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Published in the 1-15 Nov 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

AFMI convention in Canada lauds Indian democracy

By Firoz Bakht Ahmed

Toronto: The annual convention of the American Federation of Muslim Indians (AFMI) Canada on 25 September in Toronto was an eye-opener - one could witness the positively organized and united educational activities of the enlightened Indian Muslim fraternity in Canada and USA. AFMI members love India and try to pay back the debt they owe to their homeland.

Arun Gandhi speaking at the AFMI gathering

Arun Gandhi speaking at the AFMI gathering

Attentive audience at the AFMI function

The theme this year was the shining democracy of India. Besides the peace activist Arun Gandhi, I was the key speaker at the event. I started with the global importance of India in today’s world and said, "Forget the India you once knew. It's gone. India today is a force to reckon with. Contemplate instead a new, funky, self-confident, resurgent nation embracing its role as an emerging Asian superpower." 

The author pointed out that a firm commitment to democracy, advances in technology, health, education and the economy, teamed with a new mindset, is helping India make its mark in the global arena in a big way. 

I dealt at length regarding the excellence of Indian institutions. "Our higher education system with its scores of IITs and IIMs, is among the most lauded across the world. In its 2004 rankings, the Asia Week named two Indian institutes among Asia’s top ten MBA schools. IIM Ahmedabad is No 1 and IIM Bangalore is No 5. Five out of 10 best science and technology schools were also Indian (Bombay, Delhi, Madras, Kanpur and Kharagpur). Moreover, India has great schools and madrasahs of world fame.

I also emphasized that AFMI has worked wonders over the last decade in Gujarat and other states.

Firoz Bakht Ahmed 
speaking at 
AFMI gathering

The message by AFMI’s Abdur Rehman Nakadar and his tireless team was loud and clear: change or perish! Nakader has tried to refurbish a tired Muslim community from its slumber. While others indulged in lip service or dreamt of uplifting levels of Muslims’ education, Team Nakadar has done it. He is perhaps, the first Muslim preacher of our times who has the courage of castigating the Muslim leadership that has been intoxicating the masses with an overdose of religious sermons while doing nothing practical. 

Arun Gandhi emphasized that only with non-violence can India reach the top after he saw Rakesh Sharma’s film on Gujarat riots.

An interesting part of the AFMI Toronto convention was the speech delivered by the area MP, Caroline Parrish, who castigated George Bush and his buddies for their attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Other prominent speakers at the event included Prof Biju Mathews, a human rights activist from New York, Prof Ali Mir, Prof Balakrishnan Rajagopal of MIT, Rinku Lamba of Sampradayikta Virodhi Aandolan, Dr Syed Samee, an LS cardiologist and AFMI president, Dr Aslam Abdullah, editor of the Muslim Observer and The Minaret, Dr Omar Khalidi, Ali Qureshi, Dr Shakir Mukhi, Dr Iqbal Ahmed, Ashfaq Qureshi, Jamshed Akhtar and Akhtar Siddiqui.

While speaking on the role of media in India, I emphasized that India has a huge army of conscientious, secular and honest journalists who call a spade a spade. Traditionally, the Indian news media has been wonderfully free – hard-hitting, fearless yet compassionate. It has exposed injustice, forced constructive action and strengthened democracy through its adversarial relations with the ruling powers.

As far as struggle and hard work are concerned, the US/ Canadian Muslims have left no stone unturned and the results are seen today in terms of platforms like ISNA and ICNA, both Islamic societies of North America. It’s great to see Muslims flourishing in Canada of whom most are sincere followers of their Islamic tenets. 

The status of Urdu in Canada is also good. There are many Urdu newspapers on the stands of shops in areas where Urdu reading Hindus and Muslims are residing. The quality of printing is wonderful.

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