The group celebrates Eid in Lanham, MD.
The Washington, DC,-based Association of Indian Muslims of America honored veteran South Asian American journalist Aziz Haniffa with the “Excellence in Leadership” award on Saturday.
Haniffa, a Sri Lankan American and Executive Editor of India Abroad, was recognized for his “Outstanding Leadership and Contribution to the Community and Indian American Journalism.”
The award was presented at an inter-faith celebration of the Muslim holiday of Eid-ul-Fitar, hosted by AIMA at the Turkish Community Center in Lanham, MD, on June 23.
In his speech accepting the award, Haniffa lauded the efforts of AIMA to a difference in the lives of the poor and needy in India, especially those of women and girl children in the areas of education and human development, leading to their overall empowerment.
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He urged the young people in the audience to be active in civil society, and participate in politics and policymaking, particularly at the moment, when there is so much divisiveness and polarization with the rampant rise of racism and bigotry. Haniffa said they should do it in a respectful and dignified way by working with and engaging with other coalitions, minority groups and inter-faith groups that have been subjected to discrimination and hate-crimes.
He said that while it was a trying time for the community, it also afforded an opportunity to use their education, knowledge of the American Constitution and the Bill of Rights, to argue their case through blogs, letters to the editor and through social media and counter some of the un-American violations of civil rights of minority and ethnic communities, through constructive activism.
Kaleem Kawaja, Executive Director of AIMA, said that no one has covered and promoted US-India relations and the Indian American community like Haniffa has. Kawaja recalled that, during his early days in the United States, he would eagerly look forward to India Abroad and Haniffa’s reports each week, as he would to the weekly letters from his mother in India. This was at a time when there was no Internet and e-mail and overseas telephone calls were extremely prohibitive, particularly for those early immigrants, Kawaja said.
He added that US-India relations and the growing Indian American community were hardly covered by prominent US newspapers such as The New York Times, the Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post, and the only source of information was Haniffa’s writings and interviews with a wide variety of top Indian American and US personalities.
Kawaja also provided a summary of AIMA’s work over the past 25 years, especially in the area of education among the depressed communities in urban India. Since mid-1990s, the organization has built a number of new schools, constructed classrooms in overcrowded schools, and set up libraries, laboratories and computer centers in schools and vocational training centers. The cities it ran projects included Ahmedabad and Anand in Gujarat; Faizabad and Hathras in Uttar Pradesh; Kumta in Karnataka, and Delhi.
AIMA has also provided scholarships to needy students at the engineering colleges of the Anjuman Islam Educational Institution in Mumbai.
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Recently, AIMA built a girls tailoring training center in Hyderabad, which provides one-year free training to poor girls from poor families in tailoring export quality garments for men and women, uniforms for schools, industrial workers, and police and army personnel.
It also financed a vocational training center for handicapped youth in Kozhikode, Kerala, which provides training in computer languages and computer based analysis techniques to physically handicapped boys and girls.
The Eid program, attended by more than 200 Indian Americans, included a cultural program, consisting of performances by Varsha Joshi and her team from New Jersey.