The Latino Muslim Voice
The October-December 2005 newsletter features:
Quotes of the Month
IMAN and Day Laborer Campaign
The Challenge of the Day Laborer...
Day laborers are workers who are employed on a task-by-task basis, and they are mainly immigrant men. Most day laborers are Mexican immigrants, while another's tenth are from Central and South America. The majority are under 40 years of age. They work as day laborers to earn enough money to send to their families back home.
While they perform a sizeable amount of all construction-related work, their main employment includes a variety of skilled manual labor. Often, day laborers gather on street-corners, in parks, or near construction-supply stores to await employment. Eighty percent of their employers are either homeowners or subcontractors.
Because the large majority of all the day laborers are immigrants, many of the challenges they face are those of being undocumented residents. Day laborers are often discriminated against based on their race, gender, and age, and sometimes, their employers physically abuse them. It is not rare for employers to pay their workers less than the originally agreed-upon amount or to refuse to pay them all together. About half of the day laborers say they have experienced such abuse.
IMAN's Role in the Day Laborer Campaign
A former day laborer, Abdul Rahman now works with IMAN leading the Day Laborer Campaign. He sees IMAN at the forefront of this movement. The goals of the campaign are twofold: to organize and empower day laborers and to mobilize Muslims around this issue.
Rahman says that the campaign is not simply about fighting for justice for the day laborers, but also about building trust between two very important inner-city constituencies: Latinos and Muslims. To achieve this end, IMAN has been working with many organizations, such as the South West Organizing Project (SWOP) and Union Latina, which are experienced with day laborer issues, in order to build that network of trust. The partnership has helped to break down the barriers built by stereotypes and misunderstandings between the two communities and has paved the way toward support, compassion, and solidarity.
Although about 99% of the day laborers are Latino, IMAN's Day Laborer Campaign extends to each and every day laborer in need of assistance. "We view ourselves as members of the human community," Rahman explains, "We struggle to help one another to confront and deal with the hardship and injustices that we face in life as well as of those who live in proximity to us."
As a part of the campaign, IMAN seeks to create a public forum where day laborers can bring forth complaints against employers for violating their rights in the work place. So far, IMAN has retrieved over $6,000 in neglected payments on behalf of day laborers. Moreover, this campaign looks to protect the rights of day laborers by directly communicating with employers to resolve any situations and to facilitate proper payment for work. One of IMAN's long-term goals in this campaign is to create a unique center on the Southside of Chicago to provide day laborers with much-need immigration, health, legal, and education services.
You may learn more about the efforts of the Inner-City Muslim Action Network (IMAN) at www.ImanCentral.org.
A Day for Latinos to Rediscover their Roots
By Wendy Diaz-Guadalupe
Students and other spectators gathered in Lerner Hall at Columbia and enjoyed Mexican cuisine to break the Ramadan fasting, eagerly awaiting the highlight of the event to begin, the lecture which had been advertised through flyers in local universities and online. The Latino-inspired food set the mood for the theme of the night and the presentation began promptly after the prayer and iftar.
Hernan Guadalupe was warmly introduced by Lamda Pi Chi member, Sandra Jimenez, telling of his volunteer work outside and within the Islamic community and his conversion to Islam. Guadalupe, a Muslim revert of Ecuadorian descent, explained in his introduction that the goal of The PrimeXample Company is to provide information in order to bridge gaps and build better understanding and tolerance for Islam. He began the night's topic by posing the question, "What does it mean to be a Latino?"
Although many Latinos acknowledge their many roots and rich cultural diversity, they fail to connect a part of the puzzle, which was essential to the development of Latin American society: Islam. Guadalupe explained that Muslims arrived in Spain in 711 C.E. and ruled for almost 800 years, shaping the Spanish nation and empire, which would expand to include all of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Guadalupe also informed the audience about the presence of Muslims in the Americas prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, providing evidence found in his research. Members of the audience, many of which were Latino, expressed their interest in these topics, not having been aware of them prior to this presentation.
After a detailed explanation about the historical events, which shaped the Latin American culture profoundly, Guadalupe proceeded to give details about why Latinos were now accepting Islam as their newfound faith. Day by day, Latinos are embracing the religion of Islam, and they are one of the fastest growing Muslim minority groups. There are over 4 million Muslim in Latin America, and Latinos comprise of about 6% of Muslim converts in the U.S. According to Guadalupe, many of the Muslim converts of Latino descent "rediscover their roots," after researching about their past and realizing the role Islam played in the lives of their ancestors.
Others find simplicity in Islam whereas they struggled in their previous faith to find answers to complex questions. Most Latinos come from Catholic backgrounds and are not satisfied with this very controversial and often ambiguous religion. As Guadalupe described, they are only "culturally Catholic." In other words, these Latinos practice their religion blindly, simply following what their families follow, but not questioning the origin of their beliefs. The research stated that over one hundred thousand Latinos leave the Catholic faith each year, an astonishing number indeed. Although not all embrace Islam, apparently many do find Islam to be the destination of their spiritual quest.
Guadalupe both captivated and charmed the audience by comparing the Islamic culture with Latino culture from similarities in family values to explaining strange superstitions. He clarified that another reason for Latinos accepting Islam was precisely these huge connections between morality and values found in Latin American communities. The talk ended with him encouraging the audience to seek more knowledge on the topic in order to develop their own conclusions. A question and answer session followed. Audience members asked questions not only about the night's focus, but also general questions about Islam. Many expressed their fascination with the similarities between Islam and the Latino culture, stating they would like to do their own research.
Even after the question and answer session, some of the listeners approached Guadalupe to obtain contact information for both personal questions and to arrange upcoming events. Guadalupe stated, "I was pleased with the event; I believe it was truly successful. I think that it was an opportunity to inform people that Islam is not only about Arabs, but that it is for everybody. I also feel that this was a big step for the Latino Muslim Outreach Program, and we hope that more presentations such as this one can be organized in the future in order to propagate the message of Islam."
Since then, The PrimeXample Company and L.M.O.P have successfully delivered this presentation in other universities including Stevens Institute of Technology and Montclair State University. Other presentations have been developed that cover various Islamic topics from Islamic manners to women in Islam. For more information, please visit www.primexample.com.
Sister Wendy Diaz-Guadalupe is the Chief Editor for The PrimeXample Company.
Rompiendo el Ayuno: A Promising Iftar
By Nylka Vargas
In the Name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful.
The call to prayer; the savoring of fresh dates, then followed by Salaatul Maghrib at 6:30 p.m., the usual on a busy Ramadan evening. The Islamic Education Center of North Hudson (IECNH) has traditionally hosted weekend iftars for families, sponsored by donors early in the month. This year, however, a few of us Latinas thought it would be nice to sponsor a dinner 'para la comunidad'.
The iftar was our way of sharing the blessings of Ramadan with our local Muslim community, mostly Arab-speaking. Our local Muslim community does not always have the opportunity to know their fellow Latino Muslim. This has more to do with language and cultural barriers than with a lack of outreach methods or in-house programs.
For several years now, the IECNH 'dawah committee' has organized weekly classes and special events, such as the Annual Hispanic Muslim Day and monthly open houses where the atmosphere is familial. On Wednesdays, the preferred language of choice is Spanish, and public Shahaadas are often made. Except for a few masjid regular attendees, little interaction occurs beyond "Salaam Alaikum."
However, on Saturday, October 15, 2005, we all proved otherwise at the Islamic Educational Center of North Hudson in Union City, New Jersey. The Latina sisters with lots of amor prepared multicultural dishes for a full house of about 150 worshippers. Diana Mariam Santos, who is married to a Turk, Neisy Lara and Flor Maza, who are both married to Egyptians, prepared greens, pasta, and Mediterranean style lentil soup (sorry no beans).
Istvana Lara, who is a Colombiana married to a Spanish Arab Muslim, sautÃƒÂ©ed and roasted the four trays of the finger lickin' lamb (it's Sunnah to eat every morsel!). But you can't have a Latino dinner without Boriqua rice, pollo, y flan, all courtesy of Sevelinda Rodriguez, Shinoa Matos, and Orbelina Acosta. As for the rest of the gang, let's just say some of us helped with the planning, preparation, transportation, or simply eating.
The hard work was definitely well worth the effort. You can always tell how good the food and service is by the long stay between the meal and the gathering for the khatira (short speech) before Taraweeh prayers. Not that iftars are all about that. Well, it does make for small talk, "Great soup, and well-seasoned chicken, what gave the rice that color?" Beyond that, I can't say there was much "interaction" but sure enough a lot of warming of the hearts.
Islam is the religion of unity, the ummah, Ahl-us-Sunnah. This is most evident during Ramadan when the love is transparent on virtually every Muslim's face. I pray that we initiate more of these cross-cultural get-togethers and share the blessings of Islam throughout the year. Amin.
My First Ramadan
By Khalid Malik Rosa
My first Ramadan was a time of change for me. It would be the first time I engaged in the Islamic fast. Also, I would learn about how important Islam is to me in the face of societal criticism and ignorance.
On a personal and practical level, I was also able to take time to figure out some important matters in my life. I decided to pursue a career in business instead of academia, which for me means pursuing an MBA rather than a PhD. It was a very tough decision; I am glad I had the down time to really focus on important issues. I also finally changed my name legally. I had to wait almost two months to get clearance from the Federal and Colorado Bureaus of Investigation before I could complete the process (and I thought we lived in a free country). My name change was official and legal as soon as the holy month began.
With the name change and fasting, I finally felt like a real Muslim. How is that possible? Well, I got daily mispronunciations of my name, and I still do. I am asked where I am from in South Asia or the Middle East. And, I constantly stumbled into people who did not know much about Islam, specifically, about our holy month. I was gracious and forgiving, and I tried not to make any issues out of things. However, I was taken by such blatant disregard people have for anything different from the "American standard." Based on my Latino heritage and family, I used to always be asked if I could speak English and where I was from. I could brush those experiences off as naivety (or ignorance). Now, I am treated as if I can only be an outsider to the "American experience."
Being an outsider in the USA has been commonplace for me just like in the daily experiences of some people of color. I have been alienated plenty of times for being different due to my huge Mexican family or the Roman Catholic practices I grew up participating in. However, now I related to my Muslim friends on a new level. I remember in years past accidentally inviting Muslims to lunch during Ramadan. Finally, I was on the other side of the question. I was rearranging my schedule, and learning to negotiate the pangs of hunger and thirst.
I was always hungry. This is my primary memory of Ramadan. I noted what I ate and how much I ate. I broke the fast with friends, and I ate a year's worth of halal meat. I always watched a clock to note how much time until I could eat again. It became a daily obsession, even after I got used to the fast. Food and water were truly my favorite things.
I truly learned to savor my meals. I have to admit that food at the end of the day tasted the best. My everyday home cooked meals tasted like I was out at my favorite restaurant. Water had become a favorite elixir of the day; it felt 120% more refreshing. I have to admit that not drinking water or tea at work was a hard sacrifice, especially when I did repetitive work.
The worst of times was when I was too tired to eat. I would come home exhausted after putting in a long class and work day; and I would not have the energy to prepare a meal. I usually would lie down and pass out for a few hours. Sometimes, I would not get up until the morning prayer time. Therefore, I would go entire days on one meal. Naps were another friend of mine. I took many of them in order to rest up for the fast and balance out my sleep.
I was always tired. This is another significant memory of my first Ramadan. I attend graduate school full-time, and I work full-time. However, I was more exhausted than usual. Work, school, prayers, friends, and homework kept me busy and made the time pass quickly. I tried to focus on my deen and to experience the full effect of the holy month. Amidst the exhaustion, I gave up soda and candy. I could not rely on soda pop to pep me up.
My Muslim friends are important to me, and they got me through my first time fasting. I also met some awesome Muslims in all my interactions in the community here in Denver. Lots of folks had advice, but I noticed that many converts had the best advice for me. I am starting to understand what it means to be an American Muslim. While Islam is rooted in many beautiful and diverse cultures, I see a need for Islam to express itself here in the United States. Converts to Islam bring a different experience of the faith. Moreover, Latino Muslims also contribute to the culture of converts here in the US. As we continue to develop our 'umma, it will be interesting for all of us to bring our Ramadan experiences together.
On a lighter note, a non-Muslim friend at school told me she was also fasting with us in honor of Ramadan. She told me this after class one day (mid-day) as she finished her coffee and donut. I smiled and noted that fasting is tough at first, but we adapt to it. I was perplexed by her snacking in the middle of the day. We later discussed rules of fasting as I explained this important Pillar of Islam. I gently noted the restrictions around eating in Ramadan if one intends to fast as a Muslim.
My family has finally started showing disapproval. I was first asked all about Ramadan, and I was asked all about fasting. I was also asked continuously about why I converted. The questions felt invasive initially, but I patiently responded to the inquiries. While they live back home in California, my close relatives began questioning my fast and calling it a "health concern." The lack of water throughout the day was the biggest concern along with my legal name change. I finally was seen at home as a Muslim, and I would see my family's disapproval, which is a discussion for another time.
Overall, I was forever changed by my first Ramadan. My eating and sleeping habits were forever impacted. The most important time for me was the last two weeks of Ramadan. I began to feel a sort of ecstatic state by the end of the day. I was really able to connect to my prayers at the end of the day. While noting all the details of how my first Ramadan felt, the most important was my connection to Allah (swt). That connection has changed how I see Islam in my life and how I feel that Islam is becoming an integrated, guiding force in it. For me, that was most significant about the holy month. And, I hope to continue to grow in our faith tradition. Insha'Allah.
A Latina's Experience in Seattle
By Maria Enriqueta Romero
When I first moved to Seattle, Washington, I didn't know anyone. When I attended jumah, no one would give me salaams (a personal pet peeve). Things began to change after I posted a message on a newslist, a Yahoogroup of all places. My message was a plea for guidance to local sisters. I didn't specify Latino or anything like that. By the grace of Allah (swt), one sister guided me to another sister. This sister would lead me to the women that are my sisters today. Among them is one Mexican sister with three kids who have become like my family.
We have been there for each other in good times and bad, even if we do not see eye to eye on some things. And, there are other sisters that I became close to. We had an informal group that we called "Muslim Mammas" made up of me, a Lebanese-American, a Moroccan sister, and an American. We were like the four musketeers - the United Nations of our local mosque.
Yes, I really miss all the Mexican food. I really wish I could talk to someone who would really understand why my mom gets so mad about me wearing hijab, a contradiction because she prays to La Virgen Maria (as). Other converts have their problems, too. However, like Arabs, religion is very much a part of our culture. Sometimes, it's hard to separate the two. Also, there is "el llamado de la sangre." Your blood, culture, and roots naturally pull you to people who are like you. I could jump for joy whenever I meet another Latino/Hispanic/Chicano Muslim, male or female.
I also miss experiencing Eid in Tucson, Arizona where we prayed in congregation in a public park. However, it is in Seattle, that I truly realized the depth and breadth of Muslims as a community. Who could not gasp in wonder at the various languages, ethnic clothing and genuine smiles of brotherhood that we experience on Eid Al Adha and Eid Al Fitr. It is in Seattle that I truly became a Muslimah, a small part of a greater chain of brothers and sisters in Islam.
What am I trying to say? Get out there. Make connections. Do not let your language hold you back. Most "born" Muslims love us to death because they realize how difficult it is to revert in this society. They also know that we are inclined to Islam out of our love for Allah (swt) and His Prophet (saws) rather than out of cultural influence. Start with halaqas (study circles) for English-speaking sisters in your area. Also, look for brothers and sisters who might know a contact in your city. Various Muslim organizations and newslists may also help with finding local contacts.
Most of all, do not limit yourself. You know, sometimes it just takes time. One of the best things about Islam is that I can sincerely say that all of these Muslim ladies in Seattle and around the world are my sisters. It doesn't matter if they are American, Arab, Pakistani, Indian, Caribbean, African-American..or some crazy Chicana like me!
Fe Aman Allah.
Rebuilding New Orleans
By Cara Karema Harpole
November 17, 2005
FEMA has decided to discontinue its payment of (Katrina victims) residents living in hotels in the Houston area on December 1st. There are now 19,000 New Orleans residents living in hotels.
Because of FEMA's non-payment to apartments who had initially accepted the vouchers, many complexes are refusing FEMA vouchers regardless of their previous policies. One complex is suing FEMA for payment after nearly three months of waiting. Residents (Muslims) in the Dallas area are continuing to move into Houston when they get word of the voucher program. Although things have settled down from the initial crisis, a new crisis is waiting to happen if something isn't done about this new development.
Surprisingly, many Muslims have returned to New Orleans. They are mainly heads of households with jobs starting back up again, as well as taxi drivers. I have been told that taxi drivers have an opportunity to drive commercial vehicles needed in the restoration process in New Orleans. There is a desperate need for more workers in the city of New Orleans for the rebuilding process.
Finding housing in New Orleans is a daunting challenge. Most Muslims who have returned to the city live in areas outside of the main metro area: Gretna, Algiers, Metairie, Kenner, Baton Rouge (1.5 hours away), and St Tammany Parish. Those wanting to return face so many dilemmas. Another challenge is getting electricity to start the rebuilding process. FEMA is offering trailers, but what good is a trailer without electricity?
Many issues are taking very long to resolve. Simple as it may seem, our only electric company has threaten filing for bankruptcy, so they are not in a hurry to use replenished resources to restore power in a great part of New Orleans. Again, without electricity, people can only work until certain times of the day.
Believe it or not, the curfew is still in place. One man was arrested because he was sitting on his porch during the curfew period. There are some stories of mistreatment by Muslims who stayed behind. One brother was arrested and left in deplorable conditions while in custody. His only crime was protecting his home from looters (some of them being police and military).
Some parts of the city have only recently been open to residents, namely the ninth ward. Although the official search and rescue mission has long abated, residents are now returning to their homes to find dead bodies (over 100 noted in the last few days). The lucky ones actually found their homes, and the bodies of their dead relative. Others cannot find their homes period!
It would be nice to see more involvement from the Muslim community in New Orleans with the relief effort. The Jewish Community Center was the heart of the Disaster Research Center (DRC) operation in Uptown New Orleans. Red Cross used a local middle school for distribution of baby supplies personal hygiene, food, cleaning supplies etcÃ¢€Â Masjid Bilal, a very small Masjid, operated a small medial clinic. Masjid Raheem served as a temporary shelter during the storm, but to my knowledge is now closed.
Some Muslim organizations in New Orleans have large parcels of land. The Muslim community would greatly benefit from establishing a temporary trailer community for those whom need to return to New Orleans, but do not have a place to stay or resources to pay for extended stay.
The following proposed locations are only my thoughts and ideas.
Kenner on 25th Street land
Other Private land
Individuals can order a FEMA trailer, which takes about five minutes from a DRC location in New Orleans. The trailer is equipped to handle electricity, water, etc. FEMA told me that this process takes about three weeks. Renters cannot order trailers, homeowners can, I know some renters who have ordered trailers to be placed on relatives' property.
A Trailer Camp on Muslim-owned land can add a sense of brotherhood/sisterhood and safety for those with families who fear bringing their families to the area. What are the choices for those with large families who want to return to the city but have no other resources available to stay at hotels? Many families desperately need to return to recover important documents left in their attics or on first floors.
My neighbor told me over the phone not to expect to salvage anything left on the first floor. I honestly thought she was exaggerating. I originally planned to take a van on this trip. Sadly, I found out she was right. The water damage was shocking.
Wood from my floor was plucked from the ground like daisies in a field. All the wood buckled. Some rooms were so full of debris making it almost impossible to access. The smell was unbelievable. I wore a mask the entire time not only because of the smell, but also for protection against potential mold.
Mold has been a big factor at my home as far as home damage. All residents must gut their homes due to potential future mold damage. The structure has to also be treated once gutted.
The yard of my home looks completely dead. I once had many fruit trees.
Islamic Values in Latin American Culture
By Shaikh Yahya Suquillo
Islamic Values Already Present in Latin American Culture
Measuring Latin American culture in terms of the development of Islamic cultural values is difficult except for a few aspects. One reason for the unawareness of Islamic cultural values present in Latin American culture is an educational system that does not mention that Islamic values influenced Latin American culture during centuries of Islam's existence within the Spanish 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!
A Remarkable Islamic Educational Event in Ecuador
Sister Shahzady is a 12-year-old Muslim girl who wears the Islamic veil. She is one student among five hundred children attending "Martim Cerere School" in Quito, Ecuador. Her Social Science and English teachers had endorsed her to be the coordinator of the first Islamic booth to be presented for parents and teachers on Monday, May 30th.
"Chabela," her Science teacher said, "We could not wait this year to let the children know more about Shahzady's background." She continued, "Why does a native Ecuadorian girl wear a veil daily? Why does she fast one month a year? So, we decided to encourage her and her classmates to educate others about the Islamic culture."
Preparation for the booth took the children a few weeks and focused on Islamic history, belief, housing, dress code, and food. Shahzady's group, which consisted of two boys and three girls, visited Masjid Assalaam to get information about Islam. The group of children also finalized the details for the booth with help from their parents.
At the end of the presentation, the teacher announced to the children that they got honor points because they had the best booth! Congratulations to all of them! Definitely, events like this one about educating others about Islamic culture is one of the many activities that are shaping the image of Islam among the people of Latin America.
The Centro Islamico del Ecuador
The Centro Islamico del Ecuador, aka Masjid Assalaam, is a non-profit organization founded by the Grace and Mercy of ALLAH SWT on October 15, 1994. This is the first Muslim religious organization credited as such by the Ecuadorian Government. The religious activities, as well as social, cultural and educational are conducted according to Muslim Sunni traditions. This center is organized into various committees to meet the needs of Muslims and receives no financial support from any foreign country.
Shaikh Yahya Suquillo, Imam
Considerations When Translating Islamic Texts into Spanish
By Shafiq (Juan) Alvarado
Brief History of Spanish
The Spanish language has a fascinating history. Having evolved in the Iberian Peninsula, Spanish is now spoken by an estimated 332 million people in about 20 countries and within many other countries. Because very many people in many countries speak it, Spanish was chosen as one of the representative languages of the United Nations. Another result is a natural variation has evolved in all of the countries and regions. For example, Spanish words, slang, and dialect may vary within a particular country or region.
Spanish evolved out of 'vulgar Latin' or the Latin spoken by the masses in the Roman province of Hispania. Arabic then influenced this language for some 800 years. Two major dialects existed in Spain: Castilian and Andalusian. Castilian Spanish was generally used for administrative purposes, and the general population more commonly used Andalusian Spanish. In the Middle Ages, Castilian was considered the 'high' or elitist version of Spanish, hence, much of our attitudes towards Castilian today. Much of the Spanish spoken in Latin American descends from Andalusian Spanish, however.
Spanish is spoken as an official language in the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Additionally, Spanish is widely spoken in Andorra, Belize, Brazil, Canada, France, Gibraltar, Morocco, the Philippines, and the United States. In the 1990s, within the United States alone, more than an estimated 17 million people spoke Spanish at home. This number is greater than the population of some countries that Latinos may come from.
A related language to Spanish was the Aljamiado, or Ajami, language. This language had a big influence on Spanish. Ajami comes from the Arabic word "Ajam" meaning ugly or barbarous. The language is also known as Mozarabic. In Spanish, Mozarabe comes from the Arabic word "Musta'rib," which means to become Arabized. Mozarabic was a full-fledged language that was spoken by about 2 million people at around the time of 1000 CE - a large population for the Middle Ages. It would unfair to characterize it as a patois. Mozarabic was very important in the life of the Moriscos, who were the Muslims after the fall of Andalusia. The language was an archaic form of Spanish highly influenced by Arabic words and grammar. Written in Arabic letters, Mozarabic had many more Arabic words than modern Spanish does. For more information about Mozarabic visit: http://www.alsintl.com/languages/spanish.htm.
Special Features of the Spanish language
What is special and unique about the 'language of Cervantes'? Written in the Latin alphabet, the Spanish alphabet is almost exactly like the English alphabet. However, Spanish uses some characters differently than other languages. Because of common transliteration mistakes when translating into Spanish, this article focuses on pronunciation of Spanish words rather than on Spanish vocabulary and grammar.
1. There is no exact English equivalent to the Spanish letter "J." In Latin American Spanish, the J sounds like the strong English H sound in the word "happy." In Castilian Spanish, the J is even harsher, sounding like the Arabic "Kha" (خ) than an "H" sound. For example, 'Juan' sounds like "Huan" in Latin American Spanish but like "Khuan" in Castilian Spanish.
2. Other odd Spanish letters are the double "L" (LL) sound. When doubled, the L has an idiosyncratic Y sound. For example, 'pollo' sounds like "poyo." Some Latin American dialects even go so far as to make the LL sound like an English J, Sh, or Zh. (as in the word "measure").
3. Another double letter combination is the "RR" sound. The normal R in Spanish is slightly trilled - the RR is an elongated trill or rolling of the R sound on the upper palate. It is one of the sounds that many folks find funny about Spanish. For example, 'guitarra' sounds like "guitarrrra." If you are old enough, you might remember the "R-r-r-r-ruffles have r-r-r-r-r-ridges" commercials. This is the sound you are trying to make.
4. The next distinctive letter I will mention is the "H." Basically, the H is a silent letter. It has no sound wherever it is placed. An example would be 'hola' or 'hielo', which would sound like "ola" and "yellow" respectively. Some Spanish dialects have a brief aspiration as though reminiscent of the H sound in another language.
5. One of the Spanish language's most distinctive letters is the "Ñ." This letter sounds like the first N in 'onion.' For example, 'señorita' sound like "senyorita." It is thought that it came into being as a sort of shorthand for the double N (nn) sound in Spanish, which no longer exists. Scribes began using the tilde (which vaguely looks like an N too) for those words that were written with two N letters. The tilde (~) itself is thought to have been borrowed from the Arabic language.
6. The Spanish "C" has two possible sounds, just like in English. It can sound like an S or K as in "cent" or "cat," respectively. However, unlike English, very strict rules exist about when the Spanish C sounds like an S or a K. If the C precedes an E or I, the C will have an S sound; otherwise, it will have a K sound. The word "cocina" has both types of C's in it. The first C makes the K sound, and the second C makes the S sound.
7. The Spanish "G" follows the similar rules that were previously mentioned with regards to preceding letters. If the G comes before an E or an I, the G will have an H sound; otherwise, it will have its normal G sound. For example, either it will sound like the English H sound as in the Spanish word "general," or like the hard English G sound like the Spanish word "gato."
8. The Spanish "V" is very short and quick. It almost sounds like the English B in "bed." It is never drawn out like the English word "very." It can almost be pronounced interchangeably with the letter B. For example, the name 'Victor' will sound like "Bictor" to the non-Spanish speaker.
9. The Spanish "Z" is pronounced as an S in Latin America. Thus, 'azul' is pronounced like "assule." In Spain, the Z is pronounced like the English Th sound in "this." Hence, 'azul' in Spain would sound like "ath-ule". For our own purpose, when an Arabic word is transliterated into Spanish letters, the Z is supposed to make the Th sound from Spain.
10. The vowels in Spanish are "A, E, I, O, U" just as in English. The A is pronounced as in the English "father." The E sounds like "elephant." The I in ir sounds like "ear." The O sound is as in the word "old." The U sound is like the "oo" sound of "moon." In addition to this, the vowels can be accented (á, é, í, ó, ú) in some words, making the accented vowel louder than the other letters.
Brief History of Arabic
Arabic has a history stretching back thousands of years. The language is thought to be derived from Nabataean, which in turn came from Phoenician. Arabic is a Semitic language that is classified in the Afro-Asiatic group of languages. It is related to other ancient languages such as Hebrew, Aramaic, and Syriac among many others. Typical of other Semitic languages, Arabic is also written with a script from right to left. It has a cursive script, which calligraphers take great pride in making beautiful. Its alphabet has 28 letters.
Approximately 225 million people speak Arabic as their native language. In addition, it is also the liturgical language of over 1 billion Muslims worldwide. Because of its importance to the modern world, Arabic has also been made one of the official languages of the UN. Arabic is the main language of about 23 countries, and it has native speakers in many other countries. The following are among the countries where Arabic is spoken: Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Malta, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Palestinian territories, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, the UAE, and Yemen. Countries with significant Arabic-speaking populations are: Afghanistan, Chad, Cyprus, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.
There are over 30 different dialects of Arabic. Indeed, some dialects are not mutually intelligible. For instance, an Algerian and an Iraqi would not necessarily understand each other even though they technically speak the same language. The difference can be as much as Spanish and Portuguese. In fact, variations occur even within an Arabic-speaking country. There are two main types of Arabic.
The "Modern Standard Arabic" is a standard that is taught in schools. Called Fus-ha (or the eloquent language) by Arabs, the Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) is used in television, in newspapers, for lectures, speeches, etc. Sometimes referred to as Fus-ha, "Classical Arabic" is the language of the Qu'ran. Classical Arabic was originally the dialect of Mecca in present-day Saudi Arabia. Classical Arabic is important to students of religion, especially those handling older manuscripts. The main difference between the two standards is in style and vocabulary.
The other known varieties of Arabic are classified as "Colloquial Arabic," which includes the many regional dialects resulting from Classical Arabic. This category includes the Egyptian (made popular by Egyptian films and television), Maghrebi (spoken in Morocco and other North African countries), Sudanese, Levantine (spoken by the Lebanese, Syrians, and Palestinians), and Najdi (spoken in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Jordan, and Syria). The Maltese language (spoken on the island of Malta) is not an Arabic dialect. Maltese is written in the Latin alphabet from left to right. Although derived primarily from Maghrebi Arabic, the Maltese language is also heavily influenced by Italian and other languages.
One of the unique features of Arabic is that most words are made up of trilateral roots, or three-letter roots. However, quadrilateral roots, or four-letter roots, also exist. The addition of prefixes and suffixes generally make up new words. Because of this, one can gauge what the word might mean. For example, K-T-B has to do with writing. Words derived from K-T-B include Kitab (book), Maktab (library and/or office - a place where writing takes place), Kataba (he wrote), etc. Islam, Muslim, and salaam are derived from S-L-M.
As mentioned before, Arabic is written in a cursive handwriting from right to left. Europeans imitated the cursive style of Arabic, which is where we get our script in the West. Arabic has an alphabet of 28 letters with various diacritical marks. The shape of Arabic letters change depending on their position in the word, whether the letter is isolated or in the beginning, middle, or at the end of the word. (Refer to Chart I).
Translation of Islamic Texts
Because it is a universal religion, Islam has appealed to many people. Because of this interest, information about Islam has been translated into diverse languages for the various people around the world. Islamic history is replete with a history of a continuum of translations. The translations were going both ways - into Arabic and into other languages. The translation of Islamic texts into Spanish goes back hundreds of years. However, the translations into Spanish were usually of a polemic and hostile nature, generally against Islam although a few notable exceptions might exist.
Importance of the Continued Translation of Islamic Texts into Spanish
Spanish Islamic information is very important, because translated literature serves as a vehicle to Islam. Indeed, this should be the more important reason to do so. As Muslims, we have a duty to spread the religion of God to all people, fisabilillah. In the Quran 4:015, Allah (SWT) states in part (Yusuf Ali translation), "Now then, for that (reason), call (them to the Faith), and stand steadfast as thou art commanded, nor follow thou their vain desires..." Currently, there are as many Spanish-speakers as English-speakers in the world. Furthermore, Spanish is the second most spoken language in the United States. Therefore, we have much work to do.
If as much Islamic information in Spanish existed as in English, we would have gained many more Spanish-speaking Muslims. We would also have more educated Spanish-speaking Muslims, because most Spanish Islamic literature available is very basic. Translating Arabic into Spanish encourages a fair and balanced view about Islam, particularly in the media. Obviously, non-Muslims are not necessarily interested in making Islam an alternative in people's lives. Rather, many have a vested interest in making Islam look bad.
How to Translate Texts Into Spanish
In today's computer age, computer software and Internet websites can easily and inexpensively translate long documents into other languages. Among the most popular websites used for online translations, include babelfish.altavista.com and google.com/language_tools. The downside is that the translations are usually full of errors. The reasons are varied. The website or computer program may not be familiar with a word that needs to be translated. Hence, the word will remain untouched. Words with dual meanings may result in odd sentences. For example, the English word "spirit" is always translated as 'alcohol' in Spanish rather than 'espíritu.' Therefore, you should recognize that these programs have their limitations and are not perfect. You will have to reread the translated material to edit for word choice, grammar, etc. Some programs will simply translate the words but will not arrange the words into a working or readable sentence. For example, "the little dog" should be translated as 'el pero chiquito' rather than as 'el chiquito pero.' In addition, chances are that you may come across archaic terms.
This brings us to the choice of words. Because Spanish has been taken to diverse places, it has come to have many dialects. The definition of a Spanish word in one dialect can have a different meaning in another. English-to-Spanish dictionaries, such as wordreference.com, can be found online. Like the English language, different words can be used to convey the same meaning in the Spanish language. To compound the problem of getting the message of Islam across, many Hispanics may not have much schooling. People have different levels of education. Some words are more common than others. As a general rule, it is easiest and best to just keep it simple by avoiding flowery or grandiose language as this may lose your reader or listener in the translation. It is to his/her benefit to read or hear something understandable. The goal is to make a translation understandable to the largest number of Spanish speakers without sacrificing the beauty of the original work.
Romanization or Latinization
Romanization, or latinization, is an approach for representing a language with the Roman (Latin) alphabet. Spanish and English both use the Roman (Latin) alphabet. Generally, the language that is romanized cannot be expressed with Latin characters. For example, Arabic script is often represented by the Latin alphabet. Romanization of Arabic words allows English and Spanish speakers who are unfamiliar with Arabic script to pronounce Arabic words. Methods of romanization include transliteration and transcription.
Transliteration and Transcription
Transliteration is a formal method of replacing the letters in an alphabet of one language with the letters of another language. Consequently, if the source language contains 30 letters in its alphabet, the corresponding transliteration language will also contain 30 letters. For example, Arabic letters can be transliterated into Roman letters. It is usually used within scholarly material. Transliterations are used primarily by linguists, such as in academic research.
With regards to transliteration, certain standards are produced to make sure that all letters are sounded out the accurate way. For example, Arabic speakers would frown on using a "D" for the letters "daal" and "Dod." Similarly, they would frown on the use of "S" for seen and Sod. The two have distinct sounds to the Arabic speaker even though they may not to the English or Spanish speaker. Hence, standards in transliteration have been made. These standards include letters that are not normally used in the Roman (Latin) alphabet. There are many English standards for transliterating the Arabic language. One of the more influential is the "Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft" transliteration, which was adopted by the International Convention of Orientalist Scholars in Rome. It is the basis for the Hans Wehr dictionary. There is actually a Spanish standard produced by F. Corriente, Catedrático (university professor) for Arabic and Islamic Studies at the University of Madrid. The Spanish Arabists School (SAS) standard is another popular Spanish transliteration standard. Other Spanish transliteration standards for Arabic may also exist.
Transcription is more liberal in that it is concerned solely with pronunciation, more specifically, with how a foreign word sounds in a native language. The two most popular formal transcription standards are the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) followed by the SAMPA standard. However, other formal and informal transcription methods are commonly used to transcribe one language into the alphabet of another language. Consequently, transcriptions are most often used in writing intended for the general public, such as in newspapers and magazines.
Both transliteration and transcription are often used interchangeably, because most transliterated letters are pronounced similarly to the source language. Consequently, both are essentially used for the same purpose. For our own purposes, the two terms are used interchangeably throughout this article. Another way of understanding transliterations and transcriptions is to replace the sound of one language with the letters or commonalities of another language. An example would be for the common phrase: Se habla Español. In English, the phrase can be transcribed, or replaced by, "Say obla Espanyol." Similarly, other languages are transcribed with the letters and sounds of another language. In English, for example, we may see such common Arabic terms transcribed as such: salaam or salam (Arabic: سلام), dawa, dawa´, dawa´a, or dawah (Arabic: دعوة). Unfortunately, this may bring confusion to translations. To transcribe or transliterate Arabic into Spanish also brings such challenges. For example, although the most accurate way to transcribe the Arabic word for Muslim into English and Spanish is "Muslim", "Musulmaan" is most often used to mean "Muslim" not only in Spanish but also in Urdu, Hindi, and Russian. (Refer to Chart I).
Because Spanish has some idiosyncratic letter sounds, it might be a good idea to take note of how odd some English words might sound (and look) in Spanish. "Allah" looks and sounds like the Spanish word "allá" meaning 'over there.' The accepted word in Spanish "Alá" looks like "ala" which means 'wing.' "Imán" (the Spanish word for Imam) looks and sounds like the word that means "magnet." Some alternatives could be to write Allah as "Al-láh," Muhammad as "Mujammad" and "Imém" for Imam. If you are interested in transliteration, just make sure to remember the unique sounds of the following letters: h, j, ll, ñ, i, and rr. Some possible alternatives are to use the 'y' for the letter 'j.' And, always remember to use accents where they belong: á, é, í, ó, ú.
One of the last things I would like to touch on is to always remember to keep things simple. Remember to always define Islamic concepts and terms. Do not assume that your readers will know what you are talking about. Even common terms will not necessarily make sense to non-Muslims - make sure you define them. Some common terms that Muslims use that are rarely defined can be found in Chart II.
Reinventing the Wheel
When you come across Islamic terminology that is difficult to translate, chances are that there already exists a Spanish word for the Arabic terminology. On the other hand, be careful not to use words that are offensive or that can inaccurately portray Islam. Some common Arabic words that have come into Spanish that you might be aware of or that you can use are:
Other Spanish words that have come to us by way of Arabic are:
Some Spanish words are offensive, or at the very least, portray Islam inaccurately: Chart II shows acceptable transcription for various Arabic words into the Spanish language.
The Spanish-speaking world can use as much dawah material as possible and may Allah reward all those that try. We have to remember, however, that the Spanish language has an idiosyncratic use of letters. Many times, we are tempted to use the English transcription of an Arabic word in Spanish but this may produce a different word altogether. With a bit of study and some effort, we can overcome such difficulties. Remember, Islam is not new to the Spanish language. In fact, Islam helped develop the language.
Chart I: Transcription of Arabic letters
Chart II: Transcription of common Arabic words into English and Spanish.
Latina Iftar in Houston, Texas
By Susy Tekunan
Two reporters of VOA Indonesia met with LADO sisters on October 7, 2005. It was during Ramadhan, and the sisters were having an Iftar Dinner at one of the sister's house. We conducted an interview with some members but mostly with Zulayka Martinez who we think could represent the group with her story as the only Muslim in her family.
Before the day of this event, we visited with brother Mujahid and his family at his residence to speak with him about how his life changed after he became a Muslim. Mujahid, his wife, and his father are all Columbian-American converts to Islam. Based on the interviews and footage, we produced a story about the growing number of Latino Muslims in the United States.
The website address for VOA Indonesia is http://www.voanews.com/indonesian.