Omar Samhan: A Big Fish Seeks a Bigger Pond

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Parvez Fatteh, Founder of http://sportingummah.com, sports@muslimobserver.com

omar-samhan Omar Samhan has always been a man amongst boys. At 6 foot 11 inches, he sticks out even on a college campus. But, as a basketball star for St. Mary’s University, he sticks out even more. And as a Muslim-American now in the national spotlight, there is no ignoring him.

Samhan grew up in San Ramon, CA, only minutes from the St. Mary’s campus. He is the son of an Egyptian father and an Irish mother. And he is also a Muslim student at a Catholic university, not to mention a basketball player with heritage from a country where soccer rules all sports. The paradoxes abound with Omar (not the least of which is his pre-game ritual of listening to the music of teeny-bopper Taylor Swift, as reported to Sports Illustrated!).

But when it comes to his game, everything is straightforward. Draftexpress.com writes, “Few players at the college level boast Samhan’s combination of touch and post instincts.” NBADraft.net describes him as “…A late bloomer that has shown steady development throughout his college career.” The other teams in the NCAA Tournament found this out first hand, as he put up 29 points and 32 points respectively, against higher-seeded Richmond and Villanova. And he’s no slouch on the defensive end either, as he was voted the conference’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Omar Samhan will spend the next few weeks helping NBA scouts figure out his pro potential. But Omar, a graduating senior, seems to have already figured out how to accomplish what his fellow Arab-American, radio personality Casey Kasem always preached, “Keep your feet on the ground, and keep reaching for the stars.”

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Edythe M. Abdullah Reappointed

March 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

edythe-m--abdullah2 Dr. Edythe M. Abdullah, 56, of Jacksonville, campus president of Florida State College at Jacksonville, was reappointed for a term beginning March 9, 2010, and ending January 6, 2015.

Dr. Abdullah began her career at Florida Community College as an admissions adviser in 1985. Since then she has progressed along the administrative career ladder from associate dean to dean to associate vice president and now campus president. Dr. Abdullah has served as Campus President of the Downtown Campus and Advanced Technology Center for six years. Her responsibilities include administrative oversight and instructional leadership for a campus that serves over 10,000 students from 119 countries with a wide variety of programs: adult literacy, high school completion, English for speakers of other languages, associate arts and sciences degrees, career certificates and continuing workforce education instruction. Additionally, this year she and her staff opened the first drop out retrieval charter high school in the State of Florida.

Dr. Abdullah earned a bachelor’s degree in religion from Valparaiso University and a Juris Doctor degree from the University of Florida. She holds a Certificate in the Management of Lifelong Education from Harvard University and was a Kellogg Fellow with the League for Innovation in Community Colleges. Dr. Abdullah has been very committed to community, state, and national leadership in areas for which she holds great passion and insight. In 2000, she chaired the Jacksonville Community Council’s study on adult literacy and its impact on economic development. Dr. Abdullah was inducted into Florida’s Adult and Community Educators Hall of Fame in recognition of her statewide leadership and support of adult education and workforce development. She has served on numerous national education association advisory councils, including the Presidents Advisory Council for the National Council for Advanced Technology Centers.

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Interview with Two Blind Muslim Pakistani Students, Imran Ahmed, Hina Altaf…

June 18, 2009 by · 2 Comments 

By Adil James, MMNS

DSC_0003r Speaking on the phone with Imran Ahmed, there is no way that a person could know that he is disabled, he has the same accent one would expect, and the same manners, but perhaps there is a gentleness to him, a mercy that has come to his heart from his illness. 

Imran Ahmed and Hina Altaf are brother and sister, although perhaps you might not know it from their names.  He is named after one side of the family, she after another.  And yet although they do not share a surname they share an unfortunate disease which has caused their blindness.

“We both have been blind since birth,” Imran explains, “we both have the same disease, none of our other family members have it–we both have light sections, light and dark, and we can tell how intense light is.  But we can’t see colors or shapes.  The disease is hereditary…  It is a very rare disease, and there are 2 cases every five years.” 

The two are studying at Carroll University in Waukesha Wisconsin, close to Milwaukee. He is 24, she is 25, and they hope to graduate next year.

“We were in Pakistan,” he explains, “my father’s cousin lived in Waukesha, and he suggested Carroll College–we applied and were accepted.”  After they found sponsors to help them, they came.

Despite their studies, they maintain contact with the Muslim community although such contact is difficult since they have to depend on others to bring them to and from the mosque, and since the Muslim community at their school is extremely small.

Hina - Comp 1 Imran explains, “Unfortunately it’s a very very small college, we are the only two Muslim students from Pakistan—there is another student that she lives up campus, we don’t have any Muslim student associations on campus.”

Although there are few Muslims, several people have been very helpful to the brother and sister.

“For at least one year into our stay, we didn’t know anybody,” says Imran.  “But one of our American friends brought us to the Islamic Center in Milwaukee,”  35 minutes away from campus.

Between the US and Pakistan, Imran explains, “there is a tremendous difference… in Pakistan, people don’t understand the meaning of a white cane–travel is difficult and dangerous.  There are potholes, there is always construction on the roads.  That hinders a lot of blind people from travelling.  The layout of roads is different.  Here there is always a curb so you know you are getting close–here there is a strategy to cross roads… things are a little better planned out here.  People have been more accepting here.  Even if people are reluctant to give you an opportunity, but there is always a hope that you will have an opportunity.  A lot of people of people appreciate and give you the opportunity to do things.”

Imran has optimism about his future–he and his sister both intend to build lives for themselves, each of them intends to work and marry as circumstances permit.
The difficulties they face, of course, make a mockery of the difficulties that many Muslims and others encounter–in order to study they must either find books in braille or find audio versions of their books–something which was nearly impossible in Pakistan.

Imran explains that he hopes to find a job in tech support or web design—”if possible, I would like to eventually move on to adaptive access technology, teach blind people, or sighted people how to use adaptive technology.”

And they would like to improve conditions in Pakistan for people who are not sighted.

“We want to start a Braille library, in Urdu,” and he wants to help to create OCR software for reading into Urdu as well.

To contact Imran: iahmed@carrollu.edu, or 262-305-9709.