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

IMC-USA's 2nd annual convention

Chicago: The second annual convention of the Indian Muslim Council-USA, held on 7 August, was a major landmark in the quest for communal harmony among the Indian Diaspora. 

Over twenty five speakers representing a diverse and impressive array of experts, intellectuals of secular persuasion and prominent representatives of all major Indian religious communities held groundbreaking discussions on important contemporary issues with special emphasis on the role of Muslims in India's past, present and future. The symposium was held at the Sheraton Hotel and was well attended. 

Lord Ahmad Patel speaking at the convention

Lord Ahmad Patel speaking at the convention

Speaking in the final session of the day long event, Dr. Shaik Ubaid, President of IMC-USA highlighted the organization's vision of building a better India and a safer world by promoting pluralism and marginalizing hateful ideologies such as Hindutva-fascism in Indian society, and exposing Hindutva infiltration of US power centers. He highlighted IMC-USA's strategy of working with other religious and ethnic communities as well as with secular organizations, human rights and developmental groups. He called for the formation of a 'coalition of the informed' to strengthen pluralism and secular democracy in India to guarantee its economic growth, regional stability and world peace. 

Lord Adam Patel of Blackburn, the keynote speaker and the patron of Council of Indian Muslims in UK, highlighted British Muslims successful strategy towards economic and political empowerment and advised the Indian Muslims living in the US to emulate it by getting involved in the struggle for social justice, economic welfare and mainstream political work. 

Earlier, Dr. Omar Khalidi detailed the process in which the economic status of the Indian Muslims was undermined to an extent that the Muslim community in India were now worse off than all other communities. He suggested a strategy to reverse the trend and said that reservations in jobs and education will have to play a part in the strategy. Dr. Kannan Srinivasan described how the Hindutva groups had collaborated with the British occupiers in India and how they worked actively towards the partition of India. 

Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, president of India's Congress Party, Rod Blagojevich, Governor of Illinois, Senator Peter G. Fitzgerald of Illinois, Mr. Richard M. Daley, Mayor of Chicago, Mr. V. P. Singh, former prime minister of India and Arun Kumar, the consul general of India were among the dignitaries who sent congratulatory messages to IMC-USA. 

In the session on 'Politics and Policy-Making', Dr. Muqtedar Khan explained why a pluralistic India is in economic and geopolitical interests of the US. John Prabhudoss , a Washington lobbyist, informed the audience on how the Hindutva groups are working in Washington DC to increase their influence, a point later emphasized by Asim Ghafoor, another Washington lobbyist. Dr. Satinath Choudhry provided an analysis of the recent Indian elections where Hindutva-fascists were narrowly defeated. He opined that a system of proportional representation was needed to strengthen India's democracy.

Dr. Patrick Haithcox of Amnesty International and Dr. Javeed Akhtar of Human Rights Watch, Chicago, addressed the session on Human Rights. Dr. Kamala Visweswaran described how the Gujarat pogrom of 2002 was planned and executed by the Hindu ultra-nationalists and the importance of bringing the perpetrators of massacres, mass rapes and ethnic cleansing to justice as a deterrent to prevent future genocides. 

Leaders of Dalit, Hindu, Sikh, Christian and Muslim groups as well as those of coalitions such as Promise of India, South Asian Progressive Action Collective, NRIs for a Secular and Harmonious India, Building Bridges and South Asian Network for Secularism and Democracy gave their perspective on forming a broad based and effective coalition to build a better India. 

Mrs. Nishrin Husain and Dr. Lise Mckean chaired the session on Women's issues and described ways in which women can assume a leading role in combating religious hatred. They pointed out that women are always worst victims of pogroms and genocide. 

The convention also held screenings of documentary films as well as an auction of cricket bats signed by Cricket icon Irfan Pathan. The money from the auction would be sent to the charity of choice of Irfan Pathan. 

The two new initiatives of IMC-USA, the focused sessions on Indian Muslim NGOs and Muslim businesses, were well attended. Mr. Manzoor Ghori of IMRC and Mr. Kaleem Kawaja of AIM, were among the speakers at the NGO session. Manzoor Ghori described the IMRC's efforts to build a Muslim university in Jehangirabad, UP where a journalism college is being planned. The NGO representatives were all ears for Jumana Qamruddin a World Bank specialist who described the various options of getting funded by the World Bank. 

Among the highlights of the convention were the presentations of IMC-USA's annual awards in the fields of communal harmony, humanitarian work, journalism, and education and for defending India's interests. For more info visit: http://www.imc-usa.org/convention2004 

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