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Mushaira Fundraiser: Sir Syed Day in Silicon Valley

The Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association here held its annual Sir Syed Day International Mushaira combined with a fundraiser at ICC in Milpitas, Calif., Oct. 15. Ras H. Siddiqui reports.

Congress Party general secretary Rahul Gandhi
 The poets during the International Mushaira at ICC. Khushbir Singh Saad of India is seen speaking at the podium. [Photo: Ras H. Siddiqui]

With over 300 people in attendance the evening turned out to be a gala affair during which old traditions met modern times quite like the vision that Sir Syed Ahmad Khan had when he founded the MAO College in Aligarh, India in 1875. That institution later became Aligarh Muslim University in 1920. Sir Syed was born on October 17, and this year celebrations were held for his 194th birthday.

The event started with a Quranic recitation by Hafiz Humayun Suhail. Emcee Afzal Usmani welcomed everyone and was joined by AMUAA Northern California president Amtul Suhail in updating everyone on the fundraising aspect of the evening and in presenting a short introduction of the AEEF and its projects.He added that these projects cost around $68,000 per year.

The keynote speech on “the state of education for Muslims in the United States” was delivered by Dr. Farid Senzai. Senzai is an assistant professor of Political Science at Santa Clara University and a fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding.

Dr. Senzai tried to go into many different aspects of the current situation of education and the community, the vast majority of which sends its children to public or non-Muslim run private schools.

He added that about 40,000 students currently go to regular Islamic schools in America. Dr. Senzai ended his speech praising the efforts of Sir Syed and his vision.

No Aligarh program is complete before the singing of the Tarana-e-Aligarh or Aligarh anthem by its alumni, and this year was no exception. A brief interval set the stage for the International Mushaira to begin.

AMU Alumni worldwide annually host Sir Syed Day and always try to include an Urdu poetry segment in their program where poets from different parts of the world are invited to share their craft. Urdu or Khariboli - Hindustani of old has had a long tradition of rich poetry. A camp language that became a bridge of sorts between the Middle East and India, spoken Urdu is very close to Hindi. It is a language that later become part of imperial courts where poets read their works. The symbolism used in their poetry became a permanent part of the art form and is today an essential element of the verses read in Mushairas.

The lineup of poets was impressive. Presided over by Dr. Abdul Qayyum and conducted by Saleem Kausar, the poets (in order of appearance and home base) were Ahmar Shehwaar (Bay Area), Tashie Zaheer (Bay Area), Irfan Murtaza (Los Angeles), Nausha Asrar (Houston), Khushbir Singh Shaad (India), Farhat Ehsas (India) and Saleem Kausar (Pakistan).

In the Urdu verses of Farhat Ehsas “Pardes mein har shaqks ko saya nahin milta, Har shaqks ki hijrat ko Madinah nahin milta” (Not everyone finds shade far away from home, not everyone finds shelter like the Prophet once found in Medina). Sir Syed, through his stress on education helped many South Asian Muslims (especially) to reach and settle in the West. But as Dr. Farid Senzai spoke earlier, they have to make the best of it themselves.

Ras Hafiz Siddiqui is a South Asian American writer who lives in Sacramento, Calif.


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