam is very much in the picture, its
image currently tarnished by a minority of fanatics. It is in this environment that South Asian Muslims should take a leadership
role and learn from the moderate voices of their past. Sir Syed was able to convert the defeat of Indian Muslims in 1857 at
the hands of the British into an eventual victory for the community by stressing the need for us to pursue scientific education.
That was the not so secret strength of Aligarh that liberated many from ignorance and a future of poverty. And it is for that
one reason alone (amidst many others) that this legacy should continue to gain adherents and be promoted with a sense of pride.