Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Hispanics coming back to Islam in the USA.

Tuesday, February 27th, 2007...10:45 pm
Hispanics Coming Back to Islam in the U.S.

By Amy Green Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor
ORLANDO, FLA. – With her hijab and dark complexion, Catherine Garcia doesn’t look like an Orlando native or a Disney tourist. When people ask where she’s from, often they are surprised that it’s not the Middle East but Colombia. That’s because Ms. Garcia, a bookstore clerk who immigrated to the US seven years ago, is Hispanic and Muslim. On this balmy afternoon at the start of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, she is at her mosque dressed in long sleeves and a long skirt in keeping with the Islamic belief in modesty. “When I was in my country I never fit in the society. Here in Islam I feel like I fit with everything they believe,” she says.
Garcia is one of a growing number of Hispanics across the US who have found common ground in a faith and culture bearing surprising similarities to their own heritage. From professionals to students to homemakers, they are drawn to the Muslim faith through marriage, curiosity and a shared interest in issues such as immigration.
The population of Hispanic Muslims has increased 30 percent to some 200,000 since 1999, estimates Ali Khan, national director of the American Muslim Council in Chicago. [more]

Note from Rafik Beekun: Below are a few video clips that describe the wonderful return of our hispanic brothers and sisters to Islam. I have also included a video of Surah Ar-Rahman, the adhan, and a dua video in Spanish and a link to a spanish translation of the Holy Qur’an.
1. Latino Muslims Growing in Number in the US
2. Hispanic Muslims

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

My experience at Abu bakr as Siddeeq seminar. amira bint fernando

Join Date: Mar 2006
Posts: 3
My Experience~ AbuBakr As-Siddeeq Seminar ~ Amiira bint Fernando...
We’re actually going to Makkah and Madinah?!” I could not bring myself to believe that my zowj and I were going to have the opportunity to make our ‘Umrah, as well, as learn from some of the top ‘Ulamaah. Subhan’Allaah, it was like a dream come true. As I looked out the window of the airplane, I still felt myself in doubt. Why me? I embraced this beautiful and wonderful Deen in March 1999, and still felt that there was so much more I needed to perfect before being worthy of setting foot in the Haram. But as one person had put it, “It is a very special thing when you are able to go, because it is as if Allah subhannahu wa ta’alaa, is inviting you.” After hearing that, I felt even more humbled and honoured that we were blessed with this chance of a lifetime.On our way from the airport, we approached a fork in the road towards Makkah, my heart stopped, seeing the road sign specifically directed “For Non-Muslims”. The reality of the choice I had made of becoming Muslim was truly made manifest. Realizing that these two roadways for the believers and non-believers, metaphorically illustrated the pathways to al-Jannah and al-Jahannam. The difference between my loved ones travelling on one rather than the other, was the simple yet profound weight of a few words… La illaha ill’Allaah aMohammadur Rasoolullaah…We arrived at the Haram before Fajr and began to perform our ‘Umrah. Perhaps because of the long travel and lack of sleep, it made it all seem even more like a dream. Endless dhikr of Allaah, du’as of tawbah and hidayaah for my family were on my tongue, my heart and mind. “If only they (my family) could see this… if only, insha’Allaah, one day…”At the hotel, we were shown to our rooms. Alhumdulilaah, from the beginning, the sisters were very upfront and honest with each other, since we knew that we would be living together for the next two weeks. Through my journey of this Deen, I have seen how difficult it can be for some sisters when trudging through the path to knowledge, either on account of not having a mahram for travelling or simply having to look after a family at home. And may Allah (swt) reward those sisters who make all the efforts to gain this precious ‘ilm of the Deen. Due to the set up of some lectures, sometimes the ‘ilm is not clearly understood as it is for the brothers. This is usually based on the fact that you cannot actually see the teacher and can be a little frustrating, since physical expression or mannerisms have a lot to do with fully grasping and understanding a lesson. Thus, it took a great deal of patience and concentration to do so. As a sister, sometimes you feel that you wish you could be there right in front of the Scholars or Students of Knowledge during lessons, but alhumdulilaah, we all felt fortunate to even be there listening to them live! There was only a doorway, covered by a curtain that separated us from them in the lecture hall, so we were able to hear everything clearly and as if we were right there with them, alhumdulilaah. Keeping in mind that there will come a time when the Scholars will not be around for us to take our ‘ilm from, caused me to take my studying a lot more seriously than if I were at home listening to lessons on a tape. All I could think about was that I had to get this ‘ilm, and learn it thoroughly, and have it ingrained not only in my mind but in my heart. So that I could return home with the proper skills to benefit and improve my Deen, and most importantly, the dawah towards my family. May Allah soften their hearts and guide them… Aameen.There were a total of five sisters that participated in this course, and mash’Allaah, I feel blessed to have been a part of something so special. Not only did we bond, but we were able to talk and support each other with our personal struggles. We shared each other’s notes and books, and tested one another on certain subjects that we were having difficulty with.One of the highlights of our trip was going to Umal Qura University in Makkah. Once we (the sisters) heard that we were going, we literally threw on our abayas and jet out of our rooms! We were so excited! For me, it was another far-fetched dream that I never thought would happen any time soon, subhan’Allaah. We arrived at the building for the Sisters and entered with huge smiles on our faces. Even though we had heard about the university, it was still surprising to see no one wearing the “garb” that we wear outside. Mash’Allaah, I thought it was so cool! Escorted by a staff member to the main office area, we were greeted and introduced to different members of the university’s faculty, as well as the Dean, herself. After assuring us that there were no men in the building, they invited us to hang up our over-garments. Nervously, we looked at each other, realizing that we were so excited to come that some of us only had our pjs underneath! We timidly stated that we were unprepared and added humorously that… “we just love our hijaab too much!” They all smiled, looking very professional and mash’Allaah, beautiful. They offered us the traditional Arabic coffee with delectable chocolates and after conversing for a while and getting to know one another, we were given a tour of the grounds.After meeting more faculty members, having more coffee and chocolates, seeing the library and various departments, I was completely overwhelmed with the idea that insha’Allaah, I just HAVE to come to school here! All I kept thinking about was how mash’Allaah, blessed these beautiful sisters were to come here for school. Close to the Haram, in Makkah, hearing the adhaan throughout the day (live!), not having to put up with the terrible fitnah that comes with living in the land of the kuffaar, learning the Deen from people of Knowledge and just living among them… subhan’Allaah, I came close to tears many a time throughout our little tour.Lastly, we were seated in a boardroom with all the faculty members, where an array of snacks and refreshments were served. After expressing what we thought of the school, all I could think of was how badly I wanted to pursue my Islamic education. And at the same time, how difficult and hurtful it is when your non-Muslim family is ignorant of its importance and would much rather you take a ribaa-based loan to get a secular kuffaar education. My thoughts were suddenly interrupted when little tokens or gifts were being handed to us on behalf of the school. I was so touched by their hospitality and just felt my heart ache even more for my family. Wishing that they could know that this truly is the Haq from our Lord. The worst feeling for a “revert” is just knowing that you’re disappointing your parents, and no matter how much you are struggling fisibillillah, they just cannot understand or see, let alone, care. As to those who reject Faith, it is the same to them whether thou warn them or do not warn them; they will not believe. Allah has set a seal upon their hearts and upon their hearing and there is a covering over their eyes, and there is a great punishment for them. (Surah al-Baqarah 6-7)I covered my face and started to cry. A sister explained that I was just too overwhelmed with happiness. I guess I just couldn’t hold it in and feeling a bit embarrassed, I explained that I just didn’t want to go home. Little did I realize that almost every one in the entire room had started to cry as well. In the end we just asked that they remember us in their du’as and that insha’Allaah, not to forget us because we would be back. If not as students, then at least to visit.Our second last day, my husband and I were personally taken to Shaykh Rabee’s house for some important naseeha in which I was in urgent need of. I was not able to see him, as there were many brothers inside, however, my issue was still addressed, alhumdulilaah. At the spur of the moment, the brother who took us, decided to try another Shaykh’s house. Mash’Allaah, my husband and I were able to sit with Shaykh Muhammed Jamil Zino. He was very hospitable, mash’Allaah! My issue was explained to him and he offered beautiful and encouraging advice. He made du’as for us and our families, and made sure we left with materials to give to them. Besides the fundamentals and ‘ilm that I absorbed during this course, I felt the greatest impact come from the grave importance given to calling to the tawheed and the way of calling to it. At the time I had only been Muslim for 3 years and in my experience, found so many incidents in which new Muslims were frightened away or turned off due to the ignorance and lack of adhaab and aqlaaq that many other Muslims have today. And no matter how much knowledge one may have, it will never benefit anyone, if one does not also grasp the fiqh in calling to this Truth. If this can be accomplished, it is truly a beautiful and humbling thing to witness. I know that now because of what I, myself, have witnessed. And may Allah (azj) grant us this understanding, so that we may be successful in our call… Aameen.Invite (all) to the Way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching; and argue with them in ways that are best and most gracious: for thy Lord knoweth best, who have strayed from His Path, and who receive guidance. (Surah an-Nahl:125)Umm Na'eema ~ Amiira bint Fernando

Idris garcia- My trip t abu bakr as siddeeq seminar.

Umm Na'eema
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Idriis Garcia .. My trip for AbuBakr As-Siddeeq Seminar ~ Beautiful...
Beautiful… I hate it. Two thoughts I kept repeating in my head and upon my tongue. Not about the same thing but in fact different matters which are in contrast themselves. The first was like a dream. Being in Makkah, praying at the Haram, making ‘Umrah, learning firsthand from the big scholars, then Madeenah, praying at the Haram, attending the sittings of more big scholars, and every morning being awoken for fajr by a live adhaan… beautiful. While I was enjoying this bliss, I would occasionally recollect what it was like back in this non-believing land where I unfortunately reside. Which brings me to the second matter. Being in this democratic, usury-based system with all their ignorance, nakedness and immorality, waking up to this nightmare everyday startled by an extremely loud, annoying alarm clock… I hate it. Naturally, my preference would be to focus on the more pleasant things. Upon arriving in Makkah, the first thing my family, companions and I decided was to go to Masjid al-Haraam and perform our ‘Umrah. Then beautiful things started happening. While in awe from the sight of the Sacred Mosque, the adhaan for fajr is called. This was such a trip since I only hear this kind of adhaan from tapes, and this was live! This was just the call to prayer. Imagine how I felt when Shaykh ‘AbdurRahmaan as-Sudays soon led the salaah then started crying, or when I saw the Ka’bah for the first time. Beautiful. After performing such a rigorous but virtuous act such as ‘Umrah, came more virtuous/rigorous experiences. I arrived at the hotel while still in my ihraam gear, all exhausted. I quickly got cleaned up then joined the gathering of knowledge already in session. It was the hadeeth class being taught by Shaykh Wasee’ullaah ‘Abbaas. This was the beginning of an intensive, brain stimulating, heart rendering course of learning. The classes were one of the most beneficial of my time there. I learned so much. Not just from what was taught but also from the way they were taught. It’s such a blessing to be able to witness how these great Scholars apply what they have inherited from the Prophets. There were many memorable moments for me. Just to mention a few are: visiting and applying to the universities, being taken on a tour through the historical sites in Makkah and Madeenah, and having dinner at Shaykh Muhammad as-Subayyal’s house with him, Shaykh Wasee’ullaah Abbaas, and the Shaykhs Muhammad and Ahmad Baazmool. I was initially disappointed when I learnt that, due to our arriving late, I missed out on being amongst the brothers as guests at Shaykh ‘Ubayd’s, then Shaykh Rabee’s houses walaahawlaa walaaquwwaata illaa billaah. Alhamdulillaah, during the course of events, I ended up visiting Shaykh Rabee’s house on four different occasions. Allaahu Akbar. He even served me some tea! When I was in Madeenah, a kindly brother I met at the University (jazaakallaahu khayr akh Khalid) was going to take me to Shaykh ‘Ubayd’s house but I was obligated to go back to Makkah to attend the classes. Another thing I was upset about due to our late arrival was not seeing the Scholars of Madeenah when they gave lectures for the brothers. We met up with the group in Makkah when the Madeenah part of the seminar had already passed. But when me, my brother ‘Irfaan and our wives decided to go to Madeenah from Makkah, I was able to sit at the circles of Shaykh ‘Abdul Muhsin al-Abbaad, Shaykh Saalih as-Suhaymee, and Shaykh ‘Abdul Maalik Ramadaanee al-Jazaa’iree inside Masjid an-Nabawee. Walhamdulillaah.Our arrival in Madeenah was just as beautiful as it was in Makkah. As soon as we got out of the car by the Prophet’s Mosque, the first thing we heard was the Qur’aan through the serene voice of my favourite reciter al-Hudhayfee leading the fajr salaah. Later thet day was Jumu’ah where I listened to Shaykh Husayn Aal asShaykh give the Khutbah and lead the salaah. In Makkah, what touched me the most was when Shaykh Muhammad al-Banna started hugging the brothers after telling them it might be the last time we’ll be seeing him since he might be leaving this world soon due to his old age. A sentimental, tear-jerking moment. The most unforgettable part was my family’s private session with Shaykh Muhammad Jameel Zeenoo. Our meeting with the great Shaykh was a result of a favour amongst the many favours provided by my brother Aboo Sufyaan Zahid Rashid al-Atharee, may Allaah increase the Ummah with brothers like him. He went out of his way and helped us so much regardless of his busy schedule in organizing and running the seminar. Brother Zahid first advised us, then went to Shaykh Rabee’s house and got the Shaykh’s advise regarding a personal issue. He then brought us to Shaykh Muhammad Jameel Zeenoo’s house and translated for him and us. After serving us some zam-zam water, the Shaykh gave such beautiful naseeha. He was so hospitable, courteous and generous (mash'Allaah and may Allaah preserve him). We were even given a whole box of books, tapes, and other da’wah material. For the little time I was there, I can honestly say that I’ve learnt a great deal. Not only from the lessons, but from the actions of the Scholars and the brothers. The theme of my story there was knowledge. I’m sure it was like this for the others who attended the seminar as well. They were studying together and teaching each other. Even the translators for the Shaykhs were constantly going through the lessons with us and testing us. From quotes of the salaf in posters to the books of the salaf being taught by our Noble Scholars, this seminar was all about ‘ilm. One thing that amazed me from the ‘Ulamah and Tullaabul ‘ilm was how humble they are. Some people think they know something and then become arrogant but with these people of knowledge, it’s like the ‘ilm increases their humility. I thank Allaah for allowing me to experience such wonderful things while being able to perform ‘ibaadah unique to these Holy Places. I ask Him to increase me in knowledge and humility and to be with people who possess these virtues. May He grant me Understanding of this ‘ilm and let me adorn it with richly textured righteous actions. O Allaah, please enable me to call to this knowledge. I ask ar-Rahmaan to give me patience and perseverance during hardships in acquiring and disseminating it. Lastly, I seek refuge in Him from the knowledge that does not benefit. Aameen. Wassalaatu wassalaamu’alaa Rasoolillaah. aboo ne’eema idriis

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Good ole boy.. attacks Hispanics and Muslims..

Too bad old Charlie Daniels thinks we are two separate groups to start continue his ethnic cleansing.
Well with 70,000 Hispanic Muslims he better watch his horse don't slip and fall in certain parts of this here town.. YAHOOOOOOOOOOO
Sunday, February 25, 2007

I Thought this was worth posting for everyone to readbecause he is right about what he is saying.AT LEAST HE HAS THE COURAGE TO SPEAK HIS MIND!!!

I don't know how everybody else feels about it, but to me Ithink Hispanic people in this country, legally or illegally,made a huge public relations mistake with their recent demonstrations.I don't blame anybody in the world for wanting to come to theUnited States of America, as it is a truly wonderful place. But when the first thing you do when you set foot on American soil is illegal it is flat out wrong and I don't care how many lala land left heads come out of the woodwork and start trying to give me sensitivity lessons.I don't need sensitivity lessons, in fact I don't have any-thing against Mexicans! I just have something against criminals and anybody who comes into this country illegally is a criminal and if you don't believe it try coming into America from a foreign country without a passport and see how far you get. What disturbs me about the demonstrations is that it's tanta-mount to saying, "I am going to come into your country even if it means breaking your laws and there's nothing you can do about it."It's an "in your face" action and speaking just for me, I don't like it one little bit and if there were a half dozen pairs of gonads in Washington bigger than English peas it wouldn't be happening.Where are you, you bunch of lily livered, pantywaist, forked tongued, sorry excuses for defenders of The Constitution? Have you been drinking the water out of the Potomac again?And even if you pass a bill on immigration it will probably be so pork laden and watered down that it won't mean anything anyway Besides, what good is another law going to do when you won't enforce the ones on the books now? And what ever happened to the polls, guys? I thought you folks were the quintessential finger wetters. Well you sure ain't paying any attention to the polls this time because somewhere around eighty percent of Americans want some thing done about this mess, and mess it is and getting bigger everyday. This is no longer a problem, it is a dilemma and headed for being a tragedy. Do you honestly think that what happened in France with the Muslims can't happen here when the businesses who hire these people finally run out of jobs and a few million disillusioned Hispanics take to the streets? If you, Mr. President, Congressmen and Senators, knuckle under on this and refuse to do something meaningful it means that you care nothing for the kind of country your children and grand-children will inherit. But I guess that doesn't matter as long as you get re-elected.Shame on you. One of the big problems in America today is that if you have the nerve to say anything derogatory about any group of people (except Christians) you are going to be screamed at by the media and called a racist, a bigot and anything else they can think of to call you Well I've been pounded by the media before and I'm still rockin' and rollin' and when it comes to speaking the truth I fear not. And the truth is that the gutless, gonadless, milksop politicians are just about to sell out the United States of America because they don't have the intestinal fortitude to stand up to face reality. And reality is that we would never allow any other group of people to have 12 million illegal in this country and turn around and say, "Oh it's ok, ya'll can stay here if you'll just allow us to slap your wrist."And I know that some of you who read this column are saying "Well what's wrong with that?" I'll tell you what's wrong with it. These people could be from Mars as far as we know. We don't know who they are, where they are or what they're up to and the way the Congress is going we're not going to. Does this make sense? Labor force you say? We already subsidize corporate agriculture as it is, must we subsidize their labor as well? If these people were from Haiti would we be so fast to turn a blind eye to them or if they were from Somalia or Afghanistan ? I think not. All the media shows us are pictures of hard working Hispanics who have crossed the border just to try to better their life. They don't show you pictures of the Feds rounding up members of MS 13, the violent gang who came across the same way the decent folks did. They don't tell you about the living conditions of the Mexican illegal some fat cat hired to pick his crop. I want to make two predictions. No. 1: This situation is going to grow and fester until it erupts in violence on our streets while the wimps in Washington drag their toes in the dirt and try to figure how many tons of political hay they can make to the acre. No 2: Somebody is going to cross that border with some kind of weapon of mass destruction and set it off in a major American city after which there will be a backlash such as this country has never experienced and the Capitol building in Washington will probably tilt as Congressmen and Senators rush to the other side of the issue. I don't know about you but I would love to see just one major politician stand up and say, "I don't care who I make mad and I don't care how many votes I lose, this is a desperate situation and I'm going to lead the fight to get it straightened out." I don't blame anybody for wanting to come to America , but if you don't respect our immigration laws why should you respect any others? And by the way, this is America and our flag has stars and stripes Please get that other one out of my face. God Bless AmericaCharlie Daniels
posted by Holly @ 7:28 AM


At 7:58 PM, PIEDAD said…
Yet another Red Neck gets to hit hardball on Muslims and Hispanics.. great going.. see you in hell. With over 70,000 Hispanic Muslims lets move on them fast..
Khadijah.. Latina Muslim..

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

More Hispanics converting to Al Islam

by Steve Mort09 February 2007VOICE OF AMERICAOrlando,

The number of Hispanic Americans converting to Islam is growingrapidly -- particularly in New York, California, Texas and Florida,which have the greatest concentration of Hispanic residents. Muslimleaders say interest in Islam has increased in the past few years,and they also note that Muslims andHispanics, many of whom are immigrants, share a number of commonconcerns.Steve Mort reports from a mosque in Florida that has seen a steady increase in Latino worshippers. The al-Rahman mosque in Orlando opened in 1975 and is the oldest Muslim place of worship in the city. But over the years its membership has changed, and now increasing numbers of Hispanics, like Jesus Marti, are joining the congregation. "It's the right way to be worshipping God, and I love the Islamic religion. It really has given me a lot of knowledge, andI have learned so many things from Islam."Jesus, a Puerto Rican living in Florida, converted to Islam only a year ago. He is one of tens of thousands of Hispanic Muslims in theUnited States: estimates range from around 70,000 to 200,000.He says that while he has faced criticism for converting to Islam, hehas found broad acceptance as a Muslim in America. "Islam is not acountry. Islam is a religion. Islam is definitely a way of life, fordiscipline where you follow and you try to enhance yourself to getthe most positive things out of yourself for the benefit of your ownself and for the benefit of your own family and the society as awhole."Muslim leaders say Jesus Marti and other Hispanics choose Islam for avariety of reasons. They say Muslims and Hispanics face common issuesand concerns, like finding their way in a new, unfamiliar country.The media focus on Islam since September 11th has also been factor.Imam Muhammad Musri is president of the Islamic Society of CentralFlorida. The society has about 40,000 members.Iman Musri says Latinos and Muslims find they have a lot incommon. "There are so many common denominators between immigrantMuslims and immigrant Hispanics who see the issues common to both ofthem -- immigration issues, as it is a big discussion in the UnitedStates, and there are other issues of trying to find a job, keep ajob, buy a home -- all the same struggles two groups of people happento be going through creates this bond between them". Hundreds of worshippers attend Imam Musri's mosque, and there is an increasing demand for religious literature in Spanish. He points to Spain's historical ties with Islam. And that many Hispanics find Muslim culture and values similar to their own.Iman Musri says, "Many who come from Central and South America come with conservative values and, as well, Muslims come with conservative values. And here in the States they find that those values are putin question or are being challenged. So it is common to see Hispanics and Muslims working on similar projects in terms of familyand education and reforms to protect their values, their conservativevalues they have."For Jesus Marti and his fellow Hispanic worshippers, the decision toconvert to Islam is personal, but also part of a broader trend.He hopes greater diversity among America's Muslims will help strengthen understanding of Islam within the wider U.S. population.

Amber Acosta, Ex Catholic

Description: A young lady raised and schooled as a Catholic finds in Islam what she was searching for in Catholicism.By Amber Acosta - Published on 22 Jan 2007 - Last modified on 21 Jan 2007Viewed: 346 - Rating: 5 from 5 - Rated by: 4Printed: 17 - Emailed: 6 - Commented on: 0 Category: Articles > Stories of New Muslims > Women

Why did I become Muslim? I can clearly remember the day I officially converted at Al-Azhar Mosque in Cairo, I came right from the state of Connecticut (US), but what lead up to that day remains as a somewhat subconscious, yet continuous quest for God.
As a child, I was always sure of religion and God, but never in the way it was presented in Catholicism. I could never grasp how God could be three (with the Trinity), how we could pray to many people such as Jesus (peace be upon him), Mary and assorted saints, the concept of original sin, how priests could just “forgive” your sins, or why there were hundreds of completely different bibles.
Consequently, these are just a few of the things that anyone, including priests, could ever address or even explain. It was amazing that I went to church and religious education but came out without knowing exactly what I should be doing to be a good Christian. I learned I was supposed to be “good,” “giving,” “caring,” “merciful,” and many other desirable traits, but there was never any practical application for how I should go about doing that.
Without knowing it then, I was searching for a way to connect with the One God I knew and always prayed to, as well as a structure from God that would teach me exactly how I should be carrying out my life. But life went on, and with pressure from my family and objection from me, I went through the initiations into the Catholic Church. Up until college, religion was nothing more to me than a bother on Sunday mornings. God though, was still present.
I happened to go to a Catholic college and thought I would give Catholicism one last chance. I wanted so desperately to reach God. I tried my best once again to find my way through the only means I knew possible and it did not work. I finally renounced Catholicism, so that meant it was time to explore other options.
Catholicism and Christian denominations were out because of my previous troubles with them and so was Judaism because of its disbelief in Jesus. Although I had issues with Christianity, I was always sure Jesus had a powerful message to humankind — the message of worshiping one God. I could never understand how Christians ended up worshiping Jesus himself. I felt sure that he would have never wanted that. This left me with one more option — Islam.
I happened to be familiar with Islam through previous travels in Egypt, so I was open to the possibility of this faith. It was not alien to me, although at the time I did not know any Muslims other than a friend or two in Egypt.
I began reading the Quran and searching for information on Islam through the Internet. I remember my first feeling about the Quran was that I knew instinctively it could never have been written by a human hand; it was simply beyond that. This was in sharp contrast to my reading of the Bible, which seemed like just a collection of stories written by a man. This love of the Quran’s words and the fact that there was and is just one, unchanged Quran since its revelation to Prophet Muhammad, may God praise him, was not the only thing that impressed me.
I felt good about everything I learned about Islam. This feeling meant a lot, so I kept digging, learning, and liking. Most importantly, I found answers to my two main religious issues of the past (only wanting to worship one God and structure). Islam is strictly monotheistic in that Muslims worship of God alone without any partners, and the Quran and Sunnah (the sayings and actions of the Prophet [may God praise him]) give a complete way of life to follow. I finally knew exactly what I had to do to be a good Christian, I had to become a Muslim!
During the last two years of college, I held the beliefs of Islam, not really sure what to do with them in a Catholic college environment. I knew in my heart that I was Muslim, but I did not know how to break that news to family and friends.
After college, I was offered an internship in Egypt and happily returned. I made many good Muslim friends, including my husband-to-be, who helped me officially convert and learn so many things that are important in the religion. I was lucky to have all the wonderful support I received.
It was not easy telling people that I was Muslim. Although some people were glad I found a religion I loved, I have not always received congratulations or even polite responses, but I have become strong because of it. I can defend my faith and I thank God every day that I am Muslim. I remember growing up confused about God and religion. I finally feel complacent and simply happy each day that goes by because I now understand the truth.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Some Latinos convert to Islam

Some Latinos Convert to Islam
adminPublished: 2005/10/30Read 2530 times Size 10.44 KB

By Marcela RojasThe Journal News(Original Publication: October 30, 2005)

Aisha Ahmed's decision to convert to Islam and give up Catholicism and her Puerto Rican birth name, Maritza Rondon, did not come impulsively or under duress.She spent five years studying the Quran and hired a teacher to learn Arabic before she was ready for shahadah, a declaration of faith led by an imam that is essential to the conversion process.In the end, Ahmed's decision to become a Muslim and to take a name that belonged to the Prophet Muhammad's wife, she said, was borne of years of questioning her Catholic upbringing and discovering that, for her, the answers were with Islam."I have lived a humble and peaceful life since I converted. Everything is so clear," said Ahmed, 45, of Tarrytown. "I didn't see in Catholicism the unity and compassion I found in Islam. I saw more kindness and willingness to give."Ahmed's change of faith is not unique among her ethnic group today. In recent years, thousands of Hispanics nationwide have been converting to Islam, particularly since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, when interest in the religion seemed to gain momentum.Though precise statistics do not exist, the Council on American-Islamic Relations estimates there are more than 36,000 Hispanic Muslims in the nation today. Other estimates raise the total to 75,000. A study the group conducted also showed that 6 percent of the 20,000 annual converts to Islam are Hispanic.Though the numbers are a small fraction of the estimated 6 million Muslims in the country, it is fast becoming evident that the conversion rate among this minority group is taking root and that its influence is being asserted through the formation of Hispanic Muslim organizations — "dawah," or outreach efforts targeted at Hispanics — and the distribution of literature and the Quran in Spanish."There hasn't been real scientific gauging," said Mohamed Nimer, research director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations. "But Muslim leaders are saying they are seeing more and more Latino Muslims, especially in New York, California and Florida."Melvin Reveron converted to Islam last year, following a period of depression and internal doubts about Catholicism, he said."I called myself a Catholic, but I wasn't practicing as an adult," said Reveron, 41, a Puerto Rican who lives in New York City. "I realized the futility of confession. I felt alienated from God and unworthy of God's graces. If I was going to reintroduce God into my life, I thought this was the best way."Reveron had read the Quran after Sept. 11 because he wanted to gain more knowledge about a religion that was being blamed for the attacks, he said. Culture and religion often can be mistaken, he said."People say that Islam is a religion that teaches people to kill, that it creates suicide bombers," said Reveron, 41, a supervisor for the Department of Social Services in New York City. "I reject that notion. Just because a criminal does something, the religion isn't wrong. There's something wrong with that person."The Quran, he said, resonates with Catholics because it mentions Adam, Moses, Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Jesus is revered as a prophet — not as the son of God — within the Islamic religion."I looked at is as an intellectual continuation of what I had been taught," he said.Like Reveron, many Hispanic converts say they have grown disenchanted with Catholicism and have difficulty accepting the church hierarchy, original sin, confession, the Holy Trinity and the saints. Others say they are "reverting" to a religion that is part of their ancestral history — Islam ruled Spain for several centuries.Either way, following the five pillars of Islam, the foundation of Muslim life, is a more truthful existence, many agree. Islam's tenets include professing faith in Allah and the prophet Muhammad, praying daily, charity work, fasting during Ramadan and a pilgrimage to Mecca."I was very confident it was the correct way of living life," said Fatima Britos, 25, a John Jay College student of Argentine descent. "It is the straight path."Britos recently attended a Columbia University student event titled "Latinos in Islam: Rediscovering our Roots" that saw a diverse group of people in attendance. The affair included a Mexican feast and a discussion led by Hernan Guadalupe on why Hispanics are converting to Islam today. The Ecuadorean-American outlined the Muslims' reign in Spain from 711 to 1492. Between 10 percent and 30 percent of Spanish words come from Arabic, he said. Guadalupe spoke of the cultural similarities and family values inherent to Hispanics and Muslims. Typically, Hispanic households are tightknit and devout, and children are reared in a strict environment — traits that mirror Muslim households, Guadalupe said."There are 780 years of Islamic influence that can't be ignored," said Guadalupe, 24, a mechanical engineer from South Brunswick, N.J. "If you understand that, as a Latino, you have Spanish blood in you, then you would understand ... that you have Islam in you."Not coincidentally, Guadalupe converted to Islam on Sept, 11, 2001 — or "the day the towers fell," as he said — after years of studying different religions and cultures. He started the Latino Muslim Outreach Program this year, traveling to schools in the tri-state area to educate — not convert — people on Islam, he said.Other organizations have formed in recent years, including Piedad, an Internet group with nearly 300 members whose mission is to teach non-Muslims and give leadership training to women, particularly Hispanic females."On a daily basis, I hear Latinos coming into the fold of Islam," said Piedad founder Khadijah Rivera. "It is so close to our culture that, once they understand, it is like second nature to belong to Islam."But Catholic leaders do not consider the conversion rate a sign of the faithful growing disillusioned with the church, said Alejandro Aguilar-Titus, associate director of the Secretariat for Hispanic Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Of the 45 million Hispanics in this country, 32 million are Catholic, he said. Conversely, there are more than 6 million Muslims in Latin America, and it has been reported that Islamic ideologies are spreading among indigenous groups."As far as we can see, Catholics becoming Muslim is more of an individual choice that comes through marriage, friendships or relationships," said Aguilar-Titus. He later added, "It saddens the church, but at the same time, there is respect for that person's choice."Aguilar-Titus reflected on Islamic Spain and said the influence brought several practices and symbols similar to Catholicism."These elements could be very powerful and attractive to someone," he said. "I think that's more significant than being disenchanted with Catholicism."In 1997, the Latino American Dawah Organization — LADO — was formed by a handful of converts. It serves to educate and promote the legacy of Islam in Spain and Latin America. One of its organizers, Juan Galvan, a Mexican-American who lives in San Antonio, said he has been in contact with more than 20,000 Hispanic Muslims in recent years, co-authored a report, "Latino Muslims: The Changing Face of Islam in America," and is co-writing a book on conversion stories. LADO's Web site features dozens of accounts.The need for support networks is imperative because often Hispanics may feel isolated from others who are born Muslim or because of a language barrier, he said. Galvan converted in the summer of 2001 after having grown up active in the Catholic Church, serving as an altar boy and Eucharistic minister."It's a very clear and simple belief," said Galvan, 30. "But it's not enough to say I disagree with the Catholic faith and then become a Muslim. There's more to it."Indeed, converting to Islam means a lifestyle change that to some can be difficult. Fasting, praying five times a day and giving up alcohol and pork — a staple in the Hispanic diet — can present challenges. Women must wear a hijab, but the misperception, many women argue, is that the veil is debasing. Though there are no definitive statistics, reports indicate there are more women than men converting to Islam."A head scarf does not symbolize oppression. It represents freedom," said Ecuadorean Sonia Lasso, while speaking at the third annual Hispanic Muslim Day at a mosque in Union City, N.J. "Because it is not our physical but our intellectual selves that are seen."Perhaps the biggest obstacle converts face is with their families, who take great pride in their Catholic rearing and have little understanding of Islam.Reveron said he has yet to tell his family, fearing irreversible repercussions."I haven't found the right way to tell them," he said. "You hear stories about families ridiculing and (the Muslim converts) being ostracized."For Ahmed, her family was more accepting of her decision, so much so that her brother is now Muslim, and her mother has accepted Islam, she said. Her life is much more devout since her conversion. She works as a representative to the James House at Phelps Memorial Hospital Center in Sleepy Hollow. She volunteers extensively in Westchester and the Bronx, a move she credits to her faith. She worships at the Thornwood masjid, as well as in the Bronx, and is proudest of helping to establish a mosque in Suffern with her former husband.While the horror of Sept. 11 moved many Hispanics toward Islam, Ahmed admits that the attacks on the World Trade Center gave her pause about her adopted religion. But it was Islam that prevailed, she said."I saw a tragic situation and at the same time had to understand that I am a Muslim," she said. "My faith was tested, but I stayed on track because I'm not going to let a group of fanatics change my faith. I became stronger. Once you believe, you can't go back."

Source: 2005 The Journal News

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Latinos choosing Islam over Catholicism

By Rachel Martin Weekend Edition Sunday, September 24, 2006

The Catholic Church has been grappling with an exodus of Latin Americans over the past few decades. A small yet growing segment of the Hispanic population is leaving Christianity altogether and converting to Islam -- and most of them are women. Listen:

More US Hispanics drawn to Islam

Marriage, post-9/11 curiosity, and a shared interest in issues such as immigration are key reasons. By Amy Green Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor ORLANDO, FLA. With her hijab and dark complexion, Catherine Garcia doesn't look like an Orlando native or a Disney tourist. When people ask where she's from, often they are surprised that it's not the Middle East but Colombia . That's because Ms. Garcia, a bookstore clerk who immigrated to the US seven years ago, is Hispanic and Muslim. On this balmy afternoon at the start of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, she is at her mosque dressed in long sleeves and a long skirt in keeping with the Islamic belief in modesty. "When I was in my country I never fit in the society. Here in Islam I feel like I fit with everything they believe," she says. Garcia is one of a growing number of Hispanics across the US who have found common ground in a faith and culture bearing surprising similarities to their own heritage. From professionals to students to homemakers, they are drawn to the Muslim faith through marriage, curiosity and a shared interest in issues such as immigration. The population of Hispanic Muslims has increased 30 percent to some 200,000 since 1999, estimates Ali Khan, national director of the American Muslim Council in Chicago . Many attribute the trend to a growing interest in Islam since the 2001 terrorist attacks and also to a collision between two burgeoning minority groups. They note that Muslims ruled Spain centuries ago, leaving an imprint on Spanish food, music, and language. "Many Hispanics ... who are becoming Muslim, would say they are embracing their heritage, a heritage that was denied to them in a sense," says Ihsan Bagby, professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky . The trend has spawned Latino Islamic organizations such as the Latino American Dawah Organization, established in 1997 by Hispanic converts in New York City . Today the organization is nationwide. The growth in the Hispanic Muslim population is especially prevalent in New York , Florida , California , and Texas , where Hispanic communities are largest. In Orlando , the area's largest mosque, which serves some 700 worshipers each week, is located in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood. A few years ago it was rare to hear Spanish spoken at the mosque, says Imam Muhammad Musri, president of the Islamic Society of Central Florida. Today there is a growing demand for books in Spanish, including the Koran, and requests for appearances on Spanish-language radio stations, Mr. Musri says. The mosque offers a Spanish-language education program in Islam for women on Saturdays. "I could easily see in the next few years a mosque that will have Spanish services and a Hispanic imam who will be leading the service," he says. The two groups tend to be family-oriented, religious, and historically conservative politically, Dr. Bagby says. Many who convert are second- and third-generation Hispanic Americans. The two groups also share an interest in social issues such as immigration, poverty, and healthcare. Earlier this year Muslims joined Hispanics in marches nationwide protesting immigration-reform proposals they felt were unfair. In South Central Los Angeles, a group of Muslim UCLA students a decade ago established a medical clinic in this underserved area. Today the nonreligious University Muslim Medical Association Community Clinic treats some 16,000 patients, mostly Hispanic, who see it as a safe place to seek care without fear for their illegal status, says Mansur Khan, vice chairman of the board and one of the founders. Although the clinic doesn't seek Muslim converts, Dr. Khan sees Hispanics taking an interest in his faith because it focuses on family, he says. One volunteer nurse founded a Latino Islamic organization in the area. Another Hispanic woman told Khan she felt drawn to the faith because of the head covering Muslim women wear. It reminded her of the Virgin Mary. The trend is a sign that Islam is becoming more Americanized and more indigenous to the country, Bagby says. As Republican positions on issues such as immigration push Muslim Hispanics and blacks in a less conservative direction, Islam could move in the same direction. Muslim Hispanic and black involvement in American politics could demonstrate to Muslims worldwide the virtues of democracy, eventually softening fundamentalists. He believes the Osama bin Ladens of the world are a small minority, and that most fundamentalists are moving toward engagement with the West. "The more Hispanics and other Americans [who] become Muslim, the stronger and wider the bridge between the Muslim community and the general larger American community," Bagby says. "Their words and approach have some weight because they are a source of pride for Muslims throughout the world." Garcia left Colombia to study international business in the US . Always religious, she considered becoming a nun when she was younger. But her Catholic faith raised questions for her. She wondered about eating pork when the Bible forbids it, and about praying to Mary and the saints and not directly to God. In the US she befriended Muslims and eventually converted to Islam. Her family in Colombia was supportive. Today she says her prayers in English, Spanish, and Arabic, and she eats Halal food in keeping with Islamic beliefs.

"It's the best thing that happened to me," says Garcia in soft, broken English. "I never expected to have so many blessings and be in peace like I am now.

" Copyright أ‚آ© 2006 The Christian Science Monitor. All rights reserved.

Latina Muslims gather for EID.

Yes, yet another article on Latinas. This seems to be becoming a media fetish.
That aside, Eid can be one of the loneliest times for converts. While everyone else is spending the day with family and old friends, a convert is somewhere by him/herself probably trying to convince him/herself that he/she is having a good time. Eid, if one was a single convert, basically consisted of praying, listening to the khutbah, going through the motions of hugging everyone, then going home to an empty room. No one to talk to because everyone is busy with their families much like Christmas or Thanksgiving for Americans. When Zulayka Martinez left the Roman Catholic Church and converted to Islam six years ago, she was happy and at peace with her decision. But she felt like an outsider in her new faith. Looking back, she realizes her problem was more of a cultural and language barrier. Most members of Houston mosques were of Arab or Pakistani backgrounds. She didnأ¢â‚¬â„¢t know any Spanish-speaking Muslims. And as a single woman, she found it especially hard during holidays. Over time - especially in larger communities -steps taken to correct this situation to the best of their ability. Here in the DC area, for example, lots of converts got together in many different gatherings to eat, let their children play football, bowl, and other things that Americans like to do. In that time, Martinez has become the center of a close-knit group of Latina Muslims who support each other throughout Ramadan and the rest of the year. For todayأ festive Eid al-Fitr, the day that ends the month of fasting, she is organizing the women for morning prayers and a celebratory brunch During Ramadan, the women often met for sunset prayers at local mosques and to break the daily fast. They gathered weekly at different homes for festive Iftar dinners. As the early evening sky began to darken from rosy pink to deep blue on a recent Saturday, Martinez anxiously looked at her watch. They are always late,? she said. “We work on Mexican time? I had no idea that Mexicans worked on CPT too. Franco was a single mother with a son when she converted to Islam in 1998. Her father once made fun of her decision, but became so impressed with his daughter's devotion that he eventually converted to Islam, as did one of her brothers. Castillo-Shah converted to Islam seven years after marrying a Muslim. She had not planned to convert and said she never felt pressured to do so by her husband, a native of Pakistan . It took more than a year for Martinez to make her first Hispanic Muslim friend. Then, three years after her conversion, a class in Spanish for female converts and others interested in learning about Islam began at El Farouq, the mosque she most frequently attends. Now, Martinez said, she is meeting Latino converts, both new and old, almost weekly. Just recently she was at Starbucks when a young Hispanic woman asked about her head scarf. The stranger said she had always been interested in Islam. Several days later, she accompanied Martinez to evening prayers at a mosque. I still haven't gotten to the bottom of the media facination with Latino converts - particularly Latinas. It is like a novelty or something. I'm not Latino, but I don't think I'd like this if I were one. I suppose that that comes from my aversion to being anyone œpet convert Even at some of the DC area masjids there were Latino Day iftars (quite enjoyable, by the way, as the food was excellent) where a group of Latino converts cooked their ethnic foods and served it. That was nice, but I canأt help but wonder how White folk or Black folk Day would sound. Then again, there are so many Black American Muslims, that Black folk Day is everyday in some masjids. So, how would a White Day sound?

Latina Muslims or best guess...

Latina Muslims..-or best guess...
Oooh Latina Muslims Salaam

Some people, like Tariq, have written about the seeming media fascination with Latina sisters over the past few days, wondering why. My thoughts? Take: (1) The general awareness and fear of the إ“Browning of Americaأ the rapid growth of the Latino community and the (not-so-hidden?) fears of some Whites that the day when they are no longer the majority ethnic group will mean a loss of power. (2) The simultaneous embrace, however superficial, of some elements of different Latino cultures, from food to music, to the popularity of actors and singers. At the same time, though, there has been a happy embrace of some stereotypes: Latinos are hot blooded, wear knee socks and chanclas with hairnets, are all passionately devoted to La Virgen, drink a lot of cerveza, and are terribly promiscuous while they dance the night away to that cha cha cha coochy coochy music saying أ“Orale!أ? a lot. (3) The upsurge of interest in Islam and Muslims, including the fascination and disgust that many have with the idea that an American woman would willingly embrace Islam. Pair all that with: (4) The major increase in the numbers of Latino Muslims in the last decade. In 1997, when we founded LADO, we knew of an estimated 15,000 Latino Muslims. Today, many Latino daiees believe that number is around 70,000. In addition to that, Islam is growing in Central and South America. And what you get is a sure fire recipe for something that people can't help but rubberneck. Someday soon, it might be another combination, another something that fascinates and mystifies, but right now itأ's the idea of Latinas and Islam. YMMV.

This entry was posted on Sunday, October 29th, 2006 at 1:39 PM and filed under On the Media, Muslim Women, Converts to Islam.

POETRY- All I need is ALLAH (anonymous)

Category: Writing and Poetry

Oh Allah, I have no money, but I have You. I am rich.
Oh Allah, I have no freedom, but I believe in You. I am free.
Oh Allah, I have no patience, but I read Your Quran. I am calm.
Oh Allah, I get no respect, but You listen to my dua. I am proud.
Oh Allah, I have no time, but I think of Jannah. I have forever.
Oh Allah, I have much time, but I look at Your Signs. I have today
Oh Allah, I feel so weak, but I eat Your food. I am strong.
Oh Allah, I feel so dirty, but I repent to You. I am cleansed.
Oh Allah, I feel so depressed, but I remember you. I am at peace.
Oh Allah, I feel so lost, but I follow Your Commands. I am safe.
Oh Allah, nobody listens, but You never turn your back on me. I am grateful.
Oh Allah, my heart breaks, but I imagine meeting You. My heart finds rest
Oh Allah, I cry every night, but I make wudu( ablution). I wash away my tears.
Oh Allah, I feel so alone, but I pray to You. I have everything.
Oh Allah, I don't want this life, and I will die, only to live forever.

"Verily, in the remembrance of Allah do hearts find rest." [Surah Ar R'ad 13:28]
All I have is Allah, All I need is Allah.

Diversity of Muslims in the USA

Category: The Muslim Observer, Community News

The Diversity of Muslims in the United States: Views as AmericansBy Qamar-ul Huda
There are approximately 6 to 7.5 million Muslims in the United States who identify themselves as Americans. The community consists of a combination of immigrants and second- and third-generation Arab, Latino, Asian, European, African, and African-American Muslims.
The growth of the American Muslim community has fostered the development of a variety of religious, civic, political, cultural, economic, social, ethnic, feminist, artistic, and professional organizations.
The diversity of American Muslim organizations provides a vast number of voices addressing such issues as terrorism, democracy, peacemaking, and human rights.
American Muslims do not see contradictions between Islam and such ideals as democracy, pluralism, or political activism; rather, in recent years several national groups have made it their primary mission to reconcile all three with Islamic values.
Some leaders see the blending of Islamic values with the American experience as a solid bridge to mutual understanding between the United States and the Muslim world.
American Muslim advocacy organizations often collaborate with the White House and law enforcement authorities to devise strategies on public policy, civil rights, the war against terrorism, and other related issues.
Many organizations emphasize the importance of self-scrutiny and education in relation to the larger Islamic heritage.
Interfaith dialogue has taken the forefront on the agendas of many American Muslim organizations, demonstrating a belief that building trust, peace, and reconciliation will ultimately lead to harmonious interfaith relations in the United States.
US Muslim scholars advocate greater involvement by Muslims in the political, social, economic, and cultural spheres of American society.
US Muslim scholars believe Muslims have an enormous responsibility and talent for resolving conflict and being agents for peace.
Conclusion: Conflict PreventionThe American Muslim community is diverse in every conceivable way. There are numerous national and regional organizations dedicated to important civic, religious, cultural, educational, political, and social issues. On the subject of terrorism and conflict resolution, clearly all American Muslim groups have denounced it emphatically, while some have gone beyond words by becoming involved with foreign policy, lobbying efforts, and mobilizing grassroots campaigns in the community.
The Fiqh Council of North American fatwa is an example of American Muslims taking proactive positions on global terrorism, while practicing zero tolerance of violence and religious extremism. Their positions have examined conflict and peacemaking in Islam and have advocated the explicit need for American Muslims to cooperate with law enforcement.
National American Muslim organizations like MPAC, CAIR, ISNA, and AMA have focused on violence and religious extremism as critical issues with local and international strategies.
MPAC's "National Grassroots Campaign to Fight Terrorism" and CAIR's "Not in the Name of Islam" efforts are examples of American Muslims' innovative programs to raise awareness on issues of radical ideologies. The coordination of their efforts with those of law enforcement agencies demonstrates mutual recognition of the roles each group plays in conflict prevention.
Organizations like CSID, FMC, MAT, and AIFD exhibit new types of thinking in the American Muslim community by fostering, cultivating, and institutionalizing democratic reform in the Muslim world as the primary answer to extremism. Their own experiences in the US confirm that Islamic values and democracy are compatible, and it is vitally important to institutionalize democracy in order to reform despotic totalitarian societies. Their activities display a conscious effort to make for themselves in US society, while serving as bridges to the Muslim world.
Their activities have already established a definite US Muslim model of inclusion and participation that differs from Muslim communities in Europe where Muslim communities are less involved in law enforcement and civic participation.
The participation of US Muslims in mainstream politics is to empower the community in many different levels of public life. US Muslim advocacy groups have tackled stereotyping of Muslims as a matter of public debate, and they have aggressively worked toward resolving incidents of discrimination and civil rights abuses. These achievements have shifted political attitudes that have enabled American Muslims to integrate in American political institutions.
Another strategy in the US Muslim community is to focus on human rights, gender inequality, and interfaith dialogue, and to increase the Muslim presence in the American legal system.
KARAMAH, NAML, and ASMA represent specialized groups whose members believe that injustices can be overcome by addressing the various legal, socio-economic, political, and religious systems involved. ASMA's interfaith dialogue programs in the US and around the world reflect the desire for reconciliation and humanizing of all people. Each of these groups recognizes that mutual respect is tied to taking real steps toward tolerance and is part of alleviating suffering.
Some organizations are concerned with improving the condition of all human beings through education and spiritual awareness, not terrorism. Other groups believe their particular expertise is not conflict resolution, but rather a focus on cultural, social, professional, artistic, democratic, and human rights issues. With such immense diversity in the American Muslim community, it is difficult to reduce it to a single voice.
Instead, there needs to be greater appreciation for the efforts and contributions of Muslims in areas of conflict resolution, interfaith dialogue, peace building, education, political activities, civic work, human rights and women's rights advocacy, legal expertise, and humanitarian efforts. The immense contributions and growing involvement of US Muslims in the public square clearly reflects that Muslims here are situating themselves within civic, governmental, and political structures of the nation. Each organization has its own vision for its members as Americans and for their contributions to contemporary issues of conflict and peacemaking.
With the war against terrorism and an increased attention on the Muslim world, this report analyzes ways Muslims in the US understand their roles as Americans in combating terrorism and their unique contributions toward conflict prevention and peacemaking. The assimilation and integration of US Muslims has effectively enabled the flourishing of dozens of national and regional organizations to work in areas of civil rights, human rights, interfaith dialogue, education, charity, public diplomacy, political activism, and other religious and secular activities. Despite the post 9/11 scrutiny of the Muslim community, US Muslim groups have devised sophisticated grassroots campaigns on counter-terrorism and anti-extremist ideology.
Qamar-ul Huda is the Senior Program Officer in the Religion and Peacemaking program at the United States Institute of Peace. Formerly a professor of Islamic Studies and Comparative Theology at Boston College, he examines ethics, violence, conflict resolution and nonviolence in juristic and nonjuristic Muslim authorities in contemporary Islam. This report is part of a larger book project on American Muslim identity formation and Islamic approaches toward mediation and peacebuilding.8-24

Latino Muslims : Rebirth of a Community

By Aaron Siebert-Llera

This paper represents the beginning phases of research originally intended as part of the author's PhD thesis in Sociology at Northwestern University. Aarón (or Haroun) now attends Loyola Law School in Chicago. His mother is Mexican and his father is Jewish. He converted to Islam two years ago, and considers himself part of the growing community of Latino Muslims in America. The version of the paper presented here has been edited for by Zakariya Wright.
Since the 1960s, immigration to America has occasioned unprecedented cultural cross-communication, leading inevitably to intermingling, and, in some cases, to various individuals and communities embracing religions not usually associated with their heritage. There is no better example of this than the Latino1 Muslim population here in the United States, which has grown significantly over the past nine years. This population is one that is apparently new to Islam, but as I will demonstrate, is one that has been able to reexamine the historical record to forge new cultural identities. As such, the advent of Latino Muslims has served to re-interrogate both what it means to be Latino and what it means to be Muslim in America. This paper will examine Latino Muslim identity in America, primarily by examining reasons for conversion to Islam within the Latino community.

Research to this point has demonstrated that Latinos who embrace Islam do so in part because of perceived Spanish (or Andalusian) Muslim heritage. But there are other more immediate doctrinal and social issues that likewise explain Latino conversion to Islam, including a broader flight from the Catholic Church and the perceived threat to traditional Latino values of family and community in America. My own work in the field, examining both immigrant Latinos converting in the United States and American-born Latino converts (such as myself), has supported these conclusions. Of course, conversion within the United States is not the only path to Islam for Latinos, but the long presence of Islam in Latin America itself is unfortunately beyond the scope of this paper.

The point should nonetheless be made that Islam is not a new religion in the Latino experience. Aside from more ancient links to Islamic Andalusia, there has been a large influx of Arabs, particularly from Syria and Lebanon, beginning in the 1860s. The number of Muslims currently in Latin America has been estimated at between four and six million, with 800,000 Muslims in Argentina and 1.5 million in Brazil alone. And Islam has not remained the exclusive domain of Arab or Indo-Pakistani immigrants. Aside from conversions among some of the ethnically African populations of Trinidad or Jamaica, for example, a few "indigenous" Muslim communities have likewise taken root. In the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico, a group of Tzotzil Mayan Indians have embraced Islam,2 establishing their own mosque and zabiha3 restaurant and butcher shop. Likely, many in Latin America have come to similar conclusions about the relationship between Christianity and slavery/colonial domination that those of African descent have come to in the United States. According to one writer: "Rather than viewing Catholicism as the native religion of their culture, they [Latinos] protest that Catholicism was originally forced on their indigenous ancestors by Europeans."4

There is no doubt that the significant influence of Islam on Spanish culture likewise affected Latin America, despite the best efforts of the conquistadors and Christian missionaries to isolate Islam to the "Old World." The year 1492, in which Columbus "discovered" the Americas with Spanish financial backing, was also the same year that the last Muslim caliph was defeated in Granada by the Spanish Christian forces. This was the beginning of the Inquisition and the end of any hopes for a Spain that embraced all three major monotheistic religions. The antipathy towards Islam and Judaism that helped fuel the Inquisition was present within the early Spanish colonists of the Americas. This fear of Islam is explained by Sylviane Diouf as follows:

The colonists had a genuine fear that the Muslims would proselytize among the Indians. These concerns may not have been rooted in reality, but they were strong enough to make Spaniards try to enforce a rigid segregation of Indians and Africans. Islam did not spread, but the Muslims may have made some attempts to reach out. Accusations and condemnations do not indicate that a deed or offense has been committed, but in 1560 the mulatto Luis Solano was condemned to death and the "Moor" Lope de la Pena to life in prison for having practiced and spread Islam in Cuzco, Peru.5

The amount of influence that Islam had on Spain was very important to how the settlers treated the Indigenous Americans, as well as the future mestizos (those of mixed race), who would soon make up a majority of Latin America. Spanish Catholics no doubt saw themselves in a race to save the heathens of the New World with Christianity before they could be tainted by Islam, which with the Ottoman Empire then at its apex, dominated the Old World.

But the Islamic roots of Spanish civilization could not be so easily forgotten, perhaps in large part due to Muslim Andalusia's reputation as a beacon of civilization and peace. The Andalusian capitol of Cordoba, for example, was described by a contemporary writer as follows: "There were half a million inhabitants, living in 113,000 houses. There were 700 mosques and 300 public baths spread throughout the city and its twenty-one suburbs. The streets were paved and lit... There were bookshops and more than seventy libraries."6 Such a vibrant heritage of Spanish Islam has obviously played a role in the process of Latino conversion to Islam. An article by Lisa Viscidi on the growing presence of Latinos in the United States illustrates the point:

Many Latinos who convert to Islam believe they are reclaiming their lost Muslim&heritage-which they view more positively than the legacy of Catholicism. Many Spanish intellectuals once disputed the extent of Moorish influence on Hispanic culture, but Latino Muslims who claim Islamic roots question the view of Western society's origins as exclusively European. They point to the African/Islamic influence evident in Spanish literature, music and thought. Thousands of Spanish words, for example, are derived from Arabic.7

The familiarity with influences from the Arab (Moorish) culture and consequently, Islam, have allowed the Latino "reverts" to Islam to create a connection between their present and their past. In much the same way that the so-called "lost tribes of Israel" seek recognition by the nation of Israel, Latino Muslims seek to be welcomed into the Muslim community not as new converts, but as reverts who are returning to a religion that was once theirs.

The largest Latino Muslim communities follow, as would be expected, the population patterns of the main Latino communities. This means that the largest Latino communities contain the largest Latino Muslim communities. Looking at the current numbers nationwide for the cities with the largest Latino communities, we find the top five are Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Dallas and Houston. These cities thus also contain the largest numbers of Latino Muslims.

The exact number of Latino Muslims in the United States is difficult to know, as both the size of immigrant populations and the Muslim community in America are themselves subjects of dispute. In 1997, the American Muslim Council (AIM) estimated that there were 40,000 Latino Muslims in the United States. By the year 2004, this number was estimated at 75,000, statistically an 87.5 percent increase in seven years. But this still represents a relatively small percentage of Americas forty million Latinos.8 However, much as the African-American Muslim population was looked at as an insignificant size in the 1960s (with numbers now estimated at between 1.8 to 2.1 million or thirty percent of CAIR's overall estimate of six to seven million Muslims9), the Latino Muslim population is ripe for similar growth. According to the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR), six percent of the 20,000 annual reverts (1,200) to Islam are Latino.10

The answer to the question of what types of Latinos are converting to Islam is quite complex because there is not one distinct group or personality profile. Based on my own sociological research in the Chicago area, Latino Muslims come from all sorts of backgrounds: new immigrants and first, second or third generation Latino-Americans; both men and women (although there are higher percentages of women); educated and uneducated; and from various Latin American nations including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Argentina and Brazil. What this exhibits is a microcosm of the much larger Latino community. Since the larger community is so diverse and varied in its composition, it is not surprising that the members of this community who are embracing Islam are just as diverse.

The majority of Latinos embracing Islam in the United States of America have begun to do so within the past ten years. Although there is a community that began earlier, in the 1960s in New York City (largely Puerto Rican in make-up), the spread of Islam within the national Latino community did not begin to grow until the mid 1990s. The first Latino Muslim organizations to be created were in New York City. These include Alianza Islamica and the Latino Dawah Organization (LADO), both founded in the 1970s in the Spanish Harlem neighborhood of New York City. They were created in order to address the growing number of Latinos (Puerto Ricans in particular) who were embracing Islam.

In order to answer the questions about why this particular population began to embrace Islam in large numbers we must look at the demographics of the areas where the Puerto Rican populations live.11 The city of New York is one of the most tightly packed urban centers in the world. People are packed into their neighborhoods and live in high-rise apartment buildings that stress a maximization of space and as a result, the citizens of these neighborhoods live very close to one another. Thus, it is more probable for them to have daily contact with a plethora of ethnicities, cultures, and religions. During the 1960s, African-American Muslim organizations, such as the Nation of Islam, were very active in Harlem and black Muslims became an increasingly visible phenomenon throughout the United States. Latinos often live with or near African-American populations. This close contact created an environment where the various populations are able to learn about each other, and Islam is one of the components that was shared with the Latino population in New York City.

More recently, however, Latino-Americans have been mostly affected by the rapidly growing immigrant Muslim communities throughout the United States, which have significantly increased the exposure of Latinos to Islam. This is evident in the largest Latino communities located in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Dallas and Houston.

The increasing numbers of Latinos embracing Islam in the last ten years deserves a more concrete explanation than links to pre-Inquisition Spain. Latino conversion to Islam can be sociologically explained through (1) a broader disillusionment with the Catholic Church within the American Latino community and (2) the similar set of cultural values shared by traditional Latino families and most Muslim communities.

Islam is of course not the only religion seeing a mass influx of Latinos. There appears to be a more general exodus of Latinos from the Catholic Church in America. According to Chris Jenkins of the Washington Post:

These concerns about Catholicism mirror a trend that many officials in U.S. dioceses have tracked for years: the defection of Hispanics. The Catholic Almanac estimates that 100,000 Hispanics in the United States leave the church each year, although some other experts put the number as high as 600,000. Most have moved to Pentecostal and evangelical Protestant faiths as well as Mormonism, Islam and Buddhism. Converts appear to be both men and women in equal numbers.12

The precise reasons for Latino disaffection with the Catholic Church cannot be thoroughly considered here, but it would suffice to mention recent Church scandals, a Church leadership dominated by ethnic groups unfamiliar with Latino culture, and doctrinal issues surrounding Catholic rituals and theology in general.

Although many non-Latino Americans might perceive Latino culture as a static phenomenon, in fact Latino identity is inherently contested and fluid, and the result of the clash and mingling of a plethora of cultures, ethnicities and religions from 1492 to the present. The result of the presence of Latin Americans in the United States has been the creation of a new label, the "Latino." Even though the U.S. Government classifies "Latino" or "Hispanic" as a single ethnicity, in fact Latinos are by and large all mestizo. We are a hodge-podge of backgrounds: European, Indigenous American, African and even Asian; but with different degrees of influence depending on the community. Latino identity is thus entirely constructed, whose basis is no real ethnic, national, religious or even linguistic uniformity.

It is true, however, that the Latino community has become so intertwined with Catholicism that the mainstream belief seems that one cannot be Latino without being Catholic.13 Indeed, by embracing Islam and leaving Catholicism, some non-Muslim Latinos claim that the Latino-Muslim is leaving behind his culture. Latino identity has been so engulfed by the religion of Catholicism that the two are often considered synonymous. But this assumption belies a more complex historical record that should cause us to rethink the dangerous linking of religion with ethnic identity. According to one interview with a Latino-Muslim convert:

Galvan says that he sometimes feels alienated from the mainstream Latino population, which views Catholicism as intimately tied to Hispanic culture. However, he insists, "Defining culture by religion is not very effective, because our ancestors were Christian, Muslim, Jewish or pagan. Many Hispanics think that leaving Catholicism means rejecting their identity. We should re-evaluate how we traditionally define culture."14

Latino Muslims have themselves indicated the need to create or return to a non-Catholic identity. The formation of such an identity can be expected to mirror other processes of identity formation:

The paradigm of transformation demands our participation in the completion of the self, the undifferentiated source, and the world. Our dialectical process tells us that there are three stages to being or reality: destruction, re-creation, and nourishment.15

The first step in the paradigm of transformation is destruction and by comparing this to the above quotation, we also can view it as a death of tradition. In other words, transformation entails the need to escape or deconstruct the heritage of forced conversions to Christianity which the indigenous Americans, African slaves, Moors, and so many more in the history of the world were subjected. This first step is a way to eliminate the previous belief system. For many Latino "reverts" to Islam, this destruction is a breaking away from the Catholicism that has forcibly monopolized Latino identity.

Following the phase of destruction/deconstruction comes re-creation of Latino Muslim identity. As it is for many Latino Muslims, their goal is to not segment themselves into a Latino Muslim community within the Muslim community. The Latino aspect is of course acknowledged and embraced, but it is not something that has served to separate the Latinos from the other Muslims.

The last step is nourishment. For many Latinos, this step is facilitated by the simplicity of Islamic religious doctrine or attractiveness of Muslim beliefs themselves. But also, ideas of family and community among Muslims closely parallel the traditional upbringing of many Latinos. Islam, as opposed to present-day Christianity, may provide for many a more coherent expression and defense of a traditional way of life more familiar to Latinos.

When many Latino families move to the United States, they encounter various challenges in maintaining the family structure and the morality that they grew up with back in their homelands. According to Hisham Aidi, a research fellow at Columbia University's Middle East Institute:

Latinos in the society at large, due to pressures of modern Western culture are fighting a losing battle to maintain their traditional family structure & Interestingly, the effects of an Islamic lifestyle seem to mitigate the harmful effects of the harmful Western lifestyle and have helped restore and reinforce traditional family values. Latino culture is at its root patriarchal, so Islams clearly defined roles for men as responsible leaders and providers and women as equally essential and complementary, were assimilated. As a result, divorce among Latino Muslim couples is relatively rare.16

Such a sentiment is echoed by a Latina Muslim, Amy Perez, in an article about Latina Muslims in Tampa Bay:
Growing up it was all about familia. You're taught to respect your elders and your mother; you don't even raise your voice to your mother. That's the old school way of thinking, but it's Islam. When I wasn't Muslim, that's the way we did things.17

In addition to an importance of family, there is a very strong emphasis on community within traditional Latino culture that is mirrored in Muslim communities. Within Latin American countries such as Mexico or Puerto Rico, the community cohesiveness is very strong. This means that neighbors look out for each other and help each other. They know each other's names, families, and occupations. In this country, many neighbors do not even recognize each other. It is much less common for people in this society to be as friendly with their neighbors.18 Thus, people such as Latinos who are used to being part of a close-knit community are left searching for something to fill this void when they arrive in America. According to Chris Jenkins in the Washington Post:
In growing numbers, Hispanics, the country's fastest-growing ethnic group, are finding new faith in Islam, the nation's fastest-growing religion. Moved by what many say is a close-knit religious environment and a faith that provides a more concrete, intimate connection with God, they are replacing Mass with mosques.19

I have often heard people state that when someone embraces Islam, they are trying to fill a void. They say this as if it is a bad thing, but I disagree. I feel that I, for one, was looking to fill a void -- I felt a need of a close community. When I embraced Islam, I saw many actions that reminded me of my family back in Mexico. The men were unafraid to show affection for one another through hugs and kisses on the cheeks. The women greeted each other like sisters with kisses and there was a genuine sincerity to their greetings.

White American culture, constructed as it is in opposition to imagined portraits of non-white minorities, is notoriously incapable of appreciating the subtle diversities within minority populations. The predominant stereotype of the Latino in America of course leaves no room for Islam: Latinos after all are supposed to drive low-riders, drink taquila, eat plenty of pork and be staunchly Catholic. Unfortunately, even some within the Latino community have likewise forgotten the rich texture of their own cultural heritage, a heritage which undeniably includes Islam. In fact, as has been demonstrated above, some Latinos have found in Islam not only a spiritually refreshing alternative to Catholicism, but have seized upon Islam as a salvation to their own traditional way of life, which emphasizes family and community in similar ways to Muslim communities. The advent of Latino Muslims thus presents a welcome reality check to the lazy glossing-over of the larger Latino community. As with the African-American community previously, the growth of Islam within the Latino community demonstrates once again Islam's ability to provide spiritual and social resources to overcome the attempted reification, marginalization, commercialization and basic dehumanization of non-White minority identity in America.

1 The term "Latino" is here used in preference to "Hispanic", as Latino denotes anybody with Latin American origins, whether they speak Spanish or another language. It should be remembered that the correct form for a female would be "Latina", but the masculine form is used here for the sake of efficiency. 2 See Jens Glusing, "Praying to Allah in Mexico: Islam is gaining a hold in the Chiapas," in Spiegel Magazine (May 28, 2005).,1518,358223,00.html3 Zabiha means that the meat was butchered by cutting the arteries in the neck, which will allow blood to leave the body quicker. This is viewed as a cleaner and more merciful way to slaughter an animal. This process is preceded by the words "In the name of God, who is great." It is also referred to in a more broad sense of halaal, which has an English equivalent of kosher.4 Viscidi, Lisa. "Latino Muslims a growing presence in America".
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 22, no. 5 (June 2003); p. 1.
5 Diouf, Sylviane A. Servants of Allah: African Muslims Enslaved in the Americas. New York City: New York University Press, 1998. p 147.
7 Viscidi, Lisa. "Latino Muslims a growing presence in America".
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 22, no. 5 (June 2003); p 1.
10 ; and Armario, Christine, "US Latinas seek answers in Islam". The Christian Science Monitor. December 27th, 2004. p. 2.
11 Much of this information was talked about in the following source: Aidi, Hisham. "'Jihadis in the Hood' Race, Urban Islam and the War on Terror". Middle East Report 224, Fall 2002.
12 Jenkins , Chris. "Islam Luring More Latinos". The Washington Post. Sunday, January 7, 2001.
13 As a result of being mestizo, Latinas/os (in particular Mexicans) have a genealogical make-up that includes a varied mix of races and religions. The nation of Mexico is one of the most diverse in all of Latin America as a result of slaves who escaped the Caribbean and settled in eastern Mexico; Chinese who were forced out of the United States (a result of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882) after they had been brought in to work on the railroads and mineral mines of the burgeoning western growth of the nation; Sikh Indians who were also affected by the Chinese Exclusion Act; German & French immigrants who came throughout the history of the nation, but in larger numbers during the years that France ruled Mexico City (1862-1867); Arabs (in particular, Lebanese and Syrians who began a mass migration out of the Middle East in the 1860s); and so many more groups. In addition, the indigenous populations of Mexico were also integrated into the mestizo Mexican. On a more grand scale, it is this integration of cultures that has led Mexicans to search for an identity.
14 Viscidi, Lisa. "Latino Muslims a growing presence in America". Washington Report on Middle East Affairs 22, no. 5 (June 2003). p. 59.
15 Abalos, David T. Latinos in the United States. Notre Dame, Indiana: University of Notre Dame Press, 1986. p 113.
16 Aidi, Hisham. "Jihadis in the Hood", p. 6.
17 Cabrera, Cloe. "Latinas Embrace Islam". Tampa Bay Online. March 30, 2005 . p 2.18 This is a drastic change from when I was a child growing up in Madison, Wisconsin and overall, in the society of the United States. Over the past 10-15 years people have become introverts and they keep to themselves much more than I can ever remember.

Friday, February 9, 2007

To be qualified to know GOD?

My Hispanic Muslim Legacy======What Islam means to me.

I was raised as a Roman Catholic from a very strict and practicing Hispanic family. To even think of leaving the aristocratic Catholics was considered a sin. These private school taught by nuns taught me that one did not have the luxury of questioning the Bible or even the Catechism. For this was engraved in our memory banks as children. I once had the audacity to ask my teacher why we did not study the Bible? Her answer was a blunt: "You might misinterpret it” . As an adult I once asked the very same question of priest and once again I received a similar response. To them only qualified officials of the church could teach but also understand "God's Word". How sad I thought and soon after I began to search for an answer.

The strongest component of Catholicism was the belief in the Trinity. It believes that there were three Gods of equal weight in the heavens, and that upon birth we inherited a Mortal sin. So, right from the start we were sinners and needed repentance or a sacrament to clear away this sin. As a parent it was hard not to question if the smile of innocence behind an infant could hide a deadly sin. What if the infant died before performing the Catholic rite of Baptism? Did that mean he/ she would go to hell? And if Jesus Christ had not died in the cross for the sins of Man did that mean that we would all have Fire as our ultimate destiny? But even as complex as they made religion to be Reverting to Islam would be complicated by my childhood training that Jesus Christ was my savior and salvation. To pray to anyone but him would be blasphemy.

I therefore studied several religions when I left my church and its rigid teachings. But they were all Christian and not much different from the original one. Of course they all believed that the papal aristocracy was nonsense and I praised them for that. But they could not justify Jesus Christ in a sensible nor logical manner. Point in fact ask three Christians of different denominations to explain the Trinity or better yet, ask them if Jesus is the son of GOD? Ask them what version of the Bible do they read and you will also find astonishing variations. I actually turned away from religion completely for many years and became a leftist. I left the religious dogma and found a replacement. A replacement to religious dogma?

In my college years I opened up to a radical way of saving the world. I believed that if we could promote change in the political realm, then we could bring equality and economics that would ultimately change and save the physical world. I was an American activist going from marches to study groups of Dialectical Materialism, Maoism and Socialism. All this journey proved ,was that I was still empty for it left a gap in my very existence.

I had one thing in common with the Christians and one thing opposite the ones I was attempting to emulate. :" I loved God!". I just needed a vehicle to surrender. For years I watched closely the events in Iran and yet the student movement that I was following could not afford me a way to make change in that country. I joined student marches and met with like minded idealist. While we sat in brain storm sessions planning our next poster spread in Manhattan, an old man sitting on a rug in Paris dictated a revolution. He told the dictator Shah of Iran to leave because he was coming back to Iran, and guess what, he left! I began to study this man's political assessment , but the more I read about what he proposed to resolve in Iran the more I understood the religion of Islam. At no time was I looking for a new religion as I was a diehard Christian who was not even practicing it. But this became a turning point in my life . I had to evolve as a human, in order to evolve as a Muslim. Surrender to GOD ? Therefore on October 22,1983 I took my vows of submission as a Sunni Muslim with sincerity to ONE GOD. Allahu Akbar. I have been a practicing Muslimah for over 22 years and have never regretted it. In fact in the face of tyranny and prejudice I have become stronger and more resolved to not only raise a family of Muslims but alas to become a Daii and spread the good word among Hispanics.

After the tragedy of 9-11 many Muslimahs removed their veils for fear of assaults. I was destined to die a Muslimah if need be, for my only defense was faith! Al Hamdulilah Neither did I remove the veil nor hide . I stood up and went on live Television to speak to Hispanic on Telemundo and the noted Christina Show from Miami. I had become modest, but resonant Muslimah. Rather than roll over I made uproar about the injustices done to Muslims. The faith of Islam has brought me strength in the face of adversity and inner peace which I never had. It was not difficult for my extended family to accept my new found faith. But for my immediate family it was very difficult. I lost all my non Muslim friends that I had grown up with, but found an extended family in Islam. I no longer pray to a saint in order to request intervention with Jesus Christ, son of God!. I now understand that if I follow the true teachings of all the prophets and the Ten Commandments that there can only be ONE GOD. "Thou shalt not bear false Gods before me."

Therefore, my destiny with Islam is fulfilled. I worship Allah swt directly , as it should be.

by Khadijah rivera