The European Chapter Group organised its annual meeting on 28-30 May at the Ismaili Centre in Lisbon. A full-day session was devoted to discussing ways in which alumni can harmonise their academic talents with the intellectual needs of the Ismaili community. Discussions focused on the nature of academia and religious education as well as the engagement of IIS Alumni with religious education endeavours within the Ismaili community. Professor Eric Ormsby provided a historical overview of the ways in which Muslim thinkers found harmony between revealed truths and scientific truths. IIS Co-Director, Professor Karim H. Karim discussed with the alumni, the challenges of developing a viable career, also sharing with them an overview of the strategic planning currently underway at the IIS. Dr Aziz Esmail (IIS Governor) gave a Keynote Address urging alumni to expose themselves to the scholastic challenges outside the community while remaining attuned to the poetic and literary heritage of the community. The afternoon continued with an open discussion with representatives from ITREBs for France, Portugal and UK. A visit was arranged to the Centre of Islamic Studies in Mertola, recently established by a prominent Portuguese archaeologist, Professor Claudio Torres, who has been working on the history of Muslim settlements in the Iberian Peninsula. Alumni visited several excavated sites and heard Professor Torres talk about how archaeology as a silent history can challenge the claims of written history; and how much his own work has contributed to a different understanding of the ways in which Muslims have settled in this region.
The Asian Chapter Group held its annual meeting from 16 -18 July in Dubai, UAE. The theme selected for the meeting was Tradition, Continuity and Change. President Naushad Rashid of the Ismaili Council for UAE gave an introduction to the settlement of the Ismailis in UAE, highlighting the challenges and opportunities faced by the early settlers and reflecting on how their traditions have evolved. Mr Saif al-Din Qasir of Syria gave an introduction to the modern history of the Ismailis in Syria, reflecting on the continuities and changes the community has experienced vis a vis its traditions. Dr Feras Hamza delivered a session entitled, “Qur'anic Studies: Between Tradition and Modernity” in which he highlighted the centrality, in historical terms, of the Qur’an to Muslim life, both as a devotional text of ever-unfolding meanings and a divine message that constantly challenged its faithful readers to intellectual advancement. He stressed that the Qur'an had so clearly played a vital role in the growth and development of Muslim societies in the pre-modern period by sustaining and feeding their moral, spiritual and intellectual energies. Dr Shiraz Thobani gave a session on Islam in school curricula, which was based on his research and recent publications. Given that several of the alumni are involved in educational endeavours, this session was especially relevant to them. Professor Karim H Karim gave a Keynote address, via video link, to the alumni, focusing on the challenges and opportunities facing the alumni in today’s world. As the meeting was being held at the Ismaili Centre in Dubai, Mr Nizar Shariff was invited to speak about the development of that particular Centre as well as the network of Ismaili Centres across the globe.
The North American Chapter Group met on 20-22 August in Toronto, Canada. The meeting included a presentation by Dr Fayyaz Vellani, Head of Graduate Studies at the IIS, on the two graduate programmes offered by the IIS - GPISH and STEP. Mr. Sada Cumber, former US Ambassador to the Organisation of Islamic Conference, shared his experiences and perspective on the Muslim Diaspora and the Global Ummah. Dr Amyn Sajoo’s session on Modernity, Tradition, and Confusion: Taking Ethics Seriously allowed alumni to engage with a number of contemporary societal issues and the relevant ethical challenges for Muslims. Professor Ali Asani’s session on Religious Literacy and Clash of Ignorance focussed on the near-complete lack of knowledge of religious traditions in Western and Muslim societies as well as the consequences of such illiteracy.
These meetings allowed the alumni to exchange ideas, experiences and discuss matters which were pertinent to members of the chapter group. In some cases, alumni had an opportunity to meet and interact with institutional leadership as well as HR representatives from AKDN (Ms. Shams Jaffer and Mr. Amin Noorani) and IIS (Dr Amanda Harris). From the IIS, Mr. Shiraz Kabani, Head of Operations, Finance & Development, and the Alumni Relations Coordinator, Ms. Shellina Karmali, attended all meetings and shared with the alumni recent developments at the IIS, especially as they pertain to the engagement of alumni with the IIS and the wider institutional network.
The 2010 elections for the office bearers of the Chapter Groups were held and the new leadership for the Chapter Groups is as follows:
Asian Chapter Group
President: Husnoro Dodikhudoeva (Class of 2004)
Secretary: Anisa Virji (Class of 2007)
European Chapter Group
President: Zulfikar Khimani (Class of 2009)
Secretary: Zarangez Karimova (Class of 2009)
North American Chapter Group
President: Sabrina Bandali (Class of 2008)
Secretary: Ryan Makhani (Class of 2010)
The Institute wishes the new office bearers success in their duties and offers its gratitude to the retiring office bearers for their leadership and contributions to the IIS Alumni Association.