Usman Riaz: Pakistan’s Newest Musical Sensation

There is a new musical sensation hailing from Pakistan: Usman Riaz.  Recently, the 21 year old wowed the audience at the 2012 TED conference with an amazing solo and collaboration with famous percussion guitarist, Preston Reed.


Riaz, classically trained in piano and other traditional instruments, learned percussion guitar by watching videos on youtube.  In 2011, his video “Fire Fly” went viral and increased his recognition.  You can view another of his videos entitled “Saeen” here.  Watch out for his name as this young artist has a bright future ahead of him.


Connect with Usman Riaz at his twitter account,, or his facebook page at  His music is available on iTunes and Amazon Music, and you can read more about him here and here.


FIFA Champions Female Player Rights By Lifting Hijab Ban

On July 6th, FIFA, Soccer’s decision governing body, overturned its ban on the female headscarf or hijab.

The ban, which was imposed on the grounds of safety concerns, was lifted partially due to the development of a more safe and standard design that includes velcro, should the hijab be pulled from the head during play.

Last year, Prince Ali of Jordan, vice president of FIFA, led a campaign to ensure female soccer players’ rights to don the hijab, which is worn as part of the players’ uniforms in Saudia Arabia and Iran. 

This is good news for competitive, hijab wearing athletes who felt punished for wearing hijab.  As Sheikha Naima al-Sabah, the president of the women’s sporting committee for Kuwait’s football federation, told one news agency:

“It brings justice to female players. Its positive impact will be direct on women’s enthusiasm to play football.”

FIFA’s decision is “going to promote women’s sport in Arab and Islamic countries, which have top-notch soccer players who are unable to compete because of the veil ban”, said Adel Marzouq, coach of the women’s football team from Bahrain.

“This wise decision will encourage footballers to play their chosen sport without embarrassment,” he added.

Khan Academy: Salman Khan is Making Learning Look Good

Did you hear Salman Khan has started teaching calculus online?

No, not the Salman Khan of Bollywood fame, but the Salman Khan of MIT, Harvard, and online education acclaim.

Salman “Sal” Khan, founder of Khan Academy, wants you to flex your mental muscle.

In 2004, Salman “Sal” Khan started posting video tutorials on Yahoo! Doodle and Youtube to help his cousins with subjects like math. Soon, other people began utilizing his user friendly and engaging videos and the popularity of Khan’s videos increased. Now, Khan’s efforts have developed into what is known as the Khan Academy, an online leader in open educational resources. Salman Khan’s dynamic approach to teaching has been pivotal to Khan Academy‘s success. It now boasts more than 166,705,027 lessons served and has become a leader in online learning, surpassing MIT’s OpenCourseWare in users. With over 3,200 videos online and growing, Khan Academy offers tutorials in mathematics, history, healthcare and medicine, finance, physics, chemistry, biology, astronomy, economics, cosmology, organic chemistry, American civics, art history, macroeconomics and microeconomics, and computer science.

Sal Khan, making tutorial videos from his home office.

Khan Academy has received recognition from media and educational leaders. It has also received funding from Google and Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, philanthropist, and second richest man in the world. At the 2010 Aspen Ideas Festival, Bill Gates was quoted as saying Khan Academy was “unbelievable.” Gates added:

“I’ve been using [The Khan Academy] with my kids… I’d say we’ve moved about 160 IQ points from the hedge fund category to the teaching-many-people-in-a-leveraged-way category. It was a good day his wife let him quit his job.”

Bill Gates, on Khan Academy.

Khan has also been featured on TedTalks, the San Francisco Chronicle, on the Public Broadcasting Service(PBS), National Public Radio, CNN, CNN Money, and The Colbert Report. In 2012 Salman Khan was featured as a “Big Thinker” on Edutopia and named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People for 2012.

The video platform allows the student to feel like the teacher is talking directly to them, rather than being one out of thirty plus students listening to a boring lecture spouted verbatim from an outdated and dusty outline from thirty years ago. So next time you are need help with understanding a subject, check out The Khan Academy at Who knows, maybe you’ll discover something new – like the connection between Newton, Leibniz, Usain Bolt and differential calculus as seen in the below video.

In the below video, students from The Stratford School in the San Francisco Bay area sing their praises for Khan Academy. Their teacher, Rekha Pardeshi, also discusses the benefits of The Khan Academy in enhancing the traditional classroom experience here.

Muslim Surfer Girls Just Wanna Have Fun Too



Muslim women are catchin’ waves and making a splash while doing so. Cassie Williams’ piece in the Huffington Post highlighted efforts being made to expose Muslim females to the sport of surfing as well as their growing role in the sport. Kate Sikorski, an MFA candidate at the University of California, Santa Barbara, recently ran a class to teach Muslim women how to surf in California and featured images of Muslim women surfing in her exhibit “Blackies to Seal and Everywhere in Between,” referencing the different surf spots in North OC.

Said Sikorski: “I’m interested in women who are socially brave, and who just put themselves out there even if they trip and fall, they’re going to do it anyway because it makes their lives more rich.”

Part of her motivation was to soften the image of Muslims from the typical images seen in the media. “I feel that people are still kind of angry and afraid of Muslims right now,” she said. “I guess the best way to portray Muslims to be what they most often are in Orange County is to put them in non-threatening situations like surfing, which is super nonviolent; it’s women having fun.”


The burkini is a full body swimsuit made out of breathable material that is designed to allow women who follow religiously mandated rules of modesty to enjoy water while honoring their religious beliefs. Previous to the burkini, there was no comfortable option for women who covered and wanted to enjoy the water. For some time now, however, the burkini has been accepted and can even be found in the dictionary. So next time you see a colorfully adorned woman on the beach surfing or at your local pool – don’t be alarmed and don’t believe the hype – she’s probably the coolest, hippest and trendiest girl in the spot in her new yellow polka-dotted burkini.