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Community News (V13-I3)

January 6, 2011 by  


Photo exhibition highlights Muslims who saved Jews

TRIBECA,NY–Soho Photo Gallery will present a special exhibition by guest photographer Norman H. Gershman entitled Besa: Muslims Who Saved Jews During World War II. It will occupy all four exhibition bays in its downstairs gallery. Besa is a code of honor deeply rooted in Albanian culture and incorporated in the faith of Albanian Muslims. It dictates a moral behavior so absolute that non-adherence brings shame and dishonor to oneself and one’s family. Besa demands that one take responsibility for the lives of others in their time of need. This Islamic behavior of compassion and mercy celebrates the sanctity of life and a view of the other–the stranger–as one’s own close family member.

Photographer Norman H. Gershman traveled to Albania over a seven-year period to speak with the people involved and to record their stories and their children’s stories. He photographed them as they appear today, along with the artifacts he collected, and presents an emotional and unprecedented window into a forgotten aspect of history. Gershman is also the founder of The Eye Contact Foundation, which promotes religious, political, cultural and economic understanding and tolerance among people worldwide through the use of portrait photography.
Norman H. Gershman will discuss his work on Friday, January 21 from 6 to 9 pm at Soho Photo. All are welcome. No charge for admission.

New Nashville mosque attracts no opposition

NASHVILLE,TN–The state of Tennnesse has been in the news recently over opposition by some residents to a mosque  in Murfreesboro. But the renovation of an old movie theater in Nashville and conversion to a mosque has not seen any opposition.

A board member for the Islamic Center of Tennessee told The Tennessean there have been no protests so far as the sloped floors of what had been 10 theaters were being broken up.
The congregation has installed a new fire sprinkler system as part of the $200,000 renovation.

The newspaper reports the Nashville site is in a commercial district, while the one in Murfreesboro is in a residential area.

Muslims, Volunteerism and Community Spirit Unite in Basketball

Aamir Syed’s basketball league stands out from others in Orange County, California, in terms of organization, competition levels and prayer times.

“During that 10 or 15 minutes before a game, no one is allowed to shoot or dribble because it is basically prayer time … and they pray right on the basketball court,” Syed said.

Syed is lead organizer of Orange County’s Muslim Basketball League ( MBL ). Started in 2004 with eight teams, the league now includes 33 teams, with a minimum of eight players per team. In 2009, the league split into the Mecca division, for more skilled players, and the Medina division, for players at a recreational level.

“You have former college players, you had semi-pro players that have played in this league, and there are 7-footers in this league, all the way to kids still in high school who just want to play basketball,” Syed said.

Cameron Patton, head of Elite Officials, said the MBL is the best adult league he’s worked with in three years, very competitive and well organized. “My higher-level officials are the ones that I use for the Muslim league games,” he said.

The dedication of players and volunteers shows in the vast amount of information on the MBL website: player statistics — points, steals, assists, blocks — and podcasts by volunteer sportswriters who cover games. The league also has an all-star game that features slam dunk and three-point shooting contests, just like the National Basketball Association but without the limousines and celebrity parties.

Syed, who also plays for the Medina division’s NSANE, said the league’s growth has made efficiency essential.

“We have so many players that are playing that sometimes it is hard to keep stats,” Syed said. The chore requires about 10 volunteers. The fact that the volunteers also are fans can complicate things. Games are on Sundays, sometimes four at once. “If there is a big game, everybody wants to watch that game, and because of the volunteer basis it is just so hard to get people” to cover the other games, he said.

Playing at the American Sports Centers in Anaheim, the league is always searching for funds to rent courts, buy team uniforms and pay referees. Although registration fees are about $100 per player, Syed said the league barely covers expenses but that he will not raise fees because of the tough economy.

Malek Gulamrasul, owner of San Giovanni Pizza in Anaheim, has been sponsoring the MBL since 2007.

“I think that it is a great way to get the youth together and keep them out of trouble,” Gulamrasul said. “Basically, it builds character. Like any kind of sporting event, it encourages them to do the best at what they do.”

Divided into winter and summer seasons, the league grew out of a desire for young Muslim men to socialize while doing something they love.

“They figured, why not start a Muslim basketball league where Muslim guys can come together and do something that is competitive,” Syed said of MBL founders Hisham Labanieh, Baraa Kahf and Muneer Adhami. “If you are going to play sports, why not use some of that time interacting with other Muslims?”

Non-Muslims also play in the MBL. Teams must have one non-Muslim for every three Muslim players. Allowing non-Muslims to play broadens the league’s contacts with the community, brings in different talent and teaches others about Islam.

Michael Van Wyk is a non-Muslim player who has played in the MBL for four years, now with the Arabian Knights of the Mecca division. Van Wyk said playing in the league has taught him a lot about Muslims.

“I’ve been invited to some of their houses. I’ve come to iftar meals with them and learned about Ramadan,” Van Wyk said. “Just being around them, you learn so much. It’s been a good experience.”
Syed said players are held to “Muslim standards” on the court.

“Any cursing is a technical foul, and any form of fighting leads to an automatic suspension. And if there happens to be real fight, that player and that team are banned from the league forever,” Syed said. Incidents of any kind are extremely rare, he added.

Nader Nuru, who helps run the MBL and plays for Mecca division champions Intifada, said the league is poised for even more growth and someday might include teams from other parts of California.

“One of our goals as an organization is that we have pretty much established ourselves in Southern California, in the Anaheim and L.A. area, but the San Diego area and the Northern California area are places that we are looking to expand to within the next couple of years,” Nuru said. (Courtesy:america.gov)

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