CC ISSUE: MAR 2012 Last updated: Mar 8, 2012
National Muslim Basketball Tour promotes faith, brotherhood
The National Muslim Basketball Tour (NMBT) has garnered a lot of attention in the U.S. Once a small, local basketball tournament in Chicago, it’s drawing attention of Muslims from Atlanta to Los Angeles. I had the privilege of interviewing the president of NMBT, Haron Saadeh.
What inspired you to start it?
HR: With the success NMBT [locally], we wanted to expand to a much larger market. Alhamdulillah, we had teams coming to our local tournament from all across the country, so that is when we decided to go national. We thought it would be best to travel to different regions so more teams participate in the tournaments. We have a tournament in five different regions (South: Texas, Midwest: Illinois, West: California, East: New York, and North: Canada). We realized there are many Muslim basketball players out there that want to play against new faces.
What are your long term goals?
HR: NMBT is all about exposing young men to good, healthy lifestyles and staying connected to their deen. We understand it is hard to convince young men to attend lectures and go to Muslim events. We realized by offering them something they enjoy doing, they will then attend the beneficial lectures. Basketball was a key component to bring these young men together. Many of them have admitted the lectures, prayers, and networking have all benefited them in a certain way.
As we grow, we want to become a steady organization that offers sports and religion to all its participants. 2012 allowed us to introduce a few new wrinkles to our tour. There will be two divisions, which will allow the old and young to play without feeling the stipulation of having great basketball skill. We have also introduced the non-Muslim rule. Each team will be allowed to bring two non-Muslims to participate in the tournament. This will be a great source of Dawah to the non-Muslims, and have them experience Muslims in a calmer atmosphere.
We want to continue to grow, and insha’Allah become a staple in the global community. Alhamdulillah, we have grown into Canada, and our next step is to grow [overseas].
What is the proudest moment you’ve experienced with your organization?
HR: The proudest moment is seeing all these Muslims from different parts of the country become friends and continuing their friendships when they travel back home. We always wanted to create a huge brotherhood where Muslims from different backgrounds have a common means of playing basketball. We wanted the friendship continue off the court, and we see evidence of that every day.
What is the general attitude and impression participants have of NMBT?
HR: Participants always mention they are happy with the organization of NMBT. Many participants who play in NMBT play in other tournaments also. However, our tournament has proven to be one of the best organized tournaments around. We take pleasure in offering a well-ran and structured basketball tournament.
Participants have also loved the different skill level of players in our tournament. We have people that play with skill levels from recreation leagues to college experience to overseas experience.
Participants also realize we are not only about basketball. We also take importance in our deen. That is why we offer stoppage for prayers and stoppage for lectures. We want to remind all players that there is more than just basketball. Everyone loves the mixture of deen and sports during the weekend.
What are some struggles you’ve encountered in growing the organization?
HR: Our early struggles have been expanding to different regions. We realized we will be competing with local organizations that have well-established tournaments in their own city. We try not to take anything away from these local tournaments, but we are the only ones who bring outside talent to their cities. We offer something different to the local scene that these teams have not seen before. Trying to convince local teams about our successful organization has been a struggle in the first year. Alhamdulillah we have gotten great exposure and acknowledgement once we leave the city.
Do you think the organization is sustainable?
HR: We believe as long as we remember what we are doing and the reason why we are doing this, then we can be a successful and sustainable organization. We do everything for the sake of Allah, and we are only a means of conveying the message of deen and brotherhood to the young men. People will always love playing basketball, and we want to provide them with a platform to display their skills. As long as we stay organized and professional, we should continue to stay a successful organization.
What is the most appealing aspect of your organization?
HR: We have many appealing aspects for making our organization different. Rather than your standard prizes for the tournament champions, we offer different types of prizes. The winning team receives a customized championship belt and vouchers for hotels. We also offer a lecture series during our tournament. The lecture series reminds our participants of our deen. We offer a great networking for players in our tournaments.
What is something that people don’t know about NMBT?
HR: NMBT is run by three organizers: Mohamed El-Housiny, Farhan Abdul Khalique, and [me]. We have been friends for many years, and through this journey together, we have grown closer together. We are all architects who love playing basketball. We put many countless hours behind the scenes to try to make the organization a success. But without the help of our fans and volunteers, NMBT will fail. We would love to thank all who have supported us through the years.
The National Muslim Basketball Tour is unique in style because it’s the first Muslim-led recreational organization. By the reflections and drive of Saadah, we will surely here more about NMBT for years to come.