Spelling Bees were made famous by the 2006 movie Aqeelah and the Bee, about a young girl from a bad neighborhood with a talent for spelling, who works hard, finds a teacher to prep her for spelling competitions, and becomes a champion speller.
Tausif Malik, a Chicago entrepreneur from India, perceived a need for a platform of competition in which children could engage from around the world, and chose spelling. He has planned a 10-city national competition in spelling which he eventually hopes will become an international spelling competition open to Muslim students.
â€œMuslims are not aware of spelling bees because they are focused onâ€ getting their children into engineering or medicine, he said in a recent interview with TMO.
The purpose, he says, of the program is â€œto get Muslim children into the mainstream.â€ His competition will be held in each city at a Muslim private school, however it will be open to students from private schools, public schools, or home schools, children up to 14 years old.
Mr. Malik expects 500 children per city to compete in the competition, and as yet he has not announced the prizes.
The competition is scheduled to begin in March – May of 2012, it will be a weekend affair in each city.
The competition regions are to include Washington DC, New York City, New Jersey, Orange County California, Chicago, Tampa Florida, Atlanta Georgia, Phoenix Arizona, and Houston Texas. The entry fee per student will be $50–each student will have to fill out an application and pay the $50 fee online or via check. Once they are registered they will receive a word list, and then on a set day they will arrive at the testing location and take a written test (to screen the applicants and winnow the best of them) and then an oral competition.
Mr. Malik explains that there will be a cash prize, scholarships, college sponsorships, companies giving holiday gifts.
His scheme is to begin with a spelling bee but to expand into other areas, with science competitions, geography bees, math bees–â€an Olympiad.â€
â€œMuslims have lost education,â€ Mr. Malik argues. â€œThey are getting into stuff that is not worth it–Muslims were creators, innovators.â€ Malik believes his program of competitions will move the Muslim community towards that.