HAMSA Essay Contest

Posted on

HAMSA banner

I write to inform you about a new essay contest launched by the American Islamic Congress on civil rights in the Middle East. Anyone under the age of 26 can enter, and finalists can win up to $2,000 in cash prizes.

The “Dream Deferred Essay Contest” (see http://www.hamsaweb.org ) challenges young Americans and young Middle Easterners to express constructive ideas for individual rights in the world’s least-free region.

Judges for the essay contest include Gloria Steinem (founder of Ms. Magazine), the Cato Institute’s Tom Palmer, Azar Nafisi (author of Reading Lolita in Tehran), as well as noted Middle Eastern bloggers Ammar Abdulhamid of Syria and Mahmood Al-Yousif from Bahrain.

We are hoping to awaken young Americans to the reform efforts of indigenous Middle Eastern progressives and to engage them in this discussion. Several hundred Americans have already submitted essays, but we would like to reach out to students on campus so you can enter before our deadline, on March 31st, 2006.

We hope you consider submitting an essay, and please feel free contact me at roheet@aicongress.org with any questions or concerns.

Thank you,

–Roheet Shah

I would highly encourage you to submit an essay to this excellent cause. So get cracking!

  • mariam
    7 March 2006

    Mahmood – I think you are fantastic! As a saudi student living in the usa, I have had so much trouble explaining to my countrymen what freedom is all about.
    It really hit the fan, with the cartoons. Try to explain the First Amendment to khaleeji. Freedom includes the right to be tasteless, cheesy, etc. Hey! and guess what?? you can “censor” yourself simply by not watching, reading, listening to that which you find offensive. Much better than having Big Brother do it for you. Finally, why should any gov’t with first amendment-like rights apologize. FELLOW ARABS, the gov’t is NOT the press – it’s not like home!!!! Get it???? The writers are FREE to do as they like. It would be like you apologizing because the neighbor down the street is a jerk.
    Please, Mahmood, keep up your spirit and work. The expat arab community adores you. Mariam

  • mahmood
    7 March 2006

    Wow, thanks for your setiments and kind words Mariam.

    I agree with you totally and have seen ample examples of people here just not wanting to understand what freedoms mean, because in most cases they are simply blinkered in their complete, utter and unquestionable submission to religion. To them, it is a lot easier to say “it is Allah’s will” rather than “no, I don’t accept this because it is illogical so I’m at the very least speak against it!”

  • Ash
    7 March 2006

    Hey Mahmood! I entered the contest a some months ago…so can you put in a good word for me, since you are one of the judges 🙂 Just kidding. Great contest!

  • Nofan
    8 March 2006

    First off, mahmood you are an amazing man! I really appreciate your efforts on revealing the facts of what democracy is all about. As on of the poster said that it is really hard to explain to an arab what democracy means. They basically think that its about forgetting religion or maybe accepting religous offensive that disrespect them, however democracy is way different that what they think. It really hurts me when I see americans here( including myself) go vote for a president or a senator based on what they will do for them, why don’t we ( arabs) have the same system, you know.. vote for someone that will evantually represent your beliefs or expectations of a certain government. It hurts me deep inside my heart when people here or even in europe get what they are supposed to get, freedom. Freedom is not just freedom of the press as many arabs view it. I know that many arabs will get mad at this post just because of what they strictly believe about certain governmental basis that are found in our home countries, but my word to them is to really define the word democracy. Its not just freedom, its justice as well.. really! Without freedom, we wouldnt change our mentality or improve our self further more, we will simply stay at the position of where we are, and ofcourse with limited thinking. I wish for one day to see a democratic election in an arab country, a true election where voters go out and celebrate there heard voices… voices that will apparently be our laws. We should rule the government, not let the government rule us,and by the way, whats the definition of an arabe government? One man! Yep its as simple as that. I hope one day we will wake up and realize that we are really missing something in our lives, freedom, justice, and civil rights that were taken from us since the day we were born. Its really ironic, we have some of the smartest people out there in our home countries, and yet we are still living in depressive society that keeps getten worse. Sorry for the long post, but really this article hit the bottom of my heart.. One last think to my fellow readers, think, read and do….

    Nofan Abuwandi,

Filmmaking Rebels