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Indian-Americans asked to invest in education in India


Washington: Entrepreneur and philanthropist Frank Islam would like fellow Indian-Americans to make a strategic investment in education in India as it is the great equalizer and opportunity creator.

“Supporting educational institutions is one of our highest priorities because education is the key to opportunity and the bridge to the future,” he said during the Second American Bazaar Philanthropy Dialogue and Dinner, organised by an ethnic publication here.

Dozens of prominent philanthropists, nonprofits, stakeholders and leaders from the South Asian and Indian American philanthropic community attended the dialogue to brainstorm giving.

Lata Krishnan chair of the American India Foundation delivered the 2nd American Bazaar Philanthropy lecture.

“While education is important in America, the needs are even greater in India and that is why I am supporting initiatives in India,” Islam said.

“My intent is to use education as a tool to improve the socio-economic status of the underprivileged in India. My desire is those who benefit will in turn contribute towards social, political, and economic development in India,” he added.

Azamgarh, Uttar Pradesh, born Islam, has announced a $2 million donation to his alma mater, Aligarh Muslim University, which “shaped my history and my journey and determined my destiny,” for building the Frank and Debbie Islam School of Management.

The school, Islam said will place emphasis on entrepreneurship and preparing the students at AMU to become entrepreneurial leaders and engage in economic development activities that will create jobs and opportunities for thousands of people throughout India.

“We see our contribution not as a charity but as an investment that will yield exponential returns,” he said.

“We not only support AMU, but also give to other educational institutions as well here in US and in India,” said Islam who was presented the American Philanthropy award for his pioneering efforts in the fields of education arts and culture.

Receiving the award from Arun M Kumar, US Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Global Markets, Islam told fellow Indian-Americans that they had done well in the US and now it was their turn to do good in India.

“Let us together change the face of India. One family, one village and one life at a time,” he said. “Let us extend our hope, our help, and our hand so that we can together change the face of the world.”

Apart from AMU, Islam has made major gifts and supported scholarships at his alma mater in the US, the University of Colorado at Boulder and his wife Debbie Driesman’s alma mater in Canada, Western University among others.

Underlining the importance of strategic philanthropy, Islam said: “I invest in education and promotion of the arts because these are two of those critical areas. I refer them as pivot points-areas that can be leveraged to build a bigger and better future for all.”

“Education is a pivot point because it is the great equaliser and opportunity creator,” he said. “Art is also a pivot point because it educates and advances social causes. Art and culture transcend all boundaries.”

Islam has also given $1 million to the US Institute of Peace, an organization devoted to nonviolent prevention and mitigation of conflict around the globe, “because it’s very much engaged in curbing violent extremism.”

“In addition they are engaged to make the transition to peaceful and stable democracy,” he said.


(Arun Kumar, IANS)

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Children Gorging on Junk Food? Blame Father’s Education and High Income

The research counters the argument that new-generation mothers have become lazy and so feed two-minute noodles and other junk food to children

children and junk food
children's affinity towards junk food. Wikimedia
  • A recently published research paper questions the widely held view that mothers are to blame for kids’ junk food
  • The authors say that junk food intake decreased with mothers’ education but went up with father’s educational status and income
  • Findings of the research suggest that the junk food intake of adolescents show a decrease with the mother’s education but increase with the father’s education

Aligarh, July 26, 2017: The next time you see children gorging on junk food, don’t blame the mothers. Instead, blame the father’s education and high income.

This is the finding of Nafis Faizi, Assistant Professor in the Department of Community Medicine at the Aligarh Muslim University.

In a research paper jointly authored with Arzi Adbi, a Doctoral Student of Strategy from Singapore, and Chirantan Chatterjee, Assistant Professor, Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, the paper questions the widely held view that mothers are to blame for kids’ junk food.

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The authors say that junk food intake decreased with mothers’ education but went up with father’s educational status and income. The more wealthy and more educated fathers are, more likely they will feed children with junk food.

The research counters the argument that new-generation mothers have become lazy and so feed two-minute noodles and other junk food to children.

Faizi pointed out that paternal factors play a big role in adolescents’ health outcomes.

He added that findings of his research suggest that the junk food intake of adolescents show a decrease with the mother’s education but increase with the father’s education. (IANS)

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Muslim Women in India Can Become Change Agents With Education

Muslim women would have realised their full potential and they will ensure that India and the world do as well

Muslim Women
Muslim mother and daughter. Pixabay
  • Narendra Modi called for empowerment and education of Muslim women
  • The literacy rate and the higher education statistics represent a double whammy for Muslim women as it relates to empowerment

June 25, 2017: Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently called for empowerment and education of Muslim women. One would have expected this message to receive widespread acceptance and support. It did not.

There was resistance on several fronts for a variety of reasons. Some saw Modi’s move as a political stunt. Some questioned whether Modi was doing anything meaningful in the education and empowerment area. Others came out against it because of a connection to the triple-talaq controversy.

There is no gainsaying that there is an unequivocal and critical need to empower Muslim women through education in order for India to achieve its full potential. The status of education in general was captured by the 2001 census which revealed that the Muslim literacy rate was only 59 per cent.

ALSO READ: Goddess Bonbibi: Here is Why this Goddess in Sunderban unites both Hindus and Muslims!

In response to these and additional findings regarding Muslims and others in the weaker sections, the Sachar Committee Report of 2006 disclosed a development deficit in a number of areas. The report resulted in the creation of an across-the-board programme for the development of minorities.

This programme and other initiatives have had a beneficial effect. In the 2011 census, the overall literacy rate for Muslims went up substantially to 68.5 per cent against the national literacy rate of 74 percent.

That was good news. But the numbers within the numbers tell a different story. The worst literacy rate for women in India is among those in the Muslim community at less than 52 percent. That is cause for concern.

Even more worrying is the performance of Muslims in terms of higher education. A US India Policy Institute released in 2013, six years after the Sachar Report, showed that only 11 per cent of Muslims in India pursue higher education compared to a national average of approximately 19 per cent. Most significantly, that study revealed that there has been a decline in the general category of Muslims participating in higher education.

The literacy rate and the higher education statistics represent a double whammy for Muslim women as it relates to empowerment. In education, literacy is the starting line and higher education is the finishing line for becoming fully empowered. These statistics indicate that not enough Muslim women even get to the starting line and very few get to the finishing line.

This must change. Muslim women must be able to participate fully along the entire educational continuum. This participation is pivotal for the future of the individual Muslim woman, the Muslim family and India.

For the individual Muslim woman, education itself is empowering. It removes the shackles of ignorance. It develops the knowledge, skills and attitudes to pursue and create one’s own destiny. It builds self-esteem and confidence. Education is the gift that keeps on giving. It is an opportunity creator and bridge to the future.

For the Muslim family, education prepares the Muslim woman to be a change agent. Too many Muslim families are trapped in poverty because of a lack of education. With her own education, the woman can educate and equip her children to escape that trap. I firmly believe education is a powerful equaliser, opening doors to Muslim women to lift themselves out of poverty.

For India, education delivers on the promise of the largest representative democracy in the world. Central to that promise are equality, opportunity and inclusive economic mobility. Education levels the playing field and makes that promise a reality. Once that reality exists for Muslim women they will be able to deliver on that promise for India by helping others up the ladder of success. They will have the capacity to change the face of India and the landscape of the world.

In the 21st century, higher education is becoming more important for climbing that ladder. By higher education, I don’t just mean four-year colleges or universities. I include technical, vocational and professional education at the secondary levels.

It might seem that I am a little delusional given the current circumstances in talking about Muslim women and higher education. But that is not the case.

On my last visit to India in February this year, I had the good fortune to give addresses and speak with young Muslim women students at Fatima Girls Inter College in Azamgarh and Abdullah Women’s College at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU). I was inspired by them and their commitment to making a positive difference in India.

During that visit, my wife Debbie and I also dedicated the new Management Complex that we had financed at AMU. In my comments at the dedication ceremonies, I predicted that from this Complex “will come the future leaders who will make India and the world a better place.”

Many of those leaders will be educated and empowered Muslim women who will be in the forefront of empowering other Muslim women who will then educate and empower other Muslim women — and the cycle will continue.

When that occurs, those Muslim women would have realised their full potential and they will ensure that India and the world do as well. When they succeed, all of us succeed. India succeeds. The world succeeds. (IANS)


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Minority status will not help Muslims but may open Pandora’s box


By Firoz Bakht Ahmed

Since the government has done away with the minority status of the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), a debate has set in for and against the minority character and reservations.

Recently, at a conference at Delhi’s Constitution Club, one heard several so-called Muslim leaders very generously voicing their lip-service concerning the minority character of AMU. It reminded one of the saying that the way to hell is paved with good intentions.

The fact remains, and history has proved this, that the minority character and reservations on communal lines are not in the interest of national unity and integrity as it starts a chain reaction of demands amongst religious groups, within and without. The ostrich mentality of reservations or minority status of some universities will not help Muslims. But it will open up a Pandora’s box. They either have to perform or perish on their own.

Those vying for the minority status of AMU and Jamia Millia Islamia should remember what India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, a Congressman and not a lesser lover of minorities, had stated while speaking on democratization during an important session of the Constituent Assembly on May 26, 1949: “If you seek to give safeguards to a minority, you isolate it… Maybe, you protect it to a slight extent, but at what cost — at the cost of isolating and keeping it away from the main current.”

Dr. Zakir Hussain founded Jamia Millia Islamia in 1920. He could have made it a minority institution if he had wanted to. But he did not want the institution to be linked with any one community.

It would be worth examining what the other founding fathers say about minority character and reservations. While a vote was sought for the charter of providing political safeguards to the minorities, according to articles 292 and 294 of the 1949 draft constitution, five leaders (all Muslims) out of seven, namely Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Maulana Hifzur Rehman, Begum Aizaz Rasul, Hussainbhoy Laljee, and Tajammul Hussain had voted against it. Interestingly, Sardar Patel strongly supported the charter.

K.R. Malkani, a former RSS think tank member, wrote in his treatise on Indian Muslims, ‘The Politics Of Ayodhya and Hindu-Muslim Relations’, that according to the United Nations, the group that’s identified as a minority is one that by religion, language, ethnicity, or culture constitutes less than 10 percent of the population of a state. As per this statute, the Muslims were a minority decades ago, but now they are not, he wrote.

Malkani also states that nowhere in the 52-odd Muslim countries or, for that matter, anywhere in the world where Muslims are a majority, do non-Muslims have the privileges, protection, and rights that India offers to the minorities. As a matter of fact, Maulana Azad did not like the majority-minority syndrome and hence called Muslims as the second majority.

Be it Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, Other Backward Classes, Muslim Dalits or other so-called minorities, reservations are a menace for the entire system. On the otherwise secular and composite fabric of India, reservations are a thorn in its neck.

Rather than extending the begging bowl for quotas, Muslims must tell the government to open more schools and a system for general uplift in their areas rather than police stations. Instead of fighting over smaller slices of a small pie of national income, what is needed is the expansion of the national pie, which would help everyone to get their rightful and bigger share. The oppressed and the marginalized people need expansion of opportunities rather than favors from the state.

Words such as reservation, minority, majority should be deleted from the Indian Constitution in the context of quotas based on caste or religion. Umpteen reservations including the minorities, SC/ST, Kashmiri migrants, and army personnel have already skewed the scales of merit.

The problem with this kind of lopsided minority character and reservations is that the real beneficiaries may be the economically well-off “backward community” members who generation after generation reap the benefits at the expense of the real needy from the general sections who, actually, are becoming the “minority” as has been seen in the case of the 22.5 percent quotas in the institutions of higher education like the IIMs and IITs, etc. The government needs to put a stop to such abuses. So many reserved places lie unfilled and the ineligible poor general category suffers.

The minorities should have an honorable place by having to stop looking at charity in the form of quota and accept the challenge of a competitive life. So far as the Muslim community is concerned, the reservations’ process will be wrought with imperfections as the community is divided into umpteen castes and sub-castes, a system that has percolated in them through their Hindu neighborhoods.

Instead, financial aid should be granted on the basis of performance. If Muslims compete, participate and become go-getters, India will prosper.

Battered by the populist rhetoric and provocative militancy of its myopic, ill-educated clerics, the nation’s cultured and high potential minority stands at crossroads. Afflicted by utter educational backwardness, administrative apathy and political expediency, the Muslim community in India is caught in the asphyxiating tweezers-grip, owing to their opportunistic leaders, both inside the Parliament and outside, who are crying hoarse and indulging in pernicious vote-bank manipulation and who, finally, leave the poor Muslims to the mercy of God.

These so-called Muslim representatives have outrightly ruined their followers emotionally, economically, socially, and educationally. Such leaders are not seriously interested in dealing with the main problems of the community. Muslim leaders and petty politicians are becoming richer day by day, while the people they represent, are going down the poverty line.

It is time that we Indians give up this ghettoized minority-majority mindset. Voices of reason demand that educational standards and qualifications should be uniform, whatever the language, religion or region. (IANS)(Photo: