The Latino Muslim Voice
The October-December 2003 newsletter features:
Quotes of the Month
By Waleed Gubara
Why shed these tears of sorrow?
Why turn you from Ar-Rahman?
Read you not those stories,
Why loosen your hold upon him?
"Ahad! Ahad!" He cried,
Forget you the firmness of Hamza,
Why drown in salty teardrops?
Forget you the charring of Khabbab,
Why befriend you not Al-Wali?
Forget you those trials in this life,
Be patient in all your hardships,
So tighten your hold upon him,
"Ahad! Ahad!" he cried,
¡Feliz Fiesta del Fin de Ramadán!
Por Luis Paladini
Termina el mes de Ramadán.
El "progromo" sobre el Islam
¡Feliz fiesta del Fin de Ramadán,
¡Feliz Fiesta del Fin de Ramadán,
Bush, Berlusconi, Blair.
Dinamitar los mitos falsos.
Estoy más que harto.
¡Feliz Fiesta del Fin de Ramadán,
Sevilla sin mezquita.
Cada muerte en una guerra,
¿Quién llamó al nuevo planeta del sistema solar,
¡Feliz Fiesta del Fin de Ramadán,
Dispongo de un punto de apoyo para mover el mundo.
Mi poesía no se hace con metáforas.
La vida evoluciona.
Negarle la vida a un edificio
Hay cosas que no las hace uno.
¡Feliz Fiesta del Fin de Ramadán,
Celebrating Ramadan in Morocco
By Mari Solano
When I celebrated my first Ramadan as a Muslim here in the United States, my husband was happy to celebrate with me. However, he was suffering from homesickness and bouts of nostalgia at the same time. "It's not the same here," he said, "It's not like back home." He missed the huge gatherings of family and friends to break the fast of iftar. He also missed the visits for tea long after all the taraweeh prayers were completed late at night.
On most nights, prayers seem abrupt and promptly finish before 10 pm in the U.S. But perhaps the most distressing of all was the special night of Lailat-ul Qadr. He had gotten off work late that evening, but assured me that the mosque would be open all night for the chance to pray until fajr the next morning to get the maximum baraka. After breaking his fast with mint tea, bread and cheese, he changed clothing, and then we left to join the nightly prayers. Imagine our surprise when the masjid was closed at 10pm! His face was crest-fallen, his disappointment mixed with confusion. "Tonight is special. We need to all pray together in case tonight is the night! It's just not the same here!" We returned home, just the two of us, to pray until the first light of fajr.
Fast forward three Ramadans later. A medical emergency called us to the side of my father-in-law just outside the city of Casablanca, Morocco. Alhamdulilllah. God blessed us with a long but safe trip to my husband's family home to do what we could to help. Knowing that we were on our way to see him, my father-in-law followed the doctor's instructions to finish his medication and stay off his feet. Perhaps the most important factor of his unexpected recovery was that he knew we would have the opportunity to celebrate the last ten nights of the holy month of Ramadan together as a family. My husband assured me that I would now know what it is was like to really celebrate Ramadan.
We arrived late around midnight. Brutal flooding for the last 27 hours had ravaged the town while we were still en route to Morocco. The town was now silent and empty. What was usually a short 30 minute trip from the airport stretched to 3 1/2 hours because we were forced to drive through rocky country roads. Roads to and from the airport were closed. Huge palm trees were scattered by the roadside, pushed aside by enormous tractors, along with huge piles of mud, sand, and debris. Alhamdulillah, my in-law's home was safe, built on high ground above the train station, far from the riverbeds and the sea's edge. However, it was a sobering sight to see haphazard plastic tents strung up to give shelter to those less fortunate who had lost all their possessions during the rainstorms and subsequent floods. My husband and I looked out the window silently at the devastation. When we arrived at baba and mama's house, we washed and prayed two additional raka's of thanksgiving for keeping his family safe.
One of the first things that you notice in a Muslim country is the adhan, which calls you to prayer no matter where you are. The silence of the night is broken by the beautiful call to prayer. It is striking to hear. The sound of adhan and the sight of lights coming from other houses was a wonderful reminder of how blessed it is to be there, a part of the worldwide ummah.
During the day, the adhan would call out to us wherever we went. Even the television, a mundane reminder of profane times serves to call the faithful to prayer. During Ramadan, the Arabic stations stop their regular programming, and TV screens change to display a Qur'anic verse and a recording of the adhan is played. Even commercials are stopped to acknowledge due obedience to God.
Time passes quickly, and the most spectacular of nights, Lailat ul-Qadr - "the Night of Power" - arrives. My husband, his younger sister, Youssra, and I hurriedly broke our fast that night in order to attend maghrib prayers down the hill at the neighborhood masjid. As we approach, we could see people literally spilling out onto the steps of the masjid onto the street. My husband told Youssra and I that he would return after maghrib so we could go to Casablanca, an enormous city with hundreds of masjids. Surely we would find a place there.
After maghrib, we hopped into the little Fiat pickup and made our way into Casablanca. Most of the roads had been cleared, and the trip was much easier than when we first arrived. It was a starry night, clear and crisp, the shadows of palm trees waving in the gentle breeze. Before my eyes was the astonishing sight of thousands upon thousands of people praying in front of, outside of, and on the sides of the jam-packed mosques, struggling to find enough dry space to lay down their prayer mats to pray.
This vision touched my heart. Even the thought of it brings tears to my eyes almost a year later. Mosque after mosque, it was the same. Loudspeakers filled the night air with praises of God, imploring Him to have mercy on us, and thanking Him for His graciousness. And thousands of my brothers and sisters in Islam would bow then prostrate before Him with thanks and praise.
In Surah Ul-Qadr of the Qur'an, Allah (swt) says:
The brisk night air would cool us, raka after raka. After some people left, others would take their place. Time seemed to stop. When Youssra and I looked behind us, we saw that we were no longer at the back of the crowd; we were now in the center. Those who came after us were kneeling on newspapers, which are used as a barrier between prayers rugs from home and the sandy mud from the previous rains.
I felt overwhelmed by the sight of all of us praying in unison as one body, one ummah. When the imam's voice broke with emotion near the end of the special prayers, tears streamed from my face uncontrollably. Then all too soon, we heard the beginning of the Fajr prayer, signaling the end of Lailat-ul-Qadr.
A pervasive sense of peacefulness fills the crowd. After the imam says "Assalaam alaikum wa rahmatullah" to complete the prayers and the night vigil, you are filled with an overwhelming sense of joy. You also realize that this will be a night that you will always remember.
First Annual Chicago Latino Eid Festival
By Ricardo L. Pena
November 29, 2003
We've all heard the proverbial "apples and oranges" analogy at some point in our lives but not many of us experience it. As Latino converts to Islam, not only are we mixing apples with oranges, but we are mixing yet with another group. Maybe it would make more sense to describe ourselves as tacos living the lives of falafels in a world of cheeseburgers. Other than making you hungry, this is probably very confusing and maybe even uncomfortable. If this is the case, then this may begin to illustrate what it is like to venture into the world of Islam.
At first we were all confused yet we hungered and as we searched, we thirsted and even when we tasted a few morsels we wanted more. It was food for thought...nourishment for the mind and the soul. Eventually, we satisfied the cravings of our minds and the confusion went away. Our hearts were filled and yet we still hunger for the sweet taste of spiritual candy that is Islam because similar to the way our bodies function, our souls must eat no less than five times a day.
We found ourselves, then, struggling to uphold a daily regimen of Islamic practice in a place where being a minority meant we were a minority within the minority. A minority to the extent that we've felt and have actually been quite alone. Alone. Yet we know that where we see one there is a second and where we see two there is a third and where we see three there is a fourth. Time and again we have found solace in our faith and found strength in places we didn't even know existed. Alhamdulilah.
It is this faith that has caused our numbers to grow. And indeed even as we felt alone, we found another and a couple of us found another few and after a time we were a group. This group of Latino brothers and sisters are scattered about in a sort of diaspora, and we long to be together. Never again do we want any of us to feel like that island in an ocean of everything but firm ground, fearing the tidal waves will overcome us.
Slowly but surely and with Allah's (swt) permission, we will continue to make the effort to come together and grow. Then come together again and grow, but it must begin small. Indeed as the miraculous creation of man begins with one fertile microscopic cell, we too must begin with one. Let this one be the self. When we bring ourselves together with others of this Latino Muslim community, there is growth far beyond just our numbers. The heart grows fonder, our faith grows stronger, and our resolve grows deeper. And thus, it is in this context that we looked forward to bringing our families together in celebration of the end of the Holy month of Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr. Our hearts danced with anticipation and our nerves wrestled with anxiety.
They say that beside every strong man, there is a strong woman where in our case it is a strong group of sisters. While the sisters in Chicago have forged a strong connection among themselves, the brothers have yet to come together in a similar fashion. Feeling the need to do this, Yahya Lopez, Edmund Arroyo, and I sought to strengthen ties amongst our brothers and found the support we needed in our sisters.
Rebecca Qaoud was instrumental in initiating the arrangements to reserve the banquet hall at the Muslim Community Center (MCC) on Elston Ave. in Chicago for our first annual Latino Eid Festival. She coordinated among the sisters to bring food to the event such that it was somewhat of a potluck buffet. Given that the sisters have already been connected and meeting on a regular basis their strength showed when our bellies were filled, and we found it difficult to resist a second or even a third plate.
Edmund Arroyo, who first mentioned the idea of gathering the Latino community for Eid to me last year, also came up with the idea of bringing a piñata for the kids. Yahya Lopez, who has been a Muslim since the early eighties, had also taught me that it is important to make our holidays a big deal for the kids. With all of corporate America putting the weight of their millions of dollars behind the push to get everyone into a holiday spending cheer, it is a challenge to teach our kids to look forward to our Islamic holidays above and beyond Christmas. Especially when most of us were raised Protestant or Catholic Christians, and our family members make Christmas a big deal for our Muslim children. They must be taught that it is Allah (swt) who is the giver of all gifts, and it is Allah (swt) who keeps track of who's naughty or nice and that Allah (swt) has no need to check his list twice. Yes, it is as important to be connected for the children as it is for the adults if not more.
The time was set for 2pm, and it would go to about 5pm or so. It was a slow arrival in the beginning. My wife and I were the first to arrive with Yahya and his family arriving soon after. We set up the tables and chairs and began to set the agenda. We designated the left for brothers and the right for sisters. Slowly, the guests began arriving.
While most of the guests were Latino, some were White, African-American, Pakistani, and even a Philipino sister brought her three daughters. It was better than a melting pot. It was a beautiful basket of a variety of pleasing fruits. It wasn't long before we sat engaged in the deep conversations that we have come to love. Yahya's wife Fatima and my wife Diana took care of arranging the food on the tables among the many duties they performed to make sure things ran smoothly. Before long it was a sight sure to spark envy from any restaurant owner had she gotten a look at the spread.
Food included arroz con gandules, guacamole, meatloaf,
chicken wings in addition to biryani and red chicken.
There were also a number of non-Muslim families and individual guests who were invited and attended the event. It was a great dawah opportunity of which we gave in abundance. One young man came to the event seeking to meet converts having heard of the event from another Muslim friend. Another non-Muslim friend of mine who had been looking into Islam since the summer made wudu and joined us in prayer for the first time. He was inspired and encouraged by a brother he had just met named Angel Ramirez, a Puerto Rican Muslim who had converted, like Yahya, in the eighties.
Sisters at a table.
Brothers and sisters took turns approaching the tables for food. We announced that the sisters would go first and when they cleared the way, the brothers got their food. Soon after we finished eating and indulging in a little dessert, we launched our fun-for-the-kids initiative.
Brothers getting food.
Edmund Arroyo donated the piñata and brought the rope and stick as well. It was in the shape of a seven-point star that, historically in Mexican culture, represents the seven deadly sins. The defeat of the seven deadly sins was soon to come with many rewards for the symbolic deed. The MCC has a children's classroom across the hall that we were able to use for the purpose. Thankfully, all the little children's chairs in the room were perfect. The kids were instructed to sit in their little chairs and wait patiently for their turn. I personally got a kick out of watching them struggle with their excitement as they sat and actually behaved extremely well hoping to be the next child to get a whack at the piñata.
[Left]: A view of the piñata. [Right]: Edmund selecting a kid.
Edmund and Ricky at each end of the rope.
Edmund and I each took an end of the rope, perched atop a couple of octoganal shaped tables across from each other and hoisted the shiny piñata in the air. Edmund did a great job of calling the children out one by one for their turn at battling this comet on a string. He started with the smallest kids and moved his way up. With about twenty-five kids in attendance, by the time we got to the fifteenth kid or so, the piñata was cracked open, and candy was all over the floor.
Kids waiting their turn.
[Left]: I think Yahya wants his turn. [Right]: A sister watching the excitement.
The stampede was on, and we struggled to get the kids to sit back down lest they get whacked in the head with a stick. A couple of more kids got their turn, and Edmund put the piñata out of its misery ripping what was left of it apart and shaking all the candy out of it while the kids crowded around him gathering the booty in a candy-grabbing frenzy.
Candy grabbing frenzy.
The kids loved it and had a great time but it wasn't over yet. We also brought out the bags full of toys to their surprise. We called out the kids in groups by age and handed out a toy to each child. While Yahya and I were very afraid we wouldn't have enough toys, alhamdulilah every child walked away with a toy, and we had about three toys to spare in the end. The children laughed and played and had a wonderful time. It warmed our hearts to see them carefree and content.
Yahya Lopez and his daughters.
[Left]: Rebecca posing with her kids. [Right]: Italia with Rebecca's kids.
Children are chock-full of energy that doesn't just expend by itself. They simultaneously extract whatever energy is left in their parents while they happily run around having a grand 'ol time. As a result, it was a cue that many of the parents took to take their leave. Slowly, a number of guests began to leave the party. Little by little, we cleaned up the banquet hall that the MCC was kind enough to let us use free of charge. We swept the floors, folded up the tables, put the chairs back where they were, all while a good dozen of guests were still there. Finding it difficult to stop their conversation, but helping us clean the place, the fact that they didn't seek the first opportunity to leave was a testament to the success of our festival.
From left to right: Jenai, Vilma, and Diana.
Guys sitting at a table.
All of the guests gave positive feedback of the event. Some were pleasantly surprised anticipating that the event might've been quite the bore. Two Pakistani sisters loved the event saying it was the best gathering of Muslims they had attended in many, many years.
I personally had a great time. I've been keeping in touch with the young man who came to the event inquiring about Islam, met a couple of newly converted Latino Muslims at the event, and I have the pleasure of reporting that a couple of marriages may come about as a result of this event. While it was not intended as a match-making opportunity, it was a pleasant side-effect. I am looking forward to organizing the next event on Eid Al-Adha, insha'allah, with my Latino brothers and sisters.
With Allah's (swt) blessing, we can raise the bar a little higher and enjoy further growth in this burgeoning community. Soon it may just be that we won't feel like a fruit in the wrong basket. It may just be that we're simply the fruit born of a tree that hasn't been planted since the times of Andalusia. By the will of Allah (swt), the raining of his favor and the light of His mercy upon us, we shall come to see the day that the Andaulsian tree will rise once again.
Dallas Mosque Open House in Photos
By Juan Galvan
Upon entering the mosque, I quickly noticed flags from various South American and Caribbean countries. I was pleasantly surprised to a Mexican flag in a Texas mosque. Seeing the various flags was one more reminder of just how much our religion is unifying people from every part of the world.
After signing in at the registration table, visitors were given a name tag and program. Literature was also available at the registration table. From left-to-right is an African-American brother, Daniel Montenegro, and me. Daniel and some sisters welcomed visitors as they entered the mosque. Daniel along with other Latino Muslims gave visitors a tour of the mosque. Can you spot the young sister? MashaAllah.
These two Latino Muslims presented in the mosque's gymnasium. Br. Mujahid Fletcher spoke about his conversion to Islam. Born in Columbia, he moved to Houston as a child. Sr. Ericka Perez spoke about women in Islam. She is a Mexican-American from the Dallas area. Presentations along with a question and answer session were repeated three times during the day for new visitors.
Five dawah tables were manned by Latino brothers and sisters in the gymnasium. Visitors could speak with Latino Muslims in either English or Spanish. Each desk had brochures and other Islamic literature in English and Spanish. Latino and nonLatino nonMuslims both benefited from the dawah tables. Carlos Puerto, leader of the Dallas Latino Muslim group, was among those who manned the dawah tables.
Comida! Food! Latina Muslims served drinks, snow cones, cotton candy, and taquitos. The cake reads, "Bienvenidos," which means welcome. After eating a snow cone, I had a slice of cake. The cake was wonderful.
The mosque open house was a beautiful experience. I simply cannot describe my emotions. As more Latinos embrace Islam, you can expect to see even more Spanish open houses at mosques. I can hardly wait!
The Smallest Action
By Rebecca Qaoud
Assalam Waleikum brothers and sisters,
I want to share a little about my own experiences about when I was still a new Muslim and also about how happy I am today. I was searching for a formal Latino Muslim community. As a convert, I desired to share my feelings, how happy I was for being a muslimah but I did not have the support from my own family. I was eager to learn from others how they were about to manage similar situations. Alhamdulillah, I had a wonderful husband who supported me in my transition to my new way of life.
However, I was still looking for other converts like me, to be specific, my Latina sisters. I met a few Latina sisters, and I was very happy as you can imagine. There were some social gatherings. However, I wished to have classes with the purpose of strengthening our iman, or faith. I also felt as if I was in a boat on the ocean by myself. Imagine the sudden change. For example, my old friends would call to wish me "Merry Christmas." To let them know that I don't celebrate anymore would be very difficult.
Somebody said that every change in life is painful. Of course, life was painful for me somehow. One wish, I had was that we, Latino Muslims, would come together and support each other in our transition to our new way of life...and to do more on other aspects, too. Insha'Allah.
I once read the following by Jerry J Farber, "The littlest action may be the one with the greatest impact. Every action you take has a ripple effect. It impacts people and situations way beyond your sight. You may never know the impact your actions have, but it just may change someone's life. Don't you want that life-changing action to be what you're proud of? It's almost impossible to realize your dreams and reach your goals alone. It's important to build as many solid relationships as you can along the way. Treat everyone with respect and good humor. Each person with whom you interact is a link in the chain that will eventually lead you to your goal."
In Islam, we are called to be kind and generous to each other. I needed to put this into practice. My eagerness to learn more about Islam made me pick up the phone to a local dawah organization. I asked for a knowledgeable sister in Islamic studies. I was provided with such information. I invited this sister and other women to my house to study more about Islam. I invited all the sisters that I had already met. About eighteen sisters came that day. We also had dinner.
I was very happy and impressed. Because I wanted this to happen again, last September, I invited sister Mary Ali again, but this time, we held the sisterhood event in the mosque. Alhamdulillah, now the Latina sisters had a place for the event in the mosque. Because the office people from the mosque did not know us, they wanted to charge $100 for a room. Thank Allah we had the opportunity to meet sister Mary Ali who requested a room for the Latina sisters for dawah purposes. We got the room for free. She was the link in the chain that led us to our goal.
Since this March, the Latina sisters have had regular classes every other Saturday afternoon. Alhamdulillah, every time we meet there are new sisters. They share their stories and experiences as new Muslims. They remind me about when I was a new Muslim. Now, I don't feel as if I am in a boat by myself in the ocean. Alhamdulillah, Allah is great and gave me the opportunity to meet my sisters in Islam, and I am eager to learn more.
In addition to the classes, we held a conference this summer. We had a family picnic. The month of Ramadan was a huge blessing for us, because we had iftar get-togethers in different sisters' houses. We also held the Laylatul Qadr prayer in a sister's house. Recently, we had our first Eid festival organized by Latino Muslims from here in Chicago.
Can we work together? Yes, insha'Allah. Every little action is important! Every one of us is a link to a big chain that leads us to reach our goal. A few years ago, I missed saying "Merry Christmas." Now, I look forward to having a great celebration after Ramadan on Eid Al-Fitr. Now, I receive messages of "Eid Mubarak," and I say "Eid Mubarak" to you.
Latin American Muslim Leaders Meet
The Third Meeting of the Heads of Islamic Associations and
From ISESCO website
Rabat: 18/9/2003 / 212
Praising the efforts extended by ISESCO The Heads of Islamic Associations and Cultural Centres in Latin America Call for Redressing the Image of Islam in the Region.
The Third Meeting of the Heads of Islamic Associations and Cultural Centres in Latin America and the Caribbean Islands held its closing session yesterday in Curaçao Island.
The participants in the meeting, representing thirty-five cultural centres and Islamic associations, have called for proceeding with the energization of the Strategy for Islamic cultural action in the West, with an emphasis on implementing the executive plan. Priority has been given to the activities aiming at redressing the image of Islam and Muslims in Latin American societies and media, enhancing the values of dialogue with local cultures and peaceful coexistence, and at integration with these societies while remaining in keeping with their respective laws and regulations, and adhering at the same time to the Islamic cultural identity.
They also stressed the importance of the cultural centres and Islamic associations' participation in the cultural events that are organized by civil society organizations in Latin America, so as to expound the Islamic perspective regarding the relevant fields.
The participants appealed as well for the organization of open cultural days with a view to strengthening relations between Muslims in Latin America and their local environment, as part of the regular activities organized by their centres and associations.
They also noted that the Muslims residing in Latin American countries are not minorities. Rather, they are full-fledged citizens, hence the rights and obligations applying to them, such as the right to perform religious rituals in keeping with the principles of moderation and objectivity, away from any form of violence and extremism that are incongruent with the magnanimous Islamic teachings advocating coexistence between peoples and religions.
Likewise, the attendees have requested the energization of coordination and consultation between cultural centres and Islamic associations in Latin America, with a view to finding appropriate solutions to the educational problems posed to the children of Muslims in the region, in coordination with the competent local authorities.
Also, they have highlighted the importance of attending to Muslim potentialities in Latin America and deriving benefit from their expertise and experiences in drawing up and implementing sustainable development programmes in the Islamic world.
The meeting has adopted the strategy for benefiting from Muslim potentialities in the West, along with its execution plan, and expressed its gratitude to ISESCO for the efforts it has extended in its preparation.
Engineer Yusuf Hajar, in cooperation with the heads and directors of Islamic associations and cultural centres in Latin America, has been entrusted with designing a guide to Muslim potentialities in Latin America.
ISESCO has called, on its part, for preparing the Spanish translation of the strategy for Islamic cultural action in the West, along with its execution plan, as well as the strategy for benefiting from Muslim potentialities in the West, along with its execution plan. It has also called for making them available to all Islamic associations and cultural centres in the region.
The meeting has endorsed the cultural projects submitted by the heads of Islamic associations and cultural centres in Latin American countries, while the high council of education and culture in the West has called for examining these projects in its fifth meeting, due to be held in Madrid in 2004.
It has also urged the heads and directors of the Islamic associations and cultural centres in Latin America to prepare cultural projects and programmes of action based on what has been reported in the execution plan of the strategy of Islamic cultural action in the West, energize cultural dialogue with official and popular institutions in Latin America, and to redress the image of Islam and Muslims in the various media of the region.
ISESCO has called as well for the convening of the First Conference of the Heads and Directors of the Islamic Associations and Cultural Centers in Latin America during 2004, for the conducting of a training session for the benefit of Imams and preachers in Latin America, to instruct them in religious sciences, communication techniques and public relations. It has appealed for the preparation of a guide to these centres and associations, as well as supplying ISESCO and the Islamic Organization in Latin America with the necessary information relevant thereto.
The participants in the meeting, which was convened at the invitation of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization -ISESCO-, have called for uniting into a federation, a high council or a similar structure, in order to establish relations of institutional cooperation with the local authorities. They have called as well for participating in international and continental conferences, and for stepping up their participation in formal and informal regional symposia concerned with laying down charters pertaining to human rights as well as the rights of women and minorities, and to all matters relevant to the Muslims' situation in Latin America. The aim being to present Islam's stance as regards these issues and to call upon the said bodies to pay attention to the educational, social and family aspects of Muslims in Latin America.
They have finally appealed to ISESCO for supporting cultural and entertaining camps in countries of the Islamic world for the benefit of Muslims' children in Latin America, in contribution to the enhancement of their religious and civilizational belonging.
Latin American Muslim Leaders to Meet
Rabat: 15/9/2003 / 207
At the invitation of ISESCO The Heads of Islamic Associations and Cultural Centres will hold their Third Meeting in Latin America in Curaçao.
The Heads of Islamic Associations and Cultural Centres in Latin American countries will hold their third meeting in Curaçao Island in the Netherlands Antilles (the Caribbean Islands), over the period 16-18 September, at the invitation and under the supervision of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization -ISESCO.
The meeting will be convened as part of the implementation of the Strategy for Islamic cultural action in the West, prepared by ISESCO and endorsed by the Islamic Summit Conference.
The meeting aims at fostering the values of civilizational belonging among Muslims in Latin America, developing the methods of cultural and educational Islamic action for the benefit of Muslim communities, developing expertise and experiences among the heads of Islamic associations and cultural centres in Latin America, implementing the fields of action of the Strategy for Islamic cultural action in the West, and exposing leading experiments in the field of promoting Islamic cultural action in Latin America.
During the meeting, a study on « the Islamic cultural landscape in the West and international changes »will be discussed. Participants will assess the achievements of Islamic associations and cultural centres in Latin America during 2002 and 2003, and will determine the fields of the programmes of action of Islamic associations and cultural centres in Latin America in 2004, as part of the Strategy for Islamic cultural action in the West.
Also will be discussed in the meeting the image of Islam in the media in Latin America, along with the efforts being extended to redress it, as well as the educational problems and needs of Muslims' offspring in Latin America.
The meeting will be attended by representatives for thirty-five Islamic associations and cultural centres in Latin America, namely the Bolivian Islamic Centre, the Sao Paulo-based Centre of Islamic Call in Latin America (Brazil), the Islamic Charitable Association in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), the Association of Islamic Union in Chili, the Islamic Cultural Centre in Costa Rica, the Islamic Venezuelan Congregation in Margaret Island (Venezuela), the Mosque of Cheikh Ibrahim Labrahim in Caracas (Venezuela), the Islamic Centre in Ecuador, the Arab Salvadorian Islamic Centre, the Mosque of Islamic Call in Guatemala, the Islamic Cultural Centre in Mexico, the Islamic Charitable Cultural Centre in Paraguay, the Islamic Association in Lima (Peru), the Centre for Dissemination of Islamic Culture in Uruguay, the Islamic Call in Honduras, the Islamic Centre in San Andreas (Colombia), the Arab-Islamic Association in Mendoza (Argentina), the Arab-Islamic Association in Cordoba (Argentina), the Buenos Aires-based Islamic Centre for Argentina (Argentina), the Buenos Aires-based Centre of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques (Argentina), the Islamic Centre in Guyana, the Islamic Centre in Buen Aire, the Islamic Centre in Belize, the Islamic Centre in Puerto Rico, the Islamic Foundation in Trinidad (Trinidad and Tobago), the Islamic Centre in Barbados, the Islamic Cultural Centre in Panama, the Islamic Centre in Surinam, the Islamic Centre in Santo Domingo (the Dominican Republic), the Islamic Centre in Micao (Colombia), the Association of the Bilal Mosque in Iquique (Chili), the Southern Islamic Centre in El Tigre (Venezuela), the Arab Cultural Centre in Cuba, and the General Secretariat of the Islamic Organization for Latin America (Argentina).
It is to be noted that the first two meetings of the heads of Islamic associations and cultural centres in Latin America were held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Among the recommendations of the second meeting, held in May 2002, was the call for convening the third meeting in the Curaçao Island in the Netherlands Antilles (Caribbean Islands).
Latin American Muslims Discuss Image In Media
RABAT, September 16 (Islamonline.net) - The heads of the Islamic associations and cultural centers in Latin American countries are meeting in Curaçao Island in the Netherlands Antilles (the Caribbean Islands) on September 16-18 under the auspices of the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The three-day meeting is part of relentless efforts to implementing a ISESCO strategy for Islamic cultural action in the West, which had been endorsed by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC).
It also aims at fostering the values of civilizational belonging among Muslims in Latin America, advancing methods of cultural and educational Islamic action for the benefit of Muslim communities, as well as sharing experiences among heads of Islamic organizations in Latin America.
The Muslims leaders will review the image of Islam in Latin American media, along with efforts being extended to redress it, as well as the educational problems and needs of Muslims' offspring in Latin America, according to information published on ISESCO website.
They will discuss study on the Islamic cultural landscape in the West and international changes.
Beside assisting achievements over the past year, the chiefs of Islamic associations and cultural centers in Latin American will determine fields of future action.
The meeting will be attended by representatives for thirty-five Islamic associations and cultural centers in Latin America.
The two previous meetings were held in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
ISESCO was set up upon the adoption of its statute by OIC foreign ministers during their 11th conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, in May 1980.
This decision crowned the OIC efforts to establish an international organization specialized in the fields of education, science and culture.
The third OIC summit, hosted by Saudi Arabia in January 1981, decided to set up the ISESCO, whose founding conference was then held in Morocco in May 1982.
The main objectives of ISESCO are to develop applied sciences and use advanced technology; contribute to the achievement of world peace and security; seek to achieve coordination among the OIC specialized institutions; make Islamic culture the basis of educational curricula at all levels; protect the independence of Islamic thought against cultural invasion and distortion factors, and safeguard the features and distinct characteristics of the Islamic civilization; and safeguard the Islamic identity of Muslims in non-Islamic countries.
The Development of Latin America
Islamic Principles in the Development of Latin America
By Yahya Juan Suquillo
19 - 21 Rajab 1.424 Hijri
Given by Yahya Juan Suquillo, the Imam of the Islamic Center in Ecuador at the Fourth Annual Conference of Latin American Muslim leaders in Curacao. Sponsored by I.S.E.S.C.O. (Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) & O.L.P.A.D.I. (Organización Latinoamericana para la Difusión del Islam).
Before the end of the second millennium CE, most scientists and thinkers in the western world have began to question their assumptions about the theory of evolution, faith in human reasoning, consumerism, scientific revolutions, secularism, and the weaknesses of communism and capitalism. The western world has been confronted with two bloody wars and continuously fears chemical and nuclear destruction. These problems confirm the degradation of basic human rights and values in the world today.
In addition to those major disasters, the world must wait for the long-term negative consequences caused by environmental destruction, the deification of the individual or collectivism, the widening gap between the rich and the poor, and the disaster called globalization, which is neocolonialism, cultural and commercial domination.
The contemporary global movement that is seeking to revive Islam as the solution to all problems has encountered much antagonism towards the renaissance of Islam. Proof of this is how many people falsely accused Islam as fanatic and terrorist after September 11. More than two thousand years ago, a group of people used the same false accusations against Prophet Jesus the Messiah (Peace be upon him) by ridiculing his teachings, and many people until this day continue to deny his second coming. Unfortunately, millions continue to be misled.
Most people from all over the world realize that many religious conflicts in the world, particularly between Islam and Christianity, often rose out of human excesses and the desire to stir religious passion to support political goals. Muslims must continue to provide the enlighten of spiritual guidance for needy brothers in humanity by conveying the example of Prophet Muhammad's (SAWS) who never paid back persecution, insults, or injury with anger. On the other hand, Muslims must form an international organization with branches in each capital of the world to implement Dawah strategic programs as well as to properly address the defamation that could correct and inform their detractors.
In order to maintain worldwide peace, we all need to search for common ground. All human beings have "Fitri" features. Scientists, sociologists, and thinkers in the Muslim world should try to emphasize human nature as more spiritual than human in order to search for common ground and to view life as more than materialism. Because Latin American nations are rooted in Spain, they have much to recognize as common ground in Islamic heritage by virtue of somatic features, linguistic wording, family-oriented values, and so forth.
Islamic principles manifested in the Qur'an, the Sunnah, and the Companions' exemplary lives are essential for developing a peaceful and compassionate world. Because Islam's most fundamental values are nurtured by a direct connection with the Creator, these values such as equality, solidarity, freedom, and justice can build the most tolerant and pluralistic society possible.
The General Perspective of Latin America
Avoid stereotyping Latin American societies.
Not only do the young generations of Latin American no longer aspire for the "American dream" as a lifetime goal, but also anti-American feelings are now deeper since the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. These facts are widening the socio-cultural division between these two cultures.
We must not think that since there is a very small conversion rate among Christians to become Muslims in Islamic states that there might be the same situation for Latin American people. This is another great misconception. The Latin American public, the common people, is clearly looking forward to a totally different spiritual change. Proof of this is that twenty to thirty years ago, Catholicism claimed almost 90% of the total population in Latin America whereas today the numbers are now only between 55% and 65%. Unfortunately, these societies do not know the alternative that Islam can bring to this global area.
Latin America is searching for its own identity.
The Church's top clergy, affluent people, and state power stir together the destiny of the less fortunate. Latin American governments have lacked definite policies; and their lack of institutionalization has shown their lost opportunity to build up the strength of their moral and civic institutions to secure their insipient democracies during the last fifty years. The reality is that humanity attempts to deify itself either individually - as in capitalism (at the border of collapsing) - or collectively - as in communism (already collapsed).
Latin America is feeling very insecure and worried about its own future. The United Nation was unable to stop the Afghani and Iraqi invasion. The lack of justice for the Palestinian problem has left Latin America with many questions. Many Latin Americans are asking themselves, "What do we do? Where do we search for help?" Strong Islamic values can help determine Latin America's own ideas, destiny, and history. Islamic values can stop the cultural and economic conquest called globalization that threatens to subjugate Latin America.
A brief analysis of Latin America's major problems.
Globalization has also played a role in influencing religious demography in the past decade. Dozens of various Christian sects such as Evangelist, Adventist, Baptist, Mormons, and non-denominational churches have recently gained thousands of followers in the religious terrain. Philosophies from the Far East and India are among the immense religious mosaic spectrum. This clearly means that Catholicism, the predominant religion in Latin America, has lost millions of adherents. Latin America is a fertile area for Islamic Dawah. There is a great need and opportunity for spiritual development in Latin America.
Islamic values already present in Latin American culture.
Consider the great Islamic architecture within some cities in South America. In Brazil, for instance, some old churches are decorated with Arabic calligraphy art carved by Muslim slaves that were brought to America. Major and minor vestiges of Arabic art are found in some Central American countries. Within Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, the popular Andalusian Spanish architecture style can be found, which was copied from Islamic art that Spaniard architects learned from Muslims. Typical mosque domes and arches were applied to churches throughout South America.
Quito's historic downtown area is jam-packed with Andalusian Islamic architecture. Interior gardens that allowed uncovered women to enjoy the outside atmosphere without having to go outdoors can also be found. What is ironic is little presence is given to lavatories and personal hygiene locations at the Spaniard architect colony houses. While on the contrary, the relevance given to these places in the Muslim world are widely known - to help Muslims fulfill cleanliness needed for religious duties.
The influence of Muslims in the past was mainly based on major and minor concentrations of Muslim immigrants that took place in different areas of this vast continent. Examples of major Muslim immigration in a short span of a century can be seen in countries such as Argentina and Panama, which are Spanish-speaking. Major Muslim migration also took place in Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, which are English-speaking communities in Latin America. Brazil, which has a Portuguese-speaking community, holds the largest Muslim community in South America.
Hard working principles in industry, examples of honest trading and fine manners, architectural art, and typical Arabic food are no doubt part of the genuine contribution that our honorable Muslim ancestors helped in the development of Latin American culture. May Allah SWT reward them Inshallah accordingly. In this analysis, we are far from bringing justice to all the contributions of our Muslim ancestors. We must now decide what we can do for a better future!
The role of Muslim institutions
In the past
An example to follow
Where minor concentrations of Muslims immigrants settled such as in Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay, and most Central American countries, the influence of Islamic values has been less significant, and these areas would certainly benefit from programs similar to the one in Brazil. Islamic world institutions can have a positive influence in all spheres of life by showing a unity of thought, a unity of Fatawah. Muslims in general can be a positive example.
Islamic principles can play a central and predominant role in contributing to the transcendence of human society. Islamic principles can assist Latin American in implementing much needed social, economic, educational, and political values, which when integrated in any government can bring about peace and harmony in the future to come, Inshallah.
How can this task be successfully achieved, Inshallah?
First, Tawakul -ala- Allah. Fully trust in Allah.
Second, Islamic institutions responsible for Dawah and the image of Islam must understand the human nature of the Latin American individual. They must identify their motivation and interests. It is very important to try to understand Latin American people analytically, objectively, and with an open mind. Major Dawah efforts should be concentrated among the non-Muslim people since the greatest human potential here in Latin America is the non-Muslims. Seminars, conferences, and comparative religious studies should be conducted in ways most appropriate. There is a need for growth of Islam, qualitatively and quantitatively. For example, we need more literature to be distributed, and we also need more good quality literature.
Third, various groups should work together with a dynamic media and printing press company to support Islamic Dawah work at all levels. Professionals from each field of mass communication (i.e. radio, print, television) as well as education and social science professionals should be coordinating each field of propagation.
Fourth, in order to achieve success in Latin American culture, all Muslims, Islamic institutions, and Islamic countries must correct the mental and cultural distortions derived from the attacks on September 11. One way would be to appoint commissions within every country to overcome problems of religious intolerance and the false accusation that Islam is a terrorist threat. Islam is not a threat to any nation or to global security, as communism was during the Cold War. Islam stands firm against terrorism.
Islam is not terrorism. Muslims as a whole are not terrorists. On the contrary, Islam prohibits terrorism as mentioned in the Quranic verses - 8:61, 10:99, and 16:126.
Fifth, sources of literature should present Islam in a more dynamic way emphasizing style and semantics. Literature should be presented in a proper context acknowledging that most readers may be non-Muslims with little knowledge about Islam and Muslims. Thus, information should be catered to each individual who is seeking the correct path. Literature should be reasonable and easily to understand. Literature should also be a source of guidance for committed Muslim workers. Sometimes subjects are presented too scholastically. People in Latin America are anxious to receive a response to a personal problem addressed in a simple way as opposed to learning theoretical subjects written in syllogism and that use complex epistemological approaches.
Sixth, Muslims must understand the importance of the Spanish language. Allah SWT allowed the establishment of a flourishing Islamic civilization in Spain for almost eight centuries. The Spanish language and culture are indebted to Islam as a result of the centuries of interaction among Islamic civilization and the Spanish culture. Resurgence of Islam will depend upon the utilization of the Spanish language as a means of communication in Spain, Latin America, and indeed, anywhere we may find Spanish-speaking people. Allah SWT promised that "strangers" would return Islam to all lands, inshAllah, and alhamdulila we find fertile ground for establishing Islam in Latin America and beyond.
US American Latino Muslim communities should be included in all Dawah programs and strategies because many Spanish speakers live there. According to the US 2000 Census, 32.8 million Hispanics/Latinos live in the United States. Recently, the US Census stated that there are now more Latinos in the US than African-Americans. The US Latino population is also growing very fast. The Latino population in the US is expected to grow to 63 million by 2030, and 88 million by 2050. By then, one out of every four US Americans will be Latino.
According to the 2001 "Mosque in America Report," there is an estimated traditional annual growth of 20,000 converts in the US each year. Of these converts, 63% of converts were African-American, 27% of converts were White, and 6% were Hispanic. There are 6 million American Muslims, but only 40,000 are Latino Muslims. Using these figures, Latino Muslims only make up 0.6% of the US American Muslim population. These figures are now dramatically changing. Latinos are the fastest growing minority group in the US, and at the same time, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the US. The victory of Islam in the US depends upon Allah SWT bringing together the fastest growing minority group and the fastest growing religion.
Seventh, Islamic principles contribute to religious freedom, tolerance as well as formative sociopolitical principles. The Quran directs Muslims to find common ground with other religious communities. This common ground is expressed as a mutual respect for each religious community's freedom and autonomy. In other words, no community has the right to impose its way of life on other religious communities. Furthermore, the Quran states that force has no place in religious matters.
Rulers and other groups are not above the law. These basic principles of justice and goodness are framed on human rights principles and maintain each individual's dignity.
Eighth, Islamic principles contribute to economic growth in South America. Almost no Latin American country knows that Islamic principles prohibit interest on loans. Because interest has many downsides, Latin America could certainly benefit from interest-free methods for raising needed funds. Perhaps, the worse consequence of interest has been the establishment of virtual colonies in various parts of Latin America. Foreign investments are also very much needed and appreciated in this side of the world.
In western societies, economic development is primarily about increasing income in hopes of seeking material advance. The Islamic concept of economic development is broader, because Islamic principles acknowledge the importance of morality and social responsibility, which western economic concepts inherently need. Muslims work to increase their income level or to save money, but most important, their work should be done with the intention of pleasing Allah. The Quran 62:10 states: "When the prayer is finished then disperse in the land and seek the bounty of Allah, and remember Allah much that you may prosper."
Nineth, Islamic Education. There is a great need for full scholarships for new Muslims, men and women, young and adult, from pre-kindergartens to universities for all levels of Arabic and Islamic studies. These studies can be in an actual classroom setting or distance learning. The scholarships should cover room and board when needed.
Islamic education should not only focus on educating only Muslims. Many non-Muslims are sympathetic to Islamic ideas and values. Although they may disagree on certain points, they may agree on the bigger picture, and Muslims in academia may also positively impact non-Muslim thought. For example, students from American educational institutions planted American ideas all over the world many years ago. Those with the ability to afford the price of an American education would later hold government positions within their own countries, and their American mentality would affect their decisions and views.
Similarly, investing in Islamic education can surely be a real plus in introducing Islamic values to the masses. Such knowledge will help Latin Americans see Islam as a solution rather than something that is foreign. By sharing our knowledge, new generations will reach power, and they will help establish more social and economic stability in Latin American.
Within forty years of his life, our Prophet Moses (AS) eradicated the slave mentality from the Jews. Within twenty-three years of his life, our Prophet Muhammad (SAAWS) rid the Kaabah of idols. The short time periods just mentioned can be an inspiration for a new Islamic Renaissance to develop in today's world. In this sense, contemporary Islamic thought must be the same as during the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAAWS): dynamic and flexible depending on circumstances but firm, harmonious, and following the sources of legislation: the Glorious Qur´an and the Sunnah.
Let's pray that we continue to establish Islamic values and principles Inshallah in Latin America and the whole world. Let's be the means in which Islam is renewed in all lands, the way Allah's mercy appeared to all mankind.
Yahya Juan Suquillo
El Desarrollo de Latino America
Los Principios Islamicos en el Desarrollo de Latino America
Por Yahya Juan Suquillo
19 - 21 Rajab 1.424 Hégira
Disertación entregada por Yahya Juan Suquillo, Imam del Centro Islámico del Ecuador, en la conferencia de representantes musulmanes de Latinoamérica, auspiciado por I.S.E.S.C.O. (Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) & O.L.P.A.D.I. (Organización Latinoamericana para la Difusión del Islam).
Todavía están por conocerse los negativos efectos que a largo plazo, tendrán esos desastres que produjo la humanidad como el alejamiento de la Guía Divina, la deificación individual y colectiva del ser humano, la destrucción del ecosistema, la brecha cada vez mas grande existente entre el rico y el pobre y la ultima, no menos negativa llamada "globalización", que no es otra cosa que el neocolonialismo y la expresión más vil del dominio cultural y comercial que ejerce el imperio de los Estados Unidos.
El movimiento global contemporáneo que busca revivir el Islam como solución a todos los problemas y paradigmas, ha encontrado tenaz resistencia contra todos los males que sojuzgan y oprimen las sociedades del mundo; tanto así, que oscuros y mezquinos intereses partidistas han montado campañas políticas de desprestigio contra el Islam. Prueba de ello es el fatídico y desastroso show, del 11 de Septiembre, que trata de acusar al Islam colocándolo como fanático y terrorista. Debemos recordar que hace más de 2000 años atrás, existió un grupo de gente que trato de utilizar la misma táctica, de falsas acusaciones y mentiras contra nuestro Profeta Jesús, el Mesías, la paz sea con El, para ridiculizar sus enseñanzas, hacer caso omiso a su predicamento, que finalmente terminó con la negación de su llegada y su ministerio. Desafortunadamente ese sainete lleno de injurias tomo cuerpo y dio origen al desvío de millones de seres humanos, hasta hoy en día. El mundo, se ha dado cuenta que los conflictos religiosos , particularmente entre el Islam y la cristiandad, no fueron mas que el resultado del exceso humano y el deseo de mezclar las pasiones religiosas para apoyar intereses políticos.
Como musulmanes que somos debemos ser ejemplo de iluminación espiritual y guía correcta para nuestros hermanos en humanidad; a través de la correcta práctica de nuestra religión que dejó nuestro Profeta Mujammad (PBAE), quien nunca se vengó de la persecución, insultos o injurias. Por otro lado, los musulmanes debemos conformar una gran organización internacional, con muchas sucursales en cada capital del mundo, para implementar programas estratégicos de Dawah, así como para contestar apropiadamente las difamaciones de sus detractores.
Para mantener el ambiente de paz deseado en el mundo, es pertinente encontrar áreas de trabajo y beneficio común, las cuales deberían ser enmarcadas con propias e innatas características "Fitri" que todos los seres humanos tenemos. Científicos, sociólogos, pensadores del mundo islámico deberían tratar de enfatizar la naturaleza humana bajo una óptica más espiritual y humana; para así cubrir el espacio existente que dejó el mundo materialista que nos rodea.
América Latina como una gran nación, parte de Ibero América, tiene raíces hispánicas ya insertadas desde el inicio, que pueden conectar directamente con el mundo Islámico. Sin duda, cualquier intento por desempolvar y rescatar la herencia Islámica, de casi 800 años en la cultura Hispánica, como son sus cacterísticas somáticas, sus valores lingüísticos, la orientación hacia los valores familiares, las artes y más, darán resultado en el mediano y largo plazos.
Los principios islámicos manifestados en el Corán, la Sunnah y la vida ejemplar de los Compañeros del Profeta (PBAE), son esenciales para el desarrollo de un mundo pacífico y responsable, que encontrando una directa conexión con el Creador, pueden formar la sociedad mundial mas pluralista y tolerante que sea ejemplo de solidaridad, equidad, libertad y justicia para todos.
PERSPECTIVA GENERAL DE AMÉRICA LATINA
GRAN ERROR EN ESTERIOTIPAR LAS SOCIEDADES LATINO AMERICANAS.
Una de las más grandes errores, es la creencia de que América Latina constituye la cola del imperio Americano. América Latina esta físicamente conectada al continente norte Americano, pero los lazos históricos, étnicos, así como sus valores religiosos, culturales y motivaciones son diferentes. Esto quiere decir que, si se le apreciara a Latinoamérica como una nación, esta tiene diferentes formas de ver las cosas.
El hecho es que no solo las nuevas generaciones de jóvenes Latinoamericanos, ya no ven como meta de su vida, alcanzar el "sueño Americano", sino que el sentimiento anti-Americano se ha hecho mas profundo desde la invasión a Iraq. Este hecho ha provocado una mayor brecha entre estas dos culturas.
Otro gran error es creer, que por existir un índice pequeño de conversión de cristianos hacia el Islam, en los países islámicos, lo mismo puede estar sucediendo en Latino América; esto no refleja la verdad, ya que el público, la gente común latina, está buscando una alternativa que cambie totalmente su vida y que por supuesto, llene el vacío espiritual con guías precisas sobre sus propios problemas cotidianos. El tema es que, estas sociedades no conocen la alternativa que el Islam puede brindar para esta área del globo. Prueba de ello, es que solo veinte o treinta años atrás el catolicismo contaba en sus filas con un 90% de adeptos en la población Latinoamericana, en contraste con los índices encuestados en algunos países Latinoamericanos, donde se aprecia que su porcentaje decreció al 55 ó 65%.
LATINOAMÉRICA SE ENCUENTRA EN BUSCA DE SU PROPIA IDENTIDAD
Al comienzo de este tercer milenio EC, la cultura Latinoamericana sigue en busca de su propia identidad, identificando sus ideales políticos, sociales, tratando de encontrar su rumbo económico y por supuesto la religión no es una excepción.
Desde los inicios de la colonia Española, el alto clérigo religioso, mezclado con la gente de economía alta y los poderes del estado, han tratado de manipular los destinos de los menos afortunados; aún más, hay que reconocer que los gobiernos Latinoamericanos en su gran mayoría, les ha faltado definir sus políticas de estado y priorizarlas. Las institucionales del estado han perdido la oportunidad en los últimos cincuenta años, de fortalecer su capacidad legal y de sostener moralidad y el civismo de esas instituciones, que hubiera contribuido de alguna manera, para asegurar sus democracias insipientes.
Al colapso del comunismo y a la caída vertiginosa del capitalismo, se han sumados los problemas mundiales. La incompetencia de las Naciones Unidas para contrarrestar el abuso y atropello de los países mas desarrollados; así como también la inoperancia para hallar una solución justa al problema Palestino y al problema Colombiano. El hambre y el clamor por justicia social de los pueblos de América Latina, que siendo un continente de enormes recursos naturales y biodiversidad, considerada a futuro, como la reserva natural estratégica más grande del planeta; ha dejado un gran cuestionamiento y un gran enigma en la búsqueda de cursos de acción, para la toma de decisiones trascendentales.
Los bien cimentados valores islámicos pueden ayudar a Latinoamérica a determinar su propio destino histórico para enfrentar los retos y la nueva conquista cultural y económica llamada GLOBALIZACIÓN, donde la falta de competitividad y la simple imitación, son factores comunes nefastos que acabarían de subyugar al continente Latinoamericano.
BREVE ANÁLISIS DE LOS GRANDES PROBLEMAS LATINO AMÉRICANOS.
Latino América, como cualquier otro continente, tiene sus propios problemas, políticos, sociales, económicos, ect. Uno de los factores más preocupantes, es el decadente modelo de estado proteccionista, que se ha visto incapaz de cumplir con sus responsabilidades para hacer que sus instituciones trabajen por el bienestar y la seguridad colectiva. Tampoco los estados han podido combatir la corrupción. El trafico de influencias de los mas poderosos sigue siendo muy notorio y común en estas sociedades. Los servicios sociales básicos no son suficientes y el índice de desempleo se suma al déficit de vivienda. En esta zozobra que vive America Latina con la esperanza puesta de gobierno en gobierno, los estados Latinoamericanos no llegan a vislumbrar su propio rumbo.
En cuanto a los problemas religiosos la globalización también ha jugado un papel de influencia en la ultima década. Docenas y docenas de diferentes sectas religiosas desde evangelistas, pasando por adventistas, bautistas, mormones e "iglesias libres", han ganado últimamente miles de seguidores en el terreno religioso. Filosofías del lejano oriente y de la india, constituyen el gran mosaico del espectro religioso Latinoamericano. Este hecho deja en claro que el catolicismo , ha dejado de ser la religión predominante en la América Latina, pues su pérdida de adeptos es cada vez más alta. Este continente Latinoamericano es una tierra fértil para el "Dawah" del islam. Existe una gran necesidad de cambios religiosos profundos para mejorar la calidad moral y lograr el desarrollo espiritual del habitante de Latinoamérica.
LOS VALORES ISLÁMICOS YA PRESENTES EN LA CULTURA LATINO AMÉRICANA.
Con dificultado la cultura Latina puede ser medida en términos de los valores culturales islámicos, excepto, por pocos aspectos. Una de las razones para que exista falta de conocimiento, de que los valores culturales islámicos, se encuentran presentes en al cultura Latinoamericana se debe a que el sistema de educación implementado, relaciona con mucha dificultad la herencia Islámica en España. Esto se debe a que desde el inicio de la colonia, todos los Virreinatos, incluidos el de Lima y Nueva Granada, debían cumplir a cabalidad "el trabajo" de persecución e intolerancia, contra los "Mahometanos", que llegaban a estas tierras. Ejemplos de la herencia arquitectónica se hallan en algunas ciudades de Latrino América, como en Brasil, varias iglesias antiguas fueron decoradas con caligrafia arabe y arte islámico que trajeron los esclavos musulmanes.
Tambien en ciertas ciudades de centro y sud América se hallan vestigios del arte arabesco en mayor o menor escala. Hace ya 25 años, la UNESCO, declara a Quito, Patrimonio Cultural de la humanidad. Este hecho en la capital del Ecuador, es un hecho sin precedentes, pues, El Centro Histórico de Quito, se halla lleno de estilo arquitectónico islámico andaluz, transmitido a los arquitectos españoles por los musulmanes. Los clásicos domos y arcos ojivales, clásicos de las mezquitas, fueron aplicadas a las iglesias. Los patios interiores de las casas antiguas del Quito colonial, muestran jardines en sus interiores que permitian a las mujeres disfrutar dentro del perímetro de sus casa sin ser vistas; esta es una costumbre netamente islámica. Lo que parece irónico es la poca presencia de lavatorios y lugares de aseo personal e higiene que tienen estas casas coloniales; por el contrario, la relevancia que se otorga a estos lugares en el mundo de la construcción islámica, son ampliamente diseminados para ayudar a los musulmanes a cumplir su ritual de limpieza, requisito indispensable para sus obligaciones religiosas.
Quizás la transmisión y la influencia de los valores islámicos en el pasado, fueron básicamente debido a la concentración en mayor o menor escala de musulmanes imigrantes que hicieron presencia en diferentes areas de este vasto continente. Ejemplo de grandes masa de emigrantes que se dieron en corto período de un siglo, pueden encontrase en países como Argentina, Panamá (de habla hispana), mientras que emigraciones grandes de musulmanes se dieron en Guyana, Trinidad &Tobago, Barbados (de habla inglesa) y Brasil, por supuesto, con la emigración musulmana más grande de Latinoamérica.
Los musulmanes emigrantes contribuyeron con sus principios, al desarrollo industrial y al comercio. Fortalecieron estas economías a través de trabajo honesto, comportamiento correcto y una dedicación única al trabajo. Esto fue sin duda una contribución real que nuestros honorables ancestros musulmanes ayudaron en el desarrollo de la cultura Latinoamericana. Aláh SWT, les recompense de acuerdo a sus inteciones.
Este análisis se halla lejos de hacer justicia a todas las contribuciones que hicieron nuestros antepasados musulmanes. De ahora en adelante debemos tratar de determinar, ¿qué es lo que podemos hacer?,para el futuro próspero, lleno de justicia social, para las generaciones venideras.
EL PAPEL QUE DEBE DESEMPEÑAR LAS INSTITUCIONES ISLAMICAS.
En el pasado, las instituciones islámicas han fallado en la identificación del potencial humano de Latinoamérica para aceptar el Islam. En términos de difusión Islámica, podemos decir que más expectativa generaba Norte América y Europa antes que Sud América. El panorama ha cambiado después del 11 de Septiembre, esta prioridad en los países desarrollados, pasa a ser más dificultosa de alcanzar, por la xenofobia y mucha ignorancia del público en general, sobre los temas Islámicos. Hoy en día las instituciones Islámicas comprometidas de Medio Oriente, Norte Africa, pueden continuar con el mismo ímpetu en el trabajo del "Dawah", en los países Latinoamericanos. Algo importante de recalcar, es que la planificación e implementación de estrategias, sea a partir de las realidades de cada país Latinoamericano, que deberá incluir gente autóctona, comprometida de cada país. Solo así se podrá promover y motivar un sistema pluri-étnico islámico, tal como implementó el Profeta, la paz y bendiciones de Allah sean con él, con Bilal (R.A.A.) al-Jábashi, Salmán (R.A.A.) al-Farsi, etc.
UN EJEMPLO ASEGUIR.
En Brasil el desarrollo del Dawah tuvo su avance sostenido en ciudad de Londrina, que empezó su trabajo hace mas de veinticinco años, donde los factores humanos, económicos, el apoyo en todos los niveles y la gran decisión de un líder tomo un efecto positivo y un progreso continuo hasta hoy en día , en el trabajo del dawa, dando frutos muy positivos.
Concentraciones menores de emigrantes musulmanes, tuvo lugar en Paraguay, Bolivia Chile, Colombia, Venezuela, Uruguay en Sud América y El Salvador, Costa Rica, Honduras, Guatemala en Centroamérica, cuya influencia de valores islámicos fue significativamente menor.
Se espera que en un futuro cercano, los Países Islámicos levanten su perfil, muestren una estructura monolítica, unifiquen sus "Fatawa", para que ello pueda influenciar en todas las esferas, con una imagen más ceñida a la verdad de la religión del Islam. Lo que importa de hoy en adelante, es el papel central y predominante que los principios islámicos puedan contribuir para la trascendencia noble y central de América Latina y de la sociedad humana en general.
Los principios islámicos pueden ayudar al desarrollo de la nación Latinoamericana en la real implementación de los valores éticos, morales y espirituales, que ayuden a visualizar el rumbo de una vida equilibrada, con fuertes bases sociales, económicas, educacionales, políticas, con un liderazgo ejemplar, honesto, con individuos capaces y comprometidos en sacar adelante a sus pueblos.
COMO SE PUEDE ALCANZAR ESTAS METAS, IN SHAA ALLAH.
1.- Confianza absoluta en Allah.
2.-Las instituciones islámicas encargadas del Dawah y de la imagen del Islam, deben tratar de entender la naturaleza humana del individuo latinoamericano. Identificar la motivación y lo que mantiene el interes del individuo. Es muy importante tratar de entender la mentalidad latinoamericana de una forma objetiva, analítica y real. El potencial humano aquí en América latina son, por supuesto los NO musulmanes Latinos; por lo tanto, el mayor esfuerzo de propagación debe estar encaminado hacia los nativos no musulmanes de Latinoamérica, de habla Hispana. Bajo este contexto, se debe apoyar los seminarios, conferencias, estudios comparativos de religiones en forma mas apropiada. Existe la necesidad de crecer en el Islam, cuantitativa y cualitativamente.
3.- Deben existir varios grupos de trabajo que colaboren dinámicamente con medios de comunicación, apoyados por compañías de multimedia e imprentas. En cada área de la propagación, prensa, radio, televisión, debe haber profesionales trabajando y coordinando todos los esfuerzos.
4.- Para alcanzar las metas trazadas , cada individuo, institución islámica, debe tratar de corregir las distorsiones mentales y culturales derivadas de los ataques del 11 de septiembre, nominando comisiones en cada país para remitir con propiedad, las polémicas derivadas de la intolerancia religiosa y de la falsa acusación al Islam. El Islam no es parte del terrorismo, los musulmanes no somos terroristas; por el contrario, el Islam prohíbe el terrorismo, o la imposición, a través de sus versículos en el Corán 8:61 "Pero si se inclinan por la paz, inclínate tú también y confíate a Aláh. El es Quien oye y Quien sabe". Capítulo 10:99 "Y si tu Señor quisiera creerían todos los que están en la tierra. ¿acaso puedes tú obligar a los hombres a que sean creyentes?". Capítulo 16:126 "Ya maquinaron otros antes que ellos, pero Aláh acometió contra lo que habían edificado por los cimientos y el techo les cayó encima viniéndoles el castigo por donde no lo esperaban". El Islam no es una amenaza para ninguna nación, así como tampoco para la seguridad mundial, como sucedió con el comunismo en los días de la guerra fría.
5.- El material literario islámico debería presentarse en una forma mas dinámica, poniendo énfasis en su estilo y semántica. Su lenguaje debe ser sencillo, fácil de entender. La presentación del material debe tener un diseño atractivo, calidad, color, tamaño de letra adecuado, ect. El contenido debe ser dirigido a un lector, que no siempre es un musulmán, sino más bien hacia un público simpatizante, que busque nutrirse de la orientación Islámica y cuyo interés aborde las primeras fases de orientación y búsqueda espiritual, ética, Ciencia en el Corán, etc. Dicho temática deberían cubrir consejos prácticos que lleguen al corazón del lector que está en plena búsqueda del camino correcto.
6.- OTORGAR LA IMPORTANCIA DEL IDIOMA CASTELLANO, COMO MEDIO DE DIFUSION. Durante casi ocho siglos de pacifica convivencia y tolerancia vivieron los musulmanes en España junto con el resto de religiones. Después de este apogeo, Aláh El Altísimo, permitió que el Islam perdiera el dominio de la península Ibérica; por lo tanto, la lengua castellana y los hispano parlantes se hallan en deuda con el Islam. Se espera que su resurgimiento y apogeo sea Insha- Allah, a través de la utilización del idioma castellano, como herramienta de propagación. La promesa de que Allah SWT hará que regrese el Islam con misericordia a través "de extraños", Inshallah se halla cerca, en las raíces de la herencia islámica de los hispanoparlantes de Iberoamérica.
Los programas y estrategias de "Dawah" para hispano parlantes, también deberán incluir a las comunidades musulmanas que hablan castellano en los Estados Unidos, ya que éste país tiene un papel importante hasta ahora. De acuerdo al censo del año 2.000, existen 32.8 millones de hispano parlantes en los Estados Unidos. Recientemente, el censo Americano dio resultados de que existen más Latinoamericanos que africanos. La población latina tiene el índice de crecimiento mas rápido y los estudios han indicado que si el crecimiento sigue igual, para el año 2.030 esta población habrá alcanzado 63 millones de habitantes y para el año 2.050 serán 88 millones de habitantes; entonces, uno de cada cuatro norteamericanos será un hispano parlante.
De acuerdo con el "Mosque in América report" del año 2001, existe un crecimiento estimado anual de 20.000 conversos cada año, de estos conversos, el 63% fueron Afro-américanos, 27% fueron de raza blanca, 6% fueron hispanos. Existen alrededor de 8 millones de musulmanes en los Estados Unidos y 40.000 son musulmanes hispano parlantes. Haciendo uso de estas cifras, los musulmanes hispano parlantes constituyen un 0.6% de la población total Americana; pero, estas cifras están cambiando diametralmente, ya que los hispanos constituyen el grupo minoritario de mas rápido crecimiento en América y al mismo tiempo el Islam es la religión de mayor crecimiento en los Estados Unidos. El triunfo del Islam Inshalah, en los EE.UU. dependerá de que Aláh otorgue la victoria, a este grupo minoritario de mayor crecimiento, junto con la religión de mas rápido crecimiento, Bi iznilah.
7.- LOS PRINCIPIOS ISLÁMICOS CONTRIBUYENDO PARA LA LIBERTAD DE RELIGIONES . El Corán enseña a los musulmanes a tratar de encontrar terreno fértil en común, para la convivencia con otras religiones. Estas características comunes son: el respeto mutuo , libertad de acción y convivencia pacífica, para que así, ninguna comunidad imponga su forma de vida a otras comunidades. En el Islam no hay cabida para forzar al individuo que siga la religión.
Los gobernantes no pueden estar sobre la ley, este es otro de los principios de justicia que el Islam expresa para establecer la buena convivencia dentro de un verdadero marco de derechos humanos donde cada individuo mantenga su dignidad.
8.- LOS PRINCIPIOS ISLÁMICOS CONTRIBUYENDO PARA EL DESARROLLO ECONOMICO. Casi ningún país o gobierno en Latino América conoce que el Islam prohíbe el interés de prestamos en capital. Las inversiones extrajeras son muy apreciadas en este lado del mundo. En las sociedades occidentales, el desarrollo económico se refiere estricta y exclusivamente al ingreso per/ cápita que persigue el desarrollo material. El concepto islámico de desarrollo económico es mas amplio, ya que este incluye el papel preponderante de la moral y las dimensiones sociales que estos promuevan y que se hallan ausentes en los conceptos de crecimiento económico del mundo occidental, más los beneficios del crecimiento económico característicos de las sociedades occidentales. Un musulmán trabaja para incrementar su ingreso per cápita o ahorrar su dinero, pero mas importante es que este esfuerzo sea con la intención de agradar a Aláh. El Corán nos dice, "Cuando la Oración termine, entonces dispersaos por la tierra buscando el favor de Allah y recuerden mucho a Allah, para que así puedan prosperar." - 62:10.
Sin temor a equivocarnos, el trabajo de más de cuatro generaciones de musulmanes en Trinidad y Tobago, ofreciendo servicios bancarios y financieros de acuerdo a la Sharía Islámica, constituye un gran ejemplo a ser emulado por comunidades y Países, que buscan una muestra del desarrollo económico Islámico, aplicado en Latinoamérica. En este tema consultar Islamic Finance Forum. E-mail: email@example.com
9.- EDUCACIÓN ISLAMICA.
Con el fin de regular costos de billetes aéreos de becarios, se podría concentrar a los becarios en una institución Islámica fuerte de algún país Latinoamericano, como el caso de "Dar al Arkam" en Maicao, Colombia, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org ,cuyo despunte en la calidad de educación Islámica en América Latina, es sin precedentes.
La educación islámica no debe enfocar solo a musulmanes sino a simpatizantes de estos valores islámicos. Así, por ejemplo, el ideal Americano, fue sembrado fuera de sus costas, cien años atrás a través de instituciones educativas de excelente formación en todo el mundo. El plan Americano de estudios trató de alcanzar a los estratos más adinerados, que puedan pagar altos costos educativos; con la mira, que a futuro, dichos profesionales pudieran ser los gobernantes del mañana, cuya mente albergue los valores Americanos. Analógicamente la educación Islámica, no solo vista como inversión, sino como solución, ciertamente puede ser un punto de partida estratégico, en la introducción de los valores islámicos, que en futuro mediano, ayude a la estabilidad familiar, social y continental de Latinoamérica.
Como musulmanes, somos concientes de que nuestra forma de vida el Islam no fue una forma de vida únicamente material. Recordemos que en un corto tiempo, desde el inicio del Islam hasta los años dorados en el Andaluz, los estándares de vida de los musulmanes fueron diferentes, comparados con los que existieron en ese tiempo. Los logros islámicos se basaron en un alto estándar espiritual y valores morales, que brindaron un estilo de vida balanceado, lleno paz, justicia social, material y espiritual a toda prueba.
Haciendo una reflexión en cuanto al tiempo, sólo fue necesario que pasare una generación de cuarenta años para que nuestro profeta Moisés, la paz sea con él, erradicara la esclavitud de la mentalidad de los judíos. Veinte y tres años tomo a nuestro Profeta Mujammad, la paz y bendiciones de Allah sean con él, para erradicar los ídolos del Kabba, símbolo de la erradicación de la idolatría del corazón de la gente. Los cortos periodos descritos arriba, pudieran ser elementos inspiradores de los factores de tiempo y espacio, para que el renacimiento islámico, se desarrolle en su real dimensión.
En este sentido el pensamiento islámico en la era moderna, debe ser el mismo que en el tiempo de nuestro Profeta Mujammad, las paz y bendiciones de Aláh sean con él, es decir: dinámico y flexible de acuerdo a las circunstancias, pero firme, armónico y consecuente con las fuentes de legislación: el glorioso Corán y la Sunna.
No es imprescindible que nuestros ojos vean el brillo de la nueva civilización Islámica en el mundo; lo más probable es que nuestros hijos y nietos sean quienes cosechen los frutos que hoy pretendemos sembrar. Nuestra generación contemporánea debe pedir que Aláh acepte este esfuerzo. Roguemos y actuemos al mismo tiempo para que los principios y valores islámicos sean establecidos, Insha- Aláh, en América Latina y en todo el mundo. Pidamos también a Aláh SWT, para que continuemos con el impulso y seamos el medio para que el Islam tenga su período de renacimiento en estas tierras y para que la religión emanada del Todopoderoso Aláh, sea nuevamente, misericordia para los mundos.
Yahya Juan Suquillo
Celebrating Ramadan from Chile to China
By Salma Elhamalawy
The celebration of the month of Ramadan possesses an important religious and social meaning for the Islamic community and Latin America is no exception. In the Hispanic world, Muslims should adapt their schedules in order to break their fast, but at times, due to work difficulties, they have no choice but to delay it. They are limited to breaking the fast with a glass of water, and have to wait until they leave work to break the fast collectively as tradition states.
Ramadan in Chile
Fareed Maymoun, a Moroccan immigrant, is used to waking up early to go to his job as a construction worker, but when Ramadan starts he gets up half an hour before sunrise. "It's an important time for me. For the 3 years that I have been living in Chile Ramadan has a very special meaning for me. The first day is marked by a reunion at the mosque to celebrate another year, and break the fast together with the rest of the community."
Like Fareed, the 3,000 Muslims that live in Chile try to integrate their lives with their spiritual beliefs in a difficult environment. "Christian co-workers are now used to my fasting. When we are on our lunch break many openly admire the will of those who are fasting, although they do not understand why we do it," he states.
The Islamic Center itself fills with children and their parents, when the prayers are finished families get together to enjoy the many activities prepared: popular songs, and delicious food.
"In the mosque a festive atmosphere is evident, people fill the halls and their children run from here to there. You hear kul 'am wa anta bikhair, to wish many happy returns for the beginning of Ramadan" Nawal Alvarez states.
The majority of families take advantage of this day to eat together. "We prepare Mote con huesillo, a special juice with pieces of dried apricot." explains Nawal.
"In Morocco Fareed and I would have met with all our relatives, but here we're going to eat with some friends at the mosque. Last year was the first time to break the fast without my family and it was very hard", adds Yasmina, Fareed's wife.
Nawal and Yasmina have it all prepared for this year, the first weekend of Ramadan they will organize an iftar (meal to break the fast) at the mosque. "We will be eight women cooking and the menu is a traditional one, first sweet tea then couscous and dried fruits with many Ramadan sweets", explains Yasmina.
The first days of Ramadan as well as the last days are marked by family visits while children enjoy their new toys and sweets. However, for those working, their situation is no different from those of any Muslim minority.
"The difficult thing is when we are not allowed to leave a short time before the Maghrib (sunset) Prayers. For us, it is very important to be with the family at the Prayers and the breakfast. Normally we offer to work during lunch breaks to compensate. But sometimes the supervisors do not accept," stated Fareed. "In Chile it is more difficult than in other countries because here there are fewer Muslim immigrants. In France, or Germany, there are businesses where Muslims are a majority and they are able to manage their work hours." He said.
Ramadan in Spain
In Spain an Agreement of Cooperation, between the Spanish State and the Islamic Commission of Spain was established in 1992 and approved as Law 26/1992. The law affirms in article 12.1 that: "Members of the Islamic Communities belonging to the Islamic Commission of Spain who desire, will be able to request the interruption of their work on Friday of each week, from 1 p.m. to 4.20 p.m., as well as finishing work one hour before sunset, during the month of Ramadan".
The celebration of Ramadan acquires a special importance in all Spanish cities--like Madrid, Barcelona and Catalonia--where numerous Muslim communities reside. Muslims get together to break their fast and they organize social meetings in the mosques. Amin Villoch, a Spanish Muslim, illustrates this, "The first day of Ramadan more than 9.000 Muslims gather at the mosques in Madrid to celebrate the breaking of the fast. Ramadan is an important factor in reuniting the community. The Islamic Center of Madrid always prepares many activities during this month for them."
After the Maghrib Prayers, the mosque becomes a place of festivity. Everyone eats harrisa (an oriental sweet) and dates; Ramadan treats which no Muslim house lacks. "Women spend all day preparing typical food to offer to their relatives and friends whom they meet at the mosque", explains Amira Masaad. "The first day of Ramadan is a special day. Although, it's difficult being far away from my family, the mosque organizes events and activities to bring the Muslim community in Spain together."
Many of the Muslims living in Catalonia visit the mosques occasionally, more to meet the community than to pray. However, when Ramadan starts, the mosques are filled with Muslims. "Muslims celebrate fully these 30 days and dedicate a lot of time for prayers." This is when the situation becomes difficult too, "the lack of space for Prayer comes to light during Ramadan. The Catalonian Muslim community puts a lot of effort into establishing new places for Prayers and to be able to continue to attract more Muslims."
Other activities that Spanish mosques organize during Ramadan include Arabic classes, Islamic culture classes and Qur'an and Hadith discussions.
Ramadan in Nicaragua & Dominican Republic
In Nicaragua approximately 300 Palestinian, Jordanian, Iraqi, Libyan and Nigerian citizens, as well as 4 Nicaraguans; all faithful Muslims, celebrate the month of the Ramadan. In 1999, Muslims established a mosque in Cuidad Jardin, where they gather every Friday to pray Ahmed Hajjami, a Muslim who has resided in Nicaragua for 6 years, assured us that approximately 300 faithful Muslims, celebrate Ramadan in Nicaragua.
"We begin at half past five in the morning. There isn't any difference in complying with Ramadan in Nicaragua or any other part of the world", he said.
Nevertheless, he emphasized that given the characteristics of Nicaragua, it is more difficult to carry out Ramadan's obligations. "One of the main obstacles is the time to pray, on some occasions we only pray in the morning and at night, it is almost impossible to pray the other three times," he explained.
For Muslims in Nicaragua, the renewal of faith during this period is the main celebration. Ramadan is not a month of penitence by fasting, but of festivals with banquets, gifts and new clothes.
The mosque also publishes a calendar with prayer times and times of fasting, which is coordinated with Al-Noor Mosque in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. In the Dominican Republic there are approximately 2,500 Muslims, and the ones that reside in the capital regularly attend the festivities of Ramadan at Al-Noor Mosque, the only mosque in the city.
Yunis Ribas explains, "Although the community is rather small in the Dominican Republic, Muslims gather on the first day at Al-Noor Mosque and their families usually accompany them. Later they meet in Recoleta at a halal (permitted by Allah) restaurant, a Jordanian immigrant runs it. We usually have harira, a traditional Moroccan soup, and shawarma, a spicy meat dish, on the first day."
The mosque distributes audio materials for the Muslim community, and Muslims gather for Tarawih Prayers before heading home. "You can see the happiness of Muslims when they exchange greetings after the prayers, especially when there are new faces. Usually the day ends with a traditional herbal tea." Yunis declared.
Ramadan in China
Li Xan is a Chinese student who studies engineering at the Universidad Del Desarrollo in Chile. He has been living with his father in Chile for 3 years now. However, he remembers how his family used to celebrate Ramadan in China. "During Ramadan my father would get up at 4 o'clock in the morning, and an hour later he'd arrive at the Mosque of Niujie, in the center of Beijing, just in time for the Dawn Prayer."
For Muslims in China, Ramadan is traditionally a period of fraternity, solidarity and Islamic charity.
"Every day in Ramadan, we attended all the five prayers at the mosque. My father's friends understood our commitment, and when he was occupied with a lot of work they would help him to do it so that he could be punctual for Prayers", Li explained.
Li is among more than 20 million Chinese Muslims that live by Ramadan's obligations, continuing strictly the Islamic doctrines, praying five times a day in mosques and abstaining from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk. According to the Islamic association of China, Chinese Muslims have convenient access to prayer services as there are more than 34.000 mosques throughout the country.
"Since the foundation of the Peoples Republic of China in 1949, the rights and religious liberty of the Muslims have been protected by the constitution and the law", he states.
The Niujie Mosque, built in 996, and that of Dongsi, 500 years old, are the two most two famous mosques in the capital. The Niujie Mosque is an important center for Islamic studies and operates a Qur'an school. During the last 50 years, the government has assigned, on numerous occasions, special funds for the repair of these buildings because of their historical importance.
Beijing has over 900 Muslim restaurants and food stores. Some supermarkets sell food especially for followers of Islam. "Thanks to the social stability and the fast economic growth of the country, Chinese Muslims enjoy a peaceful Ramadan. Many Muslims share traditional food with their neighbors, and distribute gifts to poorer Muslims," noted Hang Xian a 61 year old Chinese Muslim trader.
Wherever you are, Ramadan is undoubtedly a most special month.
Barriers to Healthcare for Latino Children
By Haneme Idrizi, MD
The present state of children's health in the United States is not favorable. Although Americans spend almost one trillion dollars per year on health care, the US still appears to lag behind other nations in providing for our pediatric populations. The US ranks 24th among industrialized countries in the number of babies that die within the first year of life. The US had 23.1 million children who went without health insurance for all or part of 1995 and1996. The US currently has more obese children than ever before.
As discerning as these statistics may be, the situation within the Latino pediatric population is even more dismal. Latino children, who comprise the largest racial/ethnic minority group of US children, are the most uninsured group of children in the U.S. according to the Kaiser Commission report of 2000. This report determined that there are 1.1 million poor, uninsured Latino children compared with 806,000 white, 703,000 black, and 95,000 Asian poor uninsured children. In addition to lack of insurance, the Latino Consortium of the American Academy of Pediatrics Center for the Child Health Research which consists of 13 expert panelists (such as pediatricians, health service researchers, dentists, public health experts, nurses, etc) have published that Latino children are not being included in enough research projects. They also published that Latino children are at a higher risk for behavioral and developmental disorders, for school dropout, for obesity, diabetes mellitus, and asthma. Latino children are also more likely not be immunized, hospitalized longer, more likely to have tuberculosis, and not adequately treated for pain.
Although the federal and state governments recently began addressing the problems of uninsured children and enacted the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) as part of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, why do Latino children continue to fall behind medically? What are the barriers that are hindering them from getting adequate health care? Only by identifying and addressing all the issues that hinder the Latino children of this nation from receiving adequate healthcare can changes be made. The Latino Consortium of the American Academy of Pediatrics Center for the Child Health Research has identified the most important issues concerning Latino child health. Although there are several obstacles in the way of Latino children's health beyond the scope of this article, there are two essential impediments that continue to arise in all the literature: cultural/linguistic barriers and lack of health insurance.
In a recent study of pediatric primary care clinics, Latino parents cited cultural and language barriers as the single greatest barrier to healthcare access. Specifically, the parents identified lack of Spanish-speaking health care staff and inadequate interpreter services as the primary problem. Latinos are under represented in every level of health care professions. Although these difficulties can dramatically affect the ability of Latino children to receive adequate healthcare, cultural competency and linguistic training is still not an integral part of medical school education in this nation. For example, no Canadian medical schools and only 8% of all US medical schools teach Latino cultural issues. Failure to consider these issues in a nation where Latinos consist of 12% of the population can lead to a variety of adverse consequences such as decreased satisfaction with medical care, medical errors, difficulties with informed consent, fewer prescriptions, and use of harmful remedies.
The inadequacy of interpreter services also results in increased medical errors that effect the pediatric population. The Latino Consortium of the American Academy of Pediatrics Center for the Child Health Research reports that on average there are 18 interpreter errors of clinical consequence made per pediatric encounter. Nevertheless, only two US states provide third-party reimbursement for medical interpreter services, and less than one quarter of hospitals nationwide provide any training for medical interpreters. More research is needed on medical errors and the adverse consequences for Latino children associated with having untrained or no interpreters.
Current pediatric research suffers for a number of reasons. Research often excludes non-English speaking subjects, is rarely designed for Latino children, and research is not culturally or linguistically appropriate. Validity of research is often not tested. The Conner's' Parent Rating Scale and Teacher Rating Scale which assesses childhood behavioral problems has only been tested twice for its validity in the Latino Community. The Consortium recommends validating child health research instruments in Latino subgroups because without validity, results may be distorted. The ethnicity of personnel administering research may also introduce bias.
Language can also serve as a barrier to acculturation according to recent surveys conducted by the Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California. The researchers propose that the lack of acculturation plays a significant role in whether or not children receive medical services. Acculturation refers to the process whereby immigrants over time adopt U.S.-American views about the role and importance of health insurance. Recent findings from this California survey conducted in 2000 identified language as a barrier to enrollment among Latino children in California's Public Children's Insurance Program. The researchers hypothesize that the strength of language spoken may serve as a predictor because parents who speak only Spanish tend to be relatively new to this country and as such, are less accultured than English-speaking Latinos.
Others counter this claim by stating that a person's linguistic skills may be more of an indicator of their economic status and thus their ability to acquire healthcare than their acculturation. Indeed, financial barriers should be addressed. There is a high risk of school dropout among Latinos - 29% compared with 13% blacks and 7% whites. A greater proportion of Latino children are held back, a major predictor of dropout in later years. Disparity persists even after adjustment for socioeconomic status. Only 20% of Latino children younger than 5 are enrolled in early childhood education classes compared with 44% blacks and 42% whites.
One of the most important healthcare barriers to Latino children has already been touched upon-lack of insurance. Latino children are more likely to be uninsured than any other ethnic group. The fact that currently 30% of Latino children are uninsured and that by 2005 they will be the largest minority population under age 18 illustrates that we are facing a tremendous health crisis in the upcoming years. As the Latino community continues to grow, their lack of health insurance will have an increasing impact on the nation's health status.
Because Latinos are more likely to be uninsured, they are also more likely to experience the health risks of being uninsured, which include reduced access to care and poorer medical outcomes. For example, lack of insurance means that Latino children's mental health needs will continue to be unmet, and consequently, Latinos will continue to be at a higher risk for behavioral and developmental disorders. Puerto Rican children have the highest national prevalence of developmental disorders and functional limitations. In 1999, 20% of Latino youth reported considering suicide and Latinos (19%) were significantly more likely than blacks (8%) and whites (9%) to have attempted suicide. Latinos are also less likely to be hospitalized for mental illness.
Even with programs such as CHIP available, why aren't Latinos running to their local Department of Human Services to sign up-even with the new enrollment initiatives and public education campaigns? In addition to reasons already discussed, many families are unaware of current programs available to them or are mistrustful of heath care establishments. The reason for this mistrust may lie with the bad experiences they have had with institutions in the past. According to Marisa de la Garza, the Covering Kids Project Director for the Association of Community Health Centers, "Latinos won't come in until they feel confianza (trust)." This is the reason why one of their most successful strategies has been working with promotoras (promoters) along the US-Mexican border. These promotoras are experts who know the language, culture, and thus, gain the confidence of the community.
Another reason why so many Latino children remain uninsured even with federal programs is that their non-citizen parents erroneously fear that enrolling their children in public insurance programs may hurt their chances of becoming citizens. According to a 2000 survey performed in California, Spanish-speaking Latinos are more likely than non-Latinos to indicate that they are concerned about the effect of participation on their immigration status.
Unfortunately, much confusion and fear exists among Latino families about who can get Medicaid or CHIP coverage and who cannot. The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 did prohibit immigrants arriving after August 22, 1996 from Medicaid eligibility. Those who entered on or after this date are not eligible for five years, and then other restrictions apply. Many of these immigrants are unaware that these laws do not apply to their American-born children. A Kaiser Commission report from 2000 found that only 26% of parents of eligible uninsured children said that they had ever talked to someone or received information about Medicaid enrollment. Some states, such as California, have opted to fill the coverage gaps to recent immigrants with the use of state funds, but most immigrants are unaware of this.
Results of the recent US census show that Latinos are now the predominant racial/ethnic minority group of US children representing about 1 in every 6. It is time for our health policies and services to represent this dramatic demographic change. Further cultural and linguistic training must be provided at the medical institutions of our nation-especially in major cities where the Latino communities predominate. In addition, trained and competent interpreters must be used in more healthcare settings in order to provide adequate healthcare to Latino children. Changes must be made that address the confusing nature of the existent programs, and those in positions of trust should provide information about these programs.
Change will only happen when we identify and address the various issues that prevent the Latino children of this nation from receiving adequate healthcare. Lack of insurance contributes to the endangerment of the health of each uninsured child as well as the collective health of the nation. The lack of health care coverage in the Latino pediatric population should be viewed with the same urgency as other issues such as diabetes and obesity. The state of uninsured Latino children must change.
The Questions of Caesar
From Bukhari 4.191
Narrated Abdullah bin Abbas:
Allah's Apostle wrote to Caesar (of the Byzantine Empire) and invited him to Islam and sent him his letter with Dihya Al-Kalbi whom Allah's Apostle ordered to hand it over to the Governor of Busra who would forward it to Caesar. Caesar as a sign of gratitude to Allah, had walked from Hims to Ilya (i.e. Jerusalem) when Allah had granted Him victory over the Persian forces. So, when the letter of Allah's Apostle reached Caesar, he said after reading it, "Seek for me any one of his people! (Arabs of Quraish tribe) if present here, in order to ask him about Allah's Apostle."
At that time Abu Sufyan bin Harb was in Sham with some men frown Quraish who had come (to Sham) as merchants during the truce that had been concluded between Allah's Apostle; and the disbelievers of the Quraish. Abu Sufyan said, "Caesar's messenger found us somewhere in Sham so he took me and my companions to Ilya, and we were admitted into Caesar's court to find him sitting in his royal court wearing a crown and surrounded by the senior dignitaries of the Byzantine."
He said to his translator, "Ask them who amongst them is a close relation to the man who claims to be a prophet."
Abu Sufyan added, "I replied, 'I am the nearest relative to him.'"
He asked, "What degree of relationship do you have with him?"
I replied, "He is my cousin, and there was none of Bani Abu Manaf in the caravan except myself."
Caesar said, "Let him come nearer." He then ordered that my companions stand behind me near my shoulder and said to his translator, "Tell his companions that I am going to ask this man about the man who claims to be a prophet. If he tells a lie, they should contradict him immediately."
Abu Sufyan added, "By Allah! Had it not been shameful that my companions label me a liar, I would not have spoken the truth about him when he asked me. But I considered it shameful to be called a liar by my companions. So I told the truth."
He then said to his translator, "Ask him what kind of family does he belong to."
I replied, "He belongs to a noble family amongst us."
He said, "Have anybody else amongst you ever claimed the same before him?"
I replied, "No."
He said, "Had you ever blamed him for telling lies before he claimed what he claimed?"
I replied, "No."
He said, "Was anybody amongst his ancestors a king?"
I replied, "No."
He said, "Do the noble or the poor follow him?"
I replied, "It is the poor who follow him."
He said, "Are they increasing or decreasing (day by day)?"
I replied, "They are increasing."
He said, "Does anybody amongst those who embrace his (the Prophet's) religion become displeased and then discard his religion?"
I replied, "No."
He said, "Does he break his promises?"
I replied, "No, but we are now at truce with him, and we are afraid that he may betray us."
Abu Sufyan added, "Other than the last sentence, I could not say anything against him."
Caesar then asked, "Have you ever had a war with him?"
I replied, "Yes."
He said, "What was the outcome of your battles with him?"
I replied, "The result was unstable; sometimes he was victorious and sometimes we."
He said, "What does he order you to do?"
I said, "He tells us to worship Allah alone, and not to worship others along with Him, and to leave all that our fore-fathers used to worship. He orders us to pray, give in charity, be chaste, keep promises, and return what is entrusted to us."
When I had said that, Caesar said to his translator, "Say to him: I ask you about his lineage and your reply was that he belonged to a noble family. In fact, all the apostles came from the noblest lineage of their nations. Then I questioned you whether anybody else amongst you had claimed such a thing, and your reply was in the negative. If the answer had been in the affirmative, I would have thought that this man was following a claim that had been said before him.
"When I asked you whether he was ever blamed for telling lies, your reply was in the negative, so I took it for granted that a person who did not tell a lie about (others) the people could never tell a lie about Allah. Then I asked you whether any of his ancestors was a king. Your reply was in the negative, and if it had been in the affirmative, I would have thought that this man wanted to take back his ancestral kingdom. When I asked you whether the rich or the poor people followed him, you replied that it was the poor who followed him. In fact, such are the followers of the apostles. Then I asked you whether his followers were increasing or decreasing. You replied that they were increasing. In fact, this is the result of true faith till it is complete (in all respects)."
"I asked you whether there was anybody who, after embracing his religion, became displeased and discarded his religion; your reply was in the negative. In fact, this is the sign of true faith, for when its cheerfulness enters and mixes in the hearts completely, nobody will be displeased with it. I asked you whether he had ever broken his promise. You replied in the negative. And such are the apostles; they never break their promises. When I asked you whether you fought with him and he fought with you, you replied that he did, and that sometimes he was victorious and sometimes you. Indeed, such are the apostles; they are put to trials and the final victory is always theirs.
"Then I asked you what he ordered you. You replied that he ordered you to worship Allah alone and not to worship others along with Him, to leave all that your fore-fathers used to worship, to offer prayers, to speak the truth, to be chaste, to keep promises, and to return what is entrusted to you. These are really the qualities of a prophet who, I knew (from the previous Scriptures) would appear, but I did not know that he would be from amongst you. If what you say should be true, he will very soon occupy the earth under my feet, and if I knew that I would reach him definitely, I would go immediately to meet Him; and were I with him, then I would certainly wash his feet."
Abu Sufyan added, "Caesar then asked for the letter of Allah's Apostle, and it was read. Its contents were:
"In the name of Allah, the most Beneficent, the most Merciful (This letter is) from Muhammad, the slave of Allah, and His Apostle, to Heraculius, the Ruler of the Byzantine. Peace be upon the followers of guidance.
Now then, I invite you to Islam (i.e. surrender to Allah), embrace Islam and you will be safe; embrace Islam and Allah will bestow on you a double reward. But if you reject this invitation of Islam, you shall be responsible for misguiding the peasants (i.e. your nation).
O people of the Scriptures! Come to a word common to you and us and you, that we worship. None but Allah, and that we associate nothing in worship with Him; and that none of us shall take others as Lords besides Allah. Then if they turn away, say: Bear witness that we are (they who have surrendered (unto Him)."
Abu Sufyan added, "When Heraclius had finished his speech, there was a great hue and cry caused by the Byzantine Royalties surrounding him, and there was so much noise that I did not understand what they said. So, we were turned out of the court. When I went out with my companions and we were alone, I said to them, 'Verily, Ibn Abi Kabsha's (i.e. the Prophet's) affair has gained power. This is the King of Bani Al-Asfar fearing him.' Abu Sufyan added, 'By Allah, I remained low and was sure that His religion would emerge triumphant until Allah brought me into Islam in spite of my aversion to it.'"
The Mud Castles Story
By Yasmeen Figueroa
A good friend shared an interesting story with me. I would like to share the story with everyone. I hope that it will inspire, illicit thought, and perhaps produce change. After this story, I realized our "true" purpose in this life. It is not to eat and sleep, pray or even fast. We were created for a bigger purpose - "Kuntum Hkayra ummatin ukhrijat linnas."
Everyday 500,000 people die without the kalimah, and may go to Hell. Who is responsible for them? We are. Who will be blamed and questioned, them or us? Of course, they will be questioned, but so will we.
The example the elders were given was that of a man who sent his eldest son to call his younger brothers to prayer. His younger brothers were playing outside making mud castles. It was getting dark, and prayer would be out shortly.
When the eldest son went to call them, they said, "We'll be inside in a second, we just want to finish this."
But the eldest brother said, "No, right now."
Then, they replied, "Just wait we're almost done building the castle."
After noticing that they were building the castle incorrectly, the eldest brother said, "No, that is not how you do it. Let me show you." So the eldest son stayed with them to show them how to build mud castles.
While waiting for his sons to come inside, the father becomes worried and upset, and thus he decides to go outside to see what has happened.
And now here is the big question.
In the same way, we were sent for the Ummah of Muhammad (pbuh) but we ended up playing with them and forgot why we came. We ended up building mud castles instead of bringing them inside.
The problem is that we don't have appreciation for our religion. Because we have it so easy, we take it for granted. The Sahaba (rda) were starved, tortured, and many were killed. They sacrificed so much to ensure we would have our great religion today. However, since we don't sacrifice for our deen, we have no real value for it.
Allah (swt) has told us that Muhammad (saw) is the last messenger to mankind; as a result, our duty is to continue to spread the message. He has left us with a purpose. We are all Da'e of Islam.
May Allah give us strength to pursue His plan.
The Brave Latino Muslim
In Central Park a savage dog attacks a young boy. A man happens to be passing by and comes to the boy's rescue. He tackles the dog at risk to himself, strangling it to death.
A newspaper reporter is watching everything and takes a few snaps for the front-page picture for the next day's paper.
Approaching the man, the reporter asks, "What is your name?"
"Your heroic act will be published in tomorrow's paper under the headline -
Thinking that it would look better if 'Nuyorican' is replaced with 'Latino Muslim' - so Latino Muslims look good in the paper - the man says, "Yes, I am a Nuyorican, but's that only part of how I describe myself."
On inquiring as to what he means, the man says, "I am a Muslim who tries to do good each day."
The next day, the newspaper headline reads:
"Fanatical Latino Muslim Strangles Dog to Death in Central Park."