The Latino Muslim Voice
The October-December 2010 newsletter features:
Quotes of the Month
By Samaiyah Brookins, 9 years old
Eidul Adha Greeting
Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuhu
Beloved Muslimin and Muslimah,
God Almighty said in his glorious Qur'an:
"The first house (of worship) appointed for men was that at Bakkah:
and said also:
"For hajj are the months well known if any one undertakes that duty
and said also:
"Remember Abraham said: 'O my Lord! Make this city one of peace and
Praise be to God for His great generosity and kindness, and God's
Allah (S.W.T.) says to the believers in surat Al-Ma'idah, (Verse 3),
On this blessed day, let us celebrate Eidul Adha with a sense of
Allahhu Akbar Allahhu Akbar Allahhu Akbar Walillah hilhamd.
The Islamic world is required today to hasten to unify its word and
We ask Allah the Almighty, to bless all the muslims who are
We ask AllÃ¢h, may He be exalted, to increase our iman, taqwa and
We ask AllÃ¢h, the Mighty and Majestic, to bless us all in what we
We pray for all those people who are suffering around the world. We
May Allah's peace and blessings be upon you.
EID MUKARAAK!! This Eid, remember to share this joyous celebration
Wassalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh
Eid Greeting, December 2007
LADO and the Latina/o Muslim Identity in the U.S.
By Patrick D. Bowen
The Latino American Da'wah Organization and the "Latina/o Muslim" Identity in the U.S.
Introduction: LADO and the Growth of the U.S. Latina/o Muslim Community
Over time, as Muslim immigration increased and more and more Latina/os embraced the religion, a handful of Muslim immigrants began to take seriously the possibility of converting Latina/os and organized proselytization efforts. And while these groups had very limited success within U.S. borders, they did slightly raise the numbers of Latina/o Muslims in the U.S. which improved the probability that Latina/o Muslims would encounter each other. In 1975, a number of Latina/o Muslims, some of whom had experiences (positive and negative) with immigrant Muslims, came together with others who had been involved in the African-American Sunni groups and formed the Alianza Islamica in Harlem, the first U.S. Latina/o Muslim organization. In other areas where Muslims and Latina/os were in close proximity, the numbers of converts continued to expand and a handful of support groups for Latina Muslim wives of immigrant Muslims, as well as a few more generally-oriented Latina/o Muslim organizations, developed. By the turn of the century, there were perhaps ten U.S. Latina/o Muslim associations and Latina/os had become a significant presence in many mosques all over the country, especially in cities with high concentrations of Latina/os.
Despite the presence of Latina/o Muslim individuals and small groups scattered throughout the U.S., oftentimes new Latina/o converts and those who were considering conversion were still unaware of other Latina/o Muslims. In the mid-1990s, a handful of these individuals independently began to explore the bourgeoning Muslim internet chat rooms and message boards, and it was there where they encountered each other. The internet was the medium through which Juan Alvarado, Saraji Umm Zaid, and Samantha Sanchez all who happened to live in New York came into contact. These three new Latina/o Muslims became anchors in a gradually-growing circle of Latina/o Muslims that exchanged emails, sharing their thoughts, news articles, and other related stories in what was essentially an early Latina/o Muslim listserv. Soon, there was a desire within this small online community to obtain Spanish-language literature, to give Latina/o Muslims a place for their voices to be heard, and to spread their new religion to other Latina/os what Muslims refer to as da'wah, meaning "calling" people to the Islamic faith.
With these goals in mind, they began to consider creating a formal organization. In September 1997 a name was given to this group: the Latino American Da'wah Organization (LADO). That year, they developed a website with general resources for Latina/o Muslims and Sanchez began a reader-contributed online newsletter, originally as a monthly, but low participation led to irregular publication. Over the next four years LADO grew through internet visits to their site and word-of-mouth, with members putting their local mosques and other Islamic organizations in touch with LADO, so that by 2001 members began attending various Latina/o Muslim gatherings and LADO was endorsed by and began working with both the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). In 2002 LADO coordinated the development of ISNA's magazine's (Islamic Horizons) special issue on Latina/o Muslims, marking the first time a Muslim magazine was dedicated to American Latina/o Muslims. LADO is an entirely volunteer-based, loosely-structured organization that has run on almost no outside funding. There are neither regular meetings nor a strict hierarchy of leadership. It welcomes all Muslims who wish to join and has developed affiliations with Latina/o Muslims outside of the U.S., making total membership close to 5,000 and the website garners 90,000 hits per month.
Galvan began to volunteer with LADO, working with Sanchez and others to re-establish the newsletter, which was then given the name The Latino Muslim Voice and began publication as a quarterly, with Galvan doing a large amount of the editorial work since that time. From 2002 on, the Voice has been consistently published online, making it one of the longest-lasting U.S. Latina/o Muslim periodicals. As seen in the stories of its founders and its phenomenal growth, LADO and the Voice have served to not only help make non-Latina/o Muslims more aware of the Latina/o Muslim presence, but also to connect disparate Latina/o Muslims, and in the process have created an "imagined community" on a scale that might not have been possible without the internet.
The Latino Muslim Voice: Creating Culture and Identity
In the fall of 2009 an east coast Latina, Krystal (who has asked to keep her last name anonymous), was considering converting to Islam. She had recently begun active research into the religion after having a particularly insightful conversation about Islam with a Middle Eastern Muslim student from her college class, but she was concerned about whether she would be able to maintain her Latina identity if she converted. So she began to talk to other Muslims at the school and researched about Islam and Latina/os online when she came across the LADO website. Krystal took comfort in seeing that many other Latina/os had embraced Islam while keeping their Latina/o identity, and this helped her soon decide to formally convert by making her profession of faith, the shahada, the following winter.
Individual Muslims like Krystal throughout the U.S. have had similar experiences. Typically, Latina/os first come to Islam through social ties with non-Latina/o Muslims who introduce the new converts to the tradition and community. Usually new Latina/o Muslims in this situation, who are exposed to an Islamic discourse which makes little emphasis on the cultural connections between Islamic Spain and Latin American culture, do not express a strong identification with a Latina/o Muslim identity, and rarely are they aware of the Islamic heritage in Spain and Latina/o culture. An examination of conversion narratives in the Voice and on another website run by Galvan reveals that out of the twenty-eight different individuals who wrote these narratives, only six made any mention of this cultural heritage tie to Islam, and three of those were people were directly affiliated with LADO or another Latina/o Muslim group.
It appears that the Islamic heritage of Latina/o culture is not the initial concern of converts who instead stress Islam's simple and rational religious doctrines (as compared with what they see as confusing or incorrect doctrines in Christianity, such as the Trinity) and a sense of a universal family among Muslims. However, some potential converts, like Krystal, begin to have reservations about how they can be Muslim while still being Latina/o, some simply encounter the history of Spanish Muslims while doing general research on Islam, while others begin to experience some stereotyping from immigrant Muslims and thus begin to look for other sources to legitimate their own identity. All of these factors can push new or potential converts to seek out other Latina/o Muslims to see either how those Muslims handled similar issues or for intellectual and/or moral support.
Religious conversion is a process of identity change that takes time. Hjamil A. Martinez-Vazquez, in the first book written about U.S. Latina/o Muslims, stresses that they develop an identity as "Latina/o Muslims" through a process of gaining a "new" personal and cultural memory which they consider as continuous with their old ones. For many, this process includes overcoming difficulties of correlating identities by seeking outside sources (other people or various media) that may provide discourses or strategies to deal with these issues. It is here, as we saw with the example of Krystal, where the LADO website and the Voice come into play.
The LADO website offers several resources for the visitor, including relevant website links for Latina/o Muslims, general Islamic resources such as the Qur'an and other documents presenting Islamic basics, and several pictures of converts. The area of the site that contains the most content, however, is the section for the Voice. The Voice does not follow a rigid structure; after a section of quotes (often from Hadith traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad and sometimes one or two non-Muslim authors), there is usually a poem by a Latina/o Muslim, followed by eight to thirteen articles whose style and topics vary from issue to issue, though most deal with Latina/o Muslims in some way (and about one-sixth of which are written in Spanish). Since many articles are composed by the readers themselves, who are for the most part not professional writers, less formal styles of writing are employed which allows the readers to relate to the articles more. The articles also often contain various personal elements. A story about a recent Latina/o Muslim event, for instance, may contain personal experiences and the writer's reflections on aspects of her religion. The most common type of article (about one quarter of all the articles) deals with these current events concerning Latina/o Muslims.
There is roughly an even distribution of articles (each representing about one-sixth of all articles published) that are primarily stories about personal experiences dealing with everyday issues one faces as a Latina/o Muslim, current events concerning all Muslims, reflections on the writer's or the community's religious life, and historical studies. Of this latter category, most (nineteen out of fifty-two) deal with general Islamic history that is not specific to one particular cultural or ethnic group; fifteen concern issues related to Muslim Spain; nine look historically at the general modern phenomenon of Latina/o Muslims; five deal with Latina/o Muslims in Latin America; and three present histories concerning all Muslims in the U.S. There are a little over a dozen articles each for 1) those containing instructions on proper Islamic practices, and 2) those containing calls to action (usually urging da'wah efforts among Latina/o Muslims).
It is interesting to note that despite the vast majority of U.S. Latina/o Muslims being converts, there are relatively few conversion narratives in the Voice (eleven total). This was partially the result of the founders' intentions to give space to all topics concerning Latina/o Muslims, but it also reflects the place the contributors are at concerning their religious identity formation. The fact that there are more articles that deal with the history of Muslims in Spain than conversion narratives should be understood in relation to my earlier observation that few of the conversion narratives have any mention of an Al Andalusian identity. The Voice, therefore, serves as a site that fosters the development of this identity. What is important, here, is that it is an identity that is often not self-evident and many of the readers had not used it prior to reading the Voice.
"Latina/o Muslim" as a Transcript and Imagined Community
James C. Scott has offered the term "transcript" to indicate discourses that circulate among groups. The Voice is developing a transcript concerning a "Latina/o Muslim" identity that includes images, practices, and ideas of a cultural memory of a unified "Latina/o" world as well as a Muslim Spanish heritage. The popularity of LADO, then, indicates that this transcript is not only circulating widely, but that many people (Latina/os and non-Latina/os) are incorporating this transcript into their personal identities and/or understandings of the world. This process is what Benedict Anderson describes as creating an "imagined community." It is not "imagined" in the sense that there are no historical or cultural connections either between Latina/os in general or between Muslim Spain and today's various Latina/os, but in that these connections have recently been put into relief and identified with through certain media. This is also not to say that there are not strong social forces "pushing" for the existence of this transcript.
In fact, as I discussed above, there are at least three factors at play that encourage the development of a "Latina/o Muslim" transcript, and LADO, given its democratic structure, may be more reflective of these forces than shaping them. What makes LADO unique, however, among both U.S. Latina/o Muslim groups and U.S. convert groups more generally, is the speed at which it became popular and its exceptionably broad-based self-identity. These are a factor of A) its being circulated primarily on the internet so that people anywhere in the world can access its transcript; B) the timing of its emergence, which happened to coincide with the rise of both relative wide-spread internet access and U.S. Latina/o Muslim conversions across the U.S. (it essentially "rode the waves" of these two phenomena); C) the fluidity of the identity of the "Latina/o;" and D) the continued connections of U.S. Latina/os to Latina/os throughout the rest of the world.
These last two points should be elaborated on briefly. First, because of the vast geographic spread of Spain and Portugal since the late fifteenth century, and approaches to and cultures of miscegenation that differed markedly from later northern European colonizers, today's "Latina/o" identity is less limited by phenotypic characteristics and specific cultural practices than the two other large U.S. convert "ethnic" groups (white EuroAmericans and African Americans), and actually the "Latina/o" identity subsumes many elements of both of those groups, as it shares to an extent a Euro-Christian culture as well as containing a strong African element, particularly in the Caribbean. As a result, Latina/os are more able to cross ethnic group lines, an ability that is reflected in the fact that two-thirds of all U.S. intermarriages involve Latina/os. It is not a surprise, then, that we often find Latina/o converts among Anglo-majority or African-American-majority convert circles, while the same ease of ethnic enclave travel is not as great for the other two groups. Furthermore and this is my second point many U.S. Latina/os maintain strong a connection with their countries of origin. The relative geographical propinquity of Latin American nations as compared with most other countries that provide large numbers of immigrants to the U.S. has contributed to the ability to maintain these ties. These ties can serve as a conduit for Latina/o identity transcripts which thus reinforce a Latina/o identity and prevent simple assimilation and shedding of an immigrant's homeland identity a feature for U.S. ethnic groups that is perhaps most extreme with Latina/os.
These above factors, then, have combined with the existence of an already relatively large U.S. Latina/o community and Latina/os' marriages to various Muslim immigrants (which historically has occurred more often than immigrant Muslim intermarriage with African Americans), and so have led to an ever-increasing number of both Latina/o Muslims and "Latina/os" in general all of whom are potential "Latina/o Muslims." "Latina/o Muslim," as an identity transcript, is therefore a uniquely widely-accessible identity marker. And so, as more Americans have come to possess some sort of a Latina/o identity, this has contributed to the popularity of the "Latina/o Muslim" transcript that LADO circulates.
Being a "Latina/o Muslim"
Because "Latina/o" is such a broadly-defined transcript in general, for LADO, just what makes a "Latina/o Muslim" is similarly broadly-defined. Contributors to the Voice come from many different backgrounds in terms of ethnic and nationality identity, employment type, family generation in the U.S., current residence, class, etc. It is reasonable to assume, however, that the majority of individuals who have written articles particularly those who have submitted multiple articles are likely relatively well-educated, perhaps college-educated, individuals, though available evidence cannot confirm or deny this. And while this would correspond with findings in an early study of U.S. Latina/o Muslims, there are certainly large numbers of non-college-educated Latina/o Muslims, including many in prison and ex-convicts. Therefore, while we can distill a few culture and identity themes that run throughout the issues of the Voice, we must bear in mind that these are reflections of the contributors and not necessarily of U.S. Latina/o Muslims in general, nor of LADO itself. This section, then, should be seen as painting a particular picture (see, transcript) of the experience of Latina/o Muslims, one that should be compared with findings in future studies, but one which, because of its wide circulation, may also have influence over the identity/transcript-formations of readers of the Voice who may in turn circulate those transcripts to other people.
Given the purpose of LADO and the Voice, it is not surprising that many of the writers discuss issues relating to dealing with perceived conflicts between their new religious tradition and their culture of upbringing. Some have felt that these conflicts are too great and took their Latina/o culture and, as one new Muslim writes, "flushed it down the toilet" because, he continues, "My culture isn't the thing that's/ going to save me from Jahannam [Hell]." However, many others are finding ways to integrate their cultural heritage and religion in ways they feel do not "compromise" either. One strategy for this, as I discussed earlier, is to highlight the cultural connection to a Spanish Muslim heritage. Words and phrases, names (for instance, the surname Medina, and, as one writer noted, the similarity between the surnames "Garcia" and "Gharsiyya"), foods, customs, and even morals are seen as tied to this tradition. Other Latina/o Muslims are able to integrate cultural traditions that they recognize as distinct from those being practiced by the local immigrant Muslims, an action they see as legitimized by a tradition of the Prophet Muhammad. For example, some Latina/o Muslims continue to play and enjoy music, from American folk music to the congas.
At the First Annual Chicago Latino Eid Festival, a piñata (which was in the shape of a seven-point star, a Mexican cultural reference) was brought for the children, and the served food included arroz con gandules, guacamole, meatloaf, chicken wings, and red chicken biryani. And while some Latina/o Muslims identify primarily with their particular national homeland (for instance, one Latino writes under the name "MusliRican"), one mosque's "Latino Muslim" cultural night event demonstrated the integration of not just Islam and "Latina/os," but of distinct ethnic groups which came together as "Latina/o." A writer remarked: "Our meetings [for preparing for the cultural night] usually got stuck around food What cultural dishes would be most appropriate People asked, "We have to have rice and beans, but what style beans? Black or Pinto Beans?", "Central American style, Caribbean style or Mexicano Style? "and they eventually agreed on a combination. Similarly, at a Dallas Mosque opening for Latina/o Muslims in 2003, flags from numerous Latin American countries decorated the Islamic center. And of course, at Latina/o Muslim gatherings the speech of the attendees will usually be a mix of English, Spanish, and Arabic expressions. The publication of these activities themselves, along with information about individual Latina/o Muslims performing important Islam-related activities (such as pilgrimages), help spread the idea that "Latina/o" and "Islam" are not contradictory, as well as the idea that people from throughout the Latina/o cultural world could indeed unify as "Latina/o."
To be sure, a prominent theme resonating throughout the personal stories and religious reflections that fill the Voice is one of enduring an individual, often difficult struggle in one's life as a Latina/o Muslim, as a triple-outsider: an outsider to the dominant U.S. culture, an outsider to one's local Latina/o culture and/or family, and an outsider in one's local Muslim community or, "Lonely in the Masjid , as one author called it. Besides facing discrimination from the dominant U.S. culture just for being Latina/o, it is common for Latina/o Muslims' own families to not understand their conversions, and to, at first, question, sometimes constantly, the converts as to why they made their religious choice. One Dominican Muslim remarks: "Every day, not only do we face numerous conflicts living in Western society, but we oftentimes also find ourselves having to defend our beliefs in our own households!" But family responses to conversions are not always negative. There is often a mix between criticism, mere acceptance, and explicit support. Sometimes even whole families convert after one of its members does.
Some have observed that within a number of local mosque communities ethnic cliques develop and a few Muslims hold racist attitudes about others, including about Latina/os. At other times, isolation within a mosque is a result of few immigrant Muslims attempting, or simply able to help the new Latina/o Muslim learn the Islamic way of life. And without other Latina/o Muslims around for support, they, as Juan Galvan has described, "find themselves very alone. "breaking their fast alone, studying alone, praying alone, and culturally alone." This, as I have discussed, has motivated many to seek out other Latina/o Muslims. Though, generally, Latina/os are not ignored by immigrant Muslims, many of whom have reached out to Latina/os, providing support and da'wah, particularly after September 11, 2001.
Nonetheless, conversion itself has also given Latina/o Muslims a sense of pride and confidence, important feelings especially in facing the difficulties of being a minority within a minority. When people mock and criticize one Latina for converting and wearing the hijab, she feels strengthened by her faith: "I will never submit to your ways; to your beliefs; your word / ["]You can tell me that I am ugly because I humble myself" / You can tell me that my beliefs are wrong" / ["] [But] I am Islam. / I am Proud to love my Creator / I am proud to be Muslim." 
Another Muslimah writes: "When I feel sad and lost, I recite the verses promising victory to those who strive to uphold piety, that place of rest and peace that lies not so far ahead and the Source of all Peace Whose help is always near. So, I wipe away my tears and keep on trying, never giving up." 
With this pride and confidence, their faith is therefore often seen as giving them access to ways to overcome difficult or depressing situations. And, like most Muslims, Latina/o Muslims attribute improvements in circumstances in their lives to Allah. "I've noticed," writes one Latina, that "since my reversion"circumstances in my life seem to be coming together in amazing harmony. In other words, Allah is answering my prayers, sometimes without me even asking!" She adds that "Allah has opened up a door for me to escape this barrio" and that Allah has helped her son pass his GED. Another Muslim sister, and immigrant from El Salvador, shed tears as she gave a speech about how Islam changed her life: "This is a pure and clean religion. Allah gave me a second chance."
In fact, Islam is typically seen as a pure, True religion; one that is connected to the way of nature and one's "true self "all of which are accessible now through their conversions. In a poem, Samantha Sanchez writes: "I am a woman and like the earth / I am many layered / ["] My core is solid/ And I have lived a lifetime / Of quakes, eruptions, war and peace / Yet ever comforting and protecting / Shielding, providing / Encompassing / And ever praising my Creator / I am earth" 
For one male convert, the True-ness of Islam is the very source of strength that he uses in his daily life: "I feel so empty being away from you [Allah]. / To sit in your presence is to know Islam is true. / For I listen attentively at your side. / At work the next day my faith I dare not hide." In another instance, a Muslimah had dropped out of school and lived a life full of drugs, alcohol, and partying; even her introduction to the Islam came while she was buying marijuana. But all this soon changed. She writes: "One day while reading the Quran, I began to cry and fell to my knees and thanked Allah for guiding me to the truth." She visited a mosque a few times and decided to formally convert. She abandoned her old way of life, earned her G.E.D., obtained a good job, and has even made the Hajj pilgrimage.
Scott distinguishes between two types of "transcripts": the public and the hidden. The first is generally circulated by a dominant group and reflects their interests, and the second is that which is used by a subordinate group. The hidden transcript is largely influenced by the public one, but also contains subtle expressions of resistance that deny elements in the public transcript and reinforce certain values, symbols, structures, and practices important to the subordinate group. Typically, these hidden transcripts remain hidden from the public gaze, but in some instances, given certain circumstances, these transcripts can erupt into the public scene. This is what appears to have happened in the case of LADO, which is the product of not only individual U.S. Latina/o Muslims possessing a shared, if somewhat amorphous identity and experiences of isolation within U.S. Muslim communities, but also of the internet which is a medium that allows for hidden transcripts to be made public relatively easily. And through this, the transcript of "Latina/o Muslim" has gone even from beyond being merely a public transcript that may exist as an accepted discourse it has become an "imagined community" that now has its own power to shape identities and practices.
The above examples were used to give a sense of the transcript circulated in LADO's The Latino Muslim Voice. This transcript promotes, above all, a sense of a shared "Latina/o" culture, and, to a lesser extent, a shared Muslim-Spanish heritage. "Latina/o Muslim," moreover, is not only an identity legitimated through historical connections and religious tradition, it is also seen as natural and true and is associated with such things as pride, confidence, and the ability to overcome hardships (particularly those faced by Latina/os). These discourses can thus be appealing for individuals who relate to and/or desire any of these traits. Furthermore, because a large proportion of articles deal with current events in the Latina/o Muslim world, readers are exposed to examples and models of many people actually living as "Latina/o Muslims"; by focusing not on conversions but on life after conversion, the Voice provides practical models for day-to-day living, a useful tool for those who are learning how to live as "Latina/o Muslims "not just Latina/os converting to Islam. The fact that so many disparate U.S. Latina/o Muslim events are now reported to LADO by attendees of those events attests to the pervasiveness of not only affiliation with LADO, but, more importantly, of an identification with the "Latina/o Muslim" transcript. After almost one hundred years of U.S. Latina/os converting to Islam, we are now witnessing the creation of an increasingly-unified "Latina/o Muslim" imagined community.
 Patrick D. Bowen, "Early U.S. Latina/o African-American Muslim Connections: Paths to Conversion," Muslim World 100/4 (2010): 390-413.
The Puerto Rican Race
A Reply to Ibrahim Abdullah Al-Boriqee
By Khalil Al-Puerto Rikani
August 02, 2009
I would like to answer your question as to my position on Puerto Ricans and race. It has been long overdue that I reply to you on Puerto Ricans and race. If you do not agree with me, then at least you can see the sources from where I am coming. At the very least, these article may help you strengthen your position. Simply stated I would say an emphatic "no" to your question regarding whether or not I see the Puerto Ricans as a "rainbow people." Before I engage this topic, I will say from the outset that there are several positions out there regarding the topic of race and Puerto Ricans. Therefore, there is no ijma (consensus) on this topic among those scholars who have studied this topic or among the common Puerto Rican people (al-'amm) themselves. Perhaps the first proponent for the "rainbow people" position was a New York Puerto Rican Felipe Luciano, the former chairman of the Young Lords and an original Last Poet. Interestingly enough, he also held a position of being a black Boricua (see Palante: Young Lords Party, by the Young Lords Party and Michael Abramson). There are many in Puerto Rico, Latin America, and the continental United States that reject the fact that there is a Puerto Rican race.
Race has many different meanings depending upon whom you ask. From the outset, I must say that my understanding of race is based more so upon a sociologist point of view. I hold that race is a social concept that is not based upon biology. Race itself is a topic that is an ever-evolving topic. Where does one demarcate the "us" from the "them" differs in time and place? A search at Wikipedia can give you a good introduction as to the various positions of race that has developed in time and place.
The position that there is a "Hispanic race" is a similar position to the "Puerto Rican race" concept. This concept I also do not believe in. Also, regarding that there is only one race (i.e., the human race), definitely, there is only one race in one sense of the word. However, the fact is that there is this other meaning of race out there that cannot be denied or ignored. I do not think that Blacks had been lynched in the past for anything other than being from a different race than White people. While some of my thoughts on race and Puerto Ricans are influenced by my experience as a non-White person (at least in this society I am) in the continental United States, many of my ideas are based upon a growing movement of Boricuas on the island that are challenging old concepts of Boricuas being a "Puerto Rican race," "a rainbow race," or a "Hispanic race." It is also part of a Latin American movement to recognize African and indígenas cultures in Latin America. The whole concept of hispanism or latinidad is a Eurocentric concept. As far as hispanism/latinidad recognizing the non-European part of our past, it sometimes, at the very least, recognizes the so-called brown (i.e., indígenas) roots of our people. It may also extend to be inclusive of some Black African roots, but this is always conceived as something far, distant, and in the past.
One of the leading academics that put forth the position that we Puerto Rican are a "rainbow" people was the New York Puerto Rican sociologist Clara Rodriguez. She says that she did not coin the phrase, but that it came from Felipe Luciano, as mentioned earlier. Her main work on race and Puerto Ricans is her book Puerto Ricans Between Black and White. See pages 25-35. Her book is available at the following website:
You can read an article from her where she defends her "rainbow people" thesis in an article entitled, "Rejoiner to Robert Rodríguez-Morazzani's "Beyond the Rainbow: Mapping the Discourse on Puerto Ricans and 'Race'," by Clara E. Rodriguez, Centro Journal, Volume IX -Number 1 (Winter 1996-97). It is on the internet at: http://www.centropr.org/documents/journals/Rejoinder-ClaraRodriguez.pdf . This is article was in reply to Rodríguez-Morazzani's "Beyond the Rainbow" thesis found in his article "Beyond the Rainbow: Discourse on Puerto Ricans and "Race," Centro Journal, Volume VIII, Number 1 & 2 (Spring 1996). It is online at http://www.centropr.org/documents/journals/BeyondtheRainbow-RobertoRodriguez%20.pdf .
20th Century Black Puerto Rican Intellectual on Race
While Rodiguez does not deny blackness in the Puerto Rican community, one thing we cannot deny is that the whole concept of the Puerto Rican race was a concept that, for the most part, upper class, land owning, white Puerto Ricans and light-skinned mulattos conceptualized. Even upper class Afro-Boricuas like Don Pedro Albizu Campos had exposed the concept of a "Hispanic race" (not a Puerto Rican one). His reasoning for accepting such a concept was more grounded in politics then fact. He was organizing in Puerto Rico at a time when he was trying to unite Puerto Ricans of many different racial backgrounds around the concept of nationalism. We can make a comparison of him as a nationalist and President Barack H. Obama who were both trying to see their particular nation as a post-racial society. The recent controversy over Professor Henry Louis Gates shows from many angles how the United States is still no longer a post-racial. Even his mentioning that the Cambridge Police Department "acted stupidly" has raised White Americans anxieties about race.
The question though is whether race has been resolved in Puerto Rico. I do not think it was resolved in Don Pedro's day nor in our time. During his time, the island's elites blamed Puerto Rico's problems on the lower class Afro-Boricuas. In the 1970s and 1980s, the conflict between cocolos (salseros) and rockeros highlights the conflicts of race in the island. (See "Policing the 'Whitest' of the Antilles," by Kelvin Santiago-Valles, Centro Journal, Volume VIII- Number 1 & 2, Spring 1996). In the 1990s and this decade, the issue of crime is seen as one of a problem originating with Black Puerto Ricans and Dominicans (another Black Hispanic peoples) of the island's ghetto.
Many good articles shed light upon some of the intellectual Black Puerto Ricans of the early twentieth century on the issue of race. One particular article that compares two Black Caribbean men's (i.e., Marcus Garvey and Don Pedro Albizu Campos) positions on race is the following article: "Two variants of Caribbean nationalism: Marcus Garvey and Pedro Albizu Campos," by Juan Manuel Carrión, Centro Journal, Volume XVII - Number 1 (Spring 2005). It can retrieved at http://www.centropr.org/documents/journals/Carrion.pdf .
Another good article that compares and contrasts the concept of race between Arturo Shomburg and Jesús Colón is Winston James' James' "AfroPuerto Rican Radicalism i nthe US: Reflections on the Political Trajectories of Arturo Shomburg and Jesús Colón" in Centro Journal, Volume VIII - Numbers 1 & 2 (Spring 1996), http://www.centropr.org/documents/journals/AfroPuertoRicanRadicalismintheUS-WinstonJames.pdf . Arturo Shomburg is well-known in New York's African-American community since there is the Arthur Shomburg Library dedicate to him on 135th Street in Harlem. His story is interesting since he was born and raised on the island, and when he asked a teacher in school as to Blacks contribution to Puerto Rican society, his teacher told him that there was no contribution. He then set out to research the contribution of Blacks to Puerto Rico. Again, this story shows how Puerto Rican history has been whitewashed.
One last article that I will mention is "Un Hombre (Negro) del Pueblo José Celso Barbosa and the Puerto Rican "Race" Toward Whiteness," by Miriam J. Román, Centro Journal, Volume VIII, Numbers 1 & 2 (Spring 1996), http://www.centropr.org/documents/journals/Unhombrenegrodelpueblo-MiriamJimenez.pdf .
There are many articles discussing and examining the issue of race and Puerto Ricans. I know this can be a very controversial topic. Many Boricuas do not share the position that I have taken in this regard. My position is simply this - Puerto Ricans are a nation of people that are made up of three main racial and cultural backgrounds - Black African, Iberian Europeans, and Native Americans. All of these races and their cultures have contributed to Puerto Rican culture and society. The African element has contributed more than any other culture, and this contribution is ignored or marginalized. American culture has also contributed to Puerto Rican culture since 1898. Puerto Ricans are not one race. They range from the whitest of white to the blackest of black. Most Puerto Ricans are a mulatto people. That means that most are mixed somewhere between the White race and the Black race. Puerto Ricans that are mixed with the Black race may reach up to seventy percent. I do not like the way that Blackness is suppressed in Puerto Rican society. It is what it is. It is not something to be ashamed of, ignored, or explained away.
To sum it all up, I can say much about this topic. I hope that you will read these articles and develop your own view. You will have to establish membership at Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños before you can access most of these articles. I am not saying that I am necessarily right or wrong. Might I suggest that you start off reading the Centro Journal's Spring 1996 issue on race and identity. You may want to first read Kelvin Santiago-Valles' and Rodríguez-Morazzani's articles. Another scholar that influenced my ideas the most is Raquel Rivera. You can find her book at Amazon.com. It is entitled New York Puerto Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003). You may access her homepage at :
So what does all this have to do with us as Muslims? I think that my position is more pluralistic than the "rainbow people" thesis, even though the "rainbow people" thesis is more pluralistic than many other theses out there, including some that see Puerto Ricans as a white population. I say that because the concept I hold is accepting of various aspects of Puerto Ricans culture, both African and otherwise. There is no one Puerto Rican culture or background, such as there is no one American culture or background. If Puerto Ricans can accept this, I think that they can, at the very least, accept Muslims that are Puerto Ricans. Right now there are those that think that if you are not a Christian that you cannot be a Puerto Rican. On an even higher level, perhaps my perspective on Puerto Ricans can help Boricuas to exam the religion of some of their ancestors, whether it be by way of Spain or Africa. The Muslim contribution to Puerto Rico is great and deep. We just need to scratch the surface and then we can open to topic to the most important topic of tawheed. It does not matter what path one may comes to Islam. I hope that Allah guide all the misguided Puerto Ricans (and all non-Muslims) to accept Al-Islam, Amin.
Ibrahim Abdullah Al Boriqee said...
As salaamu alaikum,
As always you deliver your statements extremely well written. Yet, at the risk of sounding like an "elitist", I must say that none of your sources have the perspective of someone from Puerto Rico. Just as any ethnic group that has been raised outside of the country or region where they originated from, you and those who have never been spent long time among those from Puerto Rico see things from the perspective of the society in which you were born and raised to. I was raised both in Puerto Rico and the US. I have been to La Perla, Joraines Torres, Canales, and many other ghettos and projects that would make any American who has been raised the American ghettos tremble with fear (this is not something that I am proud of). You are wrong that the majority of Puerto Rican blacks live in these places. The majority are mulatos and whites. It is obvious you have never spent much time there. As for contributions not being given by blacks in Puerto Rico that is a big lie. Blacks as well as all ethnicities that have formed part of the Puerto Rican spectrum have contributed economically, politically, artistically, gastronomically, religiously, culturally, etc. I can say all this just by using my family tree. You who know my mother ask her, who is from the Island, about the contributions of blacks in the Island. I find it funny that you and those like you state that Puerto Ricans deny there "blackness'. You Puerto Ricans who are from Puerto Rican say they are Puerto Rican. They never say they are white, black or anything else. That is the major difference between Puerto Ricans from Puerto Ricans from the US. So I guess you can say that they also deny their "whiteness" too. Here is my conclusion. During the time I have spent in the US and have met the Puerto Ricans who were born and raised there I have found that they are the first to be "super" Puerto Ricans. Yet most do not know the history of Puerto Rico and worse cannot speak the language and refuse that their children learn the language. I find this to be a hipocrasy of sorts. It is no different that the Irish, Scots, and other diaspora in the US. Yes, the Spanish language is an important part of the Puerto Rican culture. That is why Puerto Rico refuses to get rid of the Spanish as the Official Language. Akhi, I suggest that you go to Puerto Rico and live among the people so you can form your opinion as mine is not formed by the opinions of others but by the fact that I lived among them and still go when ever I have the chance. Infact that is why after some years here when I have gotten the knowledge necassary to give benificial Dawa I will go back home to Puerto Rico for a few years. Ofcourse I made Hijrah so I will only stay there a few years. My point is that I am know my people, the good and the bad parts, so I am not afraid to go there. You see, I am Muslim who is Puerto Rican by ethnicity, and a citizen of the United States of America. Exactly in that order. What I am about to say will offend you. I do not do it out of spite or anger but I do it. Many people speak oout of ignorance when it come to Puerto Rico and socalled race issues. To quote Khalid Yasin (with whom I do not agree on many issues) when asked about women and Hijab. He said, "Ask my wife, ask my mother, don't ask Barbara Walters." If you want to know about Puerto Rico, ask my mother, my father, my uncle and aunts. Don't ask a North Puerto Rican who in many cases has never even been to the Island nor speaks the language. It is the same way in Islam. If you have a question then you should ask a Scholar who knows the affair of the people. What Puerto Ricans have gone and go through is very different than what North Puerto Ricans have. Then you have those like me who have experienced both. I will make this my parting statement. Insha Allah, if and when I marry and have children, they will learn Spanish and Arabic first and they will learn about the history of both ancestries.
Khalil Al-Puerto Rikani said...
Please let me know if I have summarized your perspective correctly so that I can answer this.
May Allah reward you in making hijrah. Might I say that coming to Puerto Rico would be a great thing; however being that your made hijrah, you cannot come to Puerto Rico (or any country in Darul-kufr) for any considerable amount of time. Please check with the 'ulama about the term of visiting.
Hajj: The Journey of Hearts
By Muhammad ash-Shareef
Arafah 10 Years After Hijrah
The man was standing with Rasul Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam when he was thrown from his camel. The camel stomped and the man's neck was snapped. Dead. "Bathe his body with water and Sidr and bury him with both garments," said Allah's Messenger. "Do not cover his head, nor touch him with Camphor ... for verily he will be returned (to Allah) on the day of resurrection in the state of Talbiyah! (Labbayk Allahaahumma labbayk)" Al-Bukhari and Muslim "Amr ibn Al-"Aas narrates, "When Islam entered my heart, I went to the Messenger of Allah and said, "Give me your hand so that I may pledge allegiance to you.' The Prophet spread his hand, but I withdrew mine. He said, "What is wrong "Amr?' I said, "I want to make a condition.' "And what is that?' he said. I said, "That Allah will forgive me.' Then the Messenger of Allah said, "Did you not know that Islam wipes out what came before it, and that Hijrah wipes out what came before it and that Hajj wipes out what came before it!" - Sahih Muslim
The Ultimate Reward
Rasul Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam - said, "And there is no reward for an accepted Hajj " except Jannah!" What is the first verse that you read in Surah Al-Hajj? It does not speak of Arafah, nor does it pronounce the pillars of Nahr day. It simply says ...
[O Mankind! Fear your Lord, indeed the eruption of the (final) Hour is a horrific event. On that day that you shall see it, every nursing mother will be engrossed away from that (child) she was nursing, and every pregnant woman will abort her pregnancy, and you will see the people (appearing) intoxicated, while they are not intoxicated; rather it is the punishment of Allah, severe.]
Hajj is not a journey of the body such as one may take to a vacation spot or tourist attraction. It is a journey of the soul and heart. When one pays a careful eye to the verses speaking of Hajj, they will find that verse after verse concludes with a commandment of being conscious of Allah's presence, or a reminder of Allah's bounteous favor upon us, or a link between Hajj and the final day.
In the not-so-far-away days of old, whenever a journey was to be undertaken proper provisions had to be prepared. The deserts were long, hot, and harsh. Unmerciful. There were no gas stations to fill up with chips and refreshments, or rest stops to slurp water from a fountain. In fact, there was not a human in sight for miles upon miles of barren sand dunes. Losing the way meant losing your life. Thus, you had to have the provision with you before you made the journey. Enough food, enough water, enough everything to carry you to your destination. From here, in the verses dealing of Hajj, when everyone shall have to make some sort of journey to reach the Ka'bah, Allah tuned the attention of His slaves to another journey, a journey every soul is traveling, whether they know it or care to just remain heedless. Allah turned their attention to the journey to the Hereafter, to Paradise or Hell.
[And take sustenance (with you) for the journey; verily the best sustenance is Taqwa (piety and righteousness).] Al Baqarah 2:197
On the day Buhaym Al-"Ajlee set out with his companion for Hajj, he looked toward the endless desert awaiting them both and wept, his chest soaking from the tears. "This is something," said Buhaym, "that has made me understand the most certain journey I must one day take to Allah!"
Hajj The Journey Of Hearts
There is debate over whether someone who performs Hajj should be called a Hajji. It is not something found in the Sunnah; rather it has an interesting backround in our cultural history. In antique days, when someone decided to perform the journey for Hajj, it was synonymous with bidding farewell to life on earth. This was due to the treacherous obstacles of traveling in the desert - trials such as sickness, starvation, and the struggles of the separate situations. An entire village might gather to bid those people farewell. When someone would go through such a remarkable journey and return alive, they would dedicate their lives to the worship and obedience of Allah. Gone was the cheating, or the lying, or the missed Salah. He was now a Hajji. Today, with the Jumbo jets and ocean liners and Mercedes busses, the facilitation of performing Hajj has taken away the luster of the title Hajji.
Some might complain that there are no queen-size mattress beds in Mina, or that the air conditioning motor is a tad too loud. But dear brothers and sisters, who is it that provided us with all the blessing that we are living in? It is the same Allah that has tested us here on the plains of Arafah. The slave of Allah can only truly understand the favor of Allah upon him when it is taken away.
[There is no blame upon you for seeking bounty from your Lord (during Hajj). But when you depart from Arafat, remember Allah at AlMash'ar AlHaram. And remember Him as He has guided you, for indeed you were before that among those astray.]
Indeed the greatest blessing that Allah has favored us with is Islam, and it alone suffices as favor. Allah knows we are going to get dusty during Hajj, Allah knows it. So don't be surprised when that dust blows, instead turn to Allah and hit back with patience and a whisper of gratitude to Allah.
[Then let them end their untidiness, fufill their vows, and perform Tawaf around the ancient House.] Surah Hajj 22/29
Ibn Al-Qayyim wrote a Qasidah about this journey of the hearts, here is only a glimpse of some of the Arabic verses:
[He says, My slaves have come to Me (for Hajj) out of love for Me
Abu Hurayrah narrates: I heard the Prophet say, "Whoever performs Hajj and does not commit any Rafath (obscenity) or Fusooq (transgression), he returns (free from sin) as the day his mother bore him" Al-Bukhari
Getting The Heart In Shape
Many years ago, as the Hujjaj swept through the valley of Muzdalifah, a man remarked out loud, "My look at the number of Hujjaj!" The wise man replied, "Nay, the passengers are many, but the Hujjaj are few." I once heard the story of a man who was blessed with the opportunity to join the caravan for Hajj regularly. However, his shortcoming was that he could never control his anger during the days of Hajj, and would snap cursing others. Well, one person had an idea for him. His inspiration: Instead of cursing Muslims during Hajj, write all your bad comments on a piece of paper - fold it - and then when you get mad at someone, just hand him the paper. On the top of the tiny envelope write, "Do not open until after Hajj'. The man agreed. As incident after incident assailed him, the man would simply smile, then frown and hand out the tiny envelopes to the provoking party. Everything was going smoothly until the day when he was walking to the Jamarat and someone stomped his toes. He lost all control. Teeth gritting, he snarled and took out his briefcase of envelopes and dumped it on that poor guys head.
In Hajj I have seen people who snatch for patience and the reward of Allah during those trying moments, like a man pan handles for gold. I asked myself, what is different from them and those who spend their breath in criticism and argumentation? It finally dawned that it was not the body of Zayd or "Amr that I was witnessing, but it was the hearts of Zayd and "Amr. Some people come to Hajj prepared financially. Others come with a prepared heart that is what's essential. Whether the grindstone grinds us to dust or polishes us up depends on what we are made of.
Now - How To Get That Heart In Shape For Hajj?
Firstly: Attend lectures and workshops dealing with Hajj Hajj is one of the pillars that Islam is built on. When someone intends to perform this rite it a must upon them that they learn it well. Rasul Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam said, "Seeking knowledge is obligatory on every Muslim." Imam Al-Bukhari writes in his Saheeh, "Chapter: knowledge comes before statements and actions.' He then quoted the verse of Allah:
[So Know, that there is no deity except Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin.] - Surah Muhammad, 47/19
Secondly: Establish Salah and Perform Qiyaam ul-Layl
When Rasul Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam was preparing his heart for the mission of conveying this Deen, Allah ordered him to prepare using Qiyam ul-Layl. Allah ta'ala says:
[O you who wraps himself / Arise (to pray) the night, except for a little] Surah Muzzammil, 73/1,2
A student once slept over at Imam Ahmad's house, rahimahullah. Imam Ahmad had left a vessel of water for him, and upon arriving at Fajr time, found the vessel still full of water. He was shocked and remarked, "How can a person be a Talib Al-"Ilm (student of Islam) and not stand for Qiyam ul-Layl!" Some said to Ibn Mas`ood, may Allah be pleased with him, "We are unable to wake up to perform Qiyam ul-Layl." He told them, "You are distancing yourselves from it by your sins."
Thirdly: Repentance to Allah and Dua
It was during the days of Tashreeq when Jirbreel alayhis salam came to Rasul Allah sal Allahu alayhi wa sallam with the words of Allah:
[When the victory of Allah has come and the conquest / And you see the people entering into the religion of Allah in multitudes / Then exalt Him with praise of your Lord and ask forgiveness of Him. Indeed, He is ever Accepting of repentance.] Surah An-Nasr
This was the culmination of 23 years of Da'wah, Jihad, and work; here now was the farewell pilgrimage. What did it end with?
[Then exalt Him with praise of your Lord (Tasbeeh) and ask forgiveness of Him]
Subhaanak Allaahumma wa bihamdika, Allahumma ighfir-lana / Glory be to you O Allah, and may You be praised. O Allah, forgive us!
New Muslim Cool
Film, performance and panel discussion Nov. 3, 2010
Journalist, activist and political analyst Bakari Kitwana will lead a townhall meeting on the intersection of Islam, hip-hop and identity among a new generation of American youth with a panel discussion and viewing of the award-winning documentary film, "The New Muslim Cool" at 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 3 in room 404 of the Center for Workforce Development (WD)
The 2009 film, which has screened the Sundance Film Festival and aired nationally on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) follows Puerto Rican rapper Hamza Perez as he steers away from his former life as a drug dealer and embraces Islam. Yet, as he rebuilds his life with a message of faith through hip-hop music, the FBI raids his mosque challenging him to embark on an even deeper exploration of his religion, profiling, tolerance and American identity.
"New Muslim Cool" was an Official Selection of the Rooftop Film Festival and Lincoln Center Independents Night and the winner of the Freedom Award at the Al Jazeera International Film Festival.
Following the screening Bakari Kitwana will moderate an interactive panel discussion about the film with Perez, the subject of the documentary, political hip-hop luminary M1, one-half of the rap group dead prez, and Nura Maznavi, staff attorney with Muslim Advocates, a San Francisco-based nonprofit sister organization of the National Association of Muslim Lawyers, and counsel for its Program to Combat Racial and Religious Profiling.
This event is free and open to the public. It is co-sponsored by Diversity, Study Abroad and TRIO Programs, Muslim Student Association, Que Pasa Hispanic student organization, Pan African Student Union and the Student Ambassadors Leadership Program.
Hispanic Open House
Por Casa De Paz
12 de Nov, 2010
1. ¿Te has preguntado por qué estás aquí en este mundo?
2. ¿Ha pensado alguna vez lo que usted sabe que no puede ser lo que busca?
3. Se le ha cruzado por la mente que lo que se les ha enseñado que no puede ser verdad?
4. ¿Alguna vez sintió que algo falta en tu vida?
5. ¿Alguna vez ha deseado que no es una respuesta a todas o algunas de sus preocupaciones y problemas???
6. ¿Te has preguntado por qué un libro divino perfecta llamada (Corán) que se ocupa de su espíritu y el intelecto de
7. No te hace más decidida a ver la verdad por ti mismo, no a través de una segunda mano?
Bueno, Usted no muy lejos, y usted no está solo, considere la posibilidad de venir a nuestra:
"casa abierta hispana" En el centro de la mezquita "ISAT" el sábado 13 / 2010 de 2:30 pm-5: 00pm.
Compruébelo usted mismo! Comida y refrescos se proporcionan.
PS: Se agradece muchísimo si vienes vestida con modestia... Gracias a todos Y que Dios Bendiga.
Eighth Annual Hispanic Muslim Day
By Nylka Vargas Alok
October 19, 2010
Asalaamu Alaikum wa Rahmatullah wa Barakatuh All!
The NHIEC's Eight Annual Hispanic Muslim Day is this Sunday (10/24) from 1p-5p.
We also encourage anyone interested in learning about Islam, learning about
Event: 8th Annual Hispanic Muslim Day
Nylka Vargas, P.I.E.D.A.D
A Call for Participants: A Nation-Wide Study of Latino Muslims
To Whom It May Concern:
I am writing to introduce myself. My name is Patrick Bowen, and I am a PhD student at the University of Denver/Iliff School of Theology in the Religion and Social Change program.
For my dissertation I am studying US Muslim re/converts, and so I am trying to make connections with various groups throughout the US.
My goal is to be able to get in touch with people from the U.S. Latino Muslim community who would be willing to take a survey and/or talk to me about their experiences as converts to Islam.
Your input would be very appreciated. Please contact me if you would be interested in participating in this study.