150 years ago in 1864 – during the peak of the American Civil War when Abraham Lincoln was the 16th US President, just a year away from being assassinated in Washington – Charles Forman, a Kentucky-born Presbyterian minister and missionary, established Forman Christian College (now a university) at Lahore. To mark that event, there was the first ever mini-reunion of Formanite alumni in North America, at San Antonio, Texas.
The informal event was generously hosted by the vivacious Sherry Chaudhry and her husband, Tariq, who was the President of the FC College Student Union in the early 1970s. The small gathering was notable for the presence of Professors Riaz Hussain and Athar Zia – both distinguished FCC graduates 60 years ago and, subsequently, teachers there – along with their wives, Atiya and Naseem. Their commitment to reconnect was commendable.
San Antonio is Spanish for Saint Anthony – a familiar name in Lahore because of its iconic school. It is the site of the Alamo mission where, in 1836, approximately 200 American defenders were slain following a siege and assault by Mexican troops led by General Santa Anna. It has now assumed a cult status in the American historical narrative.
San Antonio has a heavy Spaniard imprint, including buildings with Moorish arches, reminiscent of Muslim Spain, along with fig and pomegranate trees, brought over by Spanish missionaries in the 1700s.
On my return back to Washington, I was asked by elders of the Presbyterian Church (which owned, founded and, once again, owns FCC) to address their group on the tensions that roil Western-Muslim relations. It was an animated 3-hour discussion with a cerebral audience. Its moving spirit was Lorraine Nagy, a tireless advocate for harmony with Muslims and a critic of Western imperviousness to Palestinian sufferings, which she observed first-hand. 40 years ago, it was this issue that drove and dominated the epic 1974 Islamic Summit at Lahore.
Driven and fed by media punditry, Hollywood slant, and think-tank bias, there is, in effect, a one-sided view in Washington of issues that color Western-Muslim frictions. This raises a pertinent question. Does the political dysfunctionality of the US Muslim community create a culture which makes it easier for vested interests to project and reinforce negative stereotypes of Muslims worldwide? If so, the self-corrective epiphany has yet to occur. Thus far, the Muslim response of living in the West has oscillated between isolation and assimilation. Neither has worked.
There are negatives that remain unrebutted and major positives that don’t get presented.
Justice Christopher George Weeramantry, formerly of the International Court of Justice, in his seminal book, “Islamic Jurisprudence”, has conclusively proven that Islamic treatises, setting out principles of international law and human rights, preceded Western norms by 800 years.
The similarity of human spirit is a more sustaining force than dwelling on man-made differences.
FC College has stood the test of time, while being a veritable nursery of leaders in the Subcontinent. For 10 years, its past President, Peter Armacost, and his effervescent wife, Mary-Linda, gave their heart to Lahore and rekindled the Formanite legacy of service and fellowship. A legacy that lives on.

The writer is an attorney-at-law and policy analyst based in Washington DC. He is the first Pakistani American member admitted to the US Supreme Court Bar.

Email:mowahid@aol.com