Muslim youths plan second football tournament open to other religions

Posted: Friday, January 23, 2004

IRVINE, Calif. (AP) Organizers of a Muslim football league that drew protests over team names such as ''Mujahideen'' and ''Soldiers of Allah'' are planning a second tournament open to all religious groups.

Jewish and Christian teams will be invited to play in the summer tournament in Orange County as a way of leaving politics on the sidelines.

''They want to turn it into an opportunity to interact with others, socialize and do their favorite thing play football,'' said Hussam Ayloush, executive director of the Southern California chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

''They'll be sending a message and making a statement to everybody in the community who had doubts about them,'' he said.

The uproar began last fall with the organization of the ''Muslim Football'' league. Some Jewish leaders complained that team names glorified terrorism.

Intifada means ''uprising'' in Arabic and is used by some Palestinians to described revolts against Israeli occupation. ''Mujahideen'' translates as ''holy warrior'' and is associated with Islamic groups the United States characterizes as terrorist organizations.

Mostly Muslim men in their late teens and early 20s participated in the first tournament on Jan. 4 at an Irvine park, though it also included a number of non-Muslim players. Players refused to change at least one team name, Intifada.

Organizers said the names weren't meant to offend.

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