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Last Updated: Monday, 29 December, 2003, 18:39 GMT
Muslim league names draw ire
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Some of the teams have changed their names
What could be more commendable than a Californian teenager organising an American football league to keep young people off the streets?

The tournament planned by Sabih Khan, 18, aimed to give aspiring Muslim footballers - although it was not limited to just Muslims - a chance to enjoy themselves over New Year.

But the competition got off to a bad start after some of the contestants from Irvine, California, named their teams Intifada, Soldiers of Allah and Mujahedin.

The organisers received a barrage of criticism from people who said the names glorify terrorism.

'Terror link'

Intifada, meaning "uprising" in Arabic, is a term used by Palestinians to describe their protest against the Israeli occupation, while Mujahedin - meaning "holy warriors" - is associated with a number of Islamic groups which are on the US's list of terrorist organisations.

There shouldn't be young Americans chanting the name Mujahedin as American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq are put in danger and attacked
Rabbi Abraham Cooper
"The issue is these words are linked to real terrorists, real threats, real murders today," said Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Jewish human rights organisation, the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

"There shouldn't be young Americans chanting the name Mujahedin as American soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq are put in danger and attacked," he said.

'No offence intended'

But the organisers said the names were selected by the boys without much forethought and were not intended to upset or offend anyone.

This was really just supposed to be about the youth playing football. Now it's become so political that a part of me thinks we shouldn't even play
Tarek Shawky
They say while the Soldiers of Allah and Mujahedin teams have opted to changes their names, the Intifada team is keeping its.

Other team names include the Muslim Rangers, Fantizzle Fizzle and the Liberators.

"Intifada means standing up against injustice and supporting truth, not violence or aggression. This is evident even in Palestine, where the non-violent struggle of the indigenous people continues daily," the organisers say on their web site.

Not the first

But they have admitted some of the players have dropped out.

"This was really just supposed to be about the youth playing football. Now it's become so political that a part of me thinks we shouldn't even play," said Tarek Shawky.

The Muslim footballers are not the first Americans to choose controversial team names.

The Washington Wizards basketball team changed its name in 1997 after its previous name - Bullets - was deemed too violent.

Some Native Americans have complained about team names or mascots including the Washington Redskins, Cleveland Indians and Atlanta Braves.


SEE ALSO:
New strip for 'BNP' pub team
13 Sep 02  |  England
Playing football in a headscarf
02 May 02  |  UK News
Whistle blown on women footballers
08 Apr 01  |  Middle East


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