By Danish Ahmad Khan
Frank F. Islam, an eminent Indian-American entrepreneur and philanthropist, was recently presented the prestigious Martin Luther King Jr Award. Popularly known as Frank Islam, the award has been bestowed on him to recognize his efforts in international service and civil engagement.
The award, named after Martin Luther King Jr, the apostle of peace and staunch follower of Mahatma Gandhi, is about building bridges between humanity. The award is given every year in recognition of the contribution to the legacy of the great leader. The award was first started in 1991 and has been given ever since to commemorate the memories of the famous civil right leader Martin Luther King Jr and the legendary Dorothy I Height and their impacts both at home and abroad.
Harry Johnson, President of the Memorial Foundation Inc, and one of the honorary vice-chairs of the event, presented the award to Mr. Islam. The award presentation cermony was held at Willard Intercontinental hotel in Washington D.C.
Azamgarh-born Frank Islam, who came to the United States as a student in the 1970s, in his acceptance speech, said, “I feel doubly blessed to be given this honor because of the indelible connection between King and that other famous civil and human rights leader from my homeland of India, Mahatma Gandhi.”
Mr. Islam said that both Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi had an indelible and enduring connection. “Both the leaders were beacons in my personal life, and charitable and philanthropic involvement. The award holds special meaning to me because of its emphasis on peace and non-violence,” he elucidated.
Mr. Islam recalled that Martin Luther King, Jr. had visited India in 1954 especially to study the non-violent movement and after his return to the United States he patterned the civil rights movement on the lines of Mahatma Gandhi.
“As an Indian-American, I am proud and humbled to receive this award which honours the memory of one great man directly and another indirectly. I have given to numerous causes to support humanitarian efforts and to advance the interests of the under-served in the world,” Mr. Islam said in his acceptance speech.
A distressed Mr. Islam lamented, “More lives have been lost in the past 100 years than at any given point in time. Whether it is in the name of religion, nationalism or any other extremist ideology, thousands are being killed every year.” He said that the time has now come to uphold human values and spread the message of non-violence, love and brotherliness among all human beings.
Frank Islam was born in 1953 in small Kaunra Gani village of Azamgarh town in Uttar Pradesh. He briefly studied in Azamgarh and Varanasi and then went to Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) for studies from where he did B.Sc. and M.Sc. (Mathematics). Later, he left the AMU at quite young age and went to the United States to study at University of Colorado in Boulder from where he completed B.Sc. and M.Sc. (Computer Science). He worked for few IT companies and simultaneously pursued his dream of becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Mr. Islam, a diligent, confident and a firm beleiver in himself, first started his IT business in 1994 with only $500. This was a particularly a bad phase in his life. With no insurance and options left, it was a huge risk. But he decided to go ahead always believing that there was a future. With a $500 investment and only one staff (himself) he grew his QSS Group and within 13 years it became a multi-million dollars company with several thousand employees. He finally sold the company for several hundred million dollars in 2007.
Frank Islam founded FI Investment Group LLC (FIIG) in 2007. He is presently heading this investment firm and is Chairman/CEO. The firm focuses on providing growth capital to emerging companies, as well as managing specialized and branded funds.
Frank Islam holds philantrophy dear to his heart and believes in giving back to the society and his coutry of origin India and the country which he presently calls him home United States. Mr. Islam created a foundation to help students facing financial hardships and unable to pursue their studies. Mr. Islam stresses on the paramount importance of education and says that it is a powerful equalizer that uplifts the people’s soul and gives them dignity and respect.
Apart from being an entrepreneur and philanthropist, Frank Islam has joined the team of President Barack Obama and wants to actively contribute in the politics of United States. He was deeply involved in the national finance campaign. Mr. Islam says that it is only through politics that you can have a voice, and an effective one to be heard. It also helps you carve a niche of your own and have a seat on the tablle, which is quite important.
Frank Islam is a stanch advocate of strong U.S.-India ties since both the counntries have a shared interest and commitment. Mr. Islam is deeply committed to enhace bilateral trade relations between the two countries and working hard towards it. He is extensively working to deepen U.S. engagement with India in terms of education. He also believes that energy is another significant area in which the two countries need to work together.
Frank Islam has a coveted position on various boards and committees. President Barack Obama appointed Mr. Islam to the board of Trustees of the Kennedy Center in 2014. He is also serving on the International Advisory Committee of the US Institute of Peace.
People like Frank Islam certainly make India proud. Prime Minister Narendra Modi should consider honoring Mr. Islam and bestow him with Padma Shri/Padma Bhushan award. India needs more illustrious sons like Frank Islam.
[Danish Ahmad Khan, a New Delhi-based Journalist, is Founder-Editor of India’s First Online Muslim Newspaper “IndianMuslimObserver.com”. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Mobile # +91-9990179721]