Cricket for Peace - Zeenat Ali's Mission to Promote Communual Harmony

Mar 5, 2008

As the Cricket fever on Sunday March 2 reached a new high with the exciting victory of the Indian Cricket team in the first final against Australia at Sydney and the Indian Under-19 team wining the memorable World Cup in Kuala Lumpur against South Africa, one lady in Mumbai,  Zeenat Shaukat Ali was busy in making final preparations to stage “Cricket for Peace” a week later on Sunday March 9 at the Cricket Club of India’s Brabourne Stadium through the Wisdom Foundation, of which she is the managing  trustee and founder director general.

In spite of her busy schedule and hectic preparations for the forthcoming unique experiment in promoting communal harmony, Zeenat Shaukat Ali was kind enough to grant me a brief interview in St Xavier’s College, where she had been a professor of Islamic studies for the last 18 years. She is also associated with the department of inter-religious studies, where she conducts certificate course in inter-religious studies.

Being well versed in Islamic history and religion, Zeenat Shaukat Ali has developed a broader outlook about religion and society. She had been a regular traveler abroad and had been using national as well as international forums to deliver lectures on Islam and its teachings. Being an excellent scholar Zeenat Shaukat Ali has written two valuable books on the Muslim social and women issues. One is titled “Marriage and Divorce in Islam” and the other, “Empowerment of Women in Islam”. She was a Fulbright Scholar in 2006, and was even invited by the U S State Department for a conference on Religion and Civilization.

‘When asked about the ‘Wisdom Foundation’ of which she is the managing trustee and founder director general, Zeenat Shaukat Ali informed that  the idea of founding such an organization was in her mind for quite a long time. However, it got materialized in December 2006, when the ‘Wisdom Foundation’ was registered as a Trust and it actively began to function from mid-2007.

Stating the vision and mission of the Wisdom Foundation, Zeenat Shaukat Ali emphasized it is a World Institute of Islamic Studies for Dialogue, Organization of Mediation and Gender Justice. It is dedicated to the cause of non-violence, peace-building, communal harmony, conflict transformation, humanitarian service and national integration. The slogan of the Wisdom Foundation is “One for all and all for one.”

The Wisdom Foundation has eminent personalities on its advisory board such as Admiral L Ramdas (Retd), Satish Sahney, Dr Asghar Ali Engineer, Comm R H Mendonca, Kumar Ketkar, Prof Ram Puniyani. Salim Fazalbhoy, Javed Anand, Shaukat Ali and Keku Gandhi.

Earlier, Wisdom Foundation had organized two major events. Last June the foundation organized an essay competition for the Imams on the topic: “Peace, tolerance and harmony, their co-existence in Islam.” The second event was held at the Police Club on “Social harmony: the Role of Police and Media”, where police commissioner of Mumbai D N Jadhav was the chief guest.

Cricket for Peace’ will be the third and most ambitious and significant event that will take place on Sunday March 9 at the Brabourne Stadium, Mumbai. The Christian  Priests, Jewish Rabbis, Parsi Dasturjis, Buddhist Monks, Sikh Granthis and Jain Munis, representing eight religions and distributed into two teams, named ‘pyar’ and ‘prem’.

Zeenat Shaukat Ali, who is quite elated about the experiment in peace, informed that when she suggested the idea of ‘Cricket for Peace’ the different religious leaders welcomed it whole heartedly. She further told that both the teams have been practicing at the Azad maidan since January for the great event where they will set aside their religious identities and wear their true sportsmanship by swinging the willow, throwing the ball and fielding.

Two prizes will be awarded on the occasion: one to the team that has displayed the best spirit of sportsmanship and the other for the winning team. Besides these, prizes will be given away for the best sportsman and man of the match.

Besides the religious leaders, who will be sweating it out on the cricket field, the pavilion will be adorned by Raj Singh Dungarpur, president of Cricket Club of India. Governor of Maharashtra, S M Krishna and Mohammad Azaruddin, the ex-India skipper are also expected to attend the event. The glamour element will be provided by the presence of Salman Khan. Sanjay Manjrekar will represent the cricketing fraternity. The judges of the event include Nandini Sardesai, wife of the late Dilip Sardesai,  Ayaz Memon, chief sports editor, DNA, Pradeep Vijayakar, sports editor, Times of India and Diana Edulji, former captain, women’s Cricket Team of India.

As I thanked  Zeenat Shaukat Ali for the valuable time that she spared for this brief interaction, she took out an invite for the Sunday’s memorable event ‘Cricket for Peace’ and handed it over to me. I was overwhelmed by her gesture and promised that I would definitely attend such a sporting experiment in promoting communal harmony and peace which is very close to my heart.

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