On a transformative Saturday, the Alumni Theater at the University of Alabama Birmingham’s (UAB) Hill Student Center became a nexus of intellectual discourse as it hosted the pivotal conference titled “Engaging for Change in the Muslim World: Confronting Injustice and Human Rights Violation.” Held on August 26th, the event served as a crucial platform to address and find solutions for the pressing issues of injustice and human rights violations that plague the Muslim world. It particularly underscored the ongoing challenges in Pakistan.
Organized by the Institute of Human Rights under the Department of Political Science and Public Administration, the conference was a collaborative effort led by the concerned US professionals of the Pakistani Diaspora, collectively known as Friends of Pakistan Alabama. This dedicated group, deeply concerned by the intensifying human rights violations and disregard for human dignity in Pakistan, demonstrated their commitment to positive change through this remarkable event.
At the forefront of this enlightening conference stood Dr. Abdul Ahad Kazi, an Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor at Tulane University and a respected ophthalmologist from Anniston, Alabama. Dr. Kazi’s steadfast commitment to community projects, including his innovative Iqra Math and Science Academy, which seamlessly blends Quranic education with the American school curriculum, embodies his dedication to holistic education. Supported by notable figures such as Dr. Aasim Sehbia, Mr. Tariq Siddiqui, and a group of friends, the conference was set up for resounding success.
The event drew an impressive attendance of approximately 250 guests, attracting participants from diverse geographical locations including New York, Seattle, Washington DC, and even Pakistan. While many attendees came from Birmingham, Anniston, Atlanta, and nearby cities, the conference’s influence extended far beyond regional boundaries.
Distinguished guest speakers from diverse backgrounds lent their expertise, enriching the conference with a spectrum of perspectives. Notable figures included Imam John Yahya Graff of MPH My Mualim Institute, Dr. Shahbaz Gill from the University of Illinois, Shaheen Sehbai, Senior Editor and Analyst, Dr. Moeed Pirzada, a renowned TV personality, vlogger, and analyst, Advocate Azhar Siddique, Najma Minhas, Dr. Muhammad Nisar ul Haq, Dr. Salman Ahmed, Atif Khan, and Asad Malik. The academic community was also well-represented, with Dr. Robert G. Blanton and Dr. Akhlaque Haque from the University of Alabama Birmingham’s Department of Political Science and Public Administration providing valuable insights.
The conference commenced with a captivating recitation of the Holy Quran in Arabic by Mr. Tajuddin Mwijage, a graduate student from Tanzania at Jacksonville State University. Verses about justice from Chapter 4, Verse 135, were shared, emphasizing the significance of upholding justice, even in the face of personal interests or allegiances.
Imam John Yahya Graff’s address delved into the Islamic perspective on justice and human rights, underscoring the Quran and Sunnah’s emphasis on these principles. Dr. Muhammad Nisar ul Haq provided a historical overview of Pakistan’s journey as an “Islamic Republic,” shedding light on its departure from its foundational values. Dr. Moeed Pirzada, in his keynote speech, explored the theme of “Pakistan: A Garrison State and its Implications,” discussing how this identity stifles dissent and impedes intellectual diversity.
Najma Minhas, the Managing Editor of GVS, delivered an eloquent presentation on Human Rights Violations and Injustice in Pakistan. The session concluded with Atif Khan and Asad Malik shedding light on activism and action through organized protest and political engagement.
The subsequent session featured an engaging question-and-answer segment, moderated by Dr. Moeed Pirzada. This interactive exchange facilitated a deeper exploration of the discussed topics. Dr. Shahbaz Gill provided thought-provoking insights into human rights realities in Pakistan, urging a reevaluation of the treatment of women and marginalized minority groups. Mr. Robinson Aziz Francis highlighted the plight of minority groups within the country, while Mr. Azhar Siddiqui offered a unique perspective on Pakistan’s constitutional crisis from London. Dr. Salman Ahmed’s poignant accounts of injustice against his family resonated with the audience, and he even uplifted them with songs he wrote in the past with his rock group a few decades ago.
In conclusion, the UAB conference emerged as a crucial platform for addressing the critical issues of injustice and human rights violations in the Muslim world, with a particular focus on Pakistan. By providing a stage for experts to share their insights, the event fostered meaningful dialogue and potential avenues for positive change. Collaboration and open discussion marked a significant stride toward shaping a more equitable future