We recently caught up with Alhaj Anwarali Dharamsi, who was unanimously elected the new President of The World Federation of KSIMC for the 2017-2020 term. We were keen to find out what prompted him to stand for this role as well as his vision for the next three years. Read on to find out more about the new captain of our ship!
Q: What was your motivation for becoming the next President of The World Federation?
AD: My principal aim is to serve my community at a global level and share what I have learnt from my experience in serving my community in Africa over the past 14 years.
Q: You were President of Dar es Salaam from 2004 to 2010. Can you share what you feel were your main achievements and lessons from this period?
AD: By the Grace and Blessings of Allah (SWT), I was Dar es Salaam President for six years. My vision at this time was geared to renewing the infrastructure of the facilities, which were in a poor state at the time. Our main thrust was to expand our assets base, including housing development for the first-time homeowners and human resources training. I must say that the support and cooperation of the members of the community was of vital importance, especially in funding of the projects.
Q: After your term as Dar es Salaam President, you went on to become Chairman of Africa Federation for the term 2010 to 2016. What would you say you took away from this experience?
AD: Leading a region is much more complicated than leading a single community. First and foremost, it is essential to have dedicated people within the office and good teamwork between them in order to deliver the targeted aims and objectives of an Institution. Developing a clear and structured plan for delivery is equally important.
We achieved many things over the past six years, however, I believe the most important of all was that we were able to build confidence and strengthen relationships with all our stakeholders, particularly Madagascar. This alone broadened and strengthened our Federation because it resulted in Reunion Island joining as a new member of the Federation in 2013.
The other aim that we were dedicated to was to transform the Federation into a self-sufficient organisation through the introduction of investments portfolios. We have, Alhamdulillah, successfully achieved this, although the project will bear full fruit over the coming years, as these are long-term capital investments.
Q: Your current term will run till 2020. What do you and your team hope to have achieved by then?
AD: The first item on my agenda is to understand the current challenges we face. I intend to spend the first few months of my term fully studying the situation at hand. My team members and I will then try to come up with practical solutions. Based on this, we will establish our key objectives and be able to set definite goals for the next three years. Our efforts will then be directed to achieving the objectives inshAllah.
Q: From your many years in leadership, what do you see as the main issues within the Khoja Shia Ithna Asheri Community? And do you see the potential for solutions to deal with them?
AD: There are several challenges that face us as a community moving forward in the 21st Century. The ones that I feel need most urgent attention include Economic Sustainability, Religious Education, Islamophobia - especially in these current volatile times - and Youth Development. I also feel strongly about the need to retain our cultural identity within the boundaries of Islamic thoughts and ideals.
These challenges are not mutually exclusive issues and we need to have a clearly defined medium, as well as long-term plan for our community that will allow us to survive and thrive in the journey that lies ahead. The foundation of any plan of action would be to have an effective and committed leadership that has strong determination and good forward planning.
Q: A question that has always been present is whether The World Federation should prioritise Humanitarian Aid work or work within our community? How would you address this and balance these areas?
AD: My opinion on the matter is very clear. I believe The World Federation's priority should first and foremost be to assist our own community, especially in countries where there is little or no government support for social services and education, a prime example being Africa. We have had some major instability in this region as a result of which our communities there are facing numerous challenges. Housing development is one of the fundamental sectors, which needs our attention.
I don't argue that it is our social responsibility to support Humanitarian Aid outside our community, however, there is that fine balance that we need to draw and the priority should be based on our community first.
Q: Youth disillusionment is a global problem and it has touched us as well. How do you think we can involve our youth more in community leadership?
AD: The youth want to do something of value and purpose. They have always been part and parcel of our institutions globally. Education and training plays an important role in the development of our youth and the recent drive of Leadership Development and Skills training we have provided in several regions is aimed towards showing young people their own potential. Our youth fraternity are geared towards community and social services; it is the responsibility of our Jamaats to not only encourage them but provide them with leadership roles, especially in volunteering within our community.
Q: We are all very excited about Project North Star and where it can take us as an organisation and a community. Our survey prioritised Spiritual Upliftment as the main concern of our community. Do you have a plan for addressing this concern?
AD: The World Federation and for that matter, the Regional Federations have always embraced and given due attention and support in building spirituality within our community. This area has never been neglected or restrained. With the rising of information and awareness within our youth - given the new and advanced methods of communications - this matter has naturally become more profound.
For decades, the World Federation has given due attention to spirituality through projects such as the Madressah Centre of Excellence, Higher Religious Studies support, etc. Different people perceive spirituality differently; it is a question of individual mindsets and understanding.
We would like to say Jazakallah to Anwarali Dharamsi for answering our questions and giving us a preview of what lies ahead. We wish him the very best and look forward to a brighter, stronger - and more spiritually grounded - future!