The Latino Muslim Voice
The July-September 2005 newsletter features:
Quotes of the Month
What does it Mean to be a Latino Muslim?
By Khalid Malik Rosa
July 30, 2005
Thoughts from Denver, Colorado
I have been asked this question many times in my few months of "reverting" to Islam. I can only respond that I am only half Latino. :) I can then respond with the fact that once I fully embraced Islam I became part of the community. The 'umma (community) I belong to exists beyond the parameters of race, ethnicity, and nationality. I am Muslim and my concern is serving Allah (swt).
By no means does this indicate that Islam erases who I am. It means that my identity as a person of color, Latino and Asian, is part of my Islamic identity. I maintain who I am, as I embrace the path (deen) of Islam. I am a person Latino (and Asian) that is Muslim, and I am a Latino/Asian Muslim.
This also means I bring something to Islam as a multi-ethnic American. As a person of color in the United States, I bring a perspective of what it means to be an American that is not always treated the same in his homeland. As a person of color, I am not treated by the American majority the same as my Anglo counterparts. People can argue about the presence of racism in America today; all I can do is rely on my multiple experiences of prejudice from my fellow Americans. I bet many Muslim Americans can tell similar stories, especially after 2001.
My "conversion" has added to my status as a person of color. I am not only "one of those people"; I have now joined the "terrorists." I was a "threat" before as a male person of color in this country; now I am the "enemy." The external, negative perception of Islam is tied to all Muslims. Whether you were born one or you converted, the assumption or perception of such a person is linked to the acts of extremists. So what does this mean for Latino Muslims?
It simply means that we must follow the tenants of Islam and strive to be good Muslims. We take the prejudice attitudes and laws, and we face them as Muslims. We do not respond with hate or negativity; we respond with respect and an open mind. We have to follow the example of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and treat people equally. We must maintain our cultural identity, while keeping our Islamic values. We strive for peace and tolerance in the world.
In a capitalist world, it can be difficult to maintain our values. We are tempted by lots of distractions to move away from our path. Prejudice is an example of such a distraction. I bring this forward as an example of one challenge that Latino Muslims and all other Muslims face each day in the US. It is our job as ambassadors of the faith to respond with kindness and respect. I also note this challenge as Muslims in the US, because it is something I am personally working on to make myself a better Muslim.
Beyond the political and social dealings, Latino Muslims live as other American minorities. We seek out the "American Dream" and want to visit Disney World like everyone else. What makes us unique is our tie to Roman Catholicism, Spain, and colonialism. Our heritage is born out of a forced merging with Spanish conquistadors; we were conquered physically, territorially, linguistically, and spiritually.
In our modern world, we still carry the Spanish "legacy" in our language, culture, and genes. However, many of us are looking beyond traditional faith for answers. Our hearts have sought refuge in many of the various Christian faiths, Judaism, and Islam. However, there has always been a tie to Islam. From 711-1492 C.E., there was a full presence of Islam in Spain. They were Spanish by our standards; the Moors intermarried and built a great deal of southern Spain. Somehow, Western history forgets this important point.
As we modern day Latinos have sought other sources for our spiritual needs, we have discovered Islam. I found my heart lifted by the stories of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), and I was truly changed by reading the Qur'an, the guidance given to humanity by Allah (swt). When the calling of my heart yearned for the path of Islam, I could not help but embrace the faith. I may have converted with a group of Muslims in Denver, but I had committed my life to Allah (swt) over a year before.
Now as a (half) Latino Muslim, what does it all mean? Well, it means I need to be part of the Islamic community, and I need to share my experience of Islam with other non-Muslims, especially Latinos and Asians. Why? It is my responsibility to bring the word of Allah to those that have not heard it. It means I must educate those that want to know more about my faith; it means I am to represent Islam in the things I do. It also entails me to network in the community and to assist my fellow Muslims.
To start out on this path of communication, I found the Latino American Dawah Organization (LADO). I communicated with the organization via the Internet and e-mail, and I was able to network with a few people here in Denver. I am still very grateful for the wonderful folks they got me in contact with; I have been able to build many friendships. I also was able to find organizations to volunteer with to continue my Dawah efforts. I want to cite a special point in my journey as a "new" Muslim; I was able to be part of a group of Latino Muslims in Denver. I was able to be in a space with more than two of us. :)
I arrived at our meeting place and found a few folks I knew, and I met some new faces. I had no idea where Juan was, but I sat and chatted. Apparently, a local newspaper was interviewing Juan. He invited the reporter to our informal gathering, where she proceeded to ask us questions.
Her questions were the typical "why" questions I am always asked. Why did you convert? How does your family feel about it? They never ask anything new or anything important. How does being a Muslim make you feel? What is it like to embrace a new faith?
How has Islam changed your heart? I appreciate it when I am asked a new, deep question. I love to explain how I feel my heart has been softened by my experience in Islam. I get concerned that people do not care about how Islam impacts you on the inside. There is more concern with external perceptions and data gathering. I feel as if we are not listened to as people. I thought faith was about seeking out the Almighty, not about how you fend off critics. We were asked really basic questions. Perhaps, I expected non-Muslims to know more about Islam, since it is in the public view right now.
One of the first questions, the reporter asked us was "So, who among you are Latino Muslim?" Almost everyone in the group said they were or raised their hands. One younger sister didn't raise her hand. Later, we learned that she was the daughter of one of the Latina Muslims who attended. Her father is of Arab descent. Why didn't she raise her hand?
The next day, the newspaper article disappointed me. Of all the data collected, only a fraction was reflected in the article. Many comments were used to construct a simple view about Latino Muslims. The article was about "family vs. Islam" rather than about the tapestry of Islamic life experience by Latino converts/reverts. The tone of the article also felt very accusatory. Who are these Latino Muslims anyway?
Furthermore, the article did what others have done in the past: it made Islam look alien. People have practiced Islam for hundreds of years around the world including North America. The article treated everything as if Islam had just appeared on American soil a few years ago. Also, the article gave an impression that Latino Muslims practice Islam differently than other Muslims. I guess the article was not on the same page as this Latino Muslim.
While the interview was rather typical, I was most pleased that it was an educational moment for all of us. We, Latino Muslims, had a chance to express ourselves publicly about our experience in Islam. Non-Muslims had the chance to learn about the existence of Latino Muslims. Also, non-Latino Muslims had the chance to learn about the existence of Latino Muslims. Many of my non-Latino friends read the article and found it interesting, as Latinos are increasingly embracing Islam. We have had much discussion about creating more interfaith dialogues and dawah efforts to educate the Latino community about Islam. This is what I love about Islam: education, community, and a real sense of "familia."
After the interview, I finally got to meet and talk with Juan. I thought he would be much older. Our group chatted and went to lunch. It was nice to talk with fellow Muslims about being "the only Latinos" in the mosque. We really bonded over our common experience as Latinos in the US and in Islam.
One sister commented to me that she did not know what it meant to be a Latino Muslim. She knows what it means to be a Latina, and she knows what it means to be a Muslimah. However, she felt like herself. She could not think of any significant experience that separates one reality from the other. She was just being herself and trying to be the person Allah (swt) wants her to be.
After having lunch, we decided to go together to the rally being held nearby. The rally was organized by many of my friends in the Denver Muslim community. I also knew a majority of the speakers. It was great to hear us speak out and defend the Muslim Americans from the attacks of the critics of Islam. It was done in a tasteful and respectful way, offering dialogue and understanding.
While at the rally, one of my friends who is a Shurah member of the Colorado Muslim Society (CMS) told me and Juan that he was interviewed for the article about Latino Muslims. I couldn't believe that the reporter asked him, "Are Latinos allowed to attend the CMS' mosque?" I laughed out loud. And, I laughed again. I then imagined some guard at the door of the mosque checking for Muslim I.D. cards. My imagination went a step further, and I pictured some advanced starship sensors attached to the mosque scanning the DNA of those who wish to enter. Only those with "ethnically Muslim" DNA could enter the mosque; I laughed again out loud.
The Latino group parted ways after the rally. I was able to catch a ride with Juan back to his hotel. We ended the busy day with a soda at the hotel restaurant. We chatted about what it means to be Muslim in the Latino community as well as in the American 'umma. It was great to meet Latino Muslims in Denver and confirm that I was not the only one.
I think I will close with my latest experience of being an American Muslim. The US has a history of discrimination to the point of ridiculousness. I was watching a news program about al-adan (the call the prayer); US people were protesting the call to prayer in their town. They claimed they were being preached to! The call to prayer is in Arabic. I doubt the average US citizen from "Middle America" understands Classical Arabic. I sat back and laughed. We have to listen to Christmas songs blaring for two months and sit through the other holidays, and yet somehow, our call to prayer bothers them? I thought this "controversy" was insane, but it revealed the need for more Dawah in the US.
Latino Muslims have made a place for themselves in the American Muslim community. We bring a unique culture to the 'umma that has historical ties to Islam. We also bring a unique American experience, as immigrants and native peoples. Our cultural tie to Roman Catholicism is another part of our unique perspective (and the faith we are all assumed to be a part of). We come to Islam usually after a journey of difficulty with Christianity. Islam answers our questions and meets our spiritual needs. Once we find Islam, we are welcomed by our brothers and sisters. The Muslim community in the United States has opened its arms to Latino Muslims. I expect that more Latinos will be coming to the faith as we continue our Dawah efforts and share our experiences with Islam.
Conferencia del Islam entre los Latino-Americanos
Por Rocio Martinez-Mendoza
El pasado fin de semana del 4 de Julio del presente año se llevo a cabo la Conferencia Regional sur-central organizada por ISNA (Sociedad Islamica de NorteAmerica). Este año se llevo a cabo simultaneamente la 6ta Convención Anual de Islam entre Musulmanes Latinos. Esta convención dirigida a los Musulmanes Latinos se realiza junto con la Conferencia de Islam en America y junto con las conferencias regionales. Extendemos nuestro agradecimiento a ISNA por permitirnos, a los Musulmanes Latinos, unirnos por el simple hecho de complacer a Alá y de obtener más conocimiento sobre el Islam.
Aproximadamente 25 Latinos asistieron al evento, entre ellos habia gente nacida en los Estados Unidos asi como tambien habian participantes de varios paises de LatinoAmerica imigrantes de los Estados Unidos. Las platicas se llevaron a cabo conjuntas a las de la Convención Regional de ISNA. Todas las conferencias fueron traducidas para que todos se pudieran beneficiar. Las platicas en español fueron dobladas al inglés y viceversa.
La hermana Erika Perez Negrón nos hablo a cerca de "Los Diez Pasos Para el Paraiso." Nos hablo de pasos muy practicos que tenemos que efectuar para ser mejores musulmanes. El hermano Isa Valdez compartió su historia de conversión/reversión. Por lo menos veinte miembros de su familia se han unido al Islam. Algunos de sus familiares compartieron con nosotros su trayectoria hacia el Islam. Isa Garcia y su familia compartieron experiencias personales asi como experiencias entre familiares no-Musulmanes y la sociedad en general. Mas que nada compartieron su gran placer, entusiasmo, y gratitud en entender lo que significa el ser un Musulman. Las platicas han sido grabadas para futuras referencias y estan al alcance para el uso de material didactico y actividades varias.
A pesar del gran esfuerzo por reunir a los latinosMusulmanes, el numero de participantes fué relativamente bajo comparado con otros años y comparado tambien a la poblacion de Latinos Musulmanes que existen en el area de Dallas-Fort Worth y ciudades vecinas. Creo que debemos hacer mayores esfuerzos por participar en este tipo de eventos. Así podremos organizarnos más e incrementar el trabajo de dawah. Esto nos ayudará a que la comunidad Latina Musulmana sea más fuerte y unida. Probablemente necesitamos incrementar la cantidad de publicidad para este tipo de eventos a un nivel local y nacional.
Al igual que el numero de participantes, la cantidad de conferencias y expositores debe de aumentar. Este año los temas fueron a cerca de la Religion del Islam enfocados a la comunidad Musulmana en general. El conocer a cerca del Islam es primordial para obtener un trabajo de dawah exitoso. A su vez, muchos Musulmanes Latinos no habian tenido la oportunidad de asistir a platicas del Islam en español. Sin embargo, podrian ser incluidos muchos temas dirigidos especificamente a la población de Musulmanes Latinos. Debemos de incluir mas temas enfocados a Latinos y a problemas que experimentan al tomar la religión del Islam. Por ejemplo, los temas podrian incluir recomendaciones de dawah hacia los Latinos, así como orientación para nuevos Musulmanes Latinos.
Uno de los grandes exitos fue el stand de informacion. Este se ubicaba en la entrada principal del evento donde los participantes de la Conferencia Regional se registraban para obtener sus boletos de entrada. El Stand contaba con bastantes folletos, libros, Coranes en Español, CD's de Audio, que se extendian a lo largo de banderas coloridas de Paises de LatinoAmerica. Fue un éxito y llamo tanto la atención que Musulmanes de todas las razas se acercaban a preguntar a cerca de Musulmanes Latinos. Hoy dia existen Latinos en casi todos los rincones de los Estados Unidos. Por eso es muy importante que los Musulmanes que residen en Estados Unidos sepan que el material de dawah para los hispanohablantes esta disponoble para que lo compartan con ellos. Muchos hermanos y hermanas se acercaban a tomar material para distribuirlo entre sus conocidos y amigos Latinos y a la vez pedian consejos de como introducir el Islam ante ellos y de como continuar el trabajo de dawah una vez que manifestaran interés por aprender a cerca del Islam y de los Musulmanes en general.
En conclusión la Convención entre Latinos Musulmanes fue bastante exitosa gracias a Dios. Hace varios años el término de Latinos Musulmanes era desconocido, y en muchos casos, eventos similares eran casi imposibles de organizar. A lo largo de todo el fin de semana, pudo sentirse el ambiente de hermandad entre los participantes. Aunque no existe un número exacto de Musulmanes Latinos en los EU, se calcula que hay aproximadamente unos 40,000 conversos/reversos. "Islam es una de las religiones que crece con más rapidez en los Estados Unidos así como los Latinos representan la minoría de más crecimiento. Por lo tanto, estos dos grupos se juntan para formar los Hispanos Musulmanes" como menciona Greg Flakus en "Musulmanes Latinos aumentan en EU." Todo gracias a Dios.
Durante el fin de semana la carta que esta a continuación fué presentada a ISNA. Los Latinos Musulmanes que asistieron a la Conferencia firmaron dicha carta.
En el Nombre de Al-lah, El Misericordioso, El Compasivo
Viernes 1ero de Julio del 2005
Assalaamu'Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakaatuh
Quisiéramos agradecer a la Sociedad Islámica de Norteamérica (ISNA) por su Conferencia Anual sobre el Islam entre los Latino-Americanos. Desde su fundación en 1982, ISNA se ha comprometido al desarrollo de todos los Musulmanes en Norteamérica. ISNA ha demostrado un gran esfuerzo para construir lazos entre las comunidades Musulmanas de este pais. Con este sentimiento de hermandad, ISNA se ha comprometido a asistir a la comunidad Latino Musulmana de los Estados Unidos.
Cuando pocos Musulmanes sabían sobre el crecimiento del Islam entre los Hispanos, la Sociedad Islámica de Norteamérica (ISNA) tuvo el valor de integrar las primeras conferencias para el desarrollo de los Latino Musulmanes, dando a muchos de ellos una oportunindad de tener una voz dentro de las comunidades Islamicas y al mismo tiempo dando un ejemplo de como motivar al liderazgo entre sus propias comunidades. Han tenido la oportunidad de compartir junto con otros Musulmanes y de educarse mutuamente a cerca de varios temas de interés.
Desde 1999, la Conferencia Anual sobre Islam entre los Latino-Americanos ha sido una bendición para todos los Hispanos. ISNA ha demostrado ser un modelo de sensibilidad cultural en el desarrollo y crecimiento de esta conferencia. Que Al-lah acepte nuestros esfuerzos y nos siga usando en varias maneras significativas para promover este Deen de la verdad. Jazaak Al-lahul Khairan. Ameen.
"¡Oh gentes! Os hemos creado de un varón y de una hembra y hemos hecho de vosotros pueblos y tribus, para que os conozcáis unos a otros." - Corán 49:13.
Conference on Islam among Latino Americans
By Rocio Martinez-Mendoza
During July 4th weekend, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) held its Annual SouthCentral Regional Conference. This year was the 6th Annual Conference on Islam among Latino Americans. This Latino Muslims conference is one of the Islam in America Conferences held in conjunction with the regional conference. We extend our gratefulness to ISNA for allowing us, Latino Muslims, to unite for the simple fact of pleasing Allah (swt) and to obtain more knowledge about Islam.
Approximately 25 Latinos attended the event. The group of Latinos included those born in the United States as well as those who immigrated to the United States. The Latino Muslim conference speeches occurred parallel to those of the ISNA regional conference. All speeches were translated so that everyone could benefit. Spanish speeches were translated to English and vice versa.
Our main lecturer was Sheikh Ahmed Al Arafi who spoke about a very important topic for all Muslims entitled "The Way to Success." He presented his speech as a four part series during the weekend. He advised us to be patient and gentle in our manner and to avoid arrogance and ignorance. Imam Al Arafi leads the weekly halaqa for the group of Latino Muslims who meet at the Dallas Central Mosque. Although he doesn't speak Spanish, the Dallas Latino Muslims like him very much, because of his personality, knowledge, and wisdom.
Sister Erika Perez Negron spoke about the "Ten Steps to Paradise." She advised us on practical steps for being successful Muslims. Brother Isa Garcia shared his personal conversion/reversion story. Isa discussed his family's journey to Islam. At least twenty members in his family have come to Islam. Some of them also spoke about how they came to Islam. Isa Garcia and his family shared personal experiences as well as experiences about living among non-Muslim family and society. Most importantly, they shared great pleasure, enthusiasm, and gratitude in understanding what it means to be a Muslim. The speeches have been recorded for future reference and should be made available for halaqas and different occasions.
In spite of our concerted effort to reunite Latino Muslims, the number of conference participants was relatively low compared to previous years and compared to the population of Latino Muslims who live within the Dallas-Forth Worth area. I believe that we must make a greater effort to attend these types of events. By doing so, we will be more organized and increase the work of dawah. This will also make our Latino Muslim community stronger and more united. Perhaps, we need to increase the amount of publicity for these events to attract more participants at the local and national level.
Like the number of participants, the number of speeches and speakers should also increase. This year, presentations were primarily about the religion of Islam and were geared for Muslims, in general. Knowledge about the religion of Islam is necessary for successful dawah work. Also, many Latino Muslims have never heard Islamic lectures in Spanish. However, many topics could be included that are specifically for the Latino Muslim population. We should include more topics that focus on Latinos and the problems they experience after embracing Islam. For example, topics could be about recommendations for dawah to Latinos, such as orientation classes for new Latino Muslims.
The information booth was one of the greatest successes of the conference. The booth was located in the entrance to the main hall where people register for the conference. Spanish literature was placed on the colorful flags of Latin American countries that decorated the information table. Plenty of Spanish dawah literature was distributed - pamphlets, books, audio CDs, and Qurans. The table allowed us to call much attention to the Latino Muslim community. Muslim of all races approached to ask about Latino Muslims. Today, Latinos live in almost all corners of the United States. And, Muslims who reside in the United States should know that dawah literature for Spanish speakers is available for them to share. Many brothers and sisters approached the booth to take material to distribute among their close Latino friends and acquaintances. Many Muslims also requested advice about how to introduce Islam to Latinos as well as how to continue the dawah work once they show interest in learning about Islam and Muslims, in general.
In conclusion, the Conference on Islam among Latino Americans was quite successful. Thanks to God. A few years ago Latino Muslim events were essentially unheard of, and in many cases, similar events were almost impossible to organize. During the entire weekend, we could perceive an atmosphere of brotherhood among the participants. Although there is no exact number of Latino Muslims residing in the United States or in Latin America, ther is an estimate of 40,000 converts/reverts. In his article entitled "Latino Muslims Growing in Number in the US," Greg Flakus wrote, "Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States and Latinos represent one of the fastest-growing minorities. Increasingly, the two trends are meeting in the form of Hispanic converts to Islam." All thanks to God.
During the weekend, the following letter of appreciation was presented to ISNA. Latino Muslims who attended the Latino Muslims conference signed the letter.
In the Name of Allah, The Gracious, The Most Merciful
Friday July 1st, 2005
Assalaamu'Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakaatuh
We would like to thank the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) for its Annual Conference on Islam among Latino Americans. Since its founding in 1982, ISNA has been committed to the development of all Muslims within North America. ISNA has shown its commitment to building bridges with all Muslim communities within the United States. From this spirit of brother and sisterhood, ISNA has committed itself to assisting the growing Latino Muslim community.
When few Muslims knew about the growth of Islam among Latinos, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) had the courage to embark upon the first conference for the development of the Latino Muslim community, giving many of them an opportunity to have a voice within the Muslim community, and at the same time, giving them an example of how to be leaders in their own communities. They have been given an opportunity to network with other Muslims as well as to educate themselves and others on various topics of interest.
Since 1999, the Annual Conference on Islam among Latino Americans has been a blessing for all Hispanics. ISNA has demonstrated itself to be a model of cultural sensitivity in its development and advancement of this conference. May Allah accept our efforts and continue using us in various meaningful ways to spread this Deen of truth. Jazaak Allahul Khairan. Ameen.
"O mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another." - Qur'an 49:13.
The Struggles of Latina Muslimahs
By Rebecca Abuqaoud
What They have Accomplished and their Vision for the Future in Chicago
What a great blessing for the many Latinas who have entered into the fold of Islam! They were searching for the truth - to quench their thirst for truth in order to satisfy their spirituality. In searching for the truth, they found this unique religion called "Islam." Through Islam, these Latinas found answers to questions that in the past did not make sense. For many new Muslims, life in Islam is now more precious and more meaningful. Islam elevates the spirituality of a person because a Muslim recognizes the importance of the relationship between a person and his/her Creator.
However, in the process, in the path of Islam, Latina Muslims encounter challenges and difficulties. They face challenges in their transition of leaving traditional customs in order to adjust to a new Islamic way of life. One of the challenges that they face is a society, or world, full of stereotypes and misconceptions about what the true Islam really is. Due to these stereotypes and misconceptions, many Latina Muslims do not have the support and understanding of their families, friends, and coworkers when they embrace Islam.
For many new Latina Muslims, their adjustment to an Islamic culture is a big struggle. Latina Muslims struggle because they modify their dress code, adopting the headscarf into their daily lives. They modify their eating habits by not considering pork in their diet. They abandon some traditional customs, such as celebrating Christmas. They struggle because in order to accomplish the Islamic way of life, they must cut their different social circles where in the past before Islam, they were comfortable and well accepted. Therefore, many new Latina Muslims go through a process of isolation. Sometimes when they go to some Islamic communities, they are received with indifference or suspicion. Because many Latina Muslims struggle, they know what Jihad is. They struggle, and they are still struggling.
The beauty of Islam is that many Latina Muslims have become role models in this society. After incorporating Islam into their daily lives, they started to impact others around them. A curious non-Muslim Latino may ask a Muslimah, "Why do you wear a headscarf if you are a Latina? Why don't you eat pork? Why don't you celebrate Christmas?"
Many Latina Muslimahs are delivering Da'wah in this form. When a curious mind asks these types of questions, the Latina Muslim comes up with answers to their questions. In such cases, Latina Muslims are 'the window to Islam' to their non-Muslim families, friends, coworkers, and to other Latinos. Thus, non-Muslims can see Islam through these converts, or reverts. Through Muslimahs who are positive role models, non-Muslims can see the true Islam. They can see Islam through their struggle, faith, eeman for the sake of Allah; and this is what Islam stands for.
Many Latina Muslims have adjusted well to their Islamic way of life. They consider the importance of constantly learning and practicing Islam in the proper way. In the past few years, the Latina Muslims in Chicago started to get together with the purpose of strengthen their eeman and to increase their Islamic knowledge, to feed their spirituality, and to establish a family.
They have held special, annual events that include presentations about Islamic topics, a special welcome to the new Muslimah converts, and engaging in a social Islamic environment by having dinner together. After the second annual event in 2002, sisters requested Islamic classes in Spanish on a regular basis. In North Chicago, Latina Muslims have had regular and consistent Islamic classes in Spanish since March 29, 2003. These classes are delivered twice a month at the Muslim Community Center, which is located at 4380 North Elston Ave. in Chicago, Illinois. For over a year, Islamic classes in Spanish for sisters have been available every Sunday at the Mosque Foundation in Bridgeview, Illinois.
Occasionally, the two communities from North and South Chicago come together to form a bigger family, to have Islamic presentations, to socialize in a hospitable environment, and to share different Latino and Middle Eastern dishes. Non-Latina Muslimahs from many nationalities attend these events including Egyptians, Filipinos, Pakistanis, Palestinians, and Jordanians. Non-Muslim women attend these gatherings, and we accept this opportunity for Da'wah.
In North Chicago, the Latina Muslims have sponsored programs in English. They have the opportunity to invite all sisters from different ethnic backgrounds. Latina Muslims have a great experience by learning and feeling included among the larger Islamic community. Regular Islamic classes and programs provided this group of Latina Muslims with a stable Islamic environment, in which they could share their common background as converts, or reverts. They have social gatherings. They have Iftar together in Ramadan, and new Muslimahs have learnd to celebrate Eid. The new Muslimahs have learned the true meaning of fasting during the month of Ramadan.
On March 12, a new Islamic program for children was introduced. While sisters are attending Islamic classes, their children are attending classes, too. Thus, two Islamic classes occur at the same time. One class is for the sisters and another for the children in a separated room.
This year the Latina Muslims in North Chicago have a 2005-2006 agenda full of activities. The agenda includes consistent, regular Islamic classes in Spanish, outreach bilingual programs, and Arabic classes for children and their mothers. Arabic classes for children started last August 27. The objective is to learn the Arabic grammar in order to understand and read the Surahs in Arabic. InshaAllah, the goals set in the 2005-2006 agenda will be achieved, and our goals will assist in the continuation of the spread of Islam.
Latino Muslims at the ICNA-MAS Convention
By Shinoa Matos
During the July 4th weekend, thousands of Muslims attended the annual joint convention of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and the Muslim American Society (MAS). The ICNA-MAS Convention is one of the largest, annual Islamic conventions in the United States. This year's ICNA-MAS Convention was held in Stamford, Connecticut.
The main hall at ground level included endless vendors selling everything from clothing and hijabs to food, books, and literature. The three-day event, held at the newly built Convention Center included different lectures and seminars by keynote speakers. This year's theme was "Family: The Foundation of Our Society."
This year, however, convention organizers included a Latino Muslim Seminar for the first time, reflecting the awareness organizers have of incorporating information that addresses the incredible growth of Latinos within the religion of Islam.
The Latino Muslim Seminar at this year's convention included speakers such as Brother Abdullah (Danny) Hernandez who is of Puerto Rican descent and has been in Egypt for the past several months studying to be an Imam. He began the lecture with a prayer and touched on the topic of Dawah to our Latino brethren.
The seminar was "MC'd" by Brother Alexander Robayo who has been a revert for over eight years and has been a guest speaker at many Islamic events. Recently, he participated in a BBC News online Q&A and was emailed questions by online viewers about many issues pertaining to Islam.
Other speakers included Sister Nylka Vargas who spoke about reasons for her reversion. She spoke about how Islam changed her incrementally, not overnight. With more knowledge, she came to understand that the tenants of Islam, including hijab, are all a blessing from Allah SWT. Because she didn't have a support group after converting, she understands the importance of Dawah and education programs. She encourages new Muslim converts to form regular study groups and to participate in mosque open houses.
I spoke about the need for Muslims to know their audience. By doing so, Muslims may better facilitate Dawah with the proper information that will touch Latinos within our communities and help them to better understand their link to Al-Islam. In addition, I suggested to the audience that they themselves must take the initiative in making the masjids their second homes. We need to leave behind nationalist ideaology and start making the masjids not only places of worship, but the place where we congregate, celebrate, learn and thus surround ourselves with other muslims in order to reinforce our deen.
After the main presentations, an open discussion followed with Br. Melvin Reveron, Br. Diego Guadalupe, and Br. Rizwan Barim. They discussed ways in which Latino Muslims are planning to work with Why-Islam, an ICNA project. Rizwan Barim is a Why-Islam coordinator. As you may know, Why-Islam does a great job with Spanish Dawah.
The event was a success with entire families present. Brothers and sisters from other ethnicities had questions about how they too could reach out to their Latino Muslim brothers and sisters as well as perform Dawah in the Latino community. There are promises to hold a Latino seminar at next year's ICNA-MAS Convention.
Third Annual Hispanic Muslim Day
By Mariam Abbassi
The third annual Hispanic Muslim Day was held on September 25, 2005 at the Islamic Education Center of North Hudson. The celebration was held on behalf of all the converts who have accepted Islam as the guide to their lives. Islam is a religion of peace and harmony, but to some it is a misunderstood religion. Our responsibility is to educate those who remain unaware of what Islam truly signifies. As Imam AlHayek, the president of the Da'wah Committee of North Hudson stated while he stood in front of 200 reverts and more than 50 non-Muslims, "I do not need to defend this great religion." Most of the converts embraced Islam on their own free will and studied the logic behind the religion as was evident by the numerous nods in agreement during the speeches of the day.
The program began with a recitation of the Quran. The recitation was translated by the Co-Founder/Deputy Director of the Latino Muslim Outreach Program (LMOP), Brother Diego Guadalupe. Brother Diego Guadalupe converted to Islam four years ago.
Speakers were given the opportunity to share with the audience their experiences and reasoning behind their conversion to Islam. Melvin Reveron embraced Islam approximately one year ago. He stated, "Islam enlightened me and helped me resolve my crisis." He also spoke about the progression of messages received by Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad. Melvin explained that the Quran is the last testament that reaffirms faith and clarifies the way of life. The Quran is the reminder of God, the Almighty Creator. The Quran is divinely inspired. The Quran testifies to the belief in one God and acknowledges Muhammad as a Prophet sent by God.
"This is a pure and clean religion. Allah gave me a second chance," stated Sister Orbelina Acsosia from El Salvador as she shed tears speaking in her native tongue. She shared with the attendees her search for truth and how Islam changed her life. Sister Acsosia expressed her feelings on how protected she feels by wearing Hijab. Sister Sonia Lasso stated firmly, "We chose to wear the Hijab; it was not by force, but rather a privilege which I sought."
The program continued with great information about Hispanic history in Spain presented by Brother Omar Pacheco. Our guest from Philadelphia, Brother Hamza Jason Perez, along with four other guest speakers, spoke about the past and the hostility towards the Islamic Masajid. Before Brother Perez realized the truth about Islam, he would throw rocks at the Masajid out of ignorance. He later became friends with Muslims, which led him to search the religion in earnest. After embracing the Islamic faith, he was instrumental in the conversion of twenty other families of Puerto Rican descent living in the same community.
A children's play depicted by our Hispanic brothers and sisters demonstrated the birth of Islam in Spain. The children were dressed in clothing from the medieval time. The play by Sister Linda Rodriguez is about a Muslim man who marries a Christian convert to Islam. Her brother converts to Islam after he realizes how good and peaceful Muslims are. The play illustrates how Muslims positively influenced Spain.
As the day wound down, the Latino Muslim community would include a new Cuban brother. Baptized as a Catholic, Pedro Fernandez declared his Shahada before the attendees. In Arabic, he repeated after the Imam, "I bear witness that there is one God and Muhammad is His Messenger...Jesus Christ is a Prophet of God." Then, he repeated the Shahada in Spanish. The Shahada was translated into Spanish by Alex Robayo who converted to Islam at the age of 21. Now 29, Robayo teachers physics at East Rutherford High School. "I found a lot of logic in Islam and the Quran," commented Robayo. Fernandez said, "I felt a calling from Allah."
At the close of the ceremony, thirty Shahada certificates and gifts were awarded to new Muslim converts in recognition of their declaration of faith.
The Islamic Center of North Hudson is dedicated to serving the entire Muslim and non-Muslim communities regardless of ethnic background. Material was provided in both English and Spanish to anyone interested. The information packets included pamphlets, CDs about the biography of Muhammad PBUH (Peace be Upon Him), and tapes about performing prayer. This year we gave away CDs with Quranic recitation in Arabic with Spanish translation by Imam Yahya Suquillo.
Mariam Abbassi is the vice-president of the Da'wah committee at the Islamic Education Center of North Hudson.
Delegados de 33 países de América Latina...
"Delegados de 33 países de América Latina y del Mundo Musulmán se reunieron en Lima."
Lima, 17 de Julio del 2005
Comenzó la reunion el Dr Abdulaziz Al-Tuweijiri, director general de ISESCO, asi como tambien se conto con la participación de diversas delegaciones del Banco del Desarrollo Islamico (IDB) y del Consejo Internacional Islamico Europeo.
El objetivo del encuentro fue fomentar la cooperación entre las Entidades Islámicas de los países miembros; así como, promover la convivencia pacífica entre los pueblos y su consolidación en América Latina, a través de las áreas de educación, la ciencia, la cultura, y la comunicación bajo los principios del Islam.
Otro objetivo fue el promover el dialogo con istituciones oficiales y populares de la region para asi mejorar la imagen del Islam y de los Musulmanes dentro de la media de LatinoAmerica. ISESCO ha creado un programa especificamente para limpiar la imagen del Islam. Entre otros objetivos estubo el organizar documentacion dentro del area cultural en Latino America y trabajar en adjuntamente con organizaciones brasileñas.
Shaikh Yahya Juan Suquillo, Imam del Centro Islámico del Ecuador, disertó en la Inauguración del magno evento, en representación de todos sus colegas Delegados por las Entidades Islámicas de Latinoamérica.
El Presidente de la Asociación Islámica del Perú, Damin Awad, afirmó que los Musulmanes en América Latina se encuentran "perfectamente integrados" a las sociedades que conforman el mosaico latinoamericano. El Islam vive en un clima de "armonía" en Latinoamérica, así lo aseveró en declaraciones a Radio Nederland.
"Delegates of 33 Latin American countries and from the Muslim World met in Lima."
Lima, 17 of July of 2005.
Delegates of 33 Latin American countries and the Arab world met in Lima for the 5th Congress of Islamic Organizations of Latin America and the Caribbean.
The meeting was sponsored by the Islamic Organization for the Education, Science and Culture (ISESCO), the Islamic Organization for Latin America and the Caribbean (OLPADI), and the Islamic Association of Peru.
The meeting began with the speech of Dr Abdulaziz Al-Tuweijiri, CEO of ISESCO, as well as with the participation of diverse delegations of the Bank of Islamic Development (IDB) and of the Islamic International European Council.
The objective of the meeting was to encourage the cooperation between the Islamic Organizations of the countries which are members; as well as, to promote the pacific coexistence between the towns and their consolidation in Latin America, through the areas of education, science, culture, and communication under the principles of Islam.
Another objective was to promote the dialogue between official and popular institutions of the region and therefore improve the image of Islam and Muslims within Latin America. ISESCO has created a program specifically to improve the image of Islam. Among other objectives was to organize a documentary within the cultural area in Latin America and to work together with Brazilian organizations.
Shaikh Yahya Juan Suquillo, Imam of the Islamic Center of Ecuador, spoke at the inauguration of the event, representing all his colleagues of the Islamic Organizations of Latin America.
The President of the Islamic Association of Peru, Damin Awad, affirmed that the Muslims in Latin America are perfectly "integrated" with the societies that form the Latin American Muslim group. Islam lives in an atmosphere of "harmony" in Latin America, he asserted in Nederland Radio.
IQRA! Newspaper in the Eye of the Storm
By Amatullah Abdullah and Corey Habbas
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, September's tragic natural disaster which left the city of New Orleans devastated, IQRA! Newspaper with the determination of its founder-editor Sister Cara-Karema Harpole, and some help from technology in the form of the Internet - emerged from the eye of the storm intact.
As the people of New Orleans evacuated the flooded city, Cara took what she could carry with her - a computer and a few copies of IQRA! - and sought refuge, first in Baton Rouge in a Muslim village of Louisiana State University students, and later, within a local Muslim community in Houston, Texas, where she continued to work on the paper.
Whilst IQRA! Newspaper had previously been the only newspaper serving the Muslim community in New Orleans, the paper has now taken on a new role for Muslims nationwide, uplifting the spirits of the local community and encouraging its readers, as well as providing a means by which Muslims can reconnect with their family and friends after the tragedy. "Even though our Muslim community has left the city of New Orleans and is now scattered throughout the nation, IQRA! Newspaper's role is more important than ever before," says Sister Cara. "I hope that IQRA! Newspaper gives us hope in spite of the storm."
Sister Cara was not deterred by the level 5 hurricane. Rather she looks at the tragedy as being an opportunity from Allah (SWT) to start in a new direction and to help those in need. "This is a precious moment for Muslims as we prepare ourselves for the holy month of Ramadan. Our religion calls us to action and compassion. I hope we heed these words of the Qu'ran," she says, quoting the words of Allah in Surah Az-Zumar (39: 10), wherein He Says:
"Say (O Muhammad), "O My slaves who believe, be pious of your Lord and keep your duty to Him. There is a reward for those who are righteous, and the land of Allah is spacious. Those who are patient will indeed receive their full reward unconditionally."
Three days after her arrival in Houston, Sister Cara was hired as a Katrina Relief Coordinator for the Islamic Society of Greater Houston. Her role is to assist in formulating a transitional strategy and an implementation plan for survivors.
"I felt compelled to act to help our devastated community, even though in reality, I was also a victim of Hurricane Katrina." She says she has witnessed countless selfless acts of giving since the tragedy began, adding that the interfaith cooperation between Christian and Muslim faith organizations has also been very encouraging.
"I am so touched by God's people heeding the call of charity and compassion. I only wish that this spirit doesn't die after the emergency work has ended," she says. "I hope Hurricane Katrina's powerful blow can be a catalyst for change, sparking new attitudes in this nation."
When Sister Cara isn't working for the Islamic Society of Greater Houston, she puts her remaining energy into releasing new editions of IQRA! Newspaper, actively working with volunteers and contributors from all over the world, including countries like India, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Britain, South Africa, and the United States. Under her leadership volunteers gather in our main cyber community to brainstorm and develop strategies for future editions. They also submit articles, photographs and graphics for each issue.
Sister Cara established IQRA! Newspaper in 2003, as part of her activities with the Muslim Student Association at the University of New Orleans. The paper soon expanded beyond the Association and began to serve the entire Muslim community in New Orleans. The goal of the newspaper is to serve all Muslims, she says, irrespective of race, culture and nationality, adding that unity is a concept firmly rooted in the Qur'an and Sunnah, and exemplified in the Prophet's (peace be upon him) last speech, wherein he said:
"All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood."
IQRA! Newspaper does not concentrate on Muslims alone. It also focuses on da'wah, Islamic education and addressing misinformation conveyed by the mainstream media. "Under the shade of the Qur'an and Sunnah, IQRA! is intended to help the human race," says Sister Cara.
"While the media often vilifies Muslims, I am happy that Cara is there to present a positive view of them. Sister Cara is no doubt committed to the development of Islamic media," says Juan Galvan of the LADO Group. "She's a great friend of the Latino Muslim community. She is known for working regularly with the Latino Muslims of New Orleans."
Readers respond positively to the newspaper, praising its quality, content and professionalism. "I have learned so much about Islam in a welcoming environment," says one reader.
Cara has also established satellite groups online to proliferate IQRA! Newspaper. Circulation stretches from Georgia to California and Louisiana.
IQRA! Newspaper is also beginning to take root in the North East Muslim community. Sister Wendy Tobin from Boston says, "Those that know of it think it is really wonderful. It gives the message of Islam in a special way that touches those of us who are Muslim as well as those who are non-Muslim. I would recommend it to anyone."
"I hope it will expand its circulation throughout the world," says Salman Latif, another reader.
Praise be to God for the advancement in the technology. Many IQRA! Newspaper operations are channeled through the internet via e-groups and e-mails on remote servers situated far away from the hurricane's devastation, a fact that has served as a blessing for Sister Cara and others.
However, Hurricane Katrina meant that the newspaper sustained a loss in funds, equipment and supplies, and in order to fully recover, IQRA! must procure additional resources in order to sustain its present level of activity and outreach.
Sister Cara says that the newspaper would be extremely grateful for
donations which would help to rebuild its operations. To make
donations to IQRA! Newspaper, please visit their website at
The IQRA! Newspaper team has never given up trust in Allah under any circumstances, says Sister Cara, adding that Iman (faith) makes one persevere through anything; be it adversity or joy, as both are blessings and tests from Allah (SWT). "Nothing can stop a work done in the cause of Allah (SWT). IQRA! Newspaper has proved to be an example of that! Alhamdulillah! (All praises are due to Allah)," she says. "IQRA Newspaper is standing firm in faith even in the midst of adversity!"
"And never would Allah make your faith of no effect. For Allah is to all people Most surely full of kindness, Most Merciful." (Surah Al-Baqarah 2:143)
Alicante's Muslims May Spend Ramadan With no Mosque
By Al-Amin Andalusi
MADRID, September 5, 2005, (IslamOnline.net)
Muslims in the Spanish city of Alicante are facing the bitter possibility of seeing the doors of their only mosque shut down before or during the holy months of Ramadan.
The problem escalated few weeks before the advent of the holy fasting month when the City's Municipality decided to close down the mosque, in response to complaints by the city's residents.
Muslims of Alicante have succeeded to convince the local authorities to suspend the closure decision, pending a court ruling on the issue.
The suspension decision followed a meeting between Municipality officials and the mosque's imam.
IOL Correspondent says despite the fact that the mosque has already met all legal and other requirements the Municipality demanded, it still faces the likely possibility of closure over reasons described by the officials themselves as "incomprehensible".
Tens of thousands of Muslim migrants in the city, mostly from Moroccan and Algerian origins, found themselves without a mosque at the beginning of September. Following the meeting with the imam, city officials suspended the closure pending the court ruling expected before or even during Ramadan (October 3 or 4).
In statements to the Spanish News Agency (EFE), an Alicante official said a closure notification was sent to the mosque's officials, carrying a grace period.
But leader of the Muslim minority in the city Najid Khadem told EFE Sunday, September 4, that no such notification was received, adding in case any official notice is sent to the mosque officials a lawyer would handle the case legally.
Khadem added that he could not understand the Municipality's decision to close the mosque, in light of all requirements being met, except for opening an additional emergency door due to neighbors' objections.
Alicante Muslims now face the bitter possibility of a "Ramadan without mosque". The Alicante mosque, that was opened five years ago and can take up to 500 persons, used to work as a gathering place during Ramadan, for both religious and cultural activities.
Awaiting the court ruling on the complaint issued by neighbors, who accuse the mosque of promoting "extremist ideas", Municipality officials say they are now looking for a venue to establish a new mosque not to prevent thousands of Alicante Muslims from observing their religious rituals.
A local Spanish paper quoted Sunday officials in Alicante as saying it was expected a big Islamic center would be built in the city soon to serve the sizeable minority there.
The complaining neighbors did not give any evidence or document to support their allegations against the mosque. However, Municipality officials have withdrawn their "verbal certificate" to the mosque officials, paving the way for closing the mosque, according to IOL Correspondent.
In Spain , places of worship do not need written permissions to be established or to operate.
According to IOL Correspondent, Alicante Muslims are not the only Muslim grouping facing such obstacles in the European country.
Muslim migrants in a number of Spanish cities are facing growing difficulties in building mosques or even freely expressing their Muslim identity, especially after the March,2004 bombings in Madrid that killed 191 people and was claimed by an Al-Qaeda-linked militant group.
In Seville , the Great Mosque project was stopped after complaints from local residents. The anti-mosque protests in Seville escalated to the degree that Spanish extremists threw a pig's head on the construction site of the mosque, believing that would desecrate the site and force Muslims to quit building thereon.
There are some 600 mosques and small praying rooms across Spain, according to official estimates.
Alicante is the site of the remains of a historical mosque believed to have been built over ten centuries ago, with the early days of Islam's presence in Spain. The site was discovered only last year.
U.S. Muslim Religious Council Issues Fatwa Against Terrorism
In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
The Fiqh Council of North America wishes to reaffirm Islam's absolute condemnation of terrorism and religious extremism.
Islam strictly condemns religious extremism and the use of violence against innocent lives. There is no justification in Islam for extremism or terrorism. Targeting civilians' life and property through suicide bombings or any other method of attack is haram or forbidden - and those who commit these barbaric acts are criminals, not "martyrs."
The Qur'an, Islam's revealed text, states: "Whoever kills a person [unjustly]"it is as thoughhe has killed all mankind. And whoever saves a life, it is as though he had saved all mankind." (Qur'an, 5:32)
Prophet Muhammad said there is no excuse for committing unjust acts: "Do not be people without minds of your own, saying that if others treat you well you will treat them well, and that if they do wrong you will do wrong to them. Instead, accustom yourselves to do good ifpeople do good and not to do wrong (even) if they do evil." (Al-Tirmidhi)
God mandates moderation in faith and in all aspects of life when He states in the Qur'an: "Wemade you to be a community of the middle way, so that (with the example of your lives) you might bear witness to the truth before all mankind." (Qur'an, 2:143)
In another verse, God explains our duties as human beings when he says: "Let there arise from among you a band of people who invite to righteousness, and enjoin good and forbidevil." (Qur'an, 3:104)
Islam teaches us to act in a caring manner to all of God's creation. The Prophet Muhammad, who is described in the Qur'an as "a mercy to the worlds" said: "All creation is the family ofGod, and the person most beloved by God (is the one) who is kind and caring toward His family."
In the light of the teachings of the Qur'an and Sunnah we clearly and strongly state:
1. All acts of terrorism targeting civilians are haram (forbidden) in Islam.
We issue this fatwa following the guidance of our scripture, the Qur'an, and the teachings of our Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. We urge all people to resolve all conflicts in just and peaceful manners.
We pray for the defeat of extremism and terrorism. We pray for the safety and security of ourcountry, the United States, and its people. We pray for the safety and security of allinhabitants of our planet. We pray that interfaith harmony and cooperation prevail both in the United States and all around the globe.
FIQH COUNCIL OF NORTH AMERICA
MEMBERS OF THE FIQH COUNCIL OF NORTH AMERICA
Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi, Chairman
173 Muslim organizations, mosques and imams have endorsed the preceding fatwa as of August 4, 2005 (see below). More signatory organizations are to be added in the following days. To add your American Muslim organization to the list, please email your name, title, and affiliation to firstname.lastname@example.org.
ENDORSED BY THE FOLLOWING NATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS:
Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR)
ENDORSED BY THE FOLLOWING MOSQUES AND ISLAMIC CENTERS
Afghan Cultural Center