Houston Mosque Will Ball Hard for Palestine

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In case you didn't know, Houston is home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the country and the city is home to a network of mosques and religious centers run by the Islamic Society of Greater Houston.

Houstonian Amir Hossain is part of this American-Muslim community. He wants to use his love for basketball to build unity and support a cause that helps people in the Middle East.

During the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, Hossain is kicking off a charity basketball tournament called Hoop4Palestine. "Basketball teaches Islam in its own creative way by promoting companionship," Hossain said. "[It allows] kids to learn how to work together in a peaceful manner to achieve something."

Muslims around the city are currently participating in the holy month of Ramadan, fasting from sunrise to sundown every day until the end of July.

Hossain, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Houston and member of Maryam Mosque in Southwest Houston, has organized the tournament in an effort to raise both awareness and money for the people in Palestine who are injured as a result of ongoing violence.

He says he has many Palestinian friends, but didn't plan the event solely because of those connections. "I did it because the current predicament that the Palestinians are facing is just heart breaking."

With the recent kidnapping and deaths of three Israeli teens and the ongoing airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, the death toll of the area has hit 100, according to the New York Times.

Through tournament registration fees, baked good and food sale funds, and an online donation form, Hossain and other members of the mosque hope to raise up to $5,000 to contribute to Palestinians injured in the conflict.

Proceeds of the tournament will go to the Palestine Children's Relief Fund. The fund is part of a non-political, non-profit organization that gives medical assistance to children in the entire Middle East area, regardless of religion, gender, nationality, or sect.

"The Palestinian plight is just one of many deserving causes around the globe," says Hossain's sister Karishma, "but recent events have called for immediate action."

People in major cities across the country are protesting in response to Middle East violence and a smartphone app is even being launched to help users boycott Israeli goods.

But the basketball tournament is taking a more positive approach. Basketball has been a part of the Hossains' lives from an early age. "It's great to see him use something he is so passionate about as a platform for change," says Amir's sister.

So far 330 people are expected to attend the event, according to the event's facebook page. A total of 32 teams have registered to play. Teams are required to pay a registration fee of $80.

The tournament will use the hashtag #Hoop4Palestine, and will be made up of 15-minute games during which the teams -- 3 players each, with one substitute -- play to 11 points. The tournament will run from midnight to 4 a.m. the following Sunday morning.

Because of Ramadan, most participants will be fasting during the day until sunset. The fast is traditionally broken with lots of food, family, and friends.

People of any faith can and are encouraged to attend.

While the tournament may not make a significant difference to change the politics around the Middle East, Karishma says "it does stand for the power of our voices, and demonstrates the power of working together towards a greater purpose."

The #Hoop4Palestine event will be held on July 19 at the New Territory Recreational Center near Maryam Masjid, at 1200 Walker School Road.

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