Alhamdulilla. Gracias A Dios.
By Juan Galvan
The Message International
I grew up in the Texas Panhandle. I spent over half my life in two small towns, Turkey and Quitaque. Turkey was named after Turkey Creek. Quitaque was named after an Indian name, which means “horse manure.” I sometimes joke that I am uncultured as a result. The population of both towns is less than 600 and shrinking. In 1972, the Turkey and Quitaque schools consolidated creating Valley School halfway between the two towns. I attended Valley School and have fond memories of life as a Valley Patriot. Of course, our school colors were red, white, and blue. A brother once chuckled after hearing me say, “If I can become Muslim, anyone can become Muslim.”
All Muslim converts have had experiences that brought them closer to Islam. After seeing a Latino Muslim praying salat, I became increasingly interested in Islam. I wondered, “What’s this Latino doing praying to Allah?” I was also amazed to learn about the historical presence of Islam in Spain. From these various experiences came my desire to learn more about Islam. I remember telling an African American Muslim, “Why do you worship Allah? There’s no Allah mentioned in the Bible?” His response was very enlightening. Allah, God, and Dios mean ‘God’ in different languages.
Another African American Muslim gave me several Islamic brochures with titles such as “Concept of God in Islam,” “Concept of Worship in Islam,” and “Who was Jesus (pbuh)?” The last page of each brochure said “Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).” Although I wouldn’t embrace Islam for another three years, I still have those brochures along with comments from a Quran I had borrowed. These simple acts were the greatest gifts I could ever receive, and I wish I could thank them all. I wish I could tell them all that I’ve embraced Islam. Meeting all those Muslims were a part of a series of events that brought me to where I am today.
This was before ICNA initiated the 877-WHY-ISLAM project. This wonderful project has been an excellent resource for non-Muslims and Muslims. The toll free line and website has made Islam assessable to all Americans. Free brochures are only a click away. More WHY-ISLAM billboards and booths are also popping up across the country. Acknowledging the growth of the Spanish-speaking community, the WHY-ISLAM toll free line now provides a Spanish-speaking associate. Latino Muslims also appreciate the selection of Spanish Islamic brochures offered on its website. The WHY-ISLAM website, www.whyislam.org, is currently being translated into Spanish. The book “Towards Understanding Islam” by Syed Abu-A’la Maududi has been translated into Spanish and is now being distributed free to Latinos. There is a dire need for such Spanish books in order to enable Spanish-speakers to gain greater levels of knowledge.
Last year, “The Message International” magazine published a special issue for Latino Muslims in order to reach out to this growing community. “The Message International” is the bi-monthly magazine of Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA). It is a great tool for anyone interested in learning about Islam and Muslims. Over five thousand copies of the Latino Muslims issue were distributed free to various Latino Muslims, non-Latino Muslims, mosques, and organizations. The Message is an apt suitable title for a magazine that is well suited for the task of calling all humanity to divine guidance. I have received much encouraging feedback about this special issue for Latino Muslims. One Canadian Muslim stated that she plans to use this issue as a basis for her mosque’s local outreach effort to Latinos. Many Latino Muslims are planning on getting more involved with the Muslim community. Latino Muslims were impressed with the contents of the magazine. They anxiously gave away copies to family and friends. The conversion stories were positive reinforcement; reminding them of the reasons they came to Islam. All the articles provided hope, insight, and encouragement. The issue was distributed at the annual Chicago Latino Muslims Eid-Al-Adha festival. One of the non-Muslim Latinos who received a copy has since read the magazine three times! Certainly, the magazine has touched the hearts of many Muslims and non-Muslims, Latino and non-Latino.
InshaAllah, one day I will speak at the Valley School to tell them that I am now a Muslim and how Islam has made me a better person. I would like to dedicate this issue to all the Muslims who have never been recognized for their efforts on behalf of the Ummah in the United States. This would include Muslims, such as Golam Chowdhury, who was born in Bangladesh. Although he has many commitments to the Austin Muslim community, he found the time to teach me how to perform salat. I am happy to have an opportunity to present the second Latino Muslims issue of The Message International.