By Arun Kumar
WASHINGTON– Expressing sadness at the educational plight of Indian Muslims, an Indian-American entrepreneur and philanthropist has called for the community’s active participation in India’s inclusive economic growth.
“India’s Muslims must be active participant in shaping the future of India’s inclusive economic growth. They must be partner in India’s prosperity,” said Frank Islam in a keynote address to the Aligarh Alumni Association Inc. New York (AAANY).
“When they succeed, ALL of us succeed, India succeeds, and the world succeeds. Let us together change the face of India. One life – one family – and one village at a time,” he said over the weekend.
Islam has committed $2 million for the establishment of a management school at the Aligarh Muslim University focused on innovation, entrepreneurship and ethical business leadership.
He was awarded the ‘Sir Ross Masood Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Leadership, Education, Community and Public Service’ for the year 2015, in recognition of his distinguished leadership, community and public service and philanthropy.
Citing a study by the US India Policy Institute at the end of 2013, Islam noted that since 2006, “.the literacy level and the quantum of improvements for Muslims were modest compared to other populations.”
That same study showed that only 11 percent of Muslims in India pursue higher education compared to a national average of approximately 19 percent, he said.
It also showed that the “general category of Muslims in higher education” had actually declined 1.5percent for the period studied.
“These are devastating findings. They demand civic engagement both from those in India and to the extent possible from those of us Aligarhian Indian Americans here in the United States,” Islam said.
“I specifically believe that a key intervention point should be in higher education because it is the great equalizer and path to social and economic opportunity,” he said.
Islam, an AMU alumnus, called his investment in the School of Management as “my way of saying thank you and keeping the hope alive. I strongly believe my investment will yield exponential returns.”
Calling for empowering 200 million Indian Muslims with education and economic mobility, he said: “When they move up the ladders of success, they will get ahead, they will stay ahead, and then they will change the face of the world.”
Expressing horror at “recent religiously motivated killings and riots in India,” he said: “Unfortunately there are some people in India whose voices of intolerance, prejudice, hostility, and bigotry are dividing India along the lines of faith or background.”
“It is frightening as to why some people in India have become extremists and divisive,” he said stressing the need for “a voice for understanding, cooperation, civility, and tolerance between faiths.”
“India must uphold the right of every person. Indians should be united by a common hope for equal treatment and equal rights and equal opportunity and better tomorrow,” Islam said.