An Evening with a Fulbright Scholar
By Naomi Ahmad
His students say that he is more of a friend than just a teacher. He was named South Dakota Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education. It is the only US National program that recognizes excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring. A Fulbright Scholar, he was selected by the Faculty Senate as the Distinguished Faculty of the Year in 2007. And on Thursday 29th November he was there at Independent University, Bangladesh. He is Dr. Ahrar Ahmad, Fulbright Visiting Scholar at Independent University, Bangladesh.
Prof. Bazlul Mobin Chowdhury (Left) with Dr. Ahrar Ahmad
The School of Liberal Arts and Social Science (SLASS) of Independent University, Bangladesh marked the beginning of their Lecture Series on 29th Thursday with Dr. Ahrar Ahmad as their first guest lecturer. The small cozy gathering aimed to celebrate the success of its visiting scholar, Dr Ahrar, and officially inaugurate the Lecture Series. Dr. Ahrar spoke on “Muslim Groups in the US and American Foreign Policy”. Professor Bazlul Mobin Chowdhury, Vice Chancellor Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB), Prof. Omar Rahman, Pro Vice Chancellor of IUB, Prof. Nazrul Islam, Director of SLASS IUB, Dr. G.M. Shahidul Alam, Head of Media and Communication Department IUB were present at this event.
Ms. Farhana Afroz , Faculty of the Media and Communication Department of IUB welcomed everyone to the event. Prof. Nazrul Islam conducted the whole event and spoke on how this Lecture Series was the first of its kind for the School of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences in IUB and that he was most pleased to start of such a venture with Dr. Ahrar. The event also served a dual purpose - to welcome both Dr Ahrar and his wife Mrs. Hasina Ahmad to IUB and to celebrate the teaching successes of Dr. Ahrar.
On behalf of the Media and Communication Department, Dr. G.M Shahidul Alam welcomed his long time friend to the IUB. He also gave a short introduction to Dr. Ahrar's teaching experience, teaching honors and published works. Dr Ahrar Ahmad is a Professor of political Science at Black Hills State University, Spearfish, SD. He has been a teaching here from 1992. He received various recognition for his dedication and passion in teaching. He was selected by the Student Senate as the Outstanding Faculty member of the Year 2001-2002; was voted by the student body as Campus Dad in 1999, 2003 and 2005 and was also recognized as one of the two Outstanding Educators of the Year by the United Ministries 2004 apart from other laurels. Currently working on a book Judaism, Christianity and Islam: A Comparative Primer, Dr Ahrar has co-edited a book on NGOs and Bangladesh. He has published atleast 7 chapters in books in the US and in Asia, atleast 10 papers in peer-reviewed journals or as research monographs, atleast 10 book reviews and chaired sessions or presented papers in atleast 20 professional conferences.
The Vice Chancellor of IUB, Prof Bazlul Mobin Chowdhury warmly welcomed Dr Ahrar and his wife to the IUB family with bouquets of flower. At this point, Prof Shawkat Hussain, head of the English Department of IUB took this chance to welcome his childhood friend. "In a single lifetime if you have two friends, you are lucky. If you have one very good friend, you are luckier, " said Prof Shawkat Hussain while reflecting on his 50-year-old friendship, since 1958, with Dr Ahrar. Pro Vice Chancellor Prof. Omar Rahman also took this opportunity to welcome Dr Ahrar to IUB and convey how proud he felt to have him as part of IUB.
Dr Ahrar thanked everyone for their warmth and hospitality. He felt touched at their cordiality and in turn felt proud to be associated with the dedicated and talented professionals of IUB. And with that the Vice-Chancellor of IUB, officially inaugurated the Lecture Series. As everyone settled down, Dr Ahrar explained the background of his lecture: "Muslim groups in the US and American Foreign Policy".
He spoke on the Muslim presence in the US and the formation of different Muslim groups and organizations that influence the foreign policy of US. The first Muslims were brought to the US as slaves in 1717. Since then various Muslim groups are now present in different parts of US and Dr Ahrar spoke on how faith and identity were becoming more vital to the Muslim migrants in US. After the 2nd World War Muslim migration to the US was encouraged. Dr. Ahrar spoke on the different events that encouraged the surge of Muslim migrants from then on.
But how many Muslims are there in the US? Dr Ahrar mentioned how statistics tend to be influenced by the political interests of different groups. Muslims in US benefit by exaggerating their numbers while non-Muslims try to keep the number low. However, Dr Ahrar said that according to the most reliable statistic that he could find, he believed that there were 5.7 million Muslims in the US in 2005. This he felt would double over the next 20 years!
An idea of the demographic profiles of Muslims in US was given. Dr. Ahrar mentioned how Islam is a vibrant and increasing presence in the US. This is evident by the mushrooming of different Muslim student groups, organizations and different forums, which are all active. The Lecture ended after Dr. Ahrar discussed how these groups were influencing the US foreign policy. As an interesting evening with Dr Ahrar came to a close, it was evident why Dr Ahrar was such a celebrated Professor back in Black Hills State University in the US. He has the amazing power to inspire students and fellow teachers through the art of his teaching, the force of his knowledge and the passion of his convictions.
(Student of Media and Communication, IUB)
American English versus British English:
Owing to the colonialism of the British Empire, their language i.e. British English spread in many countries of the world. Likewise, as a result of the United States of America's invasive influence of power American English too is becoming popular in many countries of the world. Marv Rubinstein observes in his 21st Century American English Compendium that the 'pervasive couriers of culture: satellite television, movies, rock music; expansion of trade, industry, scientific development, popularity of American education and so on are responsible for spread of American English around the globe in the present century'. Keeping pace with the other nations of the world, Bangladeshi culture and education are also being influenced rapidly by American English as we have been in conspicuous touch with the USA since our independence in 1971. Since then many Bangladeshi people have been residents there as immigrants and a lot of our people are studying at US universities.
Because of these factors the students of the universities in Bangladesh cannot help reading American textbooks alongside British books. Most of our students know that American English differs a little from British English with respect to spelling and pronunciation of their words. But most of them hardly know the fact that notwithstanding the same spelling and same pronunciation, some words carry different meanings in American English and British English. Therefore, there is every possibility that sometimes foreign students may be baffled as to the meanings of some words.
For instance, when a motion is 'tabled' in the US House of Representatives, it is shoved aside, in effect killing it. In contrast, when the British Parliament “tables” a motion, it is put on the table for consideration. Another instance, in London, if a play is 'bomb' it is a huge success. On the contrary, in New York, if a play 'bombs' it is an abject failure. Moreover, “public” schools in England would be classified as “private” schools in the US. Again, in a court of judgment in US, the word 'enjoin' is used to refrain a concerned party from doing an action. Whereas, when the same word in a UK court is used, it is meant to carry out that action. The examples can go on and on.
So, it is interesting to note that the few differences between American English and British English mentioned here are, no doubt, idiosyncratic as both go by the name of English language. However, whatever it seems to us, languages will have their own features baffling or easily intelligible. What the users, especially the foreigners learning and using English, should do is to be aware of the meanings of the words in both the categories of English before using them.
Mohammad Rukanuddin is an Assistant
Professor of English at Bangladesh University