Oct - Dec 2005, Other

A Latina’s Experience in Seattle

By Maria Enriqueta Romero

Asalaam alaikum,

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.