Rising above divisive politics, golf tournament brings Indians and Pakistanis together in America

Wrote this curtain raiser a couple of weeks ago together with a colleague in India, published in Aman Ki Asha 20 September 2019.

By Neel Kamal and Beena Sarwar

The world’s largest India-Pakistan golf tournament will take place in Los Angeles early October, even as relations between nuclear-armed South Asian neighbours India and Pakistan sink to a dangerously low levels.

Photo from Mohubbat Golf Tournament 2018

Mohubbat (Love), a US-based non-profit organization behind the initiative, was launched in 2018 with the tagline “Humanity above all”. Its first event was a musical evening 23 February 2018 featuring Ustad Shafqat Ali Khan. The interfaith Universal Peace Foundation honoured Khan with their Ambassador for Peace award in July 2018.

Ustad Shafqat Ali Khan, Feb 2018 – Mohubbat

This was followed by the well-attended First Annual Mohubbat Golf Tournament and Dinner, September 2, 2018. The upcoming event Sunday 6 October is already sold out with 700 participants.

“Golf is a game in which you don’t play against anyone”, says Azhar Hameed, the LA-based businessman and philanthropist who founded Mohubbat.

As someone who is passionately involved in furthering the cause of education in Pakistan and an avid golfer, he connected with other expatriate golfers from India and Pakistan working to promote education and other causes back home. 

Mohubbat tournament 2018: Golf buddies across borders.

By participating in the tournament together, he says, U.S.-based Indian and Pakistani golfers are rising above the political differences of their countries of origin in a symbolic statement of peace.

This year’s event sold out a month ago.

Mohubbat members “passionately believe in building inter-community bridges to promote people to people contact leading to better social and business opportunities”, says their mission statement.

The organisation aims to “become a role model for Indians and Pakistanis around the world. We hope to demonstrate how inter-community integration based on the philosophy of love and compassion can lead to peace and prosperity for all, especially the underprivileged amongst us”.

Mohubbat has in the past organised musical events and participated in a Poetry for Peace event, part of a series of Global Standouts for Peace held at a time of heightened tensions between India and Pakistan following the Pulwama attack in February this year.

Los Angeles leg of the peace event held earlier this year

“When we started Mohubbat we were focusing on India and Pakistan”, says Hameed. “But now we want to spread our message beyond that, to the world. Because the world needs love. We know we can’t change things overnight, but we have to work to rise above our differences. It’s a process, an evolution”.

“We found that golf could bring people together, and so does food and music”, he adds.

The golf tournament will be followed by the Second Annual Dinner and Entertainment Program, which includes a skit written by the sisters Bushra Ansari and Neelam Bashir whose ‘Gwandne’ (Neighbours) music video went viral earlier this year, also following the Pulwama attack.

The grand finale will be a musical programme featuring singers from India and Pakistan — Bhavya Pandit from Mumbai, and Malaika Faisal from Lahore — performing cross-border songs.

Neel Kamal is a senior reporter with The Times of India Neel.Kamal@timesgroup.com, Twitter @NeelkamalTOI. Beena Sarwar is editor, Aman Ki Asha  – Beena.sarwar@amankiasha.com, Twitter @beenasarwar.

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