Latin America

April - June 2012, Mexico

An Islamic Expedition to Mexico

By Sadeel Allam

June 26, 2013


Can you picture 115,296,797 persons? Now, out of that amount, 3,700, according to a 2010 census by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography are Muslim, with a one third concentrated in Mexico City. Over the past 10 years in the conflicted area of Chiapas, reside approximately 300 native people, some which are from the ancient Mayan civilization that don’t speak Spanish, but have reverted to Islam.

This is where the heart of the journey begins for Nahela Morales, a Mexican American Muslim who has taken it upon herself to carry through a project that aids and builds a bridge for people around the world to needed Muslim communities throughout Mexico. An expedition that initiated today with her travel to Mexico along with 11 full bags of donated clothing such as scarves, overgarments, and other items from people around the U.S.

It was during the revert’s panel at the ICNA Convention in May 2013, that I met Nahela Morales. She is part of WHY ISLAM? and was holding a panel of stories by reverted Muslims. After the panel, I followed her to a video recording session about more stories on reverts and it was in the waiting area that I heard her story and what she was preparing to embark on. During 2011 while vacationing in Mexico, Nahela Morales was looking for a mosque to pray the Friday prayer, but had a very hard time finding one. It was on this trip that her initiative to help the much needed Mexican Muslim community in Mexico awakened. After meeting with community organizers and leaders like Isa Rojas, a Mexican national who studied Islamic Law in Saudi Arabia and leads various Mexican Muslim communities and before departing from Mexico, Nahela Morales vowed to return in a year with donated items and $500 dollars. A year later and a month before her take-off to Mexico, she found herself in a bit of frustration due to the lack of support including from recognized Muslim leaders in the U.S. who literally turned her down. It was also during the ICNA time while Nahela Morales was in the elevator making a supplication where things changed around. After putting her son to bed and heading to the hotel lobby to get coffee, she gets off the elevator and sees Muslim leader Nouman Ali Khan. Nervously and courageously, Nahela Morales told him about her initiative. He didn’t just offered monetary aid in a tripled amount to what she had already raised, which surpassed the initial $500 goal, but himself and his wife’s presence as well. Interesting enough, the Islamic leader that turned her down came up and joined them at that same moment, which he then also agreed to help.

mexico2013cNahela Morales and her strongly belief in this initiative is something very close to heart, because it is not only about helping out the neighbor as Islamic scriptures asks Muslims to do, but aiding people in the most of their basic needs. A need that is not seen, lived nor even smelled for many people who live in America or even heard of. The need of essential clothing, food and housing in addition to support new Muslim communities with knowledge and everyday faith struggles. Nahela Morales tells a story of her while in her 2011 vacation in Mexico on how she stood up the whole night sharing her knowledge about women issues with a group of eager learning Mexican Muslim women. The need is clear at all levels and should not be understated nor should our responsibility to comply. It doesn’t stop there for Nahela Morales. She has another goal in mind when she travels to Chiapas.

mexico2013aHer goal is to rebuild the mosque that has sheets as dividers and exposed wood and brick walls with the money she has received in donations for the Muslim community that reside in Chiapas. Islamic leader Nouman Ali Khan along side his wife will be accompanying Nahela Morales and others on this building project and to Chiapas too. Nahela Morales also counts with the support of WHY ISLAM? This will be also the first time for Nahela Morales to travel to the southern region of Mexico in a state that has been know for continuous warfare between Mexico and Zapatistas since the early 1990’s. All in the exact one year as she vowed by the grace and permission of Allah(God), The All Mighty and All Merciful.

Nahela Morales and friends will be traveling throughout Mexico to different communities in different states throughout Mexico during a month to give their collected donations along with their support. The expedition may be followed through Facebook page Unidos Para El Dawah En Mexico(United For The Dawah In Mexico). Nahela Morales advised pictures will be continuously posted as they travel and stop at their travel points. We asked Nahela Morales what is one way for the everyone to help and she responded that by joining her in her initiative.

Jan - Mar 2012, Latin America

Two Spanish-Language Islamic TV Channels to Broadcast in Spain & Latin America




A new Islamic TV channel in the Spanish language starts broadcasting today in Spain with a second Islamic station following a week later.

Hispan TV will be available in Spain and Latin America starting today. The station has Iranian backing. Following closely on its heels on 01 January 2012, the Saudi-backed Cordoba Television station will be launched, o.wned by the Foundation for the Message of Islam.

Headlines on HispanTV’s website, live for a year ahead of the broadcast launch, covered a range of world stories including alleged US spying in Iran, the IMF and the economic crisis, and Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez.

Trailers for forthcoming documentaries on the channel included subjects such as the suffering of Palestinian civilians in Gaza. The channel will also broadcast television dramas and films.

“HispanTV is born with a great social vocation, aiming principally to build bridges of understanding between the people of Iran, Latin America and the Middle East by broadcasting content often ignored by other media,” the channel said in a statement.

The Foundation behind the Saudi-backed station is headed by Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Fazwan. The foundation also runs the Ikhtariya stations in Saudi Arabia and Al Majd in the UAE. The Cordoba station will address millions of Hispanic Muslims and non-Muslims around the world.

Sheik Fawzan said that the new channel will be centered in Spain but broadcast to the millions of Spanish speakers in the Americas, Africa as well as Spain

These two stations are the first full-scale Spanish-language Islamic TV stations in the world.


“Islamic TV in Spanish language to launch on 21 December” Telecom December 21, 2011

“Iran launches news channel in Spanish” Khaleej Times December 21, 2011

Jan - Mar 2012, Latin America, Muslim converts

Fighting Stereotypes about Latina Converts to Islam

November 19, 2009


1. I didn’t convert for a man. Don’t insult my intelligence.

2. I didn’t convert in order to wear longer clothes and hijab to protect myself from men. * Some men will be pervs and harass you even if you wear full face niqaab. I’m working on wearing more modest clothes for Allah * swt * & out of respect for myself.

3. Oh yeaaa the majority of Latinas don’t go around in revealing clothes like mini skirts, tube tops, etc all the freaking time. We are dayum sexy in whatever we choose to wear: freakum dress or abaya! Respect for women regardless of their clothes / appearance is something the entire world needs to work on.

4. Not all Latinos are Catholics / Christians. There is a significant Latin Muslim community in countries like Venezuela and Argentina for example.

5. I’m not giving up dancing completely. Dancing with non-mahrams is haram obviously and I won’t do that anymore. On that topic, I will bust a move when I
hear a classic like “La bilirrubina.”

6. This one’s my fav: when people ask me “On a scale of 0-100, what are the chances that you come back to the church?” My answer: 0!

7. We don’t all see foreign born Muslims (from Islamic majority nations) men to be more appealing for marriage than a Latin Muslim man. My opinion is that the preference is on the man’s deen & character.

8. We don’t give up the empanadas, pastel de tres leches, and tamales upon conversion and in return for ya’ll’s biryani & falafel. We admire & like your cuisine. We just make our mother’s recipes with halaal ingredients now. No pork & wine Ok?

9. My children will speak Spanish 1st. They will call their parents “Mami & Papi” not “Ammi & baba” lol.

10. My brothers are NOT IN GANGS! Nobody in my family is involved with gangs. & btw, any family can have a black sheep … even if it’s a Muslim family … what a surprise. * rolls eyes *
Somebody seriously said she was concerned abt how my family is because she had met only one lady from my Latin American country & her brother was killed in gang related stuff.

My point with all this is, I want to educate the Islamic community about having tolerance for others! Diversity is good 🙂 Sadly, racism exists amongst our ummah (I’ve had my share of muslims giving me the cold shoulder). I came to Islam because of the equality I read about in the Qur’an. I’m a Muslim for my creator. I want to be a better Muslim to serve Allah * swt * and also to put a smile on the face of my brothers & sisters in this life.

April - June 2010, Islam, Latin America

FIU Hosts Conference on Islam in Latin America


March 17, 2010

Florida International University (FIU)

The Middle East Studies Program in FIU’s School of International and Public Affairs is organizing a one day conference on Islam in Latin America. The event will take place on Friday, March 26, 2010 at 10:30 a.m. in the MARC International Pavilion on FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique Campus.

Leading scholars from Latin America will join FIU scholars to discuss the presence of Islam and Muslims in Latin America, their impact on and integration into Latin American societies, and their historical and contemporary ties to the Middle East and the larger Muslim world.

This group includes Dr. Camila Pastor from the Centro de Investigacion y Docencia Economicas (CIDE) in Mexico; Dr. Paulo Hilu Pinto from Universidade Federal Fluminese in Brazil; Dr. Luis Mesa del Monte from El Colegio de Mexico in Mexico City; and Dr. Jonathan Friedlander from UCLA. In addition, this respected group will be joined by FIU scholars whose research focuses on Islam and its historical and contemporary impact on global society. This group will include Dr. Mohiaddin Mesbahi, Director of the Middle East Studies Program and associate professor in FIU’s Department of Politics and International Relations; Dr. Maria Mar Logrono, assistant professor in FIU’s Department of History; and others from the Departments of Religious Studies and Politics and International Relations.

The event is free and open to the public. For more information, contact Francesco Ortoleva at 305-348-1792.

Co-sponsored by the Latin American and Caribbean Center.

Related links:

Islam in Latin America, FIU Research Project

Latin American and Caribbean Center, FIU

Middle East Studies Program, FIU

Jan - Mar 2009, Latin America

The International University in Latin America

From UIAL.org


UIAL Mission

One of the main characteristics of the era in which we live in today is that ordinary people in addition to world wide scholarly and cultural institutions have become interconnected due to what is known as the era of communication and globalization. These connections have been made possible by the tremendous capabilities of modern technology, in ways that no human being could have ever dreamt of a few decades ago.

It is evident that one of the benefits of these connections is that they give us the opportunity to become better acquainted with each other’s ideas as well as help us understand the characteristics, ideas, ideologies and civilizations of others. In turn this should help alleviate the conflict and tension that afflicts our world today; and has engulfed some parts of the world in disasters which resulted in misery and suffering all over the world. Moreover, The concept of mutual influence between civilizations and cultures is an ideological issue that man has engaged in since he first developed a sense of historical relevance.

The issue of globalization, which first appeared at the end of the nineteenth century, has now taken on new dimensions. as result of the events of September 11, 2001. This event shifted the debate about mutual influence between civilizations to the clash between them from an ideological issue to a real life one.

The whole world – including all ideologies has experienced the global earthquake that was triggered by the events of that day. One of the basic lessons that these events revealed is that it is imperative to have a deep and all-inclusive understanding of civilizations and cultures. For this understanding of civilization and culture to materialize, it has to be developed within an educational matrix that comprehensively covers the subject of understanding, namely civilization and culture; the tools of expression, namely languages; and the technological element embodied in the means of communication and mass media. This was the inspiring moment and motivation behind the establishment of the International University. The teaching process in the university is shouldered by professors who are open-minded, far-sighted and have sincere devotion to create scholarly, cultural, and civilizational bonds between nations and people in a way that serves humanity and mitigate some of the pain, suffering, and injustice that have befallen our world as a result of ignorance, intolerance, and mistaken judgments of others’ beliefs.

This reflects the great importance of this project whose main goal is to be an enlightening revival within a framework of human relationships governed by justice, objectivity, and respect for privacy.

It is hoped that the university will assume such a dynamic role through benefiting from the tremendous technological achievements to which Allah, the Almighty, guided the human mind to discover and utilize in the service of noble objectives. Being a beacon of academic revitalization in today’s world, the International University in Latin America is looking forward to getting the support of other educational and official institutions.

Why Latin America?

Today we read or hear of schools and universities on the two continents o f Australia and the Americas contributing substantially to the preservation of the Eastern identity and its uniqueness. However, despite the importance of Latin America, it has not yet achieved its required share of attention regarding this issue because it has not addressed it effectively.

The importance of Latin America establishing effective cultural institutions will accomplish a number of strategic and valuable goals. First, on a cultural level it will provide an avenue to recapture through research, teach and disseminate the rich heritage to 2 million Arabs and Muslims who are unaware or lack authentic information about their own heritage.

The second point is that any institution which concentrates on higher education must develop a curriculum that include academic and cultural seminars. These seminars will enable the institutions to act as an ambassador on behalf of the Arab and Muslim culture to Latin America countries. (It should be noted that a skilled university professor plays an important role in dissemination of important information related to scientific, historic and cultural aspects of the Arab and Islamic societies. This role helps introduce and give people and decision making institutions information and issues pertaining to the Arab and Islamic Nations.

In addition it must be noted that the majority of the Spanish speaking people of the world know nothing about Arabic and Islamic culture; and if they do it might be a biased or distorted image. They are not aware of the Arabic and Islamic influence on their own culture.

It is important to note that it is equally important to utilize academic institutions to create warm relationships with people and governments of Latin American countries. This will have an impact on economic relationships because the universities will become a channel for energizing socio-economic relationships between Arab and Muslim countries and Latin America. Two reasons make this especially true:
1st. Latin America is considered a first rate commercial continent.
2nd. The Arab and Muslim communities in these countries have developed their own economic/business activities that can eventually open cross cultural communication.

Thus our decision to establish the main center of learning in the Republic o f Panama was due to its strategic location in between Central and South America; and its dynamic Arab and Muslim community with its unique economic and social status.

The International University seeks assistants from all governmental and nongovernmental institutions to accomplish the goal of maintaining the rights of Arabs and Muslims and establish peace for all humanity.

The Beginning

Establishment of the International University (UIAL)

The International University in Latin America is an independent institution of learning that was established in the Republic of Panama’s second largest city, Colo?n in the year 2003 (law number 32 in 1927).

UIAL enjoys the official recognition and licensing of the Government of Panama Republic for all its academic, educational and scientific activities, inside and outside the Republic of Panama.

All UIAL study programs are scientifically and academically accredited by the Ministry of Higher Education of the Republic of Panama.

Now, new UIAL branch campuses are being established in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, and Qatar.

Aims and Goals

UIAL seeks to achieve a number of goals:

* To build bridges of civilized, positive interaction between the Arab Islamic culture and other cultures and civilizations, and to accentuate the role of the Arab, Islamic culture in the march towards human advancement.
* To develop knowledge in the different walks and to stress the importance of adopting the methodology of academic thinking and paying attention to the academic and cultural structure of students.
* To contribute towards the development of the educational process and making the best use of the tremendous riches in the world of information technology and telecommunication.
* To pay attention to the development of the academic skills and talents of the university student by means of research and training programs as well as university activities.
* To create a link between the program of study and social issues by writing papers related to issues that are important to societies.
* To co-ordinate and co-operate with other universities and academic and cultural organizations and institutions.

Privileges of Study at UIAL

Study at UIAL offers a unique opportunity for attaining distinctive academic and scientific knowledge, therefore, UIAL gives great care for realizing the following points:

* Study programs are flexible to suit circumstances of all students, without being tied up to hard rules and stiff schedules that curb their gearing capabilities, as is the case with the traditional educational institutions.
* Providing a highly qualified staff of faculty members who supervise students and follow up their study plans and academic attainments.
* Ensuring constant updating and developing curricula to keep in pace with the high speed of the e-learning.
* Providing knowledge in a way that suits all needs of all students, regardless of their home countries or residency, whether inside or outside Latin America, because the focus is on the necessary and qualitative aspects of learning.
* Providing a highly professional cadre of administrators who constantly are in touch with the teaching staff to make the educational process effective, fruitful and benefiting to all students.
* Affordability of tuition fees for all incomes of students, which makes highly standardized education available and accessible to most students all over the world.

A unique privilege of providing UIAL students with recommendation letters:

Graduated UIAL students get a referential code number of a recommendation letter that would be addressed to any institution that requires it directly from UIAL via international mail to that institution, in case the student needs it for getting a job or a position there. This kind of service is intended as a means of constant support that links UIAL with its students even in their careers and beyond graduation.

Other unique privileges:

* Students at final year of high school could join UIAL and present their diploma within one year from registration with UIAL.
* Students who finished 75% of their university requirements could proceed to join higher studies, and present B.A. degree within one year.
* Students who wish to study in parallel to Al-Azhar University study program, could do so after passing some qualifying subjects in Islamic and Arabic sciences.
* Beside the university degrees’ program, UIAL provides an extramural study program, which offers students a free choice of one subject or more, without being tied up to the regular courses of studies. After passing successfully the required exam of this/these subject(s), the student is given a certificate showing that by UIAL.
No academic requirements are needed for this program.

Jan - Mar 2009, Latin America

La Universidad Internacional de América Latina

From UIAL.org


Misión de la UIAL

La comunicación entre las diferentes sociedades, entidades educativas y culturales, es una de las principales características que distinguen esta época, conocida como la era de las telecomunicaciones; gracias a los grandes avances técnicos y científicos a este nivel.

Es evidente que dentro de lo positivo que tiene la era de las telecomunicaciones, es que, nos permite saber y conocer más sobre los demás, comprender sus particularidades y sus aspiraciones intelectuales y culturales. Con toda la tecnología, se espera disminuir los conflictos y problemas por los que está pasando nuestro mundo hoy día, los cuales están acabando con todos los logros, convirtiendo algunas zonas en regiones conflictivas, que abrasan y queman todo, tanto lo verde como lo seco, donde nadie está a salvo de las consecuencias que acarrea esta situación.

La influencia mutua entre las civilizaciones y culturas es una de las cuestiones intelectuales que ha preocupado al ser humano desde que tiene conciencia de su historia. Este aspecto, junto a la globalización que empezó en los últimos lustros del siglo XX, ha tomado nuevos rumbos y dimensiones.

Luego, los lamentables acontecimientos del 11 de septiembre de 2001, se dio pie al cambio de discurso, en lugar de hablar de reciprocidad intercultural, se manejó el tema como el choque entre civilizaciones, lo que antes era materia intelectual, pasó a ser un asunto vital.

Sin embargo una de las lecciones esenciales que dejaron dichos acontecimientos, es la necesidad de generar un concepto cultural profundo de entendimiento civilizado y cultural, que abarque todas las formas del pensamiento, lejos de centrarse en una sola. Para lograrlo, es imprescindible que se enmarque dentro de un sistema educativo global, que utilice las vías comunicativas, como el idioma, además del elemento tecnológico que se encuentra a disposición en los medios de comunicación e información.

Todo lo anterior, fue el anuncio que señalaba que este era el momento preciso para la fundación de la Universidad Internacional de América Latina. La cual contaría con un grupo reconocido y selecto de docentes, concientes de la necesidad apremiante de ampliar los lazos de comunicación científica y cultural entre pueblos y naciones; para así, servir a la humanidad en la búsqueda de soluciones a los problemas que le aquejan y han generado tanto sufrimiento y dolor.

Lo anterior deja bastante claro la importancia de este proyecto, que como principal objetivo, busca ser el faro que ilumine el camino del entendimiento cultural en el marco de las relaciones humanas, que sean guiadas por la justicia, la igualdad, la objetividad y el respeto por las particularidades e individualidades de cada uno.

Por tanto, se espera que esta Universidad pueda cumplir su objetivo vital, aprovechando los extraordinarios avances de la tecnología moderna, que Al-lah (Dios), Altísimo sea, ha otorgado al ser humano para que los emplee en objetivos nobles. La Universidad Internacional de América Latina aspira tener apoyo de toda índole, de parte de todas las instituciones educativas, pedagógicas y oficiales con el fin de lograr sus objetivos.

¿Por qué Latinoamérica?

* Por ser una parte importante del mundo a ala cual se honró con la llegada de los mensajes celestiales, factor que motiva a la continuidad de la interrelación cultural, de la misma manera que se ha establecido con los demás países en el planeta.
* Porque ha sido un continente desconocido y olvidado en cuanto a la literatura que se ha traducido del árabe al idioma de sus habitantes, el español. Como tampoco se ha tenido en cuenta para el desarrollo de programas educativos y culturales. Esto se evidencia más, si comparamos esta realidad con la cantidad de libros o programas traducidos y desarrollados en otros idiomas y lugares del mundo.
* Porque existen más de trescientos millones de hispano parlantes que apenas si conocen algo sobre la cultura islámica y árabe. Es más, posiblemente la imagen que tienen del Islam por lo general es distorsionada y errónea.
* Porque hay en Latinoamérica más de dos millones de musulmanes y árabes que necesitan de organizaciones educativas que les ayuden a preservar sus particularidades e identidad cultural, en concordancia y equilibrio con la inserción en la sociedad donde residen.
* Porque es necesario hacer frente a todos aquellos que buscan globalizar su guerra cultural contra la cultura islámica y árabe, quienes a partir de los lamentables hechos del 11 de septiembre de 2001, se aprovechan de los sentimientos de la gente para sembrar, sin fundamentos, el odio y el rencor.
* Por la existencia de relaciones que han unido a las naciones de este continente con el mundo islámico y árabe, factor importante en el fortalecimiento de los lazos de amistad y la interacción cultural. Lo anterior le permite a las entidades educativas ser el instrumento que agilice dicha interacción.
* Por ser Panamá una nación que posee una situación geográfica estratégica, y un dinamismo económico único en la región, es puente entre América del Norte y Sudamérica, cuenta con su canal interoceánico, y alberga a una comunidad árabe-musulmana reconocida por su notoria condición económica y social.
* Por todas estas razones es que la UIAL adoptó a Latinoamérica como el punto de arranque para la continuación del acercamiento intercultural, ampliando la convivencia pacifica y positiva entre los diversos pueblos y gentes, a los que nos invita el Islam.

Fundación de la UIAL

* La Universidad Internacional de América latina es una institución educativa independiente. Se fundó en el año de 2003 según las leyes de la República de Panamá (Ley nº 32 / 1927). Su sede principal está ubicada en la Ciudad de Colón, República de Panamá.

* La UIAL cuenta con aprobación oficial para realizar sus actividades educativas dentro y fuera de la República de Panamá.

* Los programas educativos que ofrece la UIAL han sido aprobados por la Universidad de Panamá, entidad estatal encargada de todos los asuntos relacionados a la educación superior en la República.

* La UIAL tiene una oficina en la República Árabe de Egipto. En la actualidad se están creando otras sucursales y dependencias en los países de América Latina, España, EEUU y Oriente Medio.

Objetivos de la UIAL

Dentro de los objetivos de la UIAL podemos destacar:

* Crear puentes de interacción activa entre la civilización árabe-islámica y la occidental, destacando los aportes del Islam y la cultura árabe en el camino del progreso de la humanidad.
* Ampliar el saber en las diferentes ciencias, preocupándose por la formación científica y cultural de los estudiantes.
* Participar en el desarrollo de la educación y aprovechar los avances gigantescos en el mundo de la tecnología y de las telecomunicaciones.
* Participar en el desarrollo de la educación y aprovechar los avances gigantescos en el mundo de la tecnología y de las telecomunicaciones.
* Relacionar los programas de estudio con el acontecer diario de la sociedad.
* Colaborar con las demás entidades e instituciones universitarias, científicas y culturales.

Características del estudio en la UIAL

Estudiar en la UAIL es una oportunidad extraordinaria para lograr un nivel distinguido en la ciencia y en el conocimiento, en este contexto, la UAIL es aguda a:

* Presentar unos programas de estudio en la manera más flexible coherente con las necesidades del estudiante liberándole de las obligaciones rigurosas de horarios en las instituciones de la educación tradicional.
* La disponibilidad de un grupo de nivel alto escogido de profesores, que supervisan y siguen los estudiantes y su desarrollo, periódicamente.
* Aprovecharse de desarrollar y el progreso de la ciencia en renovar los métodos de estudio.
* Proporcionar el conocimiento en una manera adecuada con las necesidades de todos los estudiantes a pesar de su país de residencia y de la comunidad en la que viven, si en Iberoamérica o bien en otra parte, donde el énfasis está en los conocimientos científicos necesarios.
* La moderación en los pagos de estudio para dar la oportunidad a todos los que desean para aprovecharse de un tipo de educación superior con estándares internacionales.

La ventaja de las cartas de recomendación para los graduados:

* El graduado en la UIAL recibe un número de referencia que le garantiza obtener una carta de recomendación que se dirige a cualquier institución, en el que se presente a trabajar. La carta debe llevar también el sello de la universidad directamente de la Universidad a la institución por correo internacional. Y eso se considera una de las estrategias de apoyo que les ofrece la Universidad a sus estudiantes después de la graduación.
* Para los estudiantes del último año en la etapa secundaria (bachillerato), puede registrarse en la Universidad, en condición de adjuntar el certificado del bachillerato dentro de un año de la matrícula.
* Para los estudiantes que han completado 75% de sus estudios universitarios, pueden registrarse en los estudios superiores en la Universidad, a condición de que presenten el certificado de licenciatura dentro de un año, cumpliendo los requisitos de la universidad.
* Además de los programas de la Universidad hay un programa de estudios libres, por el cual el estudiante pueda registrarse en una asignatura o más para que al final obtenga un certificado de la Universidad al pasar su prueba. No hay requisitos ni condiciones para registrarse en este programa.

July - Sept 2008, Mexico

The Mexican Kitchen’s Islamic Connection

By Rachel Laudan


Saudi Aramco World
May/June 2004

When Mexico’s leading writer, Nobel Prize laureate Octavio Paz, arrived in New Delhi in 1962 to take up his post as ambassador to India, he quickly ran across a culinary puzzle. Although Mexico and India were on opposite sides of the globe, the brown, spicy, aromatic curries that he was offered in India sparked memories of Mexico’s national dish, mole (pronounced MO-lay). Is mole, he wondered, “an ingenious Mexican version of curry, or is curry a Hindu adaptation of a Mexican sauce?” How could this seeming coincidence of “gastronomic geography” be explained?

For a Mexican, this was no trivial matter. Laborious to produce, mole is served for weddings, festivals and national holidays. The legend of its origin in the convents of 18th-century Puebla, the second city of New Spai as Mexico was then called is part of the nation’s popular history, recounted time and again in newspapers, school textbooks, guidebooks and even on paper placemats in restaurants. Mole comes in many varieties, but it usually contains ingredients such as cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, anise, coriander, chocolate, chiles, almonds, pumpkin seeds, raisins, bread and tortillas all ground together and cooked in a light broth to make a harmonious brown sauce that is served with turkey, chicken or vegetable dishes.

Chocolate seems a curious ingredient to non-Mexicans indeed, outside Mexico mole is sometimes referred to as a chocolate sauce but in fact not all moles contain chocolate and even those that do use it in small quantities to balance the flavor of the other spices. More complex and less piquant than the better-known, fiery, tomato-based sauces that have spread around the world with Tex-Mex cuisine, mole, as Paz observed, does have a color, flavor and texture reminiscent of many of the Indian dishes collectively known as curries in the rest of the world. And in raising the question of the uniqueness of mole, Paz was challenging the idea that mole was the cornerstone of a uniquely Mexican culinary heritage.

But while Paz was right to point out that mole resembled curry, he was wrong to imagine that Mexican cooks had created mole as imitation curry, or that Indian cooks composed curries in an effort to emulate mole. He would have done better to picture both moles and curries as vestiges of the cuisine of medieval Islam, a cuisine that was enjoyed from southern Spain in the west to northern India in the east.

The high cuisine of medieval Islam, one of the most sophisticated the world had seen, flourished from the eighth century on. It originated in Baghdad, where cooks had the advantage of being able to adapt a Persian cuisine that had developed over the past thousand years, and it was quickly adopted in the other cities of Islam. With the diffusion of Islam, the cuisine was transplanted to new territories. One of the most important was the Iberian Peninsula, whose southern two-thirds came under Arab rule in the eighth century. Watered by five rivers and greener than either their arid homelands or the other lands they had conquered, al-Andalus, as Muslim Spain was called, held out to the Arab and Berber settlers the promise of being a culinary paradise on earth. In the valleys, farmers grew wheat, grapes and olives. In the hills, shepherds tended the sheep and goats that the Arabs favored for meat dishes.

But other culinary resources that the Arab elite had come to expect were lacking. The settlers immediately set about correcting this, transforming the landscape of al-Andalus and the cuisine it supported. They built stone irrigation channels through orchards and fields and filled them with river water raised by towering water wheels (norias). They installed walled gardens (huertas) where they could raise slips and cuttings of their favorite fruit trees. As early as the eighth century, the amir “Abd al-Rahman I introduced the date palm into Spain, and he happily accepted a pomegranate variety from Damascus offered to him by the chief judge of Córdoba. A century later the poet al-Ghazal returned from a mission to the East with a fine fig cultivar that he had smuggled out of Constantinople in a package of books.

The Muslims also introduced rice for fine pilafs, sugar for drinks and sweets, saffron to add aroma and color to their dishes and a wide variety of their favorite fruits and vegetables, including apricots, oranges, limes, artichokes, carrots, spinach and eggplant. They grew coriander, mint, thyme, fennel, cumin and caraway; the spices and aromatics that they could not grow such as black pepper, cinnamon, spikenard, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, galingale, musk and camphor they imported.

As in the rest of Islam, the Spanish Muslims built granaries (alhóndigas) to store grain to be distributed in case of hardship. And they set up their characteristic food-processing plants: distilleries to produce rose- and orange-blossom water to perfume their foods and refineries to make fine white sugar.

In the court kitchens of Córdoba and Granada, cooks could now produce the dishes of high Islamic cuisine. There were the pilaus, made by frying rice or thin wheat noodles and then simmering them in an aromatic liquid until it was fully absorbed. Another family of dishes consisted of delicate dumplings (albondigas) of meats pounded with seasonings. And there were the most characteristic meat dishes: meltingly tender spicy stews. Flavored with a variety of herbs and spices, these stews were cooked in earthenware pots nestled in circular holes in charcoal-heated masonry bench stoves. Some were green with spinach and coriander. Others were golden with saffron. And the most complex were flavored with cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, almonds and raisins and thickened with eggs or breadcrumbs.

Other great creations of the Muslim kitchen were based on clarified white sugar. Sweetened drinks (sharbat) were flavored with ground nuts, citrus fruits and pomegranates. Jams were made of rose petals, oranges and apricots, and dense pastes of quinces. Figurines were modeled from a white paste of sugar mixed with gum (alfenique). And a wide variety of confections such as marzipan was created from sugar and nuts.

It is small wonder that Spanish Christians eyed the cuisine of the Muslims with envy. Over the centuries, they adopted their rice and noodle pilaus, their albondigas, their aromatic stews of lamb, kid and chicken, and their sharbats, jams, fruit pastes, alfenique and marzipan. The modifications that they introduced, such as adding pork to the list of meats, baking raised breads instead of flat breads and distilling wine and molasses instead of flower petals, did not change the basic structure of the cuisine. By the late Middle Ages, this Christian version of the cuisine of al-Andalus was famous as the finest in Europe. In 1611, Francisco Martínez Montiño, the head cook of King Philip III, recorded it in the 500 densely packed pages of his Arte de Cocina, Pasteleria, Vizcocheria, y Conserveria (Art of Cooking, Cake Making, Biscuit Making and Conserving).

Almost a century earlier, Christian Spanish cuisine had already reached the Americas. In 1492 the very year in which the Christians took Granada, the last Muslim outpost in al-Andalus Columbus had set sail. Within 30 years, Cortés had captured Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital that we now know as Mexico City. He sent back glowing reports of the lavish banquets of Moctezuma as proof that he had conquered a rich and powerful empire. But he and his men had embarked on their perilous adventure to create a New Spain, and they had not the slightest intention of adopting Aztec cuisine, with its maize (corn) flatbreads and unfamiliar dishes. They were going to replicate the cuisine of their homeland.

So once more, the cuisine of medieval Islam was transplanted. Within five years of arriving in Mexico, Cortés had established a sugar plantation. Galleons arrived from Spain laden with seed wheat, sheep, goats and cattle, and wooden planters carrying citrus, fig and pomegranate trees. Within a generation or two, the culinary landscape of Mexico had been transformed to resemble that of the Islamic world. Shepherds followed their flocks through the dry scrub on the mountain slopes of central Mexico. Stone irrigation channels filled by the traditional noria threaded their way across the landscape. Fields of foreign wheat jostled against fields of native maize. Rice was well established. Towns constructed alhóndigas to store these grains. Stills transformed molasses into aguardiente and refineries processed sugar for confectionary.

The houses of Mexico, like those of much of Islam, presented blank walls to the street. But behind the doors and central courtyard were huertas filled with trees heavy with limes, pomegranates, quinces and figs. Inside, the kitchens were equipped with masonry bench stoves covered with Islamic-style tiles. Niches in the walls held pottery canisters of cinnamon, cloves, thyme and black pepper. The wealthiest kitchens boasted copies of Martínez Montiño’s Art of Cooking; others relied on manuscript recipe collections that still survive today.

In these kitchens, the cooks of New Spain adapted the medieval Islamic cuisine of al-Andalus to the resources of Mexico. They substituted turkey and other American game for the stewed chickens or roasted partridges of Spain. They used indigenous beans as well as the traditional Iberian chickpeas. They added tomatillos to green sauces, annatto to golden sauces and, in a pinch, replaced almonds with peanuts or pumpkin seeds. Native fruits, such as guava, cherimoya and cactus, as well as introduced citrus and quinces, went into confectionary and drinks. They adopted spiced chocolate as a hot drink and, occasionally, as a spice too. Most important, they substituted chiles for black pepper.

In one set of manuscripts, the Recetario de Dominga de Guzmán (Recipe Book of Dominga de Guzmán), compiled around 1750, it is possible to catch a glimpse of the cook in the act of adapting the traditional dishes of al-Andalus to the circumstances of New Spain. In the first of two recipes for braised fowl, the ingredients include onion, oregano, mint, parsley, garlic, cumin, ham, sausage, cloves, cinnamon, black pepper and capers. This is simply titled “Morisco” to indicate Muslim origins although the ham and the sausage are obviously Christian, not Muslim. The second, called “Mestizo” or “mixed race,” drops the typically Islamic cloves, cinnamon and black pepper and substitutes Mexican tomatoes and chiles.

Sometime in the 18th century, though, the brown sauces took on the collective name mole, even though some of the older Spanish names also persisted. Mole had multiple resonances in the Mexican kitchen. In the Aztec language, Nahuatl, still spoken by many servants, molli meant “sauce.” In Portuguese, mollo (pronounced something like “molio” in English) also meant “sauce,” and many recipes in Martínez Montiño’s collection went by this name. And in Spanish, moler means “to grind,” the crucial technique used in preparing these sauces. Mole therefore was a word easily recognizable by everyone in the kitchen and one that made it easy for the mistress of a house or a head cook to communicate with the servants who carried out all the menial tasks.

But for all these substitutions and changes in terminology, the basic techniques and structure of the Islamic cuisine persisted in New Spain. The manuscript cookbooks contain recipes for pilaus of rice or thin noodles that could have come straight from the court of Córdoba. So too could the acidic, herby green sauces, rich in coriander. Or the recipe for “Rabbits in Sauce” (Conejos en Mollo), consisting of a base of fried onions to which pieces of rabbit were added, seasoned with pepper, nutmeg and ginger, stewed with stock, and finished with vinegar and saffron. Or, again, the “Chicken in Nut Sauce” (Pollo en Nogada) in which quartered chickens were simmered with cloves, cinnamon, black pepper, saffron and a little vinegar, then fried and sauced with a mixture of ground cloves, cumin, garlic, breadcrumbs and nuts. And the complex, expensive confections marzipan and nut brittles, candied fruits, luscious jams, fruit pastes and leathers and fruits preserved in syrup not only derive from the Islamic tradition but often retained even the Arabic names, such as jarabe and almibar for syrups.

Today Mexican families still sit down to dinners that reveal their Islamic origins. They begin with a “watery” soup (sopa aguada), such as a broth with tiny albondigas. Then comes a “dry soup” (sopa seca), such as “Spanish rice,” which is none other than the pilau of the Islamic world. The main course is a piece of chicken or meat accompanied by a green sauce, a nut sauce (nogada), an almond sauce (almendrada) or a spicy reddish-brown sauce (mole). After the meal comes a quince paste, with a little fresh cheese. Accompanying the meal is a refreshing drink an agua fresca, as the Islamic sharbat is called in Mexico a colorful, lightly sweetened homemade beverage of lime, melon or milky ground rice with almonds and cinnamon.

If, after the meal, the family takes a stroll and it is the week leading up to the Day of the Dead, they will find the streets filled with stalls selling alfenique. Households dedicated to the task have labored since the preceding year making figurines of white sugar paste, a mixture of gum from a Mexican orchid, egg whites and sugar. Children buy lambs, pigs feeding their piglets, platters of food, skulls, television sets and skeletons that pop out of coffins, all modeled from the paste, and wander along licking on their treats.

With this background, it takes only one more step to see why Mexican moles resemble Indian curries. In the early 16th century, as the Spaniards were introducing their version of Muslim cuisine to Mexico, the Mughals conquered northern India half a world away. They came by way of Persia, which had become the cultural and culinary center of the region since the Mongols had ruined Baghdad more than 200 years earlier. It was this Persian version of Muslim cuisine that their cooks adapted to Indian circumstances, creating the sophisticated Mughal cuisine of New Delhi. By the mid-16th century, then, a belt of high cuisine could be traced from northern India westward to Mexico. Although in every area it had been adapted to include local ingredients, the basic techniques and the basic dishes of medieval Islam continued to form the basis of all the local variants.

Today, it is difficult to perceive this earlier global gastronomic geography. Over the centuries, one event after another clouded the simple picture of the belt of Islamic high cuisine. As time passed, Spain, northern India and Mexico all had reasons to play down the origins of their cuisines. In Spain, the growing prestige of French cookery over the 18th and 19th centuries meant that cooks and diners abandoned much of their earlier cuisine and adopted French techniques and French dishes. In 19th-century India, the British lumped all the rich stewed dishes of the Mughal court together as curries rather than using their traditional Islamic names. In the mid-20th century, independence from Britain and the partition of India and Pakistan meant that India became a predominantly Hindu nation. It was not so odd, therefore, that Octavio Paz identified the high cuisine of New Delhi, with its roots in the court cuisine of the Mughals, as made up of Hindu curries.

In Mexico, the early 20th century saw the Mexican Revolution, which lasted the better part of 20 years and tore the country apart. Following the war, politicians and intellectuals struggled to create a sense of national unity. Among many other tactics, they turned to cooking as one of the formative national traditions, portraying their food as a mestizo cuisine in which Spanish elements were added to an Aztec base. Setting to one side the multiple derivations of the term mole, they concentrated on its Nahuatl roots. This derivation, they suggested, proved that mole was basically an Aztec sauce to which Spanish ingredients such as cloves and cinnamon had been added. The tale of the invention of mole in the convents of Puebla appeared for the first time.

Today Mexicans flock to the Alhóndiga of Guanajuato, the scene of the first successful skirmish of Mexico’s war of independence, when the insurgents dislodged the representatives of the Spanish crown who had barricaded themselves behind its massive walls. It is a national shrine, and few visitors but the occasional historians remember the Islamic origins of this former granary. Similarly, mole is celebrated as the national dish. It is of course typically Mexican. But it and much of the rest of Mexican cuisine has roots that go back to medieval Islam, roots that have been lost from sight. Octavio Paz was absolutely right when he detected the parallels between Mughal and Mexican cuisines: They are linked by Islam in the global gastronomic geography.

April - June 2008, Latino Muslims, Mexico

What Latino Muslims Can Learn From Mexican Muslims

By Tania Tahira Canales

Islamic Center of Mexico

Before September 2001, Islam was largely viewed as a religion for Arabs. Most Mexicans could not identify a woman wearing hijab with Islam if they saw her walking down a Mexican street. After September 11, Mexican people received all kinds of information about Islam. They heard good information, half-true information, biased information, and misconceptions about Islam. But many Mexicans wanted to know more about Islam. They wanted to know what we Mexican Muslims had to say about Islam.

After understanding Islam, many Mexicans understand why some of their countrymen have embraced Islam. Once you remove all misconceptions of Islam, Mexican people stop thinking that Allah is an invented deity, that Muslims are terrorists, and that Muslimahs are oppressed. Instead, Mexicans begin to realize that Islam is a suitable way of life for any Mexican and for all people. They also realize Muhammad’s life (pbuh) is the best example to follow. I want to share what we Mexican Muslims have learned with Latino Muslims and all American Muslims.

We must be ready to present Islam to whoever wants to hear it. Stating that we are Mexican Muslims surprises almost everyone, even Muslims. During the last ten years, around eight hundred Mexicans have embraced Islam. Mexican Muslims find in Islam truth that was not found in the beliefs and traditions of their parents and closest relatives. They have found that Allah (swt) and His last Messenger (saws) are the truth.

We inform Mexican people about Islam in all possible ways including radio programs, TV shows, and university lectures. Sometimes we simply go out to the street and wait for people to ask us where we were born. Mexican people want to know why we Mexican Muslimahs dress the way we do. Mexican people ask the men why they wear beards and strange sombreros. A smile always brings the best out of people and is charity as Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) would say.

The best way to call people to Tawheed is with patience, Islamic manners, and a gentle way of speaking. Although almost every Mexican professes to be a Roman Catholic, introducing Islam is an easy task. Mexicans are open-minded and curious. They are amazed to learn that both Muslims and Catholics believe in the Day of Judgment, Virgin Mary, Angels, Paradise, and Hell. Every Christian has wondered about the rational of the Trinity, but fear Hellfire for questioning their current beliefs.

Fortunately, many Mexicans are beginning to believe in only One God and in the line of Prophets. After Jesus Christ (as) left, Muhammad (as) came as a mercy of Allah (swt) to revive the true universal message of God. Mexicans are beginning to learn that all humans are born Muslim. Consequently, many Mexicans understand that nothing is wrong with reverting back to Islam. They are neither betraying God nor rejecting Jesus or the Virgin Mary. Islam is clear and pure without priests, without original sin, and without all the rituals.

We must remember that only Allah (swt) is the guide. We tend to think that we can change a person’s life and way of thinking. We assume that by showing the truth all people will say Shahada. Our assumptions are not true and can be very dangerous. We cannot try to force Islam on people. We are not selling houses to Paradise. Nor are we the sales staff of “Islam Inc.” If someone accepts Islam, only Allah has guided him or her.

Bringing people to Allah (swt) was the mission of our Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). We must accomplish this mission using the methods he would adopt. We must not adapt Islam to what nonbelievers will accept and want to hear. The Deen should not be weakened for the sake of converting more nonbelievers. We need Muslims with the right understanding of the Qur’an and Sunnah of Muhammad (pbuh). The search for true knowledge creates the Muslim character. We must be open to knowledge.

The best way to spread Islam is by practicing Islam as Prophet Muhammad and his companions would practice it. Dawah begins with us. Muslims cannot talk about something they have no idea how to do. All Muslims must be positive examples by correctly practicing Islam. Practicing our faith often takes courage. Many misconceptions about Islam come from bad Muslims exhibiting bad behavior. The beautiful Muslim character should stand out within every crowd. How effectively can a Muslim invite people to Islam if he or she drinks, lies, steals, is impatient, and does not pray? Islam is the only way of life that pleases Allah.

By continuously learning and practicing Islam, we will be ready to spread Islam within our homes, our families and friends, our neighborhoods, and to the world. Our dream as Mexican Muslims is to present Islam to all Mexican people. Mexican people have the right to know that Islam is their birthright. We must all struggle to build a strong, Allah-fearing community.

Through our own struggle, we have built a mosque and a study center for Mexican Muslims at Tequesquitengo, Morelos, just a half and hour away from Mexico City. This place seeks to provide the ideal environment for Mexicans searching Islamic knowledge, inshaAllah. At this location, we have started and intend to start more courses about a variety of needed subjects such as Qur’an recitation, introduction to fiqh, and science of haddith. We still need your assistance to continue working for Dawah in Mexico.

Make dua for us and for Islam in Mexico. Help us to please Allah (swt) by visiting www.islam.com.mx to learn about how you can join our struggle.

Latin America, Oct - Dec 2005

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.

The masjid started as part of the house of one of the members of the community in 1994. The first floor of this house was converted as a mosque. The interior walls were thrown down to make the mussala. The Islamic center is located at a convenient residential area. The masjid can be found behind the French Embassy, two blocks from the American Embassy, three blocks from the Egyptian Embassy, and five blocks from the Russian Embassy.

Shaikh Yahya Suquillo, Imam
Islamic Center of Ecuador

Mexico, Oct - Dec 2004

Two Events in Mexico

Centro Cultural Islamico de Mexico

Fiesta (Open House) del Fin de Ramadhan

Assalaam A\’laikum

Dar as Salaam (Tequesquitengo, morelos), tiene el agrado de invitarlos a un evento (Open house) que dará inicio a las 10:30 AM el Domingo 14 de Noviembre.

Habrá una serie de actividades recreativas (montar a caballo, football, paseo en lancha, nadar etc) y platcias sobre el Islam. Habrá una comida y una gran oportunidad de conviviar con Musulmanes. Estan muy bienvenidos nuestros amigos No Musulmanes a pasra el dia con nosotros.

Hermanos y hermanas si el Domingo 14, cae el dia del Id y quieren hacer su oracion en su localidad, NO HAY inconveniente alguno, es por eso que hemos iniciado las actividades desde las 10:30 AM para que les de tiempo venir a Tequesquitengo. En esta ocasión si la oracion es el Domingo nuestra pequeña comunidad la realizará en Dar as Salaam. Siendo que no tendremos estaremos preparando todo para recibirlos. Quien guste adelantarse el Sabado para pasar más tiempo en Dar As Salaam, bienvenidos aqui los esperamos.

Ramadhan Mubarak
Omar Weston

Curso intensivo en Dar As salaam con Isa Garcia y otros

Assalaam A\’laikum

Queridos hermanos y hermanas, habrá un curso intensivo sobre el Islam, en Dar as salaam del Martes 28 de Diciembre (2004) al Domingo 02 de Enero (2005) para hombres y mujeres.

Pasen el año nuevo con sus hermanos Muslims en la mejor compañia.

Estaran con nosotros:

Muhammed Isa Garcia de Argentina, graduado en La Universidad Islamica de la Mecca (Arabia Saudita), estudiante directo de grandes sheikhs como Sheikh Uthaimeen, Sheikh Abul Muhsin Al Abaad, Sheikh Salih Al Fauzen. Autor y traductor de decenas de libros sobre diversos temas Islamicos. www.iiph.com.ar

Sabina Mariam Rigoni, primer y unica Latino-Americana con estudios superiores sobre el Islam. Graduada de la Universidad Islamica de la Mecca, vendrá a compartir su conocimiento.

No dejen pasar esta oportunidad, el curso tiene cupo limitado. Sólamente se pedira una contribucion hacia los costos de alimentación.

En Dar as Salaam se recibiran a los primeros 25 alunmos varones Gratuitamente.

Habra una Casa cerca de Dar as Salaam para las primeras 10 mujeres en inscribirse (gratuitamente).

Para los que no alcansan hospedaje les podremos conseguir descuentos en hoteles cercanos a Dar as sAlaaam si nos avisan prontamente.

Manden sus solicitudes con los siguientes Datos:

Nombre Completo:
Fecha de Shahadat:

Si no eres Musulman, explicar su interes en el Curso.

Manden la socilitud a esta misma dirección.

Brothers and sisters, there will be an intensive course in Mexico on Islam from the 28 December to the 2nd of January. If you want to come or want to send someone you know who could benefit, let us know.

Yours in Islam
Omar Weston

Latin America, Oct - Dec 2003

The Development of Latin America

Islamic Principles in the Development of Latin America

By Yahya Juan Suquillo

19 – 21 Rajab 1.424 Hijri
16-18 Sept. 2003 CE.

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.
One of the greatest mistakes is to stereotype Latin America as the tail of the American empire. Latin America is physically connected to the North American continent, that is true, but Latin American people are quiet different in history, in terms of religious values, culture, and motivations. Consequently, when Latin American is viewed as nation, it is a nation that has different goals, ambitions, traditions, and approaches.

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.
At the beginning of the third millennium CE, Latin American culture is still searching for its own identity. The Latin America of today is in the process of identifying its political, social, economic, and religious 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.
Latin America, like other areas, has its own political, social, economic, and religious shortcomings. Its decadent protectionist state model has been unable to adequately run the state and unable to stop rich and powerful people from influencing particular parties that benefit the elite. These states have also been unable to implement basic social services, comprehensive health insurance, and job opportunities for the less fortunate. The gap between the rich and the poor continually increases. The unstable Latin American countries have no knowledge of an optimal economic model that could follow. A need for real change exists.

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.
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!

The role of Muslim institutions

In the past
Muslim institutions in the past have failed to identify the potential of Latin American people to accept Islam. The true guidance comes from Allah SWT to whom He wishes. Although this is true, Muslims and Islamic institutions must work with a genuine strategic plan to promote the peaceful way of life that Islam teaches in His book, the Glorious Qur’an. Islamic institutions in Muslim countries can certainly exceed the challenge by working together with committed, Latin American reverts and current Latin American Islamic Centers and institutions.

An example to follow
In Brazil, consistent Dawah work began in Londrina city about thirty years ago and has been outstanding because an Islamic organization in the Middle East appointed not only an individual but also a real Daiyah as a lifetime, continuing vocation. This comprehensive support marked an enormous positive difference for the creation of Dawah as a continuous progress.

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.

As Muslims, we are conscious enough to remind ourselves that our way of life, Islam, is not materialistic. From the beginning of Islam to the golden years in Al-Andalus, the current Muslim standards of life have always been compared to those that existed in earlier times. Islamic achievements have always been based on higher standards of spiritual and moral values, which result in a balanced way of life.

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
Imam del Centro Islámico del Ecuador

Latin America, Oct - Dec 2003

Latin American Muslim Leaders Meet

The Third Meeting of the Heads of Islamic Associations and
Cultural Centres in Latin America and the Caribbean Islands

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

أ. د. رحيل قمر

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

From www.Islam-Online.net


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.

Related links:
Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)
Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO)

Mexico, Oct - Dec 2002

Ramadan in Mexico

By Mudar Abdulghani
IOL Mexico Correspondent


MEXICO CITY, November 23 (IslamOnline) – Muslims in Mexico started observing the holy month of Ramadan on November 6.

Some Muslims determined the date based on information received from Islamic countries, while others used information received from adjacent countries, mainly the USA.

The moon sighting information from abroad concurred with information received from the Observatory of the UNAM (the Autonomous University of Mexico.)

As normal, the Taraweeh prayer started immediately on the night before Ramadan, and was well-attended by members of the small Muslim community of Mexico City.

The Islamic Center has planned and implemented a beneficial educational and worship program for the Muslims.

Regular classes of Quran are given before the Maghrib prayer.

After the Iftar (break of the fast), there is another interesting class about the life of the Prophet, peace be upon him.

The fasting starts approximately at 5:30 AM, and continues until about 6 PM.

Since this is a non-Muslim country, Muslims have to keep their regular schedule of work or study, which is from about 9 AM to 5 PM.

Despite this long duration, very few are complaining from fatigue.

The climate in Mexico city is moderately cold nowadays, and this makes the fast more convenient.

The collective Iftar is a good occasion for gathering the Muslims of various nationalities: Arab, Pakistani, as well as an increasing number of Mexican Muslims.

The warm display of brotherhood could account for several new converts (five in the first 10 days of Ramadan,) who have been impressed by the world of Islam and the genuine feelings of brotherhood among Muslims from different races.

Some non-Muslims have been invited to the collective iftar, and it was a good chance to experience the warmth of the Muslim community, and the brotherly atmosphere that’s ready to welcome any stranger in a friendly manner.

The number of those attending the collective Iftar and taraweeh varies between 20-50 everyday, which shows how small the Muslim community in the city is.

Many Muslims find it hard to join these collective activities, due to the fact that they live very far.

With Mexico City being one of the largest in the world, some Muslims have to travel for one or two hours in order to reach the Islamic Center.

A number of Muslims explained that this Ramadan has a better feeling than last year, with more attendance at the Center, and more organized activities that give the Muslims a chance for education as well as worship.

Some new converts expressed excitement at joining such a busy program, and enjoying Ramadan with their newfound brothers and sisters.

April - June 2002, Cuba

El Islam en Cuba

Por Khadija Mohiuddin

Ojalá que nunca olvide de mi visita a Cuba y mi encuentro histórico con los musulmanes de la Habana. Los musulmanes de Cuba realmente son un grupo maravilloso. A pesar de su ambiente que no está inclinado a “la religión,” ellos están sobreviviendo y superando. Tuve que irme a un país extranjero que queda perdido entre la lucha contra el capitalísmo y para el socialismo para poder ver un ejemplo puro del Islam. El amor que el musulmán cubano tiene para otro musulmán es imaginable, es algo bello que te llena de esperanza y confianza que sólo el Islam es la verdad. A travez de esta verdad Ala permite que unan los seres humanos con sinceridad y sin motivo.

El pueblo cubano en sí mismo es algo único también. En ese país que tiene un sístema educativo a lo cual no hay igual, bajo Castro ha crecido un pueblo más educado que lo promedio. Educados e inteligentes, muchos Cubanos vienen a adoptarse al Islam como una manera de vivir. Muchos escogen al Islam porque reconocen la logica y la tranquilidad que el Islam provee. En el año 1999, el número de musulmanes en la isla constaba de más de mil musulmánes. Esta cifra no incluye a los musulmanes de paises extranjeros que viven en Cuba. Cada día más cubanos étnicos están abrazando al Islam a tal estremo que los nombres musulmánes que ya saben están siendo repetidos. Para cambiar oficialmente sus nombres a nombres islámicos prueba ser algo difícil para muchos. Y aunque sepan que no es necesario cambiar el nombre, sin embargo, muchos quieren realizarlo porque quieren ser reconocidos como musulmanes. Con nombres que suenan diferentes y que llaman la atención, muchos dicen que existen más oportunidades para hacer el dawa al resto de su pueblo cubano.

Desde el año 1996 los cubanos y los cubanos musulmanes no pueden entrar a la mezquita ubicada en La Habana Vieja porque están prohibidos por las autoridades gubernamentales. A pesar de eso, los musulmanes cubanos se congregan en sus casas para rezar juntos y ofrecer Salat al-yuma en congregación. También, Castro permite que la mujer y el hombre musulman vistan en la manera que gusten. Aunque es algo extraño para los no musulmanes, ahora muchas mujeres musulmanes visten con el jiyab y la ropa modesta que eleva a la mujer. También, los hombres llevan barbas, sin que el gobierno les prohiba.

Los musulmanes de Cuba están tratando de obtener recursos islámicos en español para facilitar su entendimiento del Islam y más que nada para aprender el árabe. Quieren entender por sí mismos que enseña Alá a la humanidad. El hecho que les falta una traducción buena del Sagrado Corán les hace más importante que sepan el árabe. En comunidades rurales, como la de La Broa en la provincia de La Habana, existen como dos copías del Corán para cada cincuenta personas. En tales lugares, los musulmanes existen como una minoría. Pero aun los no musulmanes consideran a los musulmanes como una minoría beneficial para toda la comunidad. Han abierto una mezquita en esa region de La Broa que sirve también como un lugar donde pueden venir estudiantes para repasar sus lecciones de las escuelas públicas. Así viene más gente que primero mandan a sus hijos y luego vienen y se acercan al Islam.

Para ellos es difícil mantener lazos abiertos con los consules que vienen de países musulmánes aunque ellos y los consules quieran porque esto arriesga a los puestos oficiales de los consules.

En resúmen, los musulmanes de Cuba no piden dinero ni ropa ni comida, sino piden que los musulmanes de fuera recuerden en sus oraciones a sus hermanos y hermanas-los musulmanes de Cuba que están trabajando en la via de Alá. Que Alá de la victoria a los musulmanes en Cuba y en todas las partes del mundo. Amin y Aljamdulilá.

April - June 2002, Ecuador

Islam in Ecuador

By Yahya Juan Suquillo

Thirty to fifty centuries ago, the native Ecuadorian Indian cultures were known as: “Chordeleg, Machalilla and Chorrera.” They are believed to have been sun worshippers. Their Indian chief was believed to have been sent by their “Sun God.” They practiced religious ceremonies offering young virgin women for sacrifice as a sign of thankfulness for the goods harvested. These Indian tribes believed in physical resurrection after dead. Therefore, they would be buried with much food, drinks, spears, gold, etc. to prepare for a big journey they thought they were going to face after death.

Later on, the Inca Empire, which conquered the southern tribes of Ecuador, had almost the same practices and beliefs as other Indian tribes. When Spaniards came to conquer the new continent, the change to Catholicism was not that great. The Catholics only needed to switch the “Sun God” with the statue of the “Son of God,” half-naked on the cross. A change of an ‘idol for idol’ by replacing by replacing the ‘sun god’ for ‘son of god’, of course, is not any big change! The theology of God rendered by the Catholic conquerors showed the classic naive primitive mind as the people of “Dunia”, who believe only what is in front of their eyes.

The Inca king, named “Atahualpa,” was burned alive because he rejected Christianity. He threw the Bible to the ground when Spaniards tried to force him to believe that the Bible was the “word of God.” His act of defiance would lead to his execution as a blasphemer. Ever since then, the Roman Catholic Christian religion has been the predominant and official religion in the Ecuadorian land.

A little bit over a hundred years ago, Christian Protestants from the Evangelistic sect have been working in Ecuador. They are believed to be the second largest religious group after Catholics in Ecuador. Adventists, Mormons, Gnostics, Anglicans, Bahais and some other Protestant sects have all been working hard in the last two to three decades to bring people to their own religion. Various philosophies from India and from the Far East have been seeking followers since about twenty to thirty years ago. Jews had no visible head until 2001 when someone was appointed from the Argentinean Jewish community.

The first Muslims settlers were primarily Arabs from what is known to us now as Lebanon, Palestine, Syria, and Egypt. They emigrated to Ecuador for the same reasons they came to the rest of the Latin world, escaping from World War I and II. These Arab Muslims entered these lands under Turkish passports from the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, these first Arab Muslims were known as “Turks.” The settlements were basically in the capital city of Quito and in Guayaquil, the largest seaport by the Pacific Ocean. However, some Muslims went to the coastal side by the Manab, Los Ríos, and Esmeraldas provinces. Ecuador’s peaceful environment attracted them very much. The family-oriented society of Ecuador perhaps reminded them of home within an Arab society.

Most of these first Ecuadorian Muslims were traders. Ecuadorian economy at the beginning of the century was largely based on interchanging products. The first two to three decades were very rough for the settlers. They would walk long distances, follow the post service on the back of mules, and try to reach the nearest village to start up business. These first Muslims settlers in Latin America experienced different type of customs, fashion, and food. They would exchange “Tamar” (dates), “maiy zahar” (rose water), “falafel” (mashed fried peas), “basbusa and baklawa” (laborious sweets) for banana, panela (dark sugar cane), agua aromitica (herb water), and pinol (wheat flour).

Because most of these Muslims came to Ecuador seeking the “Dunia,” their religious background was very poor, the Muslim identity melted very easily within the strong predominant Roman Catholic religion. Few Muslims brought their own spouses from their motherlands. The majority got married in the new world with native women. Among Arab Muslim settlers were the Dassum family, Soloh family, Shayyeb family, A’riz family, Becdach family, Jairala family, and others.Unfortunately, some Muslim descendants took Christianity as their only option in religion. Few Muslim families would send their children to Muslim countries to get Arabic and Islamic education. Inshallah Allah will reward them for their effort.

By the late forties, Arab Christians and Muslims were grouping on the same ethnical background bases. “Lecla” was the name of their first organization. Nothing about religion was touched on. Another social organization came out by the mid 1980s. They were “The Arab Club.” By mid 1980s, migration trends were occurring in Ecuador. Around twenty men from Egypt were trying to reach United States ports at any price. Their dishonest travel agents were using Ecuador as a pass by point to reach the United States. Later on, almost all of them left Ecuador except a few, who decided to live in this country.

A minor Indian Pakistani migration took place by the beginning of the 1990s. Many of them have already reached their migratory goals in US or Canadian ports. In religious matters, they left almost no track to follow. By the late 1990s, Ecuador experienced Muslim migration, mainly from West African Countries, such as Liberia, Nigeria, and Ghana, whose internal disruptions led them to search a place to live.

By the mid 1980s, a handful of local native Ecuadorian people embraced Islam overseas. They never heard the word ‘Islam’ in their own Ecuador. They were highly influenced by pious Muslims while studying at universities in Europe and United States. They came to appreciate Islam as a universal religion, a brotherhood, capable of bringing people from all spheres of life to harmoniously work together in bringing peace. Islam also provided logic that many Ecuadorians never found in Christian teachings. These new Muslims are highly enthusiastic propagators, but swing against current is not easy.

By the mid 1990s, more and more Ecuadorians began to embrace Islam. Today, every single Friday, at least one “Shahada” that takes place. Alhamdulilah! This trend was not easy due to criticism, and some times rejection, coming even from inside their own blood relatives. According to a rough estimate, our Muslim population in the whole country is around five hundred people.


A handful of Muslims attempted to create the first masjid by renting an apartment to be used as a Mussala for Salat AlJumuah. Later on the Egyptian Embassy facilitated an apartment for the same purpose, but the Ecuadorian Muslims could not stay for long. Another attempt occurred on October 1988. An organization, Asociacion Cultural Khaled bin Al Walid, was founded with the purpose of establishing a masjid. In Qur’an 9:108, Allah states “Verily, a mosque whose foundation was laid from the first day on piety is more worthy that you stand therein (to pray).”


“Let there be among you a community who invite unto all that is good, enjoing what is right, and forbid what is wrong.” Qur’an 3:104.

This is the first Muslim religious organization credited as such by the Ecuadorian Government. The Centro Islamico del Ecuador is a non-profit organization founded by the Grace and Mercy of ALLAH SWT on October 15, 1994. 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.

Native Ecuadorian Muslimahs are a little bit over half of the entire Muslim population. Their understanding of Islam is reflected in the Islamic dress code. Almost all of them wear hijab and long dresses on a daily basis. They constitute an example of a well-organized group with their own committee, which holds religious classes.

The Islamic Center also translates and publishes literature in Spanish on a variety of Islamic topics including ‘Introducing Islam to non-Muslims,’ ‘comparative religious studies,’ and about the Sunni Islamic creed. We have already translated five books into Spanish: 1) ‘What the Bible says about Muhammad?’ by Ahmad Deedat. 2) ‘Understanding Muslims and Islam.’ 3) ‘Tawheed’ by Ibrahim Hussein. 4) ‘Muslim Christian Dialogue’ by Dr. H.Baagil. 5) ‘The truth about Jesus’ by WAMY.

The Center has recently published and printed fifteen different topics in pamphlet forms. The Spanish pamplets are: 1) Islam at glance, 2) Mount Arafat Sermon, 3) Do you know that…(the Pope at the time of our Prophet Muhammad SAAWS, embraced Islam?) 4) General aspects about fasting in Ramadan 5) Misconceptions about Jihad. 6) Danger in dancing. 7) Is Jesus really God? 8) You should know about this great man (Prophet Muhammad SAAWS). 9) Who invented the trinity? 10) What is Islam? 11) Islamic Fundamentalism? 12) What Islam is not about. 13) Muhammad in the Bible.14) Fire in your stomachs (about alcohol). 15) According to the Bible, Jews have no right on Palestinian land.

Alhamdulilah the Center is able to hold: Friday Khutaba, marriages, taraweeh, salat ul Eidain, and salat ul Janaza.

The Islamic Center of Ecuador sends its religious representative annually to the Latin Muslims Leaders gathering that usually takes place in Argentina. After September 2001, the increase of presentations and contacts has increased a great deal. Dawah work is performed through presentations at auditoriums, universities, schools, radio, newspapers, magazines, and television. There is no reason for not working openly in Dawah, because the constitution stands for freedom of thought, as well as freedom of religion.

1) Last Ramadan, the Islamic Center completed a project of widening and enlarging the masjid.
2) A Muslim school and a cemetery are in urgent need by the community.

The following are strategies you can encourage within the Islamic Centres in your own country.
– Preparing Spanish speaking Daiyas (propagators) in various areas, such as comparative religion and Islamic leadership.
– Sending brothers and sisters overseas to get educated in Islamic universities.
– Encouraging brothers and sisters to register in Islamic universities in your country.
– Advising Muslim world organizations about your culture and about the way to approach them.
– Muslim camps to invite counterparts from all over, including South America.