Muslim Scientists and Thinkers–Obaid Siddiqui

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Syed Aslam

obaid_siddiqiObaid Siddiqui was born in Basti, Uttar Pradesh, India.  He completed his Master in Biology from Aligarh Muslim University in 1953.  After teaching at Aligarh for a while he came to England and finished his PhD. from the University of Glasgow in in the year 1961 where he worked in the Department of Genetics.

Obaid Siddiqui was offered a post-doctoral position at the MIT to work with , Dr. Alan Garen, a well known man in genetics. He came to MIT worked there for a while and then they moved to the University of Pennsylvania. Together they discovered the suppressors of “nonsense” mutations that led to the discovery of “nonsense” codons, the stop signals in the genetic code. In early seventies he moved to California to  work with Dr. Seymour Benzer of the California Institute of Technology. Their work led to  identification of several genes that control nerve conduction and synaptic transmission. Obaid and his associates’ pioneering work on neurogenetics of fruit fly, Drosophila, has opened up the prospects of an integrated genetic and neurobiological investigation of chemosensory perception.

Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Mumbai, invited him to start a molecular biology group at the institute . Obaid recruited top-class scientists and put the Institutes’s molecular biology group on world map of genetics. Later, with the support of government of India, he founded  National Center for Biological Sciences at Bangalore. The  aim  of this Center is basic research in the frontier areas of biology and currently it has many distinguished scientists working in various fields  with state-of-the-art facilities.

Prof. Siddiqi’s contributions have been widely recognized. He has been elected to several academies including all the National Academies in India, the Royal Society, London, the US National Academy of Sciences and the Third World Academy, Trieste. He is a former President of the Indian Academy of Sciences. Prof. Siddiqi has held visiting professorships at Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Caltech and Cambridge University. He was twice Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Scholar at Caltech and is a life member of the Clare Hall, Cambridge. The Aligarh Muslim University, the Banaras Hindu University, Jamia Hamdard, Kalyani University and IIT Kanpur have conferred upon him honorary degrees of D.Sc. He has received many prizes and awards, including the civil honors Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan.

Aslamsyed1@yahoo.com

13-39

Sir Syed Day 2009 in the San Francisco Bay Area

December 3, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ras Hafiz Siddiqui

SIRSYED

The annual Sir Syed Day 2009 gathering in the San Francisco Bay Area once again brought together south-Asian Alumni of this esteemed university and a rainbow of enthusiasts of the Urdu language at the India Community Center in the city of Milpitas on Saturday November 14th. And once again great pains were taken during this two part educational and literary gala to keep the legacy of a great man alive and to highlight the efforts of the Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association of Northern California (AMUAA-CA) in raising funds to offer educational opportunities to several disadvantaged students to enable them to attend AMU.

Sir Syed Ahmad Khan (1817 to 1898), the founder of the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental (MAO) College which became a full-fledged university in 1920 was a remarkable individual who defied the odds and was able to provide an avenue for Indian Muslims to get a scientific-modern education at a time when the community was shunning progressive ideas. And because of him and the institution he founded this event became possible because Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) is recognized today for its academic and not to forget artistic contributions (e.g. Indian Actor Naseeruddin Shah).

The evening started with fine food from Chandni and some valuable networking opportunities as both the “Old Boys” and now “Old Girls” who have had the privilege of attending this unique institution located in Aligarh, India caught up on their current lives, the past, and speculated on the future. AMU, which started off as a somewhat exclusive Muslim university has now acquired a more religiously diverse student population whose its ethnic diversity has remained legendary. Scions of families from Peshawar to Dacca (Dhaka of the old) and from Kashmir to Hyderabad Deccan all have attended AMU from the early 1900’s onwards and some graduates have gone on to lead countries, states and other educational institutions. Today, the university population is global and they including over two hundred in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Sitting at the table with Prof. Munibur Rahman and Prof. Steven Poulos was indeed an honor. We will revisit Prof. Rahman later in the report. His friend Dr. Poulos who has been Director of the South Asia Language Resource Center at UC Berkeley and the University of Chicago and did research at AMU in the late 1960’s also shared his feelings on his visit there and where things stand today. The program at the University of Chicago has been instrumental in creating the first online Pashto dictionary and has created a Pashto proficiency test and also offers online courses in elementary Sindhi and intermediate Urdu.

The formal evening proceedings started off with an invocation and Ms. Huma Abidi made the necessary introductions, welcoming back Aligarians to Sir Syed Day and reminiscing about her own past experiences at the historic campus. She then invited AMUAA President Nihal Khan to present his thoughts. Khan Sahib highlighted facts on how the Sir Syed’s memory and the Aligarh tradition has been kept alive for the past decade in the San Francisco Bay area but also reminded everyone that there was a dual purpose for the evening which is to raise funds to provide students in need to get an education, making the purpose of this Mushaira (Poetry Recital) broader. He also thanked a list of sponsors for making this gathering possible.

Next, Keynote Speaker Dr. Aslam Abdullah who wears many hats including that of leading both American and Indian Muslims in thought, started by stating that in cities all over the world Aligarh Alumni pay tribute to that giant of a man (Sir Syed). Quoting from poet Allama Iqbal looking through Sir Syed’s eyes, Dr. Abdullah explained how Sir Syed’s efforts started when the Muslims of India were at their lowest self-defeating point. Modern scientific education was negated by the religious leadership of the time to the point when they defined the poor Muslim conditions post 1857 as a divine scheme to be accepted. “Sir Syed challenged that view,” said Dr. Abdullah. He gave the example of how at one time England was debating how many teeth a chicken had. The debate went on and on till Francis Bacon simply asked why don’t you open the chicken’s mouth and find out?  He said that Similarly, Sir Syed promoted analytical thought. “He wanted to inspire the younger generation,” he added. He wanted his community in India, especially the young to understand both the Holy Quran and modern thinking. . “He did not want to build an ordinary university,” said Dr. Abdullah. This was a revolutionary movement inclusive of others but people mistakenly made it a minority issue, which is not correct. “Today, we need to re-awaken that dream,” he said.

After a brief ceremony for a local Aligarh Cricket League where the “Man of the Tournament” and the winning team was presented awards, everyone was reminded of the fundraiser (www.aeef.net) and the first part of the event came to its conclusion with the traditional singing of the university anthem the “Tarana-e-Aligarh” in which many in the audience participated.

The second part of this program was once again the Urdu poetry recital or “Mushaira” which draws on the essence of a culture, which is associated with the Urdu language. Dr. Nausha Asrar from Houston, Texas conducted the proceedings and introduced all the poets and invited Prof. Munibur Rahman to preside as the most senior person present. And from that point started a literary journey of wit, humor, reason, wisdom and in the end emotion moved many listeners.

Starting with local San Francisco resident Engineer Vasmi Abidi who questioned why neighbors who share walls here don’t know each other, to India ’s Tahir Faraz asking why trees of friendship have little support from even a gentle wind while the trees of hate today are so full of fruit? And then Abbas Tabish from Lahore, Pakistan explained how his own condition has started to reflect the condition of his house and the lament of those who sell their village land and soul to big cities for a song. Nausha Asrar next added both his wisdom and humor while Khalid Irfan from New York was at his satirical best about donkeys in public places and the government and why one more mule would not make a big difference. He was also for the exchange of female Indian Bollywood dancers with extremists from across the border for better Pakistan India ties (We don’t believe that the Indians would agree).

Senior poet Meraj Faizabadi from India next brought the audience back down to earth speaking of glass houses and dashed hopes amidst betrayals. On Aligarh he asked what is a flame without its spreading light? On India-Pakistan friendship he explained that he was all ready to reach across the gap that divides the two people, but strangely he was still trying to find where that gap really was?

The other senior poet, Waseem Barelvi also from India requested that other avenues of expressing sadness be found, since his tears are now too old to express his feelings anymore. He spoke about the human relationship with God and the uniqueness of the Aligarh culture or “Tehzeeb”. He said that one should try to give up on expecting generosity from others to protect one from painful disappointment but on the other hand, one should be ready to hit a wall if the cause is just. And yes on the topic of love without which the language of Urdu poetry would remain incomplete, if you have lost in love, your loss is painful but in that loss it is still a gain, he said.

Last but not least the President of this Mushaira, Michigan resident Prof. Munibur Rahman, who holds two Masters Degrees from Aligarh, in History (1942) and Persian (1944) and a contemporary of this writer’s father, shared his thoughts. Prof. Steven Poulos was quite accurate in describing him earlier as he turned out to be an amazing presenter. Someone who can think in English, Urdu and Farsi simultaneously, he moved us all to an emotional level seldom reached. The pain of old age, the parting of his beloved wife, visiting a relative with Alzheimer’s disease, all this reporter can say is “Maan Gayay Sahib” (We knew that we were in the presence of excellence). Several people were moved to tears with his Nazm “Guftugu” (Conversation) written for his late wife in which he tries to bridge a gap between his current life and her death. Down to her “Chabi Ka Guccha” (Key Ring) a stark reminder of her, we found out what true love was. Prof. Rahman also highlighted his trials and tribulations on aging, trying to reach out to busy children and losing one’s old friends in a unique and beautiful manner. His standing ovation was certainly well deserved. All this writer can add is that I was humbled in his presence and Prof. Munibur Rahman is one fine example of some of the people who graduated from and taught at Aligarh.

In conclusion, this was possibly one of the finest evenings that the local AMUAA has put together in the past decade or so. Our congratulations to all the local volunteers who put this event together and a word of thanks to Nihal Khan, Dr. Shaheer Khan and their team for continuing to keep us in mind when Sir Syed Day comes around every year. It was almost surreal but this time “Mehfil Ka Mahol Bahot Khoobsoorti Say Ban Giya” (the environment of the event came to a beautiful medium naturally). Bahot Khoob!

Readers are encouraged to contact the AMUAA at http://www.amualumni.org/

11-50

AMU Alumni Celebrate Sir Syed Day in New York

November 25, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Shaheer Khan

4124274104_9de05ca7f4

Zakir Ali Khan Receiving the Award.

Sir Syed Ahmed Khan, the founder of Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was born on October 17, 1817. Sir Syed, the famous 19th century scholar, historian and social reformer spent most of his time on promotion of social, economic and educational conditions of Indian Muslims.

Sir Syed’s untiring and painstaking efforts over a long period of time bore fruit when he was able to establish the Mohammedan Anglo Oriental (MAO) College in 1875, which subsequently developed into Aligarh Muslim University in 1920. The institute was founded with the primary objective of removing the educational backwardness of the Muslim community. In this task Sir Syed sought cooperation of all the communities and the institute was open to all, irrespective of caste creed and religion. For Sir Syed Ahmed Khan it was impossible to conceive the growth and progress of India without simultaneous development of communities in harmony, brotherhood and cooperation. Today AMU symbolizes on the one hand the secular ideals of the Republic of India and on the other the aspirations of more than 150 million Muslims in India.

The AMU alumni are spread in large numbers in all over the world. On Sir Syed’s 192nd birth anniversary-on October 17- hundreds of thousands of students, alumni, and well wishers of AMU around the world celebrated the founder’s day popularly known as ‘Sir Syed Day’.

The AMU Old Boys’ Association in New York also celebrated the day at Akbar Restaurant in Long Island, New York.

The evening started with light refreshments. The formal program started off with the recitation of some verses from the Holy Qur’an by Ms. Naila Ali. Mr. Faiq Siddiqi and Well known TV personality in New York was emcee for the program.

Secretary of the association, Mr. Muzaffar Habib presented the annual report and thanked the volunteers and sponsors. He stressed the need to keep the Aligarh tradition alive and spoke about what needs to be done to achieve association’s goals. He presented a plaque to Mr. and Mrs. Riaz Alvi for their services to the association.

Ex-president of the association Dr. Masood Haider presented the obituaries of Dr. Abdul Bari and Haneef Akhgar Malihabadi, popular poet of USA, who passed away this year. Mrs. Bari was presented a plaque to recognize the contributions of her late husband to the association.

On the occasion, Mr. Muhammad Zakir Ali Khan was also honored with “Life Time Achievement Award” for his outstanding services to the continuation of the spirit of the Aligarh Movement and to the cause of higher education in Pakistan. The prize carried cash amount of Rs. 1, 00,000 and Citation.

Born in 1926 at Rampur (UP) Zakir Ali Khan did his B.Sc. in 1945 and B.Sc. Engineering in 1948 from the Aligarh Muslim University. He is one of the founders of the Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology in Karachi. He has served as the general secretary of the Aligarh Old Boy’s Association, Karachi for almost 4 decades and has edited the Association’s monthly magazine ‘Tehzeeb’ for many years.

The author of number of books Zakir Ali Khan was awarded the first ‘ International Award for Literature’ instituted by the Aligarh Muslim University, at last year’s world alumni summit at Aligarh.

The keynote address of Zakir Ali Khan was equally inspiring. He shared Aligarh anecdotes and wisdom that just had to be appreciated and emphasized on team work which resulted in the establishment of Sir Syed University. Mr. Khan said that the best tribute to Sir Syed is to take his educational movement forward.

Mr. Zakir Ali Khan expressed his gratitude for the award and he donated the whole prize money to the welfare of AMU students.

The first part of the program ended with the traditional singing of the Tarana of AMU which was presented by a group.

The second part of the program was dedicated for an interesting Mushaira wherein some famous poets from India and Pakistan including Tahir Faraz (India), Abbas Tabish (Pakistan), Meraj Faizabadi (India), Waseem Barelvi (India), Zamin Jafri (Canada), Saleem Kausar (Pakistan), and Manzar Bhopali (India) were invited who enthralled the audiences for almost four hours.

A new website (www.aligarhmovement.com) on Sir Syed and his mission “Aligarh Movement” was launched by one of the flag bearer of Aligarh Movement, Muhammad Zakir Ali Khan.

The proceedings started with a brief introduction of the website and its developer, Mr. Afzal Usmani by this scribe.

Mr. Afzal Usmani spoke on the need of a website where introductory information and Sir Syed, Aligarh movement and prominent Aligarians is easily accessible. He said that the new website would fill the vacuum and would inspire others to work in this direction.

While inaugurating the website, Mohammad Zakir Ali Khan expressed the need of such website which can fulfill the void in cyberspace to carry on the mission of Sir Syed and Aligarh Movement. This is an era of information Technology and people look for information on internet because it is easy and accessible from anywhere on a click of a button. He congratulated Mr. Afzal Usmani, the brain behind this website and his team and extended his support to make this website as a reference portal for all the information of Aligarh Movement to carry on mission of Sir Syed.

Prof. Waseem Barelvi, famous Urdu poet also spoke on the occasion. He appreciated the efforts for making the material on Sir Syed, his associates, and Aligarh movement available at one place.

Afzal Usmani requested everyone to share any information which they consider will be relevant for the website.

11-49

Houstonian Corner (V11-I26)

June 18, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Aligarh Bachchon Ka Ghar: A Distinctive Orphanage in India

Mozaffar Ali of ALigarh Bachchon Ka Ghar Orphanage came to Houston last week as guest of Helping Hand. During his stay, he went on Radio Sangeet for an interview, talked to persons at Madrasae Islamiah after Mughrib Prayers and met community members at Shahnai Restaurant.

Mozaffar Ali informed the significance of taking care of an orphan in Islam. He said that this orphanage was started at Qasimpur Road Aligarh with 10 children in 1998 and today has around 120 orphans. Idea is to support the orphans till the age of high school. Some of the goals and objectives of the orphanage are to develop teamwork, self-reliance and competitive spirit among these children and to save children from forced labor, illiteracy, begging and deprivation. The orphanage compound can take around 100 children and it is already housing 120 children. New construction on the second storey is needed over the existing orphanage and it will consist of three halls (each can be constructed for $7,500). On each child, the orphanage spends about $1,000/year. A bus carries children to various schools in the area and on return in the evening; children go through extracurricular and moral building activities plus complete their homework.

Mozaffar Ali placed a target for the Houston Community to raise $7,500 (only) for one of these three halls of this project, of which $6,500 have been collected. For more information on ALigarh Bachchon Ka Ghar, one can visit their website www.ALigarhChildren.Org and for all Tax Deductible contributions, visit www.HelpingHandOnline.Org (mention ALigarh Bachchon Ka Ghar in the comments).

Ghazali Education Trust Pakistan Imparting Education to 35,000+ Children: Waqqas Anjum

“You have an excellent opportunity to donate education by becoming supporter of Ghazali Education Trust, one the largest  Educational Networks’ of Pakistan. Our ultimate goal by the Grace of God is to have 100% literacy in Pakistan. Ghazali Education Trust was established in 1997 under the society act as a Non-Profit, Non-Governmental and Non-Political Organization:” These were the sentiments of Syed Waqqas Anjum, as he organized two seminars in North and Southwest Houston about Ghazali Education Trust (GET), where professional DVD presentations were done to appraise the community about the progress of GET.

“By the Blessings of God, we at Ghazali Education trust (GET) are now encompassing 1,500 miles of Pakistan and are in 30 Districts of Pakistan, with 278 Schools, 1,560 Teachers; and 35,000+ Students, of which about 16,400 are Orphans and Needy. GET is not just constructing schools; we develop teachers through our training institutes and develop up-to-date and state-of-the-art syllabus for our students to excel in their professional lives (this is approved by the Government). People can donate with three of our many contributing options: Adopt a Child $125/Year; Adopt a School $1,250/Year; and LifeTime Membership $1,250:” Added Syed Waqqas.

GET has projected to expand our network to 50 Districts by 2015, with at least one Model Cluster School in each District. GET has started a pilot project of vocational courses for Grade VII to X to develop much needed skills in our students. GET provides a comprehensive library, science lab and computer lab in each of our campuses. In order to streamline our processes and be transparent, we have divided GET into these departments: Pakistan Rural Education Program; Resource Mobilization; Ghazali Colleges for Women; Research & Development; Orphan / Needy Support Program; and Land Acquisition & Construction:” Continued Syed Waqqas.

For more information on GET, one can visit their website www.Get.Org.PK or call 832-366-3351 and for all Tax Deductible contributions, visit www.HelpingHandOnline.Org (mention GET Pakistan in the comments).