Jul 30, 2011

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A Point of Disorder

Salim Sachedina

April 7, 2007

             Last weekend (March 31, 2007) I attended the Toronto Jamaat’s Annual General Meeting after a long hiatus with the sincere hope that things have changed with the way the community is run. After all, there is the advent of the new breed: more educated and more attuned with the value of democracy, that has replaced the adamant, egotistical, bickering and narrow-minded previous generation.

To those of you who are not aware of how the Toronto Jamaat conducts its meeting, let me give you a little briefing. Our meetings are supposed to run like a session in a national parliament. We have a Speaker (a kind of referee in a football match) who conducts the meeting. He (so far, we have not elected a woman to take this post) has a couple of assistants who keep an eye on various attempts by the general to be recognized. He has a copy of the constitution and byelaws readily available in the event the proceedings are constitutionally challenged. It is quite amazing how he remains a step or two ahead of the normally headstrong participants.

Some one had an idea when we re-wrote our constitution that the only way to bring decorum to our institutional gatherings was to model it after a parliamentary session where one has a Speaker who chairs the proceedings and all questions are directed through him. The way the business of our nation is being conducted in our parliament these days, I wonder if it is a good model to emulate.

Some one forgot about the people in this equation. You can change your institutions; you can change your aims and objectives; you can even change the formality of how you conduct your meetings. But you cannot change the people and their attitudes. There is no constitution on the earth that “makes” good people.

Once in a while, the community strikes rich in its leadership, when we are blessed with intellectual sophistication of leaders like Ebrahim Shariff Dewji or the iron-fisted-getting-it-done determination of leaders like N.M. Nasser of Dar-es-Salaam Jamaat or the religious/intellectual prowess of leaders like Mullah Asghar. But we have no mechanism to produce such leaders and once they are gone, there is invariably a big vacuum that will take us years to fill.

There was an advanced Notice of the AGM, together with the minutes of the previous AGM, various reports and annual budget. The meeting commenced at 11:30AM and with a couple of prayer breaks went on until (I am told) 10:30PM. I was there until 2:30PM when I decided that nothing had changed during the years I was away. The older generation (I being one of them) was much more in the background.

The new generation had taken over and it was remarkable to note that some of them were as argumentative as their fathers before them.

They were raising the Points of Order to such a level as to make them the Points of Disorder. It is amazing to note that the more we change the more we remain the same.

In about a week or two we will have our election and the “Barbarians are at the Gate”. We will elect our new leaders for the next couple of years. From the delegates slates (there are several) that have been announced or discussed and evaluated in the underground world of this community, one hears the names of the same old self-serving, incompetent leaders who have served us in the past and have, together, built for us the monument of incompetence for the whole world to see – the Bathurst Project – not to mention millions of dollars of the well-wishers of this community thrown down the drain!

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