AMU can be another Georgetown Uni


In the academically advanced US, there are less than a dozen prestigious modern universities that are called “ivy league universities”. These are the highly competitive centres of academic excellence and their cutting edge is research and development work. These could be listed among the “best of the best universities” in the world. One university in this prestigious list is the Georgetown University, Washington DC. Georgetown University’s College of Medicine, College of Law, College of Business Management, College of Humanities, College of International Studies and Faculty of Applied Sciences are among the top five colleges in America in these fields. Admission at the Undergraduate level at Georgetown University is extremely difficult for the large number of students from all over north America, many with a 4.0 out of 4.0 score at the high school level, compete for it. A degree from Georgetown University is a sure route to success for the best jobs in America and abroad. Alumni of Georgetown are found occupying the highest rungs of prestigious positions in blue-chip corporations, academia and government.

Georgetown University is owned and operated by America’s Catholic church and the President of the university is generally a distinguished academic who also happens to be a pastor in the Catholic Church of America. Now think that this most prestigious centre for academic excellence is a religious parochial Christian university managed by the Catholic Church for more than a century. cut back to India to the town of Aligarh in the UP state, where the 130 year old university of the Muslim community is located. Over the years even though the Muslims of India built other colleges and universities, Aligarh Muslim University continues to be looked at as the barometer of the state of education, economy, social well-being, aspirations, despair and prospects of the 150 million strong Muslim community in India that has lived there for over six centuries. India’s Muslims are an illustrious people whose remarkable achievements over the centuries are spread in the four corners of the vast globe. So a visitor to India when told about Aligarh Muslim University’s history and place in the nation conjures up images of a prestigious centre of academic excellence, an institution creating the best minds of the nation from the Muslim community and others, who can hold their own with the best of the best from say America’s Georgetown University. But the reality of AMU is quite different. Many alumni of AMU proudly point out that AMU has a medical college, an engineering college, a law college et al. But they need to evaluate for themselves if these AMU colleges are among the best or better in their fields in India. Common unbiased knowledge about India tells us that they are not. That brings us to the question, Why not? Why is it that unlike the Catholic Christians of America, the Muslims of India, in the 130 years since the founding of AMU have not been able to build AMU into a Georgetown University? Now to be fair to AMU, before India’s independence in 1947 it was among the better universities in India, although not the best. However because of a variety of reasons, some of them having to do with the despondent state of affairs of the Indian Muslims since 1947, as a whole AMU could not claim the status in the last sixty years of an institution where excellence in education was a yardstick. Quality of instruction, dedication of teachers towards students, research and levels of achievement at AMU have not been comparable with other better Indian universities in the last six decades. It is easy to see that saying such things to AMU alumni sounds like an affront to them and they may become defensive. In fact, I have talked to quite a few bright AMU graduates who have expressed such frustration with the teaching systems at AMU.

But the fact remains that the people of AMU have to first acknowledge the educational problems in their colleges and then take steps to improve them. As long as AMU people will remain contended with the fact that AMU graduates do find jobs in the world at large and do get admissions in other universities and consider such alibis as yardsticks of success, it will not be possible for AMU to ever become another Georgetown University. Or to say to the Muslims of India that AMU is doing its best to fulfill its promise to its people. Therein lies the need for a new vision for the Muslim youths of India and who are presently in their high schools and their teachers. They have to step out of the make-believe paradigm of contentment that their parents built about AMU in the last many decades, and start pursuing a path to re-mould AMU as the Georgetown University of the Muslims of India. With a big change of competitiveness spreading across India Muslims who are associated with AMU need to catch this bug in the earnest. And get to work speedily. Murad Hoffman, the German diplomat who converted to Islam about a decade ago, has said that while he loves Islam he finds Muslims’ tendency to compromise readily with low levels of performance and consider them as good enough as a severe impediment to Muslims’ ability to compete with non-Muslims. Let us hope that at least some alumni of AMU and those presently associated with AMU have the desire and ability to understand this situation and take some planned actions to resolve it. They owe it to the 150 million Muslims of India.

Jo ho shikasta zahniyat to kaam aati hain naa tadbeerein na shamsheerain
Jo ho zauq-e-yaqeen paida to cut jaati hain zanjeerein

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 March 2011 on page no. 2

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