Shooting Erupts in Hama Before Arab Visit

December 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mariam Karouny

2011-12-24T130622Z_661044096_GM1E7CO1MID01_RTRMADP_3_SYRIA

Men pray next to the coffins of people killed at security sites on Friday in two car bomb attacks, at the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus December 24,2011 in this handout photograph released by Syria’s national news agency SANA. The United Nations expressed grave concern about twin suicide car bombings in Damascus and condemned the attacks that killed 44 people and lent a grim new face to the uprising in Syria.

REUTERS/Sana/Handout

BEIRUT (Reuters) – At least seven people were wounded on Wednesday in the Syrian city of Hama when security forces used live ammunition and tear gas to disperse a protest against President Bashar al-Assad, just a day before a visit by Arab peace monitors, a rights group said.

Live pictures on al Jazeera television showed gunfire and black smoke rising above a street in Hama as dozens of protesters chanted: “Where are the Arab monitors?”

Arab League monitors checking if Syria is ending its violent crackdown on popular unrest are due to visit Hama on Thursday. In its footage, al Jazeera showed one man bleeding from the neck as others shouted in the background.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the protesters were heading towards Orontes square in the city centre for a sit-in at the symbolic location where demonstrations were crushed earlier this year.

Security forces were not visible in the Jazeera footage. Unarmed protesters, some masked, were heard shouting “Assad forces are shooting us.” The protesters then began chanting: “Freedom for ever” and “We will have our revenge on you Bashar.”

Reuters could not verify the details as Syria has banned most foreign media from the country.

Hama, 240 km (150 miles) north of Damascus, has particular resonance for Syrians. The city was the site of the biggest massacre in the country’s modern history.

Troops overran Hama in 1982 to put down the armed wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, which made its last stand there. Up to 30,000 people were killed, many of them killed in an army bombardment or executed in the streets by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad’s’ father, the late Hafez al-Assad. Parts of its old city were razed to the ground.

Twenty-nine years later Hama demonstrators demanding the overthrow of Bashar still revile the memory of his father, who died in 2000 after ruling Syria for three decades.

FREEDOM CALL

In the Jazeera footage, the protesters began cursing Hafez’s soul immediately after the gunfire was heard, before rushing to hide in alleyways.

A few looked out to shout a defiant freedom call before disappearing into hiding again. The shooting intensified, then one man shouted out that snipers were now operating in the area. Dozens of men squeezed themselves in an alley, chanting anti-Assad slogans.

“There is no turning back from the revolution,” they shouted.

Hama was among the hardest hit cities in an escalation of military attacks against urban centers where anti-Assad protests had been held.

In August, tanks attacked Hama for ten days, provoking Arab and Western outrage, after weeks of protests that drew hundreds of thousands of people to Orontes Square. Authorities said the operation was necessary to cleanse the city of “terrorists” according to the wishes of Hama inhabitants.

On Wednesday, part of an Arab League team went to a flashpoint area in the city of Homs but some of their planned tour was blocked when gunfire erupted, activists said.

Residents of Homs’s Baba Amr neighborhood initially refused to cooperate when the monitors arrived with an army escort and the team withdrew. But activists said a smaller group of monitors returned without the officer and were escorted by residents and activists on a tour of the turbulent district.

But the monitors could not enter an area where residents said they believed detainees were being hidden because gunfire erupted. It was not clear where the shooting came from.

“Residents were accompanying the team to the area to show them where they believe detainees are being held when suddenly there was gunfire near the checkpoint,” said Rami Abdelrahman, of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

(Editing by Giles Elgood)

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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

index
 

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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Nuri Sahin Finally Makes Real Debut

November 10, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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

Nuri-SahinTurkish midfielder Nuri Sahin finally took a bow with his new soccer team Real Madrid this past weekend as part of their 7-1 blowout of fellow Spanish club Osasuna. His debut was delayed by a knee injury, after having signed with the club this past summer from Borussia Dortmund. He admitted to being nervous prior to his debut, but he received a warm welcome from the crowd as he was introduced as a second-half substitute.

Sahin, who was a key figure in Dortmund’s Bundesliga title success last season, told the club’s website: “It’s been a great day for me. I wish to thank everyone at the Santiago Bernabeu, my team-mates, the manager and the president. I must now work hard to be able to help the team.

“I’m very happy for playing my first game with Real Madrid. It’s been difficult being injured. I was a little nervous before coming on because it was my first match before the fans. I felt confident and happy after a couple of minutes. We must continue to work hard because we will face difficult games after the league break.”

Real extended their lead at the top of the Primera Division of Spain’s La Liga to three points after their blowout victory, coupled with rival Barcelona’s 2-2 draw at Athletic Bilbao later in the day.

It was a big day for another Muslim footballer on Real Madrid as well, as French striker Karim Benzema scored twice. Superstar Cristiano Ronaldo added a hat trick. The one negative note was the injury sustained by Angel Di Maria. The Argentina winger was forced off with what the club described as a hamstring injury, having set up all three of Real’s first-half goals.

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Community News (V13-I45)

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Ahmed leads Wisconsin Badgers to victory

URBANS,IL–The University of Wisconsin Badger’s cross country team won the 2011 Big Ten Championship. Leading the team was junior Mohammed Ahmed who set a Big Ten meet record with his 8-kilometer time of 23 minutes, 18 seconds.

Born in Somalia, Ahmed moved to St. Catharines, Ontario, eight years ago with his parents and three younger brothers. During high school, he started to make a name for himself in cross-country running and track by competing for Canada at national and international junior championship meets.

He came to Wisonsin on an athletic scholarship and has won several honors.

Zikria Syed, CEO, NextDocs

Zikria Syed,  is the co-founder & CEO of NextDocs, a software compliance management company. He is responsible for overall management of the company as well as guiding the business and product strategy for NextDocs. His company was recently ranked as the 13th fastest growing company in Phialdelphia by the Phialdelphia 100 list.

Previously, as CEO of Broadpeak, Mr. Syed successfully led the company to market leadership of clinical trial management software. After Broadpeak was acquired by DataLabs, he served as Vice President of Product Management & Collaborative Solutions. Prior to Broadpeak, Mr. Syed held several senior technical and management positions at Microsoft Corporation and Siemens Medical Systems.

Mr. Syed holds a Masters of Science in computer science from Drexel University and Bachelors of Science in Computer Science from Lock Haven University.

Grant to help ties between Muslims and non-Muslims

NOVATO,CA–The San Francisco Foundation, Silicon Valley Community Foundation, Marin Community Foundation and Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) are partnering with the One Nation Foundation over the next two years to strengthen relationships between Muslim and non-Muslim communities in the Bay Area.

These Bay Area community foundations and AAPIP have been investing and working with Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim and South Asian (AMEMSA) communities over the past decade and are taking part in this new small grants fund to:

Strengthen relationships among and between American Muslims, non-Muslim partners, and their neighbors by creating welcoming, safe and inclusive spaces and opportunities for them to partner with each other on common community concerns.

Increase the civic participation of American Muslims by supporting inclusive partnerships to address key community issues.

Organizations in Marin that are interested in applying for a grant can learn more at the One Nation Bay Area section of the foundation’s website. Applications will be accepted starting November 7.  This new fund will make grants up to $10,000.

Faith communities in Canada address climate change

OTTAWA,CANADA–Faith leaders, politicians and members of the public gathered in Ottawa from Oct. 23-24 to address global warming, responding to a broad interfaith effort to call attention to climate change as a moral issue.

The meeting highlighted a letter, titled the “Canadian Interfaith Call for Leadership and Action on Climate Change,” signed by representatives of Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Baha’i and ecumenical groups, according to a news release from the Canadian Council of Churches, which organized the Ottawa event. The Muslim signatories included Imam Hamid Slimi and Mobeen Khaja.

Responding to the letter, participants discussed the values necessary for a sustainable economy, the challenge of climate justice, and climate change “as the root of a spiritual crisis,” according to the release. The letter was prepared for the U.N. Climate Change Conference, also called COP-17, to be held from Nov. 28 to Dec. 9 in Durban, South Africa.

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Gentlemen…Start Your Engines!

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

“Automobiles are not ferocious…. it is man who is to be feared.”

~Robbins B. Stoeckel

lewis-karting_32_m-680x454As further evidence that the global economic turndown has not affected most wealthy Arab nations, give or take a couple of debt-riddled locales, a new endurance motoring activity will be taking place in Kuwait City at the end of this month (November 24-26). Courtesy of “Gulf Run”, who has brought some of the most mind-jarring motor races to the region, the newest moto-sport is called “The 26 Hour Endurance Gulf Run Karting” Race. Basically, it pits man against machine in a breathtaking 26 hours around the track to see who can withstand the endless circling, keep up pace with other drivers without crashing and go on to claim that checkered flag.

With a $4,300 price tag per team, the karting race is neither for the financially challenged nor the faint hearted. Registration is currently open for teams and the ticket price includes the use of a twin engine Honda Pro Kart for the duration of the race, spare parts, pit crew area, gas and other fluids, use of the track and access to a full-equipped medical team on site as well as the fire brigade just in case of any mishaps on the track. Teams can be made up of up to 12 drivers with a minimum of 4 drivers per team. Each team is allowed to wear their own logo emblazoned t-shirts and can even cover the car with sponsor’s decals, however such marketing efforts count as “out of pocket” costs.

Safety during the course of the event is of the utmost importance to Gulf Run organizers. The rules stipulate that all drivers must be 18 years old and have a valid driver’s license. Each driver will also be given special instructions regarding safety features, the rules and proper conduct expected during the race.  The UK Marshalls will oversee the event in accordance with current FIA regulations. Teams who ignore safety rules or intentionally interfere with the course of the race will be disqualified.

The course will be set up at the Mishref fairgrounds and a special village will be ready by race day to tend to the needs of both drivers and spectators alike. According to the Gulf Run website the 26 hour endurance race will require, “… mental and physical preparation and of course a good strategy within your team is the key to success. If you join to have fun, to do something new, or to compete professionally, it will be an amazing adventure you will never forget. See you at the track.”  Blogs and local media outlets will be covering the event, which is the first of its kind in Kuwait.

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Qureshi and Bopanna Win Stockholm Open

October 27, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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

France Tennis French Open

India’s Rohan Bopanna and Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi  won the Stockholm Open men’s doubles tennis title with a convincing 6-1, 6-3 victory over Brazilians Marcelo Melo and Bruno Soares here on Sunday.

It was the top-seeded India-Pakistan pair’s second ATP World Tour title of the season following their victory at the Gerry Weber Open in June and their third title overall as a team. Bopanna and Qureshi are ranked seventh overall in the ATP men’s doubles team rankings, and they added 250 points after their win, thus improving their chances of qualifying for the Barclays ATP World Tour. There are three remaining spots in the eight team field of the season finale to be held in London next month.

“It feels great to have won our second title of the year and this is the best way to keep ourselves in contention for a berth in London,”announced Bopanna.“Bopanna and Qureshi were the better players from the first to the last ball today. They initiated quite early in the game and Melo/Soares couldn’t quite hang with the pace,” said Tournament Director Thomas Johansson.

After the match Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi thanked his partner and the support of the Pakistanis in the audience.“We hope to come back next year and win the title again,” said Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi after the match. Qureshi and Bopanna are next scheduled to play in the Valencia Open 500 in Austria.

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Iran Leads Group for World Cup Qualification

October 24, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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

2011-10-11T195221Z_2103853166_GM1E7AC0AZF01_RTRMADP_3_SOCCER-WORLDThe Iranian national soccer team crushed Bahrain 6-0 to stay atop Group E of the Asian World Cup qualifiers this past week. Jalal Hosseini, Mojtaba Jabbari, Hadi Aghili, Andranik Teymourian, Karim Ansarifard, and Gholamreza Rezaee all scored goals for Iran in the 22nd, 34th, 42nd, 62nd, 75th, and 83rd minutes of the game respectively.

Over 80,000 cheering spectators watched the match at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium.

Iran is in the first place in Group E with 7 points, as they are trying to rebound from not qualifying for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. They are followed in the group by Qatar, which has five points, and Bahrain with four points. Indonesia is in the fourth place with zero points in a group that consists, coincidentally, of entirely Muslim countries. The 2014 FIFA World Cup will take place in Brazil.

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Bangladesh Ends Losing Streak Against West Indies

October 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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

In his first match as Bangladeshi national team captain, Mushfiqur Rahim led Bangladesh’s cricket team to their first Twenty20 International victory in 12 matches, taking the squad from the front with 41 not out on their way to a three-wicket home win over West Indies on Tuesday.

Rahim replaced Shakib Al Hasan as captain and hit a six off paceman Ravi Rampaul in the penultimate delivery of the last over, taking Bangladesh to 135-7 after they had restricted West Indies to 132-8.
The hosts had been set for a cliffhanger finish with 20 runs needed in the final two overs on a sluggish Mirpur wicket, but Rahim and Nasir Hossain took 14 runs in the penultimate over to bring the equation down to six runs in six balls.

Rampaul conceded only two runs in his first four balls before Rahim’s huge six over mid-wicket made the home crowd scream with joy.

The defeat was hard for Marlon Samuels, who scored 58 off 42 balls with two fours and four sixes to give West Indies some respectability before celebrating his return to international cricket as a bowler with 2-14.

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Pakistan Awaits Boxing Championships

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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

boxing in pakistanThe Pakistani national boxing team, led by Haroon Khan, younger brother of junior welterweight champion of the world Amir Khan, has trained and is ready to take part in the World Boxing Championships scheduled to be held from September 25th through October 8th in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Three Pakistani boxers and three officials will depart from the country’s southern port city of Karachi for Azerbaijan on Thursday. Secretary of the Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF), Akram Khan indicated that Haroon Khan would directly reach Baku from London to join the Pakistani team.

The younger Khan will compete in the 52kg category, Mohammad Waseem in the 49kg category, Syed Mohammad Hussain in the 56kg category and Aamir Khan in the 64kg category. The boxers who qualify for the quarterfinals of this event will qualify for the 2012 London Olympics. The PBF secretary expressed optimism that the four national boxers would get at least a couple of berths in 2012 London Olympics by performing well in the world event.

None of Pakistan’s boxers were able to qualify for the Beijing Olympics in 2008. Prior to that, Pakistan had five fighters – Mehrullah Lassi, Sohail Baloch, Asghar Ali Shah, Faisal Karim and Ahmed Ali Khan- competing in the 2004 Athens Olympics, but none advanced beyond the second round of the competition.

Pakistan won their only Olympic medal in boxing at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul when Syed Hussain Shah brought home the bronze medal in the men’s middleweight division. The 2012 Summer Games in London present a great opportunity for Haroon Khan to win a medal for the country of his heritage, Pakistan, and to shine in front of his adopted country, England.

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Hillary Clinton Speaks at Eid ul-Fitr Reception

September 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Hillary Clinton

Ben Franklin Room

2011-09-01T141308Z_1393267109_GM1E7911PY301_RTRMADP_3_LIBYA-CONFERENCE

File: Hillary Clinton in Paris September 1, 2011.

REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

SECRETARY CLINTON:  Thank you, Farah.  Thank you.  Well, I am a wannabe athlete – (laughter) – and I have absolutely no claim to being anything other than that, but I am delighted that this evening we are going to be honoring some young people who truly are athletes and who are carving their own futures in the history of our country.

So good evening everyone.  Eid Mubarak.  And thank you, Farah, for your tireless efforts on behalf of the work that brings you not only to this podium but around the world.

It is a delight to see so many ambassadors from countries that I have visited and know well and to see many familiar faces here again, particularly some of the youth leaders that we honored at our last Iftar dinner.  The problem with Ramadan in August is it was impossible, and so we thought, well, it’s September but we’re going forward.  And so I thank you for your understanding and your being here once again.

Now, I’m told that there are two members of Congress with us, Representatives Keith Ellison and Sheila Jackson Lee, and I send a special word of welcome to them.

As Farah said, you can see through the lobby and the Diplomatic Reception Rooms some of our history of presidents affirming America’s respect for Muslims and Islam dating back to Washington, Adams, and Jefferson.  And we celebrate that history, and particularly today we wanted to celebrate sports and athletic competition.  Whether it be the Olympics or the World Cup, the human drive to run faster and climb higher is universal, and universally celebrated.  And it’s also a way by which talent rises to the top, ability is what matters, and people are treated equally.

And that’s part of the reason the State Department sponsors sports exchange programs and sends sports ambassadors around the world.  And for all the athletes joining us this evening, you may never have thought of yourself exactly as a role model, but you are.  And you are not only to the students that some of you visited earlier today, but to so many beyond.  And all Americans take pride in your achievements.

Now, we have some household names as well as some who will be household names.  World champion boxer Amir Khan flew all the way from London to be part of this celebration.  Where is Mr. Khan?  Thank you so much for coming.  (Applause.)

We also have a number of women athletes who are here.  When Ibtihaj Muhammad fences in her hijab, when she trains 30 hours each week without missing a prayer, she’s thinking about winning and she’s thinking about the London Olympics next year.  Where is Ms. Muhammad? 

Where is she?  Right there.  (Applause.)  But I think it’s fair to say that, as her mother has said, many people feel pride and recognize that she is representing more than just herself in her endeavors.
Now, not everybody will go to the Olympics, but even weekend warriors can get some satisfaction out of this.  And I hope many of you were able to watch the new documentary we screened earlier.  And we are joined by the coach and four members of the Fordson Tractors  from Dearborn, Michigan, as well as the filmmakers.  Where are all of them? 

That was such a great documentary and a great story.  (Applause.)

And I hope everybody gets a chance to meet our athletes here tonight, but that film highlighted the exceptional circumstances that the team faced, that they wanted to train hard and stay healthy while keeping the requirements of Ramadan.  And so like every other high school team, they geared up for football practice in August this year with two-a-day practices, except they took the field at 11:00 p.m. and finished around 4:00.  And that takes special dedication, special dedication to both your sport and your faith.

But what stood out to me is how familiar the team and the players ultimately are.  The image of the pregame huddle and prayer could’ve been filmed at any high school in America.  Shoulder pads and helmets crowded the locker room, and big-game nerves were somewhat evident on your faces, I have to confess.  But despite the extra burdens they carried, at the end of it, it was Friday night football for a team of champions.

Now, we can’t pretend that there have not been difficulties and division.  In fact, the Fordson documentary tells the story of the religious tensions in Dearborn, Michigan.  But the power of America has always been anchored in our ability to come together and move forward as one nation.

This weekend, we will mark the 10th anniversary of September 11th.  And we all lost something that day.  In the ashes and the aftermaths, we knew that we had lost Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, men, women, young, old.  And a decade later, that unity that we felt must continue to inspire and guide us.

I’m very proud that in our country, despite the challenges, we do honor the freedom of religion.  Too many countries in the world today do not, or they make it difficult and even dangerous for people to try to exercise their religion.  So as difficult as it may be, the fact that we get up every day and keep trying is a real tribute to all of us.  So at this time of celebration and reflection, and as we mark the end of Ramadan and the beginning of a new year of renewal and possibility, I hope we can recommit ourselves to the common cause of spreading peace, prosperity, understanding to all the people of the earth.

Now I wanted to introduce two of our athletes so that you could hear  from them directly.  Ephraim Salaam has played in the NFL for over a decade, but some of you may know him best for his memorable Super Bowl commercial last year.  (Laughter.)  And Kulsoom Abdullah is a weightlifter, forging the way for Muslim women athletes to maintain their freedom of expression and still compete at the highest level. 

Please join me in welcoming first Ephraim and then Kulsoom.

(Applause.)

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Edin Dzeko Named English Footballer of the Month

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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

9685373_95ior3Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko has been rewarded for his sparkling start to the new football season by being named Barclays English Premier League Player of the Month for August. The 25-year-old Muslim from Bosnia and Herzegovina has scored six goals in City’s opening three matches, including goals against Tottenham in a 5-1 win on the road last weekend.

Dzeko started slowly with Manchester City after his £27million move from Wolfsburg in January. He arrived at Man City with a reputation as a prolific goalscorer, with 85 goals in 138 appearances for former German champions Wolfsburg. But it took him three months to score his first Premier League goal, and he finished the season with only six goals in 21 appearances, a goal total that he has already equaled in the new season in only three appearances.

In an interview with The Mirror this past summer, Dzeko admitted that he arrived at City in a troubled state of mind, his head scrambled by the protracted nature of his move. He also admitted to struggling initially to adapt to the pace and physical nature of the Premier League. “I was sick of all the talk about the transfer,” said Dzeko. “It had got to my head a little bit [by the time he arrived at City]. But still I think I had some good games and scored some important goals. I was new in the team and it was a hard season. It’s always difficult to come to a new club midway through a hard season like that. But I know what I have done in the last six months. Now it’s my second season and I want to do better. Manchester City didn’t pay money for me because they saw me once on YouTube or something like that. They saw me scoring good goals. I haven’t forgotten how to score goals and I will show that next season. Every player needs time to settle in and get used to things; from the league to other players – everything. But I’ve had a full pre-season with the team now, which I think is the most important thing for any player, and I’m working hard. We’ll see what happens. But I know this season will be much better.”

“The Premier League is different,” said Dzeko. “The players are much stronger and much faster. After a few games when I first came, I realised the referees don’t whistle for many things. It’s not like that in Germany – with every small contact there’s a foul. In England it’s different and you’ve got to get used to all those things. It’s now behind me.”

Now Dzeko looks to have constant competition for playing time on a high-profile team such as Manchester City, with this summer’s arrival of Argentinian striker Sergio Aguero, and the recent addition of fellow Muslim Samir Nasri. But Dzeko seems undaunted by the competition.

“There’s always competition in football,” said Dzeko.”I don’t think about that, though. I know what I can do. I do my best in training and I think I train very well…The manager is telling me all the time ‘I believe in you’ and ‘just work hard’, which is what I’m doing.”

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Get a “K-Lue”

August 18, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, TMO

It’s the new gaming ritual that is bearing down on Kuwait like a hungry dog chomping down on a juicy bone. By all appearances, K-Lue is a heart-pounding and fast-paced treasure hunt that takes place in commercial complexes, malls, beaches and parks all over the country.  It bears a very close resemblance to reality television shows like Survivor and The Amazing Race. However, it is growing much larger than anyone expected and is certainly set to change the face of adventure gaming in the region.

The mastermind behind the new gaming venture is a 22- year old Kuwaiti Entrepreneur named Dhari Al-Moawad. Through his website, www.K-Lue.com , Al-Moawad unites people from all walks of life to participate in a mind-jarring game of K-Lue. Clients, who choose the preference “Welcome Stranger,” will be pitted against perfect strangers and will be a part of teams comprised of total strangers. The other option, and most popular, is for clients to be teamed up with their close friends or relatives.

The object of the game is the same as it is with a traditional treasure hunt. Each team is given a set of clues and a fixed period of time in which to find them. The team that finds all of the clues, or at least the bulk of them, wins. The prize is a shiny gold-toned medal and the satisfaction of being the winner. Teams must utilize their own transportation, know-how and bravado to get from one point to another when searching for each clue.

Al-Moawad is very active in his gaming venture and even hides some of the clues himself in various places around Kuwait. “I am so involved that I’m always unconsciously thinking of riddles and every place to me looks like a big maze. Once as I was driving, I spotted sign language for the disabled and I immediately wanted to incorporate that into my next game. This way I get to constantly innovate as well as learn about various communities and cultures.”

The best part about K-Lue is that clients determine the level of game play and even the timings. Reservations can be booked online according the number of players or teams and even according to gender. The future looks very bright for K-Lue as Al-Moawad plans to expand his gaming venture to other countries in the Middle East. “I’m trying to launch a treasure hunt between regional countries. For instance, it would start in Kuwait and end in a neighboring country. We’re still working on the logistics of that one though I’m also eyeing a concept right now which is more individualistic and complex than K-Lue,” he shares.

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Saints Sign Quddus from Fordham

July 28, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

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

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File: Lehigh’s Michael Colvin scoots past Fordham’s Isa Abdul-Quddus.

Fordham University safety Isa Abdul Quddus has been added to the New Orleans Saints’ list of undrafted rookie free agents.  Quddus is a 6’ 1” 200-pound safety that played four seasons for the Fordham Rams.  Quddus started out playing cornerback for Fordham but was moved to safety entering his senior season.

Quddus led the Rams in total tackles in 2010 with 70 stops.  50 of his tackles were solo stops, and he also had six pass break ups and three forced fumbles in 2010.  Quddus also returned one kickoff for the Rams for 29 yards during his senior season.

Per his biography on the Fordham University athletic department website, Quddus is a graduate of Union High School in Union, New Jersey where he lettered in football and track. He was a First Team All-County and Second Team All-State selection in football as a senior. He was named to the New Jersey Coaches Super 100 Team. In his high school career he made over 100 tackles in both his junior and senior season. On the track team, he won the county championship in the 100m as a senior (10.9). He also took third place in the 200m (22.6). He was named First Team All-County in track in 2005.
Sports Illustrated describes his positives: “Athletic safety prospect who is at his best defending the run. Breaks down well, strong at the point of attack, and wraps up tackling. Quickly breaks to the action out of his plant, physical, and works hard to get involved and make plays.”

Sports Illustrated further states, “Abdul-Quddus possesses the size/speed numbers to play at the next level and has shown enough football skills to be given looks in camp this summer. He must quickly pick up his play in coverage though, as he’s often a liability against the pass.”

Isa is a Business Administration major. He has one sibling, a brother named Rafiqu.

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ISNA Convention Chicago

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Top Moments From 48th Annual ISNA Convention

ISNA Press Release

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The 48th annual ISNA convention has come and gone, and thousands of attendees from across North America were able to learn, laugh and reflect. From July 1-4 in Chicago, convention-goers learned from some of the most influential Muslim icons in the West, on topics ranging from social pluralism to racism and classism to Islamophobia, and more.

Whether attendees were taking part in the ISNA, MSA, or MYNA programs, sessions followed the main convention theme: “Loving God, Loving Neighbor, Living in Harmony,” in an effort to illustrate how the merits of integration and social harmony in America are in line with Islamic spirituality and inspire community members to respond proactively to discrimination with patience and initiatives to promote tolerance.

The four-day convention-the largest Muslim convention in North America-had many great moments, lessons and events. Too many to count, in fact. But here are the Top 11 highlights of the 48th ISNA convention:

1. Hathout, Mattson, Esposito and Shakir on Social Harmony. 

At the Friday night main session, “Islam, Pluralism, and Social Harmony,” speakers Maher Hathout, former ISNA president Ingrid Mattson, John Esposito and Imam Zaid Shakir addressed the importance of a peaceful, pluralistic society, and the social movement needed today. Their reflections on the topic set the tone for the rest of the weekend, illustrating the main theme of social harmony.

Mattson urged others to have a positive attitude toward religious diversity.

“Allah [swt] in the Quran tells us that it is His will that there should be religious  diversity in the world,” Mattson said. “This is Allah’s choice. … He could have chosen it to be a different kind of world.”
Imam Zaid Shakir said he believed what is needed now is a social movement within the Muslim community.

“Our community has proven that we can live with other people,” Shakir said. “Our challenge [now] is to build a social movement to enhance values in our own community and then just share those values with others. Our movement should be of grace and rehabilitation to show that we have something to offer this country.”

2. Tackling the “difficult” topics head on.

There are those topics that, perhaps in our local masjid community, are often shied away from, brushed under the rug, or aren’t given the proper attention or depth of discussion needed. The majority of the sessions this weekend were chosen by ISNA members, so many were not the run-of-the-mill topics, but were instead those that are often “uncomfortable” but extremely necessary today to bring to the forefront.

Convention-goers attended sessions from topics ranging from substance abuse and addiction to Muslim women in the military, to how to respond to Islamophobia and anti-Sharia sentiment, to the need for many of our mosques to be more inclusive.

3. All the Muslims. 

Let’s face it: ISNA is the largest Muslim convention of its kind in all of North America. And seeing thousands upon thousands of Muslims from all over the country flock to one place in an effort to learn more about their faith, network, reflect, and learn how to be a more active citizen or a better Muslim, is awe-inspiring.

“As a first time ISNA-er, the number of Muslims from all over for one weekend is what is amazing to me,” Zaynah Qutubuddin said.

Another perk to being the biggest Muslim convention? ISNA-goers are able to see old friends.

“Probably one of the best things about my weekend was seeing the faces of people I haven’t seen in nine years or so,” one convention-goer said.

“I got to spend time with friends from D.C., Chicago, Boston and California, all at once. I never would have been able to see them otherwise, and I look forward to seeing them at the ISNA convention every year,” said Dalia Othman, of Detroit.

4. Learning more about the faith.

The contemporary sessions of the weekend were remarkable, but some convention-goers are also looking for a revitalization of their faith, to learn more about Islam and be inspired. One of the breakout lessons that left a strong impression with attendees was the MSA session, “Inner Whispers: Defeating Satan’s Playbook” with speaker Wisam Sharieff, who addressed ways to fight temptation and strengthen one’s bond with God instead.

“One thing he said that just completely opened my eyes was how we should start any form of speaking with either alhamdallah, subhanallah, or la illaha ila Allah,” said Khalid AbdelJalil, of Villa Park, Ill. “[Sharieff] said by starting with that, it could stop us from things like getting into arguments or gossiping. It was tips like that that I think are going to make a big difference in my day-to-day.”
For some, sessions like this were a reminder of the importance of spiritual learning, and how the convention is a chance to learn as much as possible in a short amount of time.

“It truly reminded me of why I came to ISNA and reminded me of how special I am to be a Muslim, alhamdallah,” sai Lama Musa, of Chicago.

5. Entertainment Night.

Native Deen, Muslim country singer Kareem Salama, poet Mona Haydar, and musician Najam Sheraz headlined Entertainment Night on Sunday evening. The crowd got to sing along to their favorite Native Deen songs, and old and new fans of Kareem Salama’s music were able to finally see the artist in a rare Chicago appearance.

“When Native Deen got on stage, I felt like I was a little kid again,” said Haneen Waheed, from Indiana. “They’re an exciting, thrilling, amazing and talented group, mashallah. They really got the crowd going-I had a blast.”

She also caught Kareem Salama’s performance for the first time. “He was like a rock star country singer!”

6. Sheriff Leroy D. Baca & Keith Ellison.

Baca’s testimony at the controversial hearing led by Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) was key in highlighting the baseless singling out of Muslims, and turned him into a veritable hero to the Muslim American community. His appearance at ISNA’s “Loving God, Loving Neighbor, Living in Harmony: Building Bridges Through Caring” session showed attendees his support for the Muslim community, as well as other faith communities.

“We will defend all religions at all times,” Baca told attendees.

Following Baca was congressman Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who closed the session with a rousing speech asking the Muslim Americans to be active in the arenas of social and economic justice.
“Get ready to help your country, help your country revive the economy, help your country say liberty and justice for all to include all and help your country to relate to the rest of the world,” Ellison said. “All these strengths are on your table, all these things demand your attention. But I believe you can do it if you put your mind to it.”

7. Islamic Film Festival.

Whether you’ve been dying to watch “Mooz-lum,” “I am Here,” or “The Deen Show,” it was all available for screenings at the Islamic Film Festival that showcased some of the latest and most critically-acclaimed films by and about Muslims.

The big weekend crowd-pleaser was the documentary “Fordson,” about the Fordson High football team and what happens when Muslims play football. It also helped that the “stars” of the film were there for the screening. Film creators talked about the making the film and gave the audience a “behind the scenes” look, team members took photos with fans, and the team coach threw a football around with kids at the bazaar.

“I kept fighting with myself-I couldn’t decide if I wanted to go to a lecture or sneak back to the film festival and watch another movie,” said Samira Mohommad, of Chicago. “’Fordson’ was great, gave a really strong patriotic message, especially on fourth of July weekend!”

8. Health Fair.

At a time when more than 46 million Americans lack health insurance, the free health screenings at the convention health fair were a welcome offer, and had an almost constant stream of traffic all weekend.

Along with health screenings, testing for blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, and even dental health screenings were available on site. There was also a blood drive from the Red Cross, and a bone marrow donor registration-in memory of 15-year-old Bilal Mallik, who passed away earlier this year after a brief battle with Leukemia.

“I registered to be a bone marrow donor,” said Omar Yunus, of San Francisco. “Just took a swab of the inside of my cheek-the whole thing took about five minutes. This is a good thing they’re doing.”

9. Love for the orphans.

Dozens of people signed up to be an orphan sponsor, seeking to clothe, shelter and nourish orphans from all corners of the world through Islamic Relief’s orphan sponsorship program. And when Imam Shakir, along with speakers Elena Melona and Wafa Bennani, discussed orphan adoption in Islam in the session “Each of Us is a Flower: Adoption in the Muslim Community,” the room was so jam-packed that attendees were standing in any space that was available-the phrase, “this may be a safety violation” was uttered more than once-demonstrating the eagerness with which many ISNA-goers sought to learn about adoption and how they can reach out and care for orphans.

“If we don’t provide nurturing environments for both our biological children and those children who are orphans, then we are going to provide a social situation that is going to provide a lot more haraam,” Imam Shakir said. “There are social consequences that accrue when we don’t look care for our orphans.”

10. Zumba! Fitness.

This year’s convention had many new and fun activities, including the return of the ever popular basketball tournament, but none more anticipated than the all-ages “Soul Improvements: Sisters Fitness Extravaganza,” where attendees (sisters only!) were able to enjoy a food tasting and an exciting Zumba routine, while also learning about healthy living in Islam.

Zaynah Qutubuddin of Boston, a newcomer to the convention, said, “I absolutely loved it. It was my first time doing Zumba and I had a lot of fun. I also appreciated the tie-in to Islam and general health.”

11. Bazaar, Bazaar, Bazaar.

It’s always fun to see what stops vendors pull out to attract ISNA-goers. From free t-shirts and electronic tasbeeh counters to live-and oh-so-adorable-baby chicks, to a chance to win a free cruise, you can always guarantee a good time at the bazaar (and get to go home with a respectable amount of free swag!).

Many booths even featured surprise appearances; bazaar shoppers could take get their Kareem Salama CD signed by the artist himself, take a photo with the football players from the critically-acclaimed film “Fordson,” talk with imams Yaser Birjas and Yasir Qadi at Al-Maghrib Institute’s booth, or meet NFL players-brothers Hamza and Husain Abdullah.

“Kareem Salama signed my CD, that was a definite highlight for me,” one young convention attendee said. “I love his music, so different from other Islamic music, with its own unique message.”

“I got to hold a baby chick,” gushed another attendee, Tamara Saleh, of Washington D.C., said. “The chicks at the Crescent Chicken booth were my favorite.”

Article courtesy of ISNA volunteer and freelance journalist Meha Ahmad. Photos courtesy of ISNA volunteers and photographers Nushmia Khan, Osama Alian, and Mariam Saifan.

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What Holbrooke Knew

May 19, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Nicholas D. Kristof

US AfghanistanWhen he was alive, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke was effectively gagged, unable to comment on what he saw as missteps of the Obama administration that he served. But as we face a crisis in Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden, it’s worth listening to Holbrooke’s counsel — from beyond the grave.

As one of America’s finest strategic thinkers and special envoy to the Af-Pak region, Holbrooke represented the administration — but also chafed at aspects of the White House approach. In particular, he winced at the overreliance on military force, for it reminded him of Vietnam.

“There are structural similarities between Afghanistan and Vietnam,” he noted, in scattered reflections now in the hands of his widow, Kati Marton.

“He thought that this could become Obama’s Vietnam,” Marton recalled. “Some of the conversations in the Situation Room reminded him of conversations in the Johnson White House. When he raised that, Obama didn’t want to hear it.”

Because he was fiercely loyal to his friend Hillary Clinton, the secretary of state, Holbrooke bit his lip and kept quiet in public. But he died in December, and Marton and some of his friends (me included) believe it’s time to lift the cone of silence and share his private views. At this time, with Pakistan relations in a crisis and Afghanistan under review, our country could use a dose of his wisdom.

Holbrooke opposed the military “surge” in Afghanistan and would see the demise of Bin Laden as an opportunity to go into diplomatic overdrive. He believed strongly that the only way out of the mess in Afghanistan was a peace deal with the Taliban, and his team was secretly engaged in outreach to figures linked to the Taliban, Marton says.

“Reconciliation — that was what he was working toward in Afghanistan, and building up the civilian and political side that had been swamped by the military,” Marton recalled. “The whole policy was off-kilter, way too militarized. Richard never thought that this war could be won on the battlefield.”

His aim, she says, was something like the Balkan peace agreement he negotiated at a military base in Dayton, Ohio. The process would be led by the United States but include all the regional players, including Pakistan and Iran.

“He was dreaming of a Dayton-like setting somewhere, isolated, no media, no Washington bureaucracy,” Marton said. “He was a long way from that, but he was dreaming of that.”

Vali Nasr, a member of Holbrooke’s team at the State Department, puts it this way: “He understood from his experience that every conflict has to end at the negotiating table.”

Nasr says that Holbrooke’s aim for Afghanistan was “not cut-and-run, but a viable, lasting solution” to end the civil war there. If Holbrooke were still alive, Nasr says, he would be shuttling frantically between Islamabad and Kabul, trying to take advantage of Bin Laden’s killing to lay the groundwork for a peace process.

To do that, though, we have to put diplomacy and development — and not 100,000 troops, costing $10 billion a month — at the heart of our Afghan policy. Holbrooke was bemused that he would arrive at a meeting in a taxi, while Gen. David Petraeus would arrive escorted by what seemed a battalion of aides. And Holbrooke would flinch when Petraeus would warmly refer to him as his “wingman” — meaning it as a huge compliment — rather than seeing military force as the adjunct to diplomacy.

As for Pakistan, Holbrooke told me and others that because of its size and nuclear weaponry, it was center stage; Afghanistan was a sideshow.

“A stable Afghanistan is not essential; a stable Pakistan is essential,” he noted, in the musings he left behind. He believed that a crucial step to reducing radicalism in Pakistan was to ease the Kashmir dispute with India, and he favored more pressure on India to achieve that.

Holbrooke was frustrated by Islamabad’s duplicity. But he also realized that Pakistan sheltered the Afghan Taliban because it distrusted the United States, particularly after the United States walked away in 1989 after the Soviet pullout from Afghanistan. And renewed threats of abandonment won’t build trust.

Rather, Holbrooke poured his soul into building a relationship not only with Pakistani generals but also with the Pakistani people, and there were modest dividends. He helped improve C.I.A. access to Pakistan, which may have helped with the raid on the Bin Laden compound. And he soothed opposition to drone attacks, Nasr noted.

“He was treating them as a serious player, not as if you’re just having a one-night stand but as if there might actually be marriage at the end of the relationship,” Marton said.

It’s a vision of painstaking diplomacy toward a strategic goal — peace — and it’s what we need more of. President Obama said wonderful things at the memorial service for Holbrooke. But the best tribute would be to listen to his advice.

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Jersey 15-Year-Old to Go to Harvard

May 12, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kelly Heyboer

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PISCATAWAY — Saheela Ibraheem wasn’t sure any college would want to admit a 15-year-old. So the Piscataway teen hedged her bets and filled out applications to 14 schools from New Jersey to California.

“It’s the age thing. I wanted to make sure I had options,” said Saheela, a senior at the Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison.

In the end, 13 colleges accepted her — including six of the eight Ivy League schools.

After weeks of debate, Saheela settled on Harvard. She will be among the youngest members of the school’s freshman class.

“I’ll be one of the youngest. But I won’t be the youngest,” the soon-to-be 16-year-old said.

Saheela is among the millions of high school seniors who had to finalize their college decisions by Monday, the deadline for incoming freshman to send deposits to the school of their choice. Nationwide, this year’s college selection process was among the most competitive in history as most top colleges received a record number of applications.

Saheela joins a growing number of New Jersey students going to college before they are old enough to drive. Last year, Kyle Loh of Mendham graduated from Rutgers at 16. In previous years, a 14-year-old from Cranbury and two of his 15-year-old cousins also graduated from Rutgers.

For Saheela, her unusual path to college began when she was a sixth-grader at the Conackamack Middle School in Piscataway. Eager to learn more about her favorite subject, math, the daughter of Nigerian immigrants asked to move to a higher-level class. The school let her skip sixth grade entirely.

By high school, Saheela said, she was no longer feeling challenged by her public school classes. So, she moved to the Wardlaw-Hartridge School, a 420-student private school, where she skipped her freshman year and enrolled as a 10th-grader. Her three younger brothers, twins now in the ninth grade and a younger brother in second grade, all eventually joined her at the school.

School officials were impressed Saheela, one of their top students, didn’t spend all her time studying.

“She’s learned and she’s very smart. But she keeps pushing herself,” said William Jenkins, the Wardlaw-Hartridge School’s director of development.

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Aaron Houston/For The Star-LedgerSaheela Ibraheem, a 15-year-old senior at Wardlaw-Hartridge School in Edison, has been admitted to 13 colleges, and chose to attend Harvard this fall. Photo taken during a Wardlaw-Hartridge softball game in Piscataway.

Saheela also excels outside the classroom. She is a three-sport athlete, playing outfield for the school’s softball team, defender on the soccer team, and swimming relays and 50-meter races for the swim team. She also sings alto in the school choir, plays trombone in the school band and serves as president of the school’s investment club, which teaches students about the stock market by investing in virtual stocks.

Saheela began applying to colleges last fall. Her applications included her grade point average (between a 96 and 97 on a 100-point scale) and her 2,340 SAT score (a perfect 800 on the math section, a 790 in writing and a 750 in reading).

She was delighted when she got her first acceptance in December from California Institute of Technology. “I was so excited. I got into college!,” Saheela said.

More acceptances followed from Harvard, Princeton, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Cornell, Brown, Williams College, Stanford, University of Chicago, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Washington University in St. Louis.

On March 30, she got her sole rejection letter — from Yale. Saheela isn’t sure why the Ivy League school didn’t want her.

“My parents were thinking it was the age thing,” she said.

Saheela was torn between going to MIT and Harvard. A visit to both campuses last month made the choice easy. “She went to Harvard and she fell in love with the place,” said Shakirat Ibraheem, her mother.

Saheela said she wants to major in either neurobiology or neuroscience and plans to become a research scientist who studies how the brain works. As for her own brain, Saheela insists she is nothing special.

She credits her parents with teaching her to love learning and work hard. Her father, Sarafa, an analyst and vice president at a New York financial firm, would often study with her at night and home school her in subjects not taught at school.

“I try my best in everything I do,” Saheela said. “Anyone who’s motivated can work wonders.”

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story mistakenly reported the number of Ivy League colleges. There are eight. Saheela Ibraheem did not apply to Dartmouth College.The Star-Ledger

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Muslim Presence at the Twenty 20 Cricket World Cup

May 6, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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

cricket world cup The shortened 20 over format of cricket is on display at the International Cricket Council Twenty 20 Cricket World Cup tournament currently underway at various sites in the Caribbean.  Matches began on April 30th, with twelve teams from all over the world chasing the title that currently belongs to defending champion Pakistan. But there is Muslim talent sprinkled throughout this year’s tournament.

The Pakistani team, unfortunately, enters this year’s tournament with a dark cloud over its head. A disastrous tour of Australia in February led not only to poor results on the pitch, but also to infighting that resulted in multiple suspensions and replacement of the team captain. But the dust appears to have finally settled, and the team, led by bowler Shahed Afridi, and batsman Salman Butt, is still one of the favorites to win this year.

Bangladesh, led by captain Shakib Al Hasan, is a team loaded with Muslim talent as well. Afghanistan is one of the Cinderella stories of the tournament. While they aren’t expected to contend for the title, they have ascended despite minimal facilities and training to establish their place on the big stage.

Several Muslim players have risen to prominence on other teams as well. Yusuf Pathan and Zaheer Khan are major players on the Indian team. Hashim Amla plies his wares as a batsman for South Africa but fell just short of this year’s T20 team. And Ajmal Shahzad is a rising all-rounder on the British team.

So, as the wickets start falling, watch for Muslim cream to rise to the top of the cricket ranks at this year’s ICC T20 World Cup.

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Ali Farokhmanesh on Sports Illustrated

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

756A CEDAR FALLS, IA–Ali Farokhmanesh, the University of Iowa basketball guard, who led his team to win over No.1 Kansas will be on the cover page of the Sports Illustrated magazine.

he honor comes after UNI’s victory over the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Farokhmanesh’s critical three-pointer in the last minute as well as two game-icing free throws led the Panthers past Kansas and into tourney history.

Sports Illustrated’s cover story is about several surprising upsets in the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament.

Farokhmanesh’s Iranian born father, Mashallah, was also a member of the Iranian men’s national volleyball team, before immigrating to the US in 1977.

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The Manhunt of Epic Proportions

February 18, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, MMNS Middle East Correspondent

spy The scene plays out like something you would see in a chilling Hollywood thriller or spy movie. A team of seasoned assassins, eleven altogether, plots and plans a ‘hit’ to be carried out against an unsuspecting victim. In this case, the target was a Hamas official named Mahmud Al-Mabhuh and his death is not fiction but rather a stone-cold reality. Last January in the tiny Gulf nation of Dubai, the corpse of  Al-Mabhuh was found in his luxury hotel suite. The apparent mode of death was suffocation, however a coroner’s official report regarding the exact cause of death is still pending.

According to the lead investigator, Dubai police chief Lt Gen Dhahi Khalfan Tamim, the team of assassins were composed of both men and women from various European countries. This past week, the Dubai government released a series of photos of the eleven suspects and began creating a timeline up until the point where the assassins completed their mission and fled the tiny Gulf emirate. Composed of six Britains, three Irish, one French and one German national, authorities believe that the team entered the country around the same time that Al-Mabhuh did and followed him straight to his hotel room.

Once there, hotel video cameras corroborate the intricate plot of the assassins, which included several hotel rooms, disguises and the tools necessary to deprive Al-Mabhuh of his life. According to Tamim, at least 4 of the assassins broke into Al-Mabhuh’s hotel room while he was out. They waited for him to come back and then took less than 10 minutes to kill him. Once the deed was done, the assassins executed an almost perfect escape plan, exiting Dubai on separate commercial airplanes in under 20 hours.

The release of the eleven suspects passport information, by the Dubai government, should have provided more answers than it did questions. Unfortunately, it has left even more unanswered questions. By all accounts, the Irish assassins do not even exist according to the government of Ireland.  The passport number for the supposedly German assassin is wrong. And a few of the assassins named are actually Israeli citizens who have ironclad alibis and have never even traveled to Dubai. The Dubai police have not revealed exactly how they obtained the information about the assassins. However, many Hamas-friendly political analysts have speculated that the assassination was a poorly carried out murder plot designed by the long arm of Israel’s Mossad, or Secret Service.

It’s no mystery that there was no love lost between Al-Mabhuh and Israel. Al-Mabhuh was one of the original founders of Hamas. Israel also accused him, in recent years, of participating in a 1989 murder of two Israeli soldiers. And Israel has, for years, blamed Al-Mabhuh for orchestrating teams of smugglers to bring missiles into the Gaza Strip to help Hamas to continue to fight the Israeli occupation. But according to former Mossad officer Rami Igra, in an interview with the Israel Army Radio, the plan looks professional but really “…doesn’t look like an Israeli operation.” The primary reason being the assassin’s total lack of regard for the hundreds and hundreds of security cameras all over Dubai, almost as if they wanted to be filmed so as to lay blame elsewhere. And according to some speculators, the real culprits might be too close for Hamas’s comfort such as in the company of their rivals found in the late Yasser Arafat’s Fatah Movement.

The government of Dubai has reached out to the global community for assistance in solving the murder and this week launched an international manhunt to bring the assassins to justice. It’s not surprising that Dubai is eager to put the murderers behind bars, as it is fast becoming the site of several high profile murders.

Back in 2007, the famous Lebanese singer Susan Tamim was slain in her luxury high rise Dubai condo by none other than a hit man for her estranged boyfriend.

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World’s First Arab Robot

November 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS) Middle East Correspondent

facebot-ibn-sina-robot Known more for its architectural feats and infrastructure genius, the UAE is charting new waters in Artificial Intelligence with the creation of the Arab world’s very first Arabic-speaking robot. Named after the famous 11th century Islamic scientist and philosopher Ibn Sina, or Avicenna in English, the robot appears extremely life like and bears quite a resemblance to his namesake while also speaking in classical Arabic. Ibn Sina wears traditional Arab clothes complete with a flowing gilded robe and headdress. A series of motors in his face help him to move just like his human counterparts.

The robot is the first humanoid robot that can carry on a conversation and articulate human gestures as well as facial expressions in the Middle East. Ibn Sina can also ‘see’ and is programmed with software that helps him recognize objects, remember faces, understand dialogue and respond verbally. A team of students at the UAE University with the guidance of Assistant Professor of Computer Science, Nikolaos Mavridis, designed Ibn Sina.  Hailing from Greece, Mavridis spearheaded the project alongside 12 international students, which also included several local UAE citizens.

Ibn Sina can fulfill a number of tasks including answering specific questions, connecting to the Internet and providing other information. According to Mavridis, Ibn Sina is destined to be cloned and will go into public service as a shopping mall information clerk. The prototype Ibn Sina already serves a full day at the help desk at the local Al Ain Mall where he also directs shoppers to stores carrying items that they are looking for. However, Mavridis estimates that it will take another six months and a team of five students to perfect Ibn Sina so that he is more useful and delivers a flawless performance.

Funding for the project was made by the ruler of the UAE himself with an investment of almost $200,000. Ibn Sina is also used for other projects in the university laboratory as students are more than eager to use him as an, albeit robotic, guinea pig.

A gentle buzz has slowly started forming around the world’s first Arabic robot with several companies reaching out to Mavridis and his team to learn more about Ibn Sina. In a recent interview Mavridis revealed his own hopes and dreams for the future of technology in the tiny Gulf kingdom, “Given all the growth that is happening right here at this moment, it’s important that apart from building the largest tower in the world and all of these beautiful buildings, to try to do something that has to do with scientific and intellectual achievements. For that reason we chose Ibn Sina as the character from which our robot was inspired in order to bring back his values to our students. He brings together a lot of traditions, ancient and more recent traditions.”

Ibn Sina is also becoming an old hand at social networking. He has his very own Facebook account. Ibn Sina can ask someone new their name, look them up on Facebook and become friends with them online. And with over 115 friends on his profile page, Ibn Sina looks well on his way to becoming a social networking guru in no time at all. Bots and humans forming social connections online is just the tip of the iceberg in artificial intelligence, at least in the UAE. The UAE University plans to further develop its robotics department and laboratory. Recent research conducted by the Information Data Corporation projects that IT development and projects will grow by over 12% over the next five years in the UAE at an estimated cost of almost $2 billion dollars.

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