Frank F. Islam, a prominent member of the Indian American community and a businessman in the United States, hosted former Congress president Rahul Gandhi at his residence in Washington during his recent visit. Islam, who was born in Uttar Pradesh’s Azamgarh, is also a noted philanthropist and an alumnus of Aligarh Muslim University. In an Interview with Waquar Hasan, he talks about his purpose behind hosting Gandhi, his political views and his concerns for India.
- Why did you decide to host Rahul Gandhi?
Rahul Gandhi is an important and critical voice in Indian politics. His recent four months and 4,000 kilometers long Bharat Jodo Yatra energised his party tremendously. I thought it was important for us, Indian Americans and friends of India in the Washington, DC, area, to hear about his experience, ideas, and plans for the future of India. That’s why I hosted him.
- Some people are targeting you on social media after you decided to host Gandhi. How do you respond?
I see no reason to respond to this question.
- The ruling BJP has accused Gandhi of maligning India by talking of the issues concerning Indians outside the country. How do you look at it?
- It is not unusual for political parties to scrutinise the words and actions of leaders from rival parties, regardless of whether they are spoken or carried out within the country or on an international platform. Let me tell you: Opposition research is a lucrative industry in American politics. In this case, I am sure the Congress party has enough competent spokespeople who can convey their perspectives strongly and effectively.
- You do keep your eyes on the political situation of India. How do you look at it?
I do follow developments in India and frequently express my thoughts through my columns for various publications in the United States and India. I am a strong believer in Mahatma Gandhi’s ideal of an inclusive India where every Indian, regardless of religion and caste, is treated equally and with respect.
India is the world’s most populous country and the largest democracy; it is destined to emerge as a global leader. It is crucial that we ensure no one is left behind on this transformative journey.
- There are also concerns with regard to the slide of democracy. How is the international community looking at it?
As Rahul Gandhi and many other leaders have said the health and vitality of Indian democracy hold immense significance not just for India but also for the world at large. However, the choice of the path to be taken lies solely in the hands of the Indian people themselves.
In 1947, when the founding fathers of the country chose the democratic path, there were plenty of skeptics around the world who doubted whether a country with such a large, poor, and illiterate population could function as a democracy. But, over seven and a half decades, the people of India have proven them splendidly wrong. I am confident that the people of India will once again prove our current Doubting Thomases wrong.”
- Is the Indian diaspora divided along political or religious lines?
Even though we reside outside of India, our connection to the country remains unbreakable. India’s essence continues to shape our identities. The Indian diaspora reflects the diverse range of political differences and affiliations present within India itself. It is important to recognise that the diaspora is not a monolithic entity, but rather a diverse and multifaceted community.
- Besides being a successful businessman, you are also a successful philanthropist. What’s your inspiration in this field?
I have always been motivated by the dictum popularised by President John F. Kennedy: “To whom much is given, much is expected.” It resonates well with me and reminds me of the responsibility that comes with privilege or resources.
What’s your message to the people of India?
Let us actively work toward a strong and inclusive India by fostering unity, breaking down barriers, and treating every individual with respect and dignity. Let us create a society that celebrates diversity and provides equal opportunities. Together, we can bring transformative change and build a nation based on justice, equality, and compassion.