Dr. Basheer Ahmed – Psychiatrist, Social Activist and Humanitarian
Dr. Basheer Ahmed is a well-known and highly respected figure in the expatriate Hyderabadi and Pakistani communities of the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas. His life story is one of a highly motivated and hardworking immigrant who is uprooted from his land of birth and moves from country to country in search of a secure and stable life and a promising career. The fascinating journey ends in the US where the American dream becomes reality.
Dr. Basheer Ahmed’s epic journey from Hyderabad to Texas has been documented in his autobiography titled, My Story as a Muslim Immigrant in America: Psychiatry, Social Activism and Service. I found this book to be quite interesting, enlightening and easy-to-read. Many first-generation immigrants will be able to relate to and empathise with the experiences narrated in the book, just as I did.
Basheer Ahmed was born in Hyderabad in 1935 in a middle-class family. After completing high school, he studied at City College for two years and at Osmania University for another two. As a teenager, Basheer Ahmed witnessed the dissolution of the erstwhile Hyderabad State and the exodus of large numbers of its citizens to foreign lands. The emigrants were primarily Muslims who were uncertain of their future in a united India and felt insecure. A number of his relatives had already migrated to Pakistan. At the encouragement of his uncle who had moved to Pakistan, Basheer Ahmed left Hyderabad at the young age of 19. He sailed by boat from Bombay to Karachi – a journey that took three days to complete in those days when air travel was uncommon.
Upon reaching Pakistan, Basheer Ahmed realized that he had all along been living in a cultural and social cocoon in Hyderabad. His new country was brimming with diverse ethnicities, sects, languages, accents, cultures, and politics, but was united by a common denominator of faith. “Opening up to the diversity around me,” he wrote, “had a profound and lasting impact on my life, and it helped prepare me for moving further from home when I went to Europe to advance my education.” During the same time however, he started feeling disillusioned by the events that were unfolding in Pakistan – such as the imposition of martial law and the emergence of religious extremism. Before he left Pakistan, Bashir Ahmed completed five years of studies at the Dow Medical College in Karachi followed by a year of training.
Basheer Ahmed left for the UK in 1961 at the age of 25. Over the next six years, he underwent training as a psychiatrist, securing internships as well as a three-year residency program. He then set his sight on starting a career in the US. He obtained a visa as well as a job offer in the US, but before actually moving there he paid a visit to Hyderabad where he got married to his wife, Shakila – herself a medical graduate.
Since arriving in the US in 1968, Dr. Ahmed has served in professional practice as well as in academia. His life and career have spanned a remarkably wide spectrum of roles – as a psychiatrist, professor, medical director, administrator, public speaker, author of books and articles on mental health issues, service provider for the under-privileged, champion of Islamic heritage and culture, thinker, pacifist, and a leader of interfaith dialogue.
Dr. Ahmed’s first position in the US was as Medical Director at the St. Louis State Hospital associated with the University of Missouri. At that time up to five million patients in the United States were warehoused in mental institutions. President Kennedy's Mental Health Act provided incentives for reducing the numbers of institutionalized patients. Dr. Ahmed took advantage of the incentives and made many positive changes in the situation in St. Louis County by involving the patients, their families, and the community in implementing those changes.
Dr. Ahmed subsequently held managerial and faculty jobs as assistant professor and professor in New York City and Dayton, Ohio. Eventually, he and his family settled in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, where they have lived and worked ever since. In 1985, he started his own private practice, and after working in that mode for 20 years, retired from medical practice at age 70.
Most immigrant “success” stories revolve around a decent or even an enviable professional career which provides the lucky individual with a nest-egg for retirement. Dr. Basheer Ahmed was never satisfied with that kind of success. Having spent his entire career interacting with under-privileged and handicapped human beings, he developed an intense sensitivity to human suffering and to the meaning of life itself. He sacrificed countless hours outside of his primary occupation, through various initiatives, in making health and social services available to the less fortunate. He was especially mindful of the unique needs of the growing immigrant community in the DFW area.
In 1995, Dr. Basheer Ahmed was instrumental in founding the Muslim Community Center (MCC) for Human Services which was one of the first social service organizations in the country and the first charitable medical services organization in Texas for the Muslim community. With help from numerous volunteers, MCC established a hot line for people in distress; it later expanded in scope to include counselling for domestic violence and child abuse. In 2004, MCC opened its doors to people of all religions, races and ethnicity. Today, MCC has its own building, a medical and dental clinic, an array of educational programs, and a full-time staff of seven in addition to volunteer physicians and others who donate their time. After 24 years of operation, MCC continues to a beacon of hope for the under-privileged.
Dr. Basheer Ahmed founded the Institute of Medieval and Post Medieval Studies (IMPMS) in the aftermath of Islamophobia that followed the disaster of 9/11. The goal of the institute is to educate Muslims and non-Muslims alike about Islamic culture and civilization, and to generate a climate of mutual understanding and respect. The Institute has sponsored several conferences and lectures in this regard. Dr. Ahmed has co-edited a book titled Muslim Contributions to World Civilization. He laments the fact that Muslim intellectual pursuits progressively declined as “dogmatic and short-sighted orthodox scholars declared that scientific knowledge was less important than the divine wisdom necessary for salvation and eternal life after death”. He exhorts Muslims to embrace science and technology.
In 2013, Dr. Ahmed founded a third organization called The Institute of Quranic Knowledge and Religious Acceptance (IQRA) in response to escalating violence and sectarian mistrust within the Muslim world. By arranging community events and interactions at the grass roots level, the vision is to facilitate dialogue and build trust between different sects and faiths in order to safeguard peace and tranquility.
His wife is a radiologist and his son Sameer is an attorney in Dallas and Daughter Araj is an attorney works with United States navy
Dr. Basheer Ahmed maintains that he is proud to be a Muslim and proud to be an American. In him as a role model, the Hyderabadi community is proud of him as well.
M. Basheer Ahmed M.D
Chairman Emeritus - MCC for Human Services
Past President IQRA - A Dallas/ Fort Worth peace initiative
President IMPMS - Institute of Medieval and Post-Medieval Studies
Education, Research and Service to Humanity is the Greatest Worship