Lessons From The Mountain
25 December 2004
The New York Times
Washington DC: My father was a lawyer by education. In early 1949, he traveled from Srinagar in Indian-controlled Kashmir to Pakistan-controlled Kashmir for a week on business. When he got there, his travel documents were revoked. He was there for a year before my mother and the three youngest children, including me, were able to join him. An older brother, 8, and sister, 7, were in school and were left behind. We thought we were going for six months. It turned out to be 10 years. We lived completely out of touch with the outside - no letters or phone calls. Very early on I saw the major sides of the conflict. We lived at 8,000 feet, at the top of a mountain. The lowest level in Kashmir is 5,000 feet so it wasn't very high. Going to school was a hike. I'd pass trees and rocks and a spring. At the end of October it started snowing. The mountain is a great teacher. It teaches you to pace yourself. It was 1960 before we were allowed to go back to Srinagar without my father, who several years later was given a job at the 1964 New York World's Fair. The family remained behind in Kashmir. He sent me applications to Columbia and New York University. I was at Kashmir University studying English literature and political science. That year a relic containing hairs of the prophet Muhammad was stolen from the shrine at Hazratbal. I was playing cricket in Delhi for the Kashmir University team when it happened, and caught a plane home. I was sitting next to the late Richard Critchfield, a journalist, and took him around to the demonstrations, which lasted 13 days until the relic was found. Two million people in the Kashmir Valley were demonstrating their outrage. A year later I left to study at New York University. I lived in Queens and also had a job in a factory that made something to do with showers. I had no experience in work. I was assigned to the foreman and to this day I still have no idea what I was supposed to do. After a few weeks, he gave me my check and said, 'Please don't come in on Monday.' I said, 'All right, I'll come in on Tuesday.' It took me a while to realize that I was being fired. I was very upset. I saw an ad for a bookkeeper at a printing company on Church Street near N.Y.U. They asked me if I had done any bookkeeping, and I said, 'Of course I have.' Then one of the partners handed me a ledger and an adding machine. The office was two partners, a young lady who was the secretary, a man who did the printing and me. When they left for lunch the secretary came over and said, 'Do you know anything about books?' She taught me in an hour. While I was at school and also at the printing company, my grandfather, who was an antiques dealer, sent me 15 baskets of Kashmiri handicrafts - woodcarvings and papier-mâché, with instructions to sell them and send him the money. I set up Kashmir Products Ltd. in my studio apartment and made my first sales to Bloomingdale's and the United Nations Gift Shop. I marketed the handicrafts part time for nearly a decade. I met my wife in college in Kashmir. You couldn't date, but when I came here we started a cautious correspondence. We decided to get married, but I didn't have the right papers to travel back to Kashmir, so we got married by telephone in 1968. We didn't want a big wedding, but my father, who had returned home, said, 'We will have a big traditional Kashmiri wedding because my son is getting married.' The wedding went on for three or four days without me. My wife joined me several months later. I completed my graduate degree in business and began working at Bear Stearns, and then went to work for New Court Securities, which is now called Rothschild Inc., the banking and investment firm. At Rothschild, one of my associates knew the president and chairman of Ethan Allen, Nat Ancell, who was interested in Kashmiri hand-embroidered fabrics. In 1973, he wanted me to join the company, and I said, 'How about a partnership?' I named it KEA International, for Kathwari Ethan Allen, and began manufacturing lighting fixtures for Ethan Allen. When he asked again if I would join Ethan Allen, I told him the one reason was to take his job. KEA merged with Ethan Allen in 1980. I became chairman and chief executive in 1988.
Kelly Maicon, Ethan Allen, 203-743-8575
Megan Fowler, Refugees International, 202-828-0110 x214
Refugees International Elects Farooq Kathwari, Chairman, President & CEO of Ethan Allen, As New Chairman
James V. Kimsey, Founding Chairman of America Online, Now Chairman Emeritus
New York, NY -- Refugees International (RI) announced today that Farooq Kathwari, chairman, president and CEO of Ethan Allen Interiors, Inc., was elected chairman of the independent advocacy organization. Mr. Kathwari follows James V. Kimsey, founding CEO of America Online, who will remain on RI's board of directors as chairman emeritus.
Refugees International generates life-saving protection for refugees and displaced people. It was among the first organizations to publicize the death and displacement in the Darfur region of Sudan and the first major refugee and human rights organization to accuse the government of Sudan of genocide in Darfur.
"We are extremely pleased to have Farooq Kathwari accept this new role and to honor James Kimsey for the commitment he has made to Refugees International," announced Kenneth Bacon, president of RI. "Farooq is an exceptional leader whose first-hand knowledge of refugee issues along with his results-oriented business acumen will be a great asset to our organization. He will continue Jim's program to strengthen RI's advocacy voice." Mr. Kathwari will be the fifth chairman of the 25-year old Washington-based organization.
Mr. Kathwari, who came to the United States in 1965, has served on the board of directors of RI for six years. He was born in Kashmir and has a refugee background. He became president of Ethan Allen in 1985 and helped to grow Ethan Allen into a highly successful international home furnishings company with 12 manufacturing facilities in the United States and more than 300 stores in North and South America, the Middle East and Asia. Mr. Kathwari is also leading a campaign to foster unity among people of all faiths. Through the Kashmir Study Group, he has played a leading role in promoting a peaceful dialogue between India and Pakistan over Kashmir. He has received numerous awards for his peace efforts including the International First Freedom Award by the Council for America's First Freedom, the National Human Relations Award from the American Jewish Committee and the American Muslim Achievement Award from the Islamic Center of Southern California.
"I am proud to accept this position and look forward to increasing the impact of Refugees International around the world," Kathwari said. "My experience has shown me that displaced peoples need Refugees International to bring the world's attention to their needs. This organization truly saves lives."
Mr. Kimsey joined RI's board in 1996 and became chairman in 1999. During his five-year tenure, he visited Bosnia, Timbuktu and Cambodia to assess refugee repatriation, land mine removal and other human rights concerns. After becoming chairman emeritus of AOL in 1996, he created the Kimsey Foundation whose mission is to level the playing field for Washington's disadvantaged youth through education and technology. He has also founded and served on the boards of a number of successful businesses in the Washington, DC area, and was named Business Leader of the Year by Washingtonian magazine in 1994.
"Farooq is a terrific choice to lead this organization," said Kimsey. "I look forward to working with him as we continue to fight for the world's most vulnerable people."
Refugees International is a 25-year-old organization that generates lifesaving humanitarian assistance and protection for displaced people around the world, and works to end the conditions that create displacement.
MIM: Farooq Kathwari recently spoke at a CAMP (Council for Advancement of Muslim Professionals) event which featured Islamists like Zaid Shakir and Salam Al- Marayati
|Session Summaries |
|Not only are Muslim professionals rising through the ranks in mainstream corporations, they are also breaking out of the corporate mold establishing businesses and ventures of their own. This panel will spotlight the achievements of our panelists, and also the challenges they have faced along the way. How and why they do what they do, and the lessons learned from their successes and failures. What does it take to succeed at the individual level; Why is our presence in business and entrepreneurship so important; and what do we need to do as a community to support and nurture each other. These and other questions will be addressed and discussed.|
| ||Moderator||Fu'ad Butt (New York Life)|
| ||Panelists||Omar Amanat (Amanat Capital), Shahed Amanullah (Halalfire Media LLC), Sajjad Chowdhry (Zayan Finance, Dinar Standard), Afzaal Akhtar ( Interactive Broadband Consulting Group ) |
|More North American Muslims than ever before are beginning careers in the fields of law and nonprofit advocacy. As they do, they are finding a growing, increasingly sophisticated network of peers and mentors to support them. Panelists will discuss their career choices, including how and why they chose their particular areas of focus, as well as the lessons they have learned from their successes and not-quite-successes. Panelists will also discuss the direct and indirect ways they engage in advocacy and activism, and whether they believe doing so is essential for all members of the North American Muslim community. |
| ||Moderator||Umbreen Bhatti (ACLU)|
| ||Panelists||Salam Al Marayati (MPAC), Shakeel Syed (Shura Council), Nasrina Bargzie (ACLU) , Asaad K. Siddiqi (Walder, Hayden & Brogan), Arif Hyder Ali ( Crowell & Moring LLP's ) |
|How are we supporting young Muslims as they develop their religious identities in North America and the rest of the world? How do we impart young people with the skills they need to be proud of their identity and be active citizens? This panel will focus on organizations, individuals and corporations that are building the capacity of young people - through education and through engagement with the broader community. We will discuss the key projects of the panelists, and what motivates them to engage in this work. We will also discuss ways that we can all be involved in shaping the young people in our community.|
| ||Moderator||Zeenat Rahman (IFYC)|
Shamil Idriss (Alliance of Civilizations), Rubina Siddiqui, Maha El Genaidi (ING), Sajitha Jahangir (Kaplan), Sameer Shariff (Impelsys Inc)
|Since the dawn of Islam, Muslims have been credited with scientific advances in fields including, Astronomy, Mathematics and Chemistry. More recently, technology is one of the fields of engineering that Muslim professionals in North America have been closely associated with. As we near the end of the first decade of the 21st century, technological advances continue to fuel innovation and have become an integral component of the global economy and our daily lives. This panel will seek to leverage the diverse experience of panelists to provide an assessment of the opportunities and challenges Muslim professionals face in this field. The panel will focus on emerging trends in technology and how young Muslim professionals can take advantage of these trends to advance their careers and further their influence in their communities.|
| ||Moderator||Zafar Iqbal (E*Trade) |
| ||Panelists||Mona Diab (Columbia U), Farooq Azami (JP Morgan), Arshad Matin (SeismicMicro Tech), Murad Pandit (KSK Development LLC & The Plan Source LLC) |
|Media is a powerful tool for positive change. In the past 10 years, Muslim presence in the media and communications world has significantly evolved. Muslims in North America have gone from having little to no presence to becoming the center of talks, conferences, books, articles, op-eds, TV shows and debates. |
Despite the progress that we have made, Muslims are still under represented in the media.
This panel focuses on how important it is for Muslims to understand the importance of good communication; and of pursuing media/communications based professions. This panel will also discuss how - through strong communications - we as Muslims in North America can help dispel myths in media, and myths about Islam.
Our diverse panelists represent different aspects of media and communications, and are all providing Muslims with a voice - both in the mainstream and within our own communities.
| ||Moderator||Miral Sattar (Time Inc.)|
| ||Panelists||Firas Ahmad (Islamica), Saba Ali, Salam Al Marayati (MPAC), Shahed Amanullah (Halalfire Media LLC), Shamil Idriss (Alliance of Civilizations) |
|In recent years in North America, there has been an increasing focus on social responsibility, volunteerism and philanthropy. Concurrently, the number of civil society and non-profit organizations has increased, as has interest from the private sector and private individuals to become involved. This panel will discuss North American Muslims, their involvement and their contributions in this sphere. Topics to be discussed include: What motivates the corporate sector or private individuals to donate money, or partner on projects? How have secular and religious non-profits been able to harness interest in this sphere to meet their missions? What implications does this have for North American Muslims and the Muslim world?|
| ||Moderator||Shireen Zaman (Vital Voices)|
| ||Panelists||Salim Manzar (Princeton Advisory Group), Sayeeda Mirza-Jafri (One Nation), Shakeel Syed (Shura Council), Omar Amanat, |
Yousef Abdallah(Islamic Relief)
|Healthcare||Traditionally, Muslim healthcare professionals have built careers focusing on the science of healthcare. Today, an increasing number of Muslim professionals are building careers with a focus on the business of healthcare. The healthcare panel will discuss our community's science-to-business transition. The panel will also discuss the opportunity to build a healthcare career either with a large enterprise or an entrepreneurial venture. Furthermore, given the large number of Muslim professionals working in healthcare, the panel will discuss how we can assist fellow Muslims in realizing individual career goals as well as our potential as a group.|
| ||Moderator||Atif Chauhdry (Healthcare and Legal Services staffing)|
| ||Panelists||Hassan Mohaideen (Health Plan Systems), Dalia Mahmoud (Roche, MFPA), Saadia Akhtar (Beth Israel Hospital), Sameer Shariff (Impelsys Inc), Umair Khan ( GE Healthcare) |
|Banking and Finance||The field of Finance has only recently been elevated to the status traditionally reserved for Medicine, Law and Engineering amongst Muslims.
In light of this new-found interest, our panel will attempt to examine: the breadth of the field; entry opportunities and career options in the field (as individuals and as Muslims); challenges and leadership in Finance - how to excel in a field where Muslims are a (growing) minority; and Islamic Finance - current state of this niche, its recent expansion and growth potential.
Our panel includes senior professionals with leadership experience in alternative investments, Islamic finance, trading, private equity, investment banking, retail banking, equity research and wealth management.
| ||Moderator||Mohammad Abdul Aziz (Macquarie Capital)|
| ||Panelists||Naveed Siddiqui (Zayan), Saquib Toor ( Centerbridge Partners ), Shakil Ahmed (Citi Group), Shireen Qadri (Pilot Advisors L.P), Usama DeLorenzo ( Saturna Capital ) |