Islamic Voice A Monthly English Magazine


RABI-UL-AWWAL / RABI - U - THANI
MAY 2004
Volume 17-05 No : 209
Camps/Workshops

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Muslim Perspectives


The New Age Freedom Fighters

The New Age Freedom Fighters

Mohammed Hanif Lakdawala tracks down Muslims across the country who are fighting
battles in their own backyard striving to make our society a better place to live.

By M.Hanif Lakdawala

The Muslim community is generally referred to as a leaderless community devoid of contemporary role models. When the rest of the generation lamented the lack of heroes beyond textbooks and passed time discussing frivolous issues and concentrating on rhetoric’s, there are a slew of individuals throughout the country who are fighting battles in their own backyard striving to make our society a better place to live.

Here we present the contribution of few individuals, narrating their struggle towards a cause - be it poverty, illiteracy or social subjugation.

Rashida Bee

She defied social norms, poverty and sickness in a quest to hold down a chemical company accountable for the 1984 Union Carbide disaster that killed more than 20,000 people in India. Last month she was honoured as an environmental champion.

Rashida Bee is among seven grassroots activists from around the globe to receive this year's Goldman Environmental Prize.

This award, referred to as the Nobel Prize for Environment, comes with 1,25,000 dollars that the winners are free to spend as they wish. “Getting this award is going to, once again, bring up the issue of continuing disaster in Bhopal to the world's attention. We think this will help get more people, including trade unions and students, to join with the victims”, said Rashida.

Rashida plans to use the prize money to create a trust fund dedicated to providing medical care for children of disaster survivors and developing employment options for those driven away from careers by effects of the toxins. Some of the cash will be used to institute an award for "ordinary people who are carrying on extraordinary battles against corporate crime," Rashida said.

Dr Ishaq Jamkhanawala

Since 1983, when he was elected as the president of Anjuman-i-Islam, the popular educational institution in Mumbai, he has effectively managed 62 institutions and 23 Trusts. There are over 90,000 students on the rolls of Anjuman and out of this, nearly 25,000 are girls. With his zeal and hard work, he has set the trend for ‘Education that Pays’ which has become a sort of a model to be emulated in Maharashtra.

Dr Jamkhanawala sacrificed his lucrative practice and began to concentrate on uplifting the Muslims of the region. He concentrated on education and started work at the grass root level. One aspect of Dr Jamkhanawala’s style of functioning, which makes him popular, is his day-to-day interaction with the masses. Muslim parents, students, officials and the common man on the street line up to meet him with their woes and he lends them a patient ear. Under his leadership, Anjuman-i-Islam has taken shape as a professional educational institution backed by a sincere cause for the upliftment of the community. But Dr Jamkhanawala does not want to rest on his laurels, he is all set to work towards the construction of a home for the destitute women.

Iftikhar Syed

How many individuals have the courage to leave a permanent job for a cause? Iftikhar Syed, an eminent Marathi journalist resigned as senior correspondent with Lokmat Times to take up editorship of the dying Marathi weekly, Shodhan more than a decade ago. He not only compromised on salary by four times, but also on lifestyle.

Today his sacrifice is paying dividends and Maharastra is witnessing the emergence of budding Marathi journalists and the success of the Iftikhar Social Reform Agenda in the Maharastra heartland. Just going through the responses Iftikhar receives, it is very clear that masses respect him and have begun to accept his social reforms.

Last year, Iftikhar organised a Media workshop in Pune for budding regional and vernacular Muslim journalists. It was one of the most successful media workshops. Inspite of the financial constraints, Iftikhar is ceaselessly and devotedly working towards bringing social reforms in Maharastra.

There have been times when he has even foregone and even spent his entire salary to keep Shodhan afloat. Ironically, the Muslim community is too pre-occupied with Urdu media, neglecting Shodhan. It is the courage and sacrifice of Iftikhar which is keeping Shodhan alive.

Amanullah Khan

After working for the Central Bank of India as an Assistant Branch Manager for 16 years, Amanullah Khan took voluntary retirement in the year 2001, six years in advance to take up the cause of children from the deprived section of his own native place Nandgaon. The pain and suffering of the kids there stirred Amanullah Khan to start “KGN” Educational Social and Welfare Society providing service to the community people who belonged to the poor sections of the society and spreading awareness about education. Within two years, Nandgaon saw a revolutionary change in the psyche of the people. In the place where there was only one high school and only 6 to 7 students attended college, an education wave is discernible. Amanullah Khan currently spends maximum time in Nandgaon giving lectures on personality development, general knowledge and approaches people door- to- door to trigger off the education revolution.

“A great change has been observed in the behaviour of the students after they joined the school. A five year child who used to do nothing except playing in the mud is now seen getting up early morning, ready to go to school, learn new things everyday and wishing ‘Good Morning,’ ” said Amanullah Khan.

Nafisul Hasan

Having done M.Tech from IIT, Delhi with a comfortable job in a plum posting at one of the Navratna PSU of India at Dehradun, Nafisul Hasan is ceaselessly striving for the upliftment of the community through SPEECH (Sir Syed Society for Promotion of Education, Enlightenment and Communal Harmony). His focus is eradication of educational backwardness among the Muslim community. Nafisul Hasan established a primary school, in Dehradun named 'Sir Syed Public School’ to impart modern education to the poorest of poor children with a true national flavour.

There are a number of individuals and groups starting educational institutions, but what makes the efforts of Nafisul Hasan stand out is his scientific approach. To develop scientific temper in growing children, computer education has been made compulsory for the children of class-II to Class V. The students mainly comprise of the children of poor daily-wage workers and maid servants. “The results of examinations depict that among these poor children, many are highly talented and brilliant. Imagine, if these needy children of the society were left unattended, many of them might have gone un-noticed and their talent gone waste,” he said.

Nafisul Hasan personally searches for financially weaker, but talented students studying in other schools and provides monthly scholarships to help them complete their education through SPEECH.

A.W. Sadathullah Khan

There are innumerable businessmen who donate money for the cause, but when it comes to giving precious time and attention for the cause, there are very few who do so. One of them is Sadathullah Khan, editor of Islamic Voice. Besides financing and managing Islamic Voice, Sadathullah Khan, since the last 17 years is devoting maximum time organising workshops for Muslim men and women. Through a series of workshops –“ Discover Yourself,” across India, Sadathullah intends “to empower women and men to face the challenges the world throws at them and to create a successful life with love, peace and happiness. “These workshops are not imparting some concepts or knowledge of Islam, but help the participants discover their true self that will bring bliss, joy, peace and spritual well-being in their lives,” he said.

Going through the feed back Sadathullah Khan receives, it will not be an exaggeration to say that he is not only motivating Muslim men and women to face the challenges of life but also healing their emotional scars through the combination of modern techniques and teachings of Islam. His approach of propagating the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) through these workshops has met with tremendous success.

Social workers, students and anybody in any profession need to attend these workshops.

The writer can be reached at mhl@rediffmail.com

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