RIYADH: A onetime cricket star and current member of India’s Parliament told the Jamia Millia Islamia Alumni Association it was time for Indian Muslims to stand together for the common good and educational advancement of the community.
Mohammad Azharuddin made the comments Friday (May 6, 2011) at the Riyadh Palace Hotel where alumni were marking the Muslim university’s 90th anniversary.
Azharuddin noted the significance of the minority institution status granted by Indian government that allows the university to reserve up to 50 percent seats for Muslims. “I congratulate Jamia Millia Islamia, its administration, its faculty, its illustrious alumni here in Riyadh and Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries and all those associated with this great institution of learning for having being formally and legally recognized as a minority institution. This is a victory for all,” he said.
“We have no hesitation in holding that Jamia was founded by the Muslims for the benefit of the Muslims and it never lost its identity as a Muslim minority educational institution,” National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions (NCMEI) Chairman Justice M.S.A. Siddiqui ruled when granting the special status.
“This was a long-pending demand, and if it had been conceded earlier it would have resulted in the university going far ahead,” said Azharuddin. “It is a historic university, and it has played a pivotal role in India’s struggle for independence; the university had the greatest support from the country’s independence hero Gandhiji, and despite all the challenges that it has faced in all these 90 years it has done very well,” he said.
As a member of Parliament, Azharuddin said he would lend full support for a similar status for Aligarh Muslim University. “These universities are among the oldest and most reputable universities. Efforts should be made to ensure that they remain committed to the vision with which they were created. I am very happy to note the prominent positions that Jamia alumni occupy in Saudi Arabia. This is a source of strength for the Indian community,” he said.
Drawing a parallel from the game of cricket, he said many of the problems the Indian Muslim community faces are a result of the serious lack of team effort. “We are ready to take up your cases, and we are ready to fight, but the community needs to be united. If the team is not united, you don’t win matches. I can’t play on the front foot if I realize that there is not enough support in the back. I am then forced to play on the back foot,” he said much to the laughter of all those who gathered.
He expressed his unhappiness at the turn of events at Aligarh Muslim University. “One gets upset when one keeps hearing about the frequent lockouts at the university. This is not a happy sign. All those who are working for the good of such universities should be supported to the fullest. We should not let our infighting harm the institution,” he said and admitted that “more than the outsiders it is the internal differences that are the greatest challenge to our institutions.”
Prominent educator and industrialist Nadeem Tareen highlighted the good work being done by the Indian expat community on the education front. “There is a new awakening among Indian Muslims. They want to make rapid advancements in the educational field, and they are succeeding, both through individual and collective efforts,” he said and advised his fellow expats to explore more possibilities on how to make education available to those in less-literate areas of the country.
He said differences were not necessarily a bad thing. “The old boys of Aligarh Muslim University disagreed with the university’s approach toward the freedom movement in the 1920s and hence launched Jamia Millia Islamia. It turned out to be a good decision — a blessing in disguise. There are lessons to be learned from how those with differing opinions conducted themselves in those days. For them the community’s interest was paramount, and that is how it should be even now.”
JMI Alumni Association President Murshid Kamal recalled the circumstances through which the university came into existence and said the granting of the new status calls for greater effort to turn it into one of India’s Top 10 universities. “If we fail then our adversaries will have a reason to mock us. We should not provide them with a reason to say, ‘Look, didn’t we say they will make a mess out of themselves, and they did’ ... That should not happen.”
The evening saw the presence of the who’s who of the Indian community in Riyadh. The evening was anchored with panache by M. Shahabuddin. Aftab Nizami thanked all those who turned up at the event. All the previous presidents of the alumni association were honored on the occasion, including its popular founder Shafaatullah Khan.
Azharuddin was later mobbed by fans who took his autographs on every imaginable article including cricket bats, balls and T-shirts.