Al Qaid Sets Records at Wheelchair Games

December 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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United Arab Emirates world champion Mohammad Al Qaid set two new world records and another Asian record on his way to three gold medals on the fourth day of the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation Games yesterday.

Al Qaid set new world marks in the 400 meter wheelchair (T34) and 1,500 meters, plus a continent’s best effort in the 800 meters to take his tally at the Games to four. The UAE team added nine medals yesterday — three gold, three silver and three bronze — to take the host nation’s medal tally to 37 — 7 gold, 14 silver and 16 bronze.

Al Qaid’s finished the 800 meters with a time of 1min 51.41 seconds, beating Australian Rheed McCracken and Thai Pichaya Kurattanasiri. In the club throw, UAE champion Souhaib Al Qasim came second with a throw of 22.40 meters, behind Poland’s Maciej Sochal, who took the gold with a throw of 27.61 meters.

The UAE’s Aisha Salem Bin Khalid won a silver medal in the discus wheel chair event with a throw of 10.65 meters, behind China’s Feixia Dong. This is the second medal for Aisha in the championship. Her teammate Thuraya Al Za’abi won the bronze medal in the shot put wheelchair event with a throw of 6.04 metres, behind South Africa’s Emily Zandile Nhlapo, who took gold with a throw of 6.81 meters, and Germany’s Marie Bramer, who got the silver medal with a throw of 6.30 meters.

In the 400-meter wheelchair event, Ayed Al Hababi clinched the bronze medal in a time of 53.79 seconds, behind China’s Huzhao Li, who finished first in 52 seconds, and Thai Pichet Krungget, who was first runner-up in 52.84 seconds.

In the shooting competition, Abdullah Al Aryani of the UAE finished second in the 10-metre air rifle (R3) event, scoring 700.3 points, behind Lorraine Lambert of Britain who came first with a total of 700.7 points. In the 10m air rifle (R5) event, the UAE’s Abdullah Al Hababi won the bronze medal with 700.3 points, while Iranian Akbar Alipour took gold with 702.4 points, and Great Britain’s Amy Hursthouse took silver with 700.8 points.

Tarek Bin Khadim, Deputy Chairman of the Organizing Committee and Chairman of the Executive Committee, commended the outstanding efforts of our athletes, particularly the great achievements of Mohammad Al Qaid, who broke world and Asian records in the 200- and 800-metre wheelchair event and another Asian record in the 800-metre wheelchair event, to prove that the double gold medal in New Zealand was not a once-off.

Bin Khadim said the achievements of the “Knights of Will” are the fruit of our leadership’s support of disabled sports, which provided them with all necessary elements to achieve success and excellence. He added that such achievements “will be positively reflected in the progress of our national teams as our champions prepare for new challenges, with a particular focus on the Paralympic Games in London 2012.” The IWAS World Games 2011 is the most important event for preparation and qualification before the team’s appearance in London next summer.

Bin Khadim urged the athletes to continue their efforts and win more medals in the remaining days of the IWAS World Games 2011, which saw historic success for the UAE in terms of both organizing and the many unforgettable moments and victories.

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Battle: 1757

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Anwarul Islam

evt100507085400060We’ve all heard the cliché: ‘A shot heard around the world.’ It refers to the start of the revolutionary war in 1775 that gave birth to United States of America.  In June 23 of 1757, about eighteen years before that shot, a similar incident of epic significance occurred in a not-so-known battlefield halfway around the world in India. That case, however, is known not for the firing of a shot, but rather its withholding. The outcome of the battle of Plassey would usher in the world in which we live today.

Plassey is a place in West Bengal of present day India. It is located about twelve miles north of the city of Kolkata. The battle that took place there was between Englishman Robert Clive of East India Company and nawab of Bengal Siraj-ud-daula. It was not a big battle. A few Englishmen and few hundred of the nawab’s soldiers were killed.

Instead, the real battle in Plassey was fought in a dark alley of intrigue and treachery, underscored by the incompetence of a young nawab. The actual details of the battle are unclear. Only one thing is certain: the shots that were supposed to have been fired for the nawab were not fired. The cannons under the command of his general, Mir Jafar, remained silent.

The battle mirrored the fractured, bickering ruling class of India at that time. The silence would change Bengal and India’s history. It would prove a definitive moment in world history and eventually pave the way for the domination of English speaking people in the world.

Robert Clive, later know as Baron of Plassey in England, became one of the richest person of England as a result of this battle. And that evoked some not-so-subtle jealousy from the established order of that time. He had to face parliamentarians to explain his actions. In his defence, he offered, “Consider the situation in which the victory of Plassey placed me.  A great prince was dependent on my pleasure; an opulent city lay at my mercy; its richest bankers bid against each other for my smiles, I walked through vaults which were thrown open to me alone, piled on either hand with gold and jewels. Mr. Chairman, at this moment I stand astonished at my own moderations.”

Mr. Clive did not mention about the silver of Bengal. May be he did not find it as glittering as the gold and jewels or it was stored in some other vaults. But for centuries silver and gold had found its way into Bengal as a result of its trading relation with the world. The Rupee, the currency of India, Pakistan and many other countries got its name from Rupa or silver as in known in many Indian languages.

Today, it is difficult to mention Bengal and wealth in the same sentence. At one time, however, Bengal was one of the most prosperous places in the world. Even after forty years of East India Company’s plundering, it still remained one of the two leading manufacturing centers of the world.

In 851, Arab Geographer Ibn Khurdabhbih wrote about his personal encounter with Bengal’s cotton textile and praised them for their superior beauty and fineness. These textiles of Bengal would attract merchants from around the world, who would buy its products in exchange for precious metals. Before the arrival of silver from the mines of Potosi in Bolivia of the New World, silver came from upper Burma-Yunnan mines which the rulers used to monetize their economies. In the middle of the first millennium, Bengal’s economy became monetized and silver coins became the medium of exchange.  Then the Portuguese came to Bengal in early sixteen century flushed with new world silver.

Eventually, the silver went back to Europe. Leadership of the world changed hands from Portugal and Spain to England with a brief interlude of Dutch hegemonic piracy. For the British, the taxes received from India’s peasants—who cultivated of fertile land in the Bengal Delta—would lubricate its economic and military engine. India became the captive market for British Industrial Products as punitive tariffs would destroy the local textile industry in order to make room for the products of Manchester. The directors of the East India Company became enormously rich and thus gained influence over governmental policies. As the parliament became stronger, the monarchy became weaker. 

On a military and political front, the victory of Plassey was the impetus for British mastery of the world. The British gained control of the saltpetre of Bengal, the indispensable ingredient of gunpowder. With Bengal under sole control of the East India Company, the French had to make do with an inferior domestic supply of saltpetre, resulting in a suit for peace in 1763. Ending the seven year war, it paved the way for the rise of the British supremacy in the world.

For the East India Company, the booty of Plassey was huge.  Two hundred barges loaded with silver and gold were floated from Bengal’s capital, Murshibad, to London. It is almost certain that the barges floated down the Ganges contained that silver the Portuguese brought in.  American historian Brooks Adams states a direct link between the industrial revolution and Plassey: “Very soon after Plassey, the Bengal plunder began to arrive in London, and the effect appears to have been instantaneous; for all authorities agree that the ‘industrial revolution’, the event which has divided the nineteenth century from all antecedent time, began with the year 1760.”

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A Saudi Arabian University with a Western Feel

July 17, 2008 by · 1 Comment 

By Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

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Artist’s rendering of a classroom at KAUST.  King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) will feature coed classes, a curriculum in English and other touches seen as dangerous liberalism by Islamic fundamentalists.

THUWAL, SAUDI ARABIA — Up the corniche, along a coast where boats carrying pilgrims bound for Mecca sailed for centuries, a thicket of cranes rises over whitewashed mosques along the Red Sea.

Steel flashes and blowtorches glow as 20,000 workers build a $10-billion university ordered up by a king who hopes Western ingenuity will revive the economy of this ultraconservative Muslim nation. When finished next year, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology will offer coed classes, Western professors, a curriculum in English and other touches loathed as dangerous liberalism by Islamic fundamentalists.

The West may be dependent on Saudi crude, now as high as $145 a barrel, but this campus outside an ancient fishing village is recognition that the country that is home to Islam’s holiest shrines needs the likes of USC, Oxford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to survive globalization.

An architect’s rendering shows a campus of canals and reflecting pools running along sleek silver and glass libraries and laboratories. A marina with slips for 140 boats stands in a cove lighted by a tapered beacon. Students and professors will live in villas and apartments looking out on date palms and furnished with eggshell and white Swedish-style sofas and chairs.

Saudis have studied in the U.S. and Europe for decades, bringing back expertise without directly exposing the kingdom to Western classrooms and professors. But the new university is inviting the secular West a step closer in another ideological battle between Saudi reformers led by King Abdullah and the Wahhabi sect of puritanical Islam that has resisted outside influences since the days of desert caravans.

“Saudis are beginning to realize they are not the center of the universe,” said Tariq Maeena, a writer and aviation expert. “The king hopes that a young Saudi will be in a class with an American professor. The king is jabbing the conservatives from all sides. He’s not doing it with a massive decree, but incrementally, and all the radicals can do is roll their eyes and say, ‘Uh-oh, we’re losing more power.’

“Amira Kashgary, a literature professor at a women’s college, said, “We are part of the global world now. Whether we like it or not, and regardless of our political and religious systems, there are changes seeping through our lives.

“The radicals ran a wicked Internet campaign against the university. They said it is another sign liberals are invading us.”

The kingdom’s huge oil reserves cannot mask Saudi Arabia’s problems: 40% of its population is younger than 18, its schools are backward and its economy is not diverse enough to compete in a high-tech future balanced between the West and the rising powers of China and India.

King Abdullah is building the university, along with six multibillion- dollar Economic Cities, to provide jobs and open the country to global markets. Conservatives fear that these international voices, from South Asian construction workers to Western scientists, will change the religious fabric.

“Men and women learning together should remain forbidden,” said Mohammed Ben Yehia Nogeemy, a member of the Saudi Juristic Academy, a religious organization that issues fatwas. He said that such an atmosphere could be regarded as sedition and “if any Saudi official has the intention to allow the establishment of a coeducational university, that will be a big mistake that will need to be corrected.”

But the king, for now, is a step ahead of the conservatives. Nogeemy was not in attendance on a recent afternoon when oil money seduced brainpower at a hotel along the Red Sea in Jidda.

Silver trays of hors d’oeuvres and alcohol-free champagne glided through a crowd of Western academics gathered for a conference on the university’s goals. Soldiers with Humvees and .50-caliber machine guns stood guard outside to scare away would-be terrorists, while inside mathematicians and molecular biologists tried on blue university ball caps and pocketed Lamborghini pens left on seats as gifts.

The university, known as KAUST, is promising academic freedom, the mixing of cultures and religions, and subjects as varied as nanotechnology and crop development. The country’s ubiquitous and often abusive morality police will not patrol the campus, depicted on the university’s interactive website with unveiled women. Going unveiled is a crime in Saudi society that could lead to lashings and imprisonment.

kaust artist's rendering KAUST will be “a new house of wisdom,” Ali Ibrahim Naimi, the Saudi minister of petroleum and mineral resources, told the guests. He said world research projects and the Saudi economy, with a 12% unemployment rate, would benefit from the “easy flow of ideas and people into and out of the region.”

To ensure that, KAUST is not under the jurisdiction of the Education Ministry, which is controlled by fundamentalists and often forbids the teaching of music, art and philosophy.

The project is overseen by Aramco, the Saudi oil company founded by US firms in the 1930s. Aramco has experience in creating a parallel world: In its gated communities in the eastern part of the country, alcohol is available but hidden, there’s a pee-wee baseball winter carnival, and Western women drive cars, a practice forbidden to Saudi women.

With a chocolate-scented cigar in one hand and a honey-flavored coffee in the other, Maeena sat in his favorite Jidda cafe, nodding hellos to young men with laptops and waiters who know his preferences. This is the world he likes, a place to write, a den of intellectual freedom in Saudi Arabia’s most liberal city.
He said KAUST, which is being built 50 miles north of the cafe, is another sign that the country’s religious and ideological barriers are weakening.

“It’s an act of opening us up to a better side of education,” said Maeena, who, like many of his generation, attended college in the U.S. “The West has planted those seeds of liberalism in me and thousands like me. We were young Saudis educated in the West in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, but this slowed as the seeds of fundamentalism took hold here in the 1990s.”

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