Thursday, June 21, 2007

Islam spreading rapidly among the latinos in the us and latin america

Islam Spreading Rapidly among the Latino in the US and Latin America
by Sr. Khadijah, PIEDAD Friday, Dec. 08, 2006 at 11:06 AM 951-734-4599 Tampa Bay, Fl

Islam Spreading Rapidly among the Latino in the US and Latin America. First Latino Muslims Speaking Tour in Florida was organized with Imam Ali Siddiqui who delivered an impressive Khutbah at Tampa, Fl

OUR first Latino Speaking tour took off with many unexpected difficulties but many beautiful Muslims from Florida and California helped us to pull it off. We also learned valuable lessons from our shortcomings.

First, a BIG KUDOS goes to Imam Ali Siddiqui, Imam Benjamin Perez and Br Mario Nunez. It's just impossible to state how grateful we are! These wonderful brothers left deep impressions wherever they went.

On Friday, Nov. 10, 2006, Imam Ali Siddiqui delivered Friday Khutbah at the Masjid al-Qassam, in Tampa, on the topic of "Seven Steps for the Development of an Islamic Community". Over 1,000 in the congregation listened to Imam's Khutbah with enthusiasm and later circled around him to ask questions. It was a great start in the life of a new Muslimah who heard the first Friday Khutbah of her new life. She later commented that she was really moved with the Imam's Khutbah.

In Tampa, Dr Mohammad Sultan of ISTABA Masjid and his team organized a very successful OPEN HOUSE on Saturday, November 11, where over 850 non-Muslims gathered to learn about Islam. Imam Ali Siddiqui, Sh. Yusuf Estes, Imam Benjamin Perez and Br Mario Nunez spoke. The program was videotaped by the Istaba Masjid for later distribution.

A Muslim community radio program, "Focus on Faith," also taped the program for later airing on AM 1340.

Br Ahmad Howeedy and the team of Project Downtown, which consists of students from the University of Southern Florida, organized the most fulfilling event of the entire trip! Imam Ali Siddiqui, Imam Benjamin Perez and Br Mario Nunez actively participated in food distribution and sat down with the homeless and talked with them. Imam Siddiqui was also instrumental in making connections with the Rector of Downtown Tampa's Catholic Church to include Muslims in the upcoming conference on the Homeless Crisis.

In Miami, Sr. Melissa Matos, along with Muslim Students Association at the University of Miami, Coral Gable Campus, organized a very successful program where Imam Ali Siddiqui spoke on Andalucia and the History of Islam in the Americas, and Imam Benjamin Perez and Br Mario Nunez spoke about their journey to Islam. The program was videotaped by the university and a community TV/Radio program to be aired later.

Thanks to the Tampa Latino sisters who assisted in so many ways and will continue to meet under the banner of PIEDAD for Dawah training and Social services to the community. We hope they will network with sisters from Miami and Fort Lauderdale whom we reconnected with, as well as the new ones we met.

Thanks to Sr. Melissa Matos of Miami, whose priceless assistance was integral to the success of the program.

TAKBIR to sister Nathalia, New Muslimah from Fort Lauderdale who drove down to meet us. Last, but definitely not least, Brs. Samir Kakli, Amir and Rafael, who gave so much of themselves for our success: We remain indebted to you. May Almighty Allah reward all of you!

The program at the University of Miami was also attended by Prof. Jamil of Southern Texas University, who is involved in research on the social impact of Islam on Latinos in the USA and Latin America as well.

Report by Sr. Khadijah, PIEDAD (Taqwa) Coordinator, Florida and Br. Mario Nunez, Director of California Latino Muslim Association.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Hispanic Muslims in Atlanta Overcome Anti-Muslim stereotypes

Hispanic Muslims in Atlanta Overcome Anti-Muslim stereotypes

By Ana Catalina Varela
Mundo Hispanico

March 1st, 2007

Adapted by TMO from an article originally published in Mundo Hispanico,
a Spanish-language weekly in Atlanta, Georgia.

Hispanic Muslims in Atlanta are set on changing the negative image that
some in the Latino community might have of them. That is the mission of
the Atlanta Latino Muslim Association (ALMA), a group founded by Siri
Carrion, a Puerto Rican woman who is also Muslim.

Wearing her hijab and kneeling, Carrion starts preparing to pray
alongside her four children. One of them, Ismail, raises his hands and
starts by saying the ‘adhan, inviting the angels into this family’s
living room.

Carrion, who grew up in Northern California as a Muslim, moved to
Georgia about eight years ago and saw the need for Latino Muslims to
come together.

She is the founder of ALMA, the first group in the state that seeks to
unite Hispanics who profess Islam, to create a venue for them to share
their culture and religion.

“As Latino Muslims we seek unity and also to educate the rest of the
Hispanic community about Islam, especially with the war in Iraq and
after 9/11, there are some who have a negative perspective of what it is
to me Muslim,” said Carrion.

She explains that one of the main reasons why ALMA was founded were to
raise awareness in the community about Islam and to provide access to
information in Spanish to those who want to learn and understand the

“We currently have about 20 members who come from countries like
Venezuela, Mexico, Brazil, Cuba and Puerto Rico, just to name a few. As
Latinos and Muslims, we speak the same language, eat similar foods and
have similar cultural perspectives, and we also share the same faith,”
she added.

Carrion, who works as a tax administrator for a business in the city of
Marietta, also dispels the myths that some have of Muslim women. Being
Muslim and a woman have not been an obstacle for her to become an
example for her two young daughters.

The oldest of them, 13 year-old Maryam, looks up to her and wears her
hijab proudly to school every day.

“I was raised in Islam but I was not forced to use the hijab. I chose to
use it as an adult. But my daughter chose to wear it since she was
young. She does so with pride and has never been teased at school, she
is proud to believe in Islam and the other children see her as a
faithful Muslim,” said Carrion.

Posted on her fridge, she has a picture of one of the hijacked planes
flying into one of the World Trade Center towers on September 11. She
explains that her purpose in doing so is to reject those violent actions
and to remind her children that they are not like those men. They are a
family of peace-seeking, God-loving Muslims.

The Muslim Observer
Special Features, Regional, National news, 9-10

Adapted by TMO from an article originally published in Mundo Hispanico,
a Spanish-language weekly in Atlanta, Georgia.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Puerto Rican grils journey to Islam.....

Because Allah ta'ala made me both...

By MusliRican...

Hejab on my head
With a machete dangling from my neck
I'm not a terrorist
Just a bonafide Boricua with coquis on my mind
I love the flares of salsa skirts
With claves and congas singing to my heart's content
While I prostrate on the sands of Rincon
Awaiting the whales to make their presence
Borinquen is my paradise
Allah is my creator
Yes—I can inhabit both spaces
And when bachata comes on the radio
I move three steps lift
Three steps lift
And when the azhan is called
"Allahu Akbar" and "Bismillah" run out of my mouth
Give me some piraguas with a side of dates
A little of sunlight with a dash of breeze
As the scarves surrounding me beckon to worship
I can dance merengue in the privacy of my room
As mis hermanas talk about who is cuter in the group
Because—we are Boricuas loving our land
We are boricuas dancing our traditional beats
We are boricuas wearing our big fluffy skirts
We are boricuas eating our arroz con habichuelas
We don't have to occupy one of your little boxes
Entrenching our identities into something you can label
We don't have to deny our abuelitas and our salsa beats
So I can't eat pernil anymore.
It's okay—pork has never been my thing any ways
But I can still enjoy las playas as I wet my feet on
Caribbean oceans
Because I am more
More than your dichotomies
More than your ideologies
I am not just a Boricua
Or someone who worships Allah
So if you need a label to satisfy your curiosity
I'll give you one now
With Qur'an in hand
Y bandera in the other
I am beyond your words
Because I am a MusliRican

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Puerto Rico Herald on hispanic muslims

Converts in the News: Some Latinos Convert to Islam

Converts in the News: Some Latinos Convert to Islam
Author: admin
Published: 2005/10/30
Read 2887 times
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By Marcela Rojas
The 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."


Copyright 2005 The Journal News

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