Make best use of technology for development: Shakeel Ahmed
Internet has touched life in many ways and it is impossible to imagine life without internet in the developed world. Under-developed world has also seen a rapid growth in diffusion of internet technologies.
A group of Muslim men and women from Bihar and Jharkhand have found each other in this internet village. They are utilizing internet and technology to improve the life in some of the poorest districts in India.
We interview a leading member of this Group, Shakeel Ahmad to find out more about their activities. Shakeel graduated from Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University and has an MBA from XLRI, Jamshedpur. He lives in Dubai with his family and works for Emirates Telecommunication Corporation (Etisalat). He has 2 daughters and a son.
Interview was conducted in August 2006 through email by IndianMuslims.info
When was Bihar Anjuman established?
Bihar Anjuman started as Anjuman Islamia, Bihar on 11th March 1999 in Dubai, as an extension of Anjuman Islamia, Abu Dhabi, operational since 1986. When we went online in 2004, we named the online group as Bihar Anjuman.
The driving motto was to urge the people to come together and pool their resources for maximizing the benefits to the Muslim society in general and to the society of Bihar and Jharkhand in particular.
You have a significant online presence, with an active mailing list and a comprehensive website. What was the reason for going online although you started out as a local chapter for an already established organization?
We have to make the best use of available technology for our communityÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s development. I was publishing papers on technological competitiveness and found that the Muslim world was far behind the "others" in technology (and of course, education, as a whole). Unless we made the best use of all available technology, we would go further down.
How has technology helped in Bihar Anjuman's mission?
Active people have a chance to cooperate with each other in carrying out their missions - of developing Bihar/ Jharkhand without physically being in one place.
For example in our scholarship program, we connect sponsors and the students even though they are in different parts of the world. Similarly, members of Jeddah chapter were able to raise money for a coaching center in Delhi in matter of days, after they heard from us about the need. Without use of internet, this was not possible for people of Jeddah to heed to the advice of someone they didn't know or had never met.
Moderators and most of the active people of Bihar Anjuman have never met each other but are able to work collectively using the technology available to us.
What are the Objectives of Bihar Anjuman?
Bringing together Muslims from all walks of life to interact and act jointly with an objective to educate, motivate, inspire and instill confidence in our young generation. We join hands to eradicate miseries and evil practices from our society. Our objective is to see that the community puts its unspent energy to constructive use.
How are these objectives achieved?
Bihar Anjuman promotes welfare activities and offers aid and assistance to the muslim-dominated areas badly affected by natural calamities and other disastrous incidents, in close association with other government and non-government organizations. It is mobilizing the youth to eradicate the curse of dowry and other social evils from the society. It provides financial support for marriage of economically weak Muslim girls from Bihar or Jharkhand. It pursues establishment of model institutions that blend Islamic education with technical and job-oriented education for Muslims. In order to motivate talented students and prevent early drop-outs, we award scholarship to Muslim students of Bihar and Jharkhand pursuing higher education. We are setting up career-counselling and guidance centres in every district headquarter of Bihar and Jharkhand.
What are some of the projects that you are involved in?
Bihar Anjuman has undertaken projects in the area of educational empowerment like scholarships on means-cum-merit basis, BANEE Career Centre (BCC) - providing career-counselling and guidance to students and working professionals with centres in each district of Bihar and Jharkhand and in each college/ university campus.
Bihar AnjumanÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Sources of Infinite Learning (BASIL) - an Islamic library (we consider that all types of knowledge acquisition and learning fall under Islamic category).
Under BASERA (Bihar Anjuman's Schemes for Empowerment of Rural Areas), as Phase-1, we target providing safe drinking water to all the people, in the two target states. As a precursor to regular medical camps, Eye Camps are being successfully organized in many places.
In order to assist community members get decently employed, vacancies from India and abroad are circulated regularly in the email list.
Two schools, one Islamic and another conventional, have been adopted to be model schools for Bihar Anjuman, where we will experiment the blending Islamic education with technical and job-oriented education for Muslims.
Bihar Anjuman is also helping in construction of mosques in minority institutions and localities.
BAJEE (Bihar AnjumanÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s Jewels for Educational & Economic Empowerment) is involved in planning and implementing projects that generate employment for women.
Where is BA headquartered and does it have any chapters?
No headquarter currently, as internet remains the means of all communications, decisions and record keeping.
We have local chapters in (1) Dubai, (2) Abu Dhabi, (3) Chennai, (4) Bangalore, (5) Delhi, (6) Jeddah, (7) Riyadh, (8) Chicago, (9) California, (10) Patna, (11) Aligarh Muslim University, (12) Jubail, (13) Hufoof/ Dammam/ Khobar, (14) Qatar, (15) Kolkata, (16) Makkah Mukarrama, (17) Hyderabad, (18) Toronto.
These local chapters act as medium of coordination and information sharing between the local residents and those in other chapters as well as with the international community. The local city or the country representatives facilitate this interaction at the city or country level as the case may be. They focus on facilitating interaction among teachers & students and help current students get professional advice in advancing their careers by interacting with the members, especially NRI alumni of various universities who are well-placed and would wish to help others in whatever ways they can. Further, to tap the talents that can be useful for the long term activities vis-ÃƒÆ’Ã‚Â -vis Bihar Anjuman Educational Empowerment (BANEE) Scheme info dissemination, selection of beneficiaries for scholarship, BANEE Model school launch, anti-dowry movement and many more.
What is your source of funding?
Funds come from contribution from group members and well-wishers. Bihar Anjuman attempts to bring the community out of the charity mindset and motivates them to indulge in self-help activities.
Bihar Anjuman is a network of organizations and individuals whose hearts beat for Bihar and fellow Muslims worldwide. All the chapters (BA Chapters) work like individual organizations and all individual members are free to initiate projects according to their interest, talent and capabilities with the condition that their interest do not clash with the objectives of Bihar Anjuman. Thus individuals and organization in the network act independently, but get resources from what is pooled by those interested in supporting particular projects.
Are you collaborating with other organizations?
We are currently affiliated with organizations like Imarat-e-Sharia (www.imaratshariah.org), Institute of Objective Studies (IOS, www.iosworld.org), Kainat Foundation (www.kainatfoundation.com), BiharBrains (www.biharbrains.org), institutions like Hazrat Umar Farooque Academy, Ranipur and Madarsa Jamia Madania, Sabalpur and IndianMuslims.info for specific purposes.
Local chapters collaborate similarly with organizations in different capacities and for different purposes. Like in Dubai, we collaborate with all the muslim organizations in their programs that could benefit our members, like arranging career and personality development programs, Islamic awareness programs and fund-raising programs to support people affected by natural calamities.
What are some of the problems faced by Bihari Muslims?
Lack of educational facilities, unemployment, dwindling resources, like shrinking of cultivable land despite constantly increasing population, natural calamities like earthquake and floods, lack of able leadership are some of the major problems.
What are your recommendations for the progress of Bihari Muslims?
Recommendations for the progress of Bihari Muslims are not different from recommendations for the progress of all Muslims in the world. Some of these are:
1. Educating them to achieve technological and professional advancement
2. Generating employment opportunities by participating in activities that foster economic growth
3. Helping them understand the true meaning of Islam, i.e., to make them understand that Islam means ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œpeaceÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã‚Â?, calling for jihad-an-nafs.
4. Instilling confidence in them that progress is possible without compromising with any of the Islamic values. Thus, making them believe that striving (doing jihad) towards enhancing the knowledge and capabilities, striving (doing jihad) towards applying the acquired knowledge and capabilities without getting desperate (that is, never weakening the link with patience despite challenges encountered in the way),
5. Involving them in community work as guided by Islam. This is important because Muslims are the khalifa (ambassadors) for the whole society, not just for their own community.
6. Reducing the gap in education, employment and economic prosperity with respect to the majority community, thus reducing alienation so that they may to be able to join the mainstream society and be equal partners in progress and governance.
[Photo : Bihar Anjuman; BA sponsored coaching in Delhi and Eye camp in Patna]