South Florida News

August 3, 2006 by  


‘Tis the Season for Sports Tournaments, Some Thrive, Some Struggle

9th MYNA Tourney raises cash for Quake Victims, ISOM Tourney set for Aug.

It’s that time again.

While this year’s professional basketball season is well over, with local fan-favorites the Miami Heat crowned as undisputed champions of the basketball world, another, less formal athletic season is still underway for thousands of sports-hungry Muslim youth throughout the area.

This is the time of year when a string of youth-oriented basketball tournaments—some years old and thriving, others new and striving—now dot the landscape of summer months to provide an outlet for the energies of a growing young Muslim community.

Who leads the pack?

Well, on Sunday, Aug. 6, the Islamic School of Miami joined the fray with their first ever basketball tournament at the Kendall-area mosque, but last month the 9th Annual Muslim Youth of North America (MYNA) Miami Chapter Basketball Tournament was held on May 14 at the FIU Pharmed Arena (formerly the Golden Panther Arena), already setting the standard.

A summer staple for many area Muslim youth, the event was a success according to MYNA advisor and FIU college student Omer Subhani, with 20 teams in attendance to participate in its two divisions of juniors and seniors, girls and boys competition. MYNA’s remains the oldest continuing youth sports event in the area.

It was also successful in its other goal of raising money for victims of the Oct. 2005 Pakistan earthquakes, said Sarah Quadri, Subhani’s wife, an advisor to the youth group and also an FIU student.

Subhani and Quadri, newlyweds married last year but with deep roots in community involvement, are the poster-children for South Florida’s Indian-Subcontinental Muslim community, and their efforts range from helping organize youth athletics to charity work. Both interests came together at the tournament.

“I would say that it went very well,” said Quadri. “We had raised the price this year to get more funds for Pakistan and, Alhamdulillah, it paid off. We made about $2500 dollars. The basketball tournament is a very beneficial event because it raises money and awareness about the world just by playing basketball!”

The event included a four on four boys half-court basketball tournament and three-point contest. The juniors division was for ages 12-16, while a seniors division was for ages 17 and older. This year’s event also featured a new six-on-six girls’ volleyball tournament.

Teams have also taken to giving themselves some colorful names at the event.

“I played for Miami Masala, and we went all the way to the championship game and unfortunately lost,” said Humera Ali, another FIU student who took part in the girls volleyball contest. “The tournament was well planned and organized. I’m fortunate to have been able to take part in an event that supports a great cause. I hope to keep attending these tournaments in the future.”

Youth organizers for the event included recent high school grad Samia Quadri, one of Sarah’s younger sister.

When it comes to the Muslim community, activism has tended to run in the family.

Both Omer Subhani and Sarah Quadri are former MYNA youth who went on to become active at the Florida International University MSA and with the local Muslim non-profit, the Madinah Foundation, of which Subhani’s older sister Aisha is president. Omer Subhani, not so long ago just an eager participant in such summer youth festivities, now also teaches an adult study circle at the 18rd Street Masjid where his father, the late Mehboob Subhani, had been president of the board, and where his mother Dr. Zakiya Subhani is still a board member. He also taught a Friday school class for kids at the Islamic Foundation of South Florida in Broward, where Quadri’s mother Yasmin is Friday school principal and where her father, Waseem, is head of the construction committee.

Still with me?

The MYNA basketball tournament has become the largest of MYNA Miami’s local events, though the youth group’s name harkens back to a much more active time for what was once just a chapter of a larger Muslim youth movement.

Founded in the mid-80s in Indiana, the Muslim Youth of North America—youth wing of the Islamic Society of North America—quickly established itself as a strong youth group throughout the country, including active chapters in Florida by the early 90s. Hundreds of MYNA chapters dotted the nation, including dozens in its Region 7, including Florida, Alabama and Georgia. MYNA groups conducted a wide variety of events ranging from camps, conferences, meetings, study groups, social work, and sports events, among others.

The biggest MYNA event in the Florida region eventually became the annual “MYNA Olympics,” a large sports tournament held in different cities, throughout the state. In the years since the breakdown of the national and regional MYNA structures, the Olympics continued strong, and are still held annually, though now under the auspices of the Muslim American Society in Tampa—another Olympics offshoot tournament for eventually moved to North Carolina as a college tournament.

While the youth group’s national structure eventually dissolved—there are occasional attempts to revitalize it amongst ISNA leaders, who still hold a youth-organized MYNA program as part of their annual convention in Chicago—scattered MYNA local chapters throughout the country still continue to function, organizing youth work on a local level. Most of these groups no longer know of the existence of each other and work independently. Miami’s “MYNA Chapter” is once such group that has continued to offer local South Florida youth with programming throughout the years, with regular elections and activities.

But on the local level, by the late 1990s the paradigm was shifting, with the number of South Florida mosques exploding to over 20 centers and mosques spread throughout the area’s three counties. Fluctuating years of organization ensued for MYNA Miami—which was typically centered around parents and youth from mosques and Islamic schools in Miami-Dade area—as members passed through it and patronage from mosques varied year to year.

Meanwhile, former MYNA youth, still hungry for festive events, had reached college age and were organizing local MSA sports events, as well. Also, youth at other mosques also started to organize themselves into new youth groups, each with their own slate of activities.

In recent years, as the MYNA group’s nucleus of core membership half-shifted to include a number of attendees at the IFSF Friday night Islamic school program, their events have spread to both Miami-Dade and Broward counties. The usual summer MYNA Basketball Tournament takes place at the much more southerly location of the Florida International University Campus in Miami.

Today, there is a new reality for local Muslim youth work, and it is a pluralistic one. With local Muslim youth and college students accustomed to sports events, a number of basketball tournaments now exist in the area.

One such tournament for MSA’s is typically held at Broward’s NOVA Southeastern University. This summer also saw a new one for youth organized by new Muslim Youth group, the Florida Alliance of Young Muslims ( FAYM), based out of Broward and including a number of active West Indian Muslim youth in its leadership but also getting help from volunteers like Omer Subhani. That event went well.

Unfortunately, despite earnest effort from organizers, but perhaps due to a glut of such events, not all such efforts have been so successful.

Some parents and youth at the Islamic Foundation of South Florida also tried to get into the summer sports game this past month as they tried to organize the foundation’s first Summer Basketball Tournament on Sat., July 22 at the Coral Springs Gymnasium in Coral Springs, Florida.

The northern Broward County event was organized by also number of recently graduated youth active with local MYNA, including former MYNA president Asad Ahmad, of Broward, and college freshmen Nabeel Basit and Najam Wahid of Miami-Dade. Omer Subhani also helped spread word about this event.

Organizers hoped that the event was also far enough away from other local tournaments to help cast a wider net of community youth events.

But with mere weeks to go, no teams had registered, so a decision was made to cancel the event. Seven teams did eventually register, but only after the deadline had passed, when it was too late to save the tournament.

Finally, another new summer basketball tournament was organized by volunteers—a number of them also former MYNA youth—at Masjid Al-Noor/The Islamic School of Miami, much father to south in Kendall. A 3-on-3 tournament held at the mosque with a $15 entry fee and prize money for the winners, all other proceeds were donated to mosque construction. Want to know how it went? Guess who was sending out info emails about the event.

Yup.

Omer Subhani.

For more info on MYNA Miami and its activities, or any Muslim youth sports events, it seems, either email the group at mynamiami@yahoo.com, or Subhani at os21@aol.com. For more on the Aug. 6th tournament call HASEEB FASIHI: (305)382-2838 EMAIL: kingofbasketball23@hotmail.com.

New Asian Women’s Group’s efforts continue
Sahara gets Warrier woman to speak out

Nationally known speaker on South Asian women’s issue and domestic violence Dr. Sujata Warrier was in Miami for an evening discussion to explore the intersections of culture and domestic violence in the South Asian community last month on Tuesday, June 13. The talk was held at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Miami and was well-received, said attendees.

Warrier’s speech was organized by Sahara, a local group of predominantly South Asian women, many of them Muslim, who are working to set up support-systems for victims of violence and to create public awareness of domes­tic violence and healthy relationships in the Asian Communities of Miami-Dade.

Warrier has served as the President of the Board of Directors of Manavi, a sister organization to Sahara and Director of the New York City Program of the New York State Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence.

After receiving her Ph.D. from Syracuse University, Warrier went on to train professionals in various systems such as health care, law enforcement, criminal and civil justice and human and social services on the issue of domestic violence.

She also provides assistance on legislative and policy issues on battered immigrant women for state and national government and has delivered numerous keynotes on the issue of cultural relativism and domestic violence, and written numerous articles on violence against women in the international context.

Sahara is the result of local female advocacy org the Women’s Fund’s “Women’s Advocacy Project” or (WAP), aimed at nurturing grassroots women-led groups.

Sahara was created last year when WAP Director Sophie Brion was approached by Mohammad Shakir, Executive Director of the Miami-Dade Asian American Advisory Board, regard­ing several incidents of women in distress in the Asian community and the growing need for some kind of organized community based response. As WAP focuses on bridging cultural barriers to forge a collaborative agenda for improving the lives of immigrant women and girls, Brion eagerly accepted the task of helping to form the new interfaith and intercultural group.

In the Muslim community such cases of domestic distress had usually been handled informally and to the best of their ability by a loose network of women leaders in the community, many of whom are now Sahara members.

“The need in the Asian community stems from the rela­tive invisibility of these cultures in Miami. Asian women are off the radar screen of the average service provider, and the range of cultures and languages makes a culturally competent response to Asian women a chal­lenge,” reads a Women’s Fund write-up on the group.

In the short time since its formation, the Sahara’s volunteers have continued to meet, organize events, and receive instruction on the dynamics of domestic violence. Last year they took a tour of a shelter for battered women in preparation for beginning public awareness and outreach in their communi­ties and worked on workshops aimed at in­creasing cultural competency for service pro­viders and awareness of domestic violence amongst Muslim Community leadership, including religious leadership.

In addition to increasing awareness of domestic violence, the group’s volunteers hope to provide support for Asian women in need and serve as a resource to the wider community on Asian languages and cultural competence for women from places such as India, Pakistan, the Philippines and elsewhere.

“These women are recognizing their power to impact the lives of other women,” Brion has stated of the effort. “This empowerment in itself is changing lives.”

She called the recent Warrier lecture another “must-attend” event for those concerned with Sahara’s progress and said it was another accomplishment for the young women’s group.

In related news, the Women’s Fund also organizes a monthly Immigrant Women’s Information Exchange (IWIE) meetings to provide a cross-cultural forum where anyone interested in issues impacting the lives of immigrant women can gather to learn about existing programs and services and meet other people as referral sources.

At the most recent IWIE, held on Tuesday June 27, at the Camillus House Somerville Residences in downtown Miami, Beatriz Fernandez of the Miami Beach Health Center spoke about improving immigrant women’s access to healthcare.

More information on Sahara and IWIE can be found by calling Sophie Brion at (305) 441-0506 or emailing her at sophie@womensfundmiami.org

Local Muslim gets a positive profile in Herald

Miami Muslim pharmacist Shabbir Motorwala got more mainstream media attention than usual this month when he was featured in Miami Herald columnist James H. Burnett’s “Unbuttoned” column on Monday, July 17.

Entitled “Quiet man speaks out to all,” the piece described Motorwala in a positive light as being “on a mission to educate Americans on what it means to be a Muslim.” Motorwala said “it is my job, all our jobs, to help shape impressions of us.”

The piece was written in a Q-and-A format and featured seven questions and answers on topics ranging from Motorwala’s background—he is originally from Mumbai or Bombay, India—to his views on the recent Indian train bombings—his family in India was traumatized by them. Other topics covered included why he doesn’t like the media-favored label of “devout Muslim”—“What exactly does ‘devout’ mean,” asked Motorwala, “That you are more of a particular belief than someone else?”—and the complaint that terrorism committed by Muslims is always expressly described as “Muslim terrorism” in the media while the faiths of other faith-based terrorists who are members of other religions is often not mentioned if they are Christian fundamentalists, for example.

Though Motorwala said he doesn’t describe himself as an activist, he is no stranger to the local media spotlight or local Islamic or community work. He is an active member of the Miami-Dade County Asian American Advisory Board, the Universal Heritage Foundation, the Miami-Dade County Cultural Grant committee and a volunteer with CAIR. He is also a frequent letter-writer to local newspapers’ editorial pages, and has been published a number of times. Motorwala said he just wants to dispel misconceptions about Islam and point out the positive contributions it has made.

“Don’t make Islam synonymous with terrorism. You see killers on the news, but there are a lot of doctors and Muslims providing care for people. For example, my daughter Zarina is a fourth-year med student. For the first two years, she was working with Miami-Dade County to care for kids, and worked with the homeless. She still does these things with Project Downtown,” he said in the interview.

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