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American Muslim Runner Competes in Iran

Tehran, 26 September 2005 (CHN) -- Saira Kureshi, the 26 years-old originally Pakistani runner who is a member of the American athletes' team in the 4th Women Islamic Games, considers Iranian culture a lovely, friendly one.

Saira Kureshi

Although she was familiar with the culture because of her Iranian friends back there in the US, Saira was astonished by the real image of Iran, devoid of media distortions.

Studying Medicine at Harvard, last year she took a course on women studies, with concentration on the condition of women in Islamic countries. That was an opportunity for her to focus on the Iranian culture, which she loves so much.

With an Asian appearance, she is not taken as an American athlete when contacted by the people. Because of her familiarity with and interest in the Iranian culture, she has some plans to take trips to Iran in the future, running some medical projects which she has begun already in Pakistan.

She has been to Iranian restaurants, having Iranian dishes, even before coming to Iran and mentions the cuisine as a lovely one. She is looking for an extra time to get out in the streets and buy Iranian handicrafts as souvenirs.

"Though I don't wear hijab in the US fulltime, I consider it as a beautiful thing and respect it," she told CHN reporter.

She has been to several other Islamic countries, including Pakistan (for visiting relatives), Saudi Arabia (for Umrah) and Egypt in which she spent a year studying Arabic.

Explaining the differences between the Islamic atmospheres of these countries, she says, "The governments of all these countries are Islamic but their approaches to issues like hijab are varied. The general important thing, however, is that they are all Muslims, no matter how differently you wear hijab."

Considering the Women Islamic Games as a sport tourism event, she explained, "Providing an opportunity for women to practice sport without being witnessed by men is a great effort. Although holding sport events which can not be viewed by all people can not be granted much as a tourist attraction, but I believe that is not the goal of games such as the Women Islamic Games."

"The main goal of such events," she adds, "is bringing together the different cultures and providing an opportunity for Muslim women to meet each other".

Although considering the media an influential source of information all over the world, Kureshi does not blame them for creating the wrong image existing currently in the western world, and believes it is the task of Muslims, mostly American ones, to appropriate the clichéd image of Muslims released by media.

"I love living in a country in which I am free to practice my religion. Although American Muslims are a minority in the US, but I believe we are forming our own culture there, coexisting with all the other Americans," she asserted.

The 4th Islamic Women Games are held in Tehran from 23-30 September 2005, with 1689 athletes from 40 countries taking part in the competitions.

... Payvand News - 9/26/05 ... --

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