Latino Muslims, Muslim converts, Stories

Help Ustadh Kenny Solis Complete his Certificate in Islamic Chaplaincy!

Imam Parvez and Brother Gil from Jalisco Mexico at Masjid Al Noor in Rosarito Mexico 2018.
With Imam Parvez and Brother Gil from Jalisco Mexico at Masjid Al Noor in Rosarito Mexico 2018.


About The Fundraiser

The LADO Group is currently seeking to raise the necessary funds to provide Ustadh Kenny Solis with a scholarship in the amount of $7,000 to enable him to complete the last three courses required to earn his Certificate in Islamic Chaplaincy.

A Message from Ustadh Kenny Solis

Listening during Islamic spirituality and leadership course, Fall 2019. 
Listening during Islamic spirituality and leadership course, Fall 2019. 

Assalamualaikum Warahmatullahi Wabarakatuh,

I was born and raised in Santa Ana, CA, Orange County. I am a Mexican-American. I now live on the East Coast but teach the Muslim community in English and Spanish in the United States and abroad.

How You Can Make a Difference

With your help, I will be able to complete my Certificate in Islamic Chaplaincy from the Bayan Chicago Theological Seminary so that I may continue to grow and serve the complex, diverse, and vast Muslim and Latino Muslim communities. Bayan CTS produces world-class leaders and scholars grounded in the Islamic Tradition. There are no scholarships or financial aid options available to certificate students, and the total tuition for the certificate is $17,076. I still need $7,000 to complete the last three courses required to earn my certificate.

Bayan Chicago Theological Seminary Student Spotlight
Bayan Chicago Theological Seminary Student Spotlight

My Education Thus Far

I have finished my Master of Arts in Theology/Ethics and Social Change; Islamic Studies from Bayan Claremont School of Theology. I was the first in my family to graduate from a 4-year university by completing my B.A. in Political Science and Law from California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) while simultaneously working on a Bachelor in Theology and Islamic Law from California Islamic University (CIU). I have also attended various Islamic classes and intensive personal studies in the Islamic Sciences with scholars in the United States that have given me private tutelage. 

A gathering with brothers and esteemed teachers Micah Anderson, Imam Mendes, and Dr. Meraj at Zaytuna College 2019.
A gathering with brothers and esteemed teachers Micah Anderson, Imam Mendes, and Dr. Meraj at Zaytuna College 2019.
Prophetic Teachings: A Halaqa with Kenny Solis
Prophetic Teachings: A Halaqa with Kenny Solis
LALMA Event Flyer
LALMA Event Flyer

My Teaching Journey

I have taught for institutions like New Jersey Islamic School, LinkOutside Prison Outreach, Trenton Prison, Insight Academy, Islamic Society of Orange County Garden Grove, CA Mosque, Islamic Institute Orange County Dawah Outreach, Islamic Institute of Orange County New Muslim-Mentoring, New Horizon Private School Pasadena, LALMA/La Asociacion Latino Musulmana de America, Latina Muslim Foundation, Why Islam, ICNA, Islamic Learning Center ICNA, and Masjid Noor Rosarito/Tijuana Mexico. I am also involved with educating Islam abroad in Tijuana, Jalisco, Cuidad Juarez, and Rosarito Mexico.

Introduction to Hadith Studies at the Islamic Center of Perris, CA in 2019.
Introduction to Hadith Studies at the Islamic Center of Perris, CA in 2019.

Thank You for Your Generosity!

May Allah bless us all with happiness, patience, and strength in this world and the hereafter.


Ustadh Kenny Solis

Fundamentals of Islam class at Masjid Al-Noor in Rosarito, Mexico 2017.
Fundamentals of Islam class at Masjid Al-Noor in Rosarito, Mexico 2017.
Graduate Assistant - Kenny Solis
As Graduate Assistant
Kenny Solis with Dr. Jonathan A. C. Brown
With Dr. Jonathan A. C. Brown

About The LADO Group

The LADO Group is a registered 501(c)(3) charitable organization whose mission is to promote Islam among the Latino community within the United States. The LADO Group provides scholarships for future Latino Muslim imams and scholars, enabling them to pursue their educational goals and become leaders in the Muslim community. The organization also offers grants to help develop and strengthen Latino Muslim organizations, encouraging the growth and development of the community. Your generous contributions will play a pivitol role in empowering the Latino Muslim community. Will you stand with us in realizing our mission?

You can learn more about LADO at latinodawah.org.

Events, Humor, Latino Muslims, Muslim converts, Parodies, Stories

Unity Unveiled: The Marvel Beetle Chronicles

In an upcoming cinematic venture, The Blue Beetle, a character of Latino heritage, and Ms. Marvel, a character representing the Muslim community, are set to unite in matrimony. This groundbreaking film aims to showcase the formation of a pioneering onscreen family, one that embodies both Latino and Muslim identities.

Anticipated to be a trailblazing production, this movie will mark a significant step forward in portraying diverse and inclusive narratives. The couple’s offspring is slated to bear the name “Marvel Beetle,” signifying the fusion of their remarkable legacies.

#BlueBeetle #MsMarvel #LatinoMuslims #HispanicMuslims #LatinoDawah

Jan - Mar 2008, Stories

On Becoming Muslim

By Shariffa A Carlo

In the Name of Allah, most Compassionate, most Merciful

The story of how I reverted to al Islam is a story of plans. I made plans, the group I was with made plans, and Allah made plans. And Allah is the Best of Planners. When I was a teenager, I came to the attention of a group of people with a very sinister agenda. They were and probably still are a loose association of individuals who work in government positions but have a special agenda – to destroy Islam. It is not a governmental group that I am aware of, they simply use their positions in the US government to advance their cause.

One member of this group approached me because he saw that I was articulate, motivated and very much the women’s rights advocate. He told me that if I studied International Relations with an emphasis in the Middle East, he would guarantee me a job at the American Embassy in Egypt. He wanted me to eventually go there to use my position in the country to talk to Muslim women and encourage the fledgling women’s rights movement. I thought this was a great idea. I had seen the Muslim women on TV; I knew they were a poor oppressed group, and I wanted to lead them to the light of 20th century freedom.

With this intention, I went to college and began my education. I studied Quraan, hadith and Islamic history. I also studied the ways I could use this information. I learned how to twist the words to say what I wanted them to say. It was a valuable tool. Once I started learning, however, I began to be intrigued by this message. It made sense. That was very scary. Therefore, in order to counteract this effect, I began to take classes in Christianity. I chose to take classes with this one professor on campus because he had a good reputation and he had a Ph.D. in Theology from Harvard University. I felt I was in good hands. I was, but not for the reasons I thought. It turns out that this professor was a Unitarian Christian. He did not believe in the trinity or the divinity of Jesus. In actuality, he believed that Jesus was a prophet.

He proceeded to prove this by taking the Bible from its sources in Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic and show where they were changed. As he did this, he showed the historical events which shaped and followed these changes. By the time I finished this class, my deen had been destroyed, but I was still not ready to accept Islam. As time went on, I continued to study, for myself and for my future career. This took about three years. In this time, I would question Muslims about their beliefs. One of the individuals I questioned was a Muslim brother with the MSA. Alhamdulillah, he saw my interest in the deen, and made it a personal effort to educate me about Islam. May Allah increase his reward. He would give me dawaa at every opportunity which presented itself.

One day, this man contacts me, and he tells me about a group of Muslims who were visiting in town. He wanted me to meet them. I agreed. I went to meet with them after ishaa prayer. I was led to a room with at least 20 men in it. They all made space for me to sit, and I was placed face to face with an elderly Pakistani gentleman. Mashallah, this brother was a very knowledgeable man in matters of Christianity. He and I discussed and argued the varying parts of the bible and the Quraan until the fajr. At this point, after having listened to this wise man tell me what I already knew, based on the class I had taken in Christianity, he did what no other individual had ever done. He invited me to become a Muslim. In the three years I had been searching and researching, no one had ever invited me. I had been taught, argued with and even insulted, but never invited. May Allah guide us all. So when he invited me, it clicked. I realized this was the time. I knew it was the truth, and I had to make a decision. Alhamdulillah, Allah opened my heart, and I said, “Yes. I want to be a Muslim.” With that, the man led me in the shahadah – in English and in Arabic. I swear by Allah that when I took the shahadah, I felt the strangest sensation. I felt as if a huge, physical weight had just been lifted off my chest; I gasped for breath as if I were breathing for the first time in my life.

Alhamdulillah, Allah had given me a new life – a clean slate – a chance for Jennah, and I pray that I live the rest of my days and die as a Muslim. Ameen.

Muslim converts, Oct - Dec 2002, Stories

Reflections on my Shahada

By Juan Galvan

Written June 26, 2001

About two weeks ago after Jumaah prayer, Golam encouraged me to say shahada, the Islam declaration of faith. I told him that I wanted to wait until I knew the Muslim prayer. I had already been learning the prayer. I had already memorized a couple of chapters. I told him that Catholics usually have to study before receiving a sacrament. I had been attending Jumaah prayer for about a month already. He said to me, “If you feel it in your heart already, you should just take shahada. No pressure. Allah says no compulsion of religion. But you never know when you will die. By saying shahada, you will be a Muslim in the face of God. But you should think about it, and if you know you’re ready you should go for it.”

I thought for a second or two what my friends and family would think. I also wondered if I was ready to be a good Muslim. Golam grew up in Bangledesh, a country that is primarily Muslim. I don’t think he’s experienced the various temptations that are condemned in Islam. I guess the idea of never drinking again was a scary thought. Then I took a deep breath and told Golam that I would go ahead and say shahada. Then he told me that later that night after Maghrib, I would make shahada. He told me what to expect, “You’ll say shahada first in Arabic and then in English. Afterward, the brothers will congratulate you.” Then he told me what I would say next. I kept butchering the Arabic so I asked him to write it down on paper. In English I would say “I testify that there is nothing worthy of worship but Allah. I also testify that Muhammed is His servant and messenger.” Before I left the mosque, Golam instructed me to take a shower before going to the mosque.

While leaving the mosque, I told my Imam and Mamun that I was taking shahada. The Imam instructed me, “You don’t have to make the shahada public public. You could say it in front of one person and the person doesn’t need to be a Muslim.” I suppose I’m used to the Catholic way of things, formal. An informal shahada would be like going to a bus stop and saying “Hi, I’d like to say shahada. I testify that”” As I left jumah prayer, I read the shahada over and over trying to get the words and pronunciation right. “Ash-hadu Al-la Ilaha Il-lal-Lahu Wa-ash-hadu Anna Muhammadan ‘Abduhu Wara sulah.” I wanted to memorize it so I wouldn’t come across as too ignorant. When I would attend mosque on Fridays, I would pray with the congregation. I had asked the Imam if it would be acceptable. I had already memorized Surah 1, Al Fatihah, which begins the prayer and had remembered it in English and Arabic already so I didn’t feel too lost. I also memorized Surah 112, Al Ikhlas: “Say: He is God, the One and Only; God, the Eternal, Absolute; He begets not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.”

The reasoning of man can lead people to do the dumbest things. When I arrived at home, I reasoned that “after tonight I will never eat pork again, and I also have a pepperoni pizza in the freezer so I’ll either need to throw it away or”” Ok, so I ate a pork-filled pizza before shahada. At least, I didn’t wash it down with some beer. Finally 7:00pm rolled around. Golam knocked on my door, and I went to his car. He asked me how I felt. I said I felt good. I felt guilty for eating the pizza. He then asked me if I had taken a shower. I replied in the affirmative. I told him I couldn’t believe I was about to be a Muslim.

When we arrived, someone was serving dinner. After being served, Golam and I sat with the other men. The food was delicious as always. Golam stated that in Islam when someone has a child the family will feed the community as a thank you. My friend Mamun ate with his hands. I used a fork. I couldn’t decide if it was for religious reasons, if he merely wanted to eat with his hands, or if he was too embarrassed to ask for a fork. I tried handing him a fork. He said that there’s a haddith about eating with your hands. Mamun is also from Bangledesh. He has a big heart. Before visiting a mosque, I thought all mosques were packed with Arabs but most people who attend Austin mosques are mostly from Pakistani and Bangladeshi descent. I once asked an Asian brother how long he’s been a Muslim. He’s from Malaysia. Azlan said his parents and grandparents were all Muslim. I was stunned.

Before magrib prayer, I told Golam, “There’s lot of peace. Lots of peace in knowing that I only have to worship God. I don’t worship money, wealth, or any of that. I don’t have to please the world.” Golam nodded. Recently, he stated, “Look at America. They have all the freedoms. Still there are so many unhappy people. You would think everyone would be happy.” I have spent most of my life trying to be accepted. I simply believed Islam was true. I wanted to be a Muslim. That was all that mattered. Would I be a good Muslim? Maybe. Maybe not. “Muslims are the most religious people in the world. How can I ever be like that?” I wondered. Hayya Alal Falah, Hayya Alal Falah. Come to success, come to success. Finally, prayer time had come. Congregational prayer is amazing when you think about it. Every Muslim regardless of race or nationality in the world pray toward one location, Mecca in Saudia Arabia. Together, we all form concentric circles around the Kaaba. Beautiful. Amazing. After prayer, it was time to say shahada.

Golam stood up, faced the crowd saying, “There’s someone who will take shahada. He attends the University of Texas. He grew up in Texas. He’s been coming to the mosque regularly.” Next thing I knew I was sitting in front of everyone. I was about to go through a “Muslim baptism” as a Christian friend once put it. The Imam said, “Look what Allah has done. He has touched the heart of another. Brother, what is your name?” “Juan Galvan,” I responded. I was handed a microphone. He told me to repeat what he said. The Arabic I said wasn’t exactly as I had practiced. I had the paper I used to practice in front of me. I wish I could remember exactly what was said. “I testify that there is no God but Allah. I also testify that Muhammed is his servant and prophet.” Then he stated, “I also testify that Jesus is his servant and prophet. God has no brother and no mother.” I recalled how adamant Muhammed was about never being worshipped as a God. Stating that Jesus was also God’s prophet reminded me about the significance of Jesus within Islam.

After saying shahada, the Imam stated, “Congratulations. God forgives the sins of those who turn toward him. And if he wants he can turn your previous bad deeds into good deeds.” Everyone clapped then stood up to shake my hand or hug me. I felt very much at home. I tried hard not to cry. I wish there was a way I could tell all the Muslims I’ve ever met that I’ve embraced Islam. I would want them to know how much I appreciate them for telling me about Islam. Meeting all those Muslims were a part of a series of events that brought me to where I am today. Alhamdulila. All praise and thanks to Allah.

July - Sept 2002, Stories

My Acceptance Story

From the Book of Genesis to Surah Al-Fatihah
By Kenny Yusuf Rodriguez

There is no god but Allah, the One and Only God who was worshipped by Abraham, Jesus, Muhammad and all the prophets (peace be upon them). There is nothing in the earth nor in the skies, whether seen or unseen, large or small, that is deserving of worship other than Allah.

As logical as I see that now, that wasn’t always so clear to me.

Growing up in the middle of New York City in a predominately Latino neighborhood, and at the same time being a byproduct of the 80s generation, I was raised by my mother, my father, and to tell the truth, by what I saw on television. Like most people in our neighborhood, my family and I were nominally Catholic. We would go to church about once a year (if that), and my mother would keep a picture of the Virgin Mary on top of the refrigerator in the kitchen. That’s about the extent of our piety. I once heard someone use the term “Christmas Christians”, and that’s what we are; when it came time for December 25th everybody exchanged gifts and cards, but for the rest of the year religion wasn’t a thing spoken of at the dinner table.

Most of my friends were about as religious as we were. Many of them would defend the Bible and the Church to the death if pushed, but secretly many admitted that they had never even picked up and read a copy of the Bible on their own. Their whole idea of Christianity was formed from what they were taught in Sunday school as little kids, or from whatever they saw on the boob tube.

At around age 14, I became interested in this thing called “Christianity” that everyone around me believed in so much, but nobody ever talked about. When I first began to read the Bible, I noticed something peculiar: many traditions and rituals that were commonly labeled as being “Christian” were nowhere to be found in the Bible. One prime example: many people that I grew up with believed that when a person passes away, after being buried, he or she grows little wings and floats up to heaven as an angel in a sparkling white robe, with a golden harp in hand. That’s what always happened on TV, so it had to be true, right? Come to find out, there is no such phenomenon ever described in the Bible. This perturbed me. Why was this being taught to me both by television and by my elders, when this was nowhere to be found in any religious text, especially in the Bible?

I began to ask people about it, and many of my older friends who happened to be Christian would tell me a totally different story. “When we die, that’s it,” they would say. “There’s nothing else. We get buried in caskets, and we go to sleep for the rest of eternity in our comfy coffins.” Now I was even more confused than before. Both of these descriptions of the afterlife were coming from people who have been Christians for their entire lives, and yet they were totally the opposite from each other. Not only that, but I was totally thrown off when I would open the Bible and read descriptions about the Day of Judgment that had no correlation to the aforementioned stories. So one group said one thing, another group said another thing, and the Bible said something else. What was going on? How could two people who believe in the same religion have totally different pictures of the same event? Shouldn’t the Bible have the final word in the discussion?

It would be years before I would read the following verse in the Qur’an which explained it all to me: “And most of them do not follow (anything) but conjecture; surely conjecture will not avail against the truth. Surely God is aware of what they do.” (English translation, 10:35-36)

Disheartened by the whole thing, I started to read the Bible on my own and I tried my best to follow it word-for-word; I conducted all of my religious practices according to what I found in it. I began to set aside certain days for fasting (Matthew 6:16-18, Acts 12:2-3), I stopped eating pork (Deuteronomy 14:8, Leviticus 11:7-8), and I began to teach myself rudimentary Hebrew to better understand the original language of the Bible. When it came time to go to a church service, I was reluctant to wear a suit and tie. My argument was that Jesus Christ (peace be upon him) never wore suits and ties, so why should I? If anything, he wore a long shawl and sandals when he would visit the temples and synagogues during his time.

Before I ever heard of the Islamic terms “Sajdah” or “Rukoo”, which are commonly translated as “prostration” and “bowing” respectively, I used to prostrate to God with my forehead on the floor when I prayed, because according to the Bible that is how the prophets in the past did (Genesis 17:3, Number 20:6, I Kings 18:42).

Jesus didn’t celebrate Christmas, nor did he tell his followers to do so, so I refrained from it. In fact, he did didn’t even call himself a “Christian”; he was a self-professed follower of Judaism and the laws of Moses established centuries before. If Jesus is the best example to follow, shouldn’t I do the same? As a result, I began to pattern my life after Jesus “the Jew”, as opposed to Jesus “the Christian”.

After doing this for about a year or so, I started to reflect on my situation. I couldn’t be the only Christian in the world that regularly fasts, can I? Am I the only one that doesn’t celebrate Christmas or Easter? I researched the hundreds of Christians sects that exist, from the most orthodox to the most liberal, but none of them appeared correct to me. It seemed like everyone was simply following his or her own ideas of what Christianity was or whatever their parents followed, but not what was in the Bible itself.

I continued in this confused state for a little while longer, until one afternoon when I came across a book that led me to my first step towards Islam. It was a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X that my older brother had purchased a couple of years beforehand for a college course. For some reason, the book jumped out at me. I was never one to read anything other than what was assigned to me in school, so I am still not sure what attracted me to the book. Whatever the reason was, I ended up reading it.

I was pessimistic when I first began, trying to find any excuse not to continue on. But with due time, I become intrigued by Malcolm X’s accounts of New York City in the early half of the 20th century, as well as his eventual rise from a street criminal to a world-renown spokesperson against oppression. Reading his descriptions of his pilgrimage to Makkah was my first taste of Islam.

On completing the book, my curiosity led me to research the history of this strange religion I had scarcely known anything about. After reading up on the basics of Islam, and going through a couple of books on the subject, I quickly came to the conclusion: if I want to truly follow the teachings of Jesus and the Bible, I have to become a Muslim! It sounded self-contradictory to me at first, because I was always taught to equate Jesus with Christianity not Islam. However, it all came together like the pieces to a puzzle. Jesus fasted, and Muslims fast. Jesus never ate pork, and Muslims don’t eat pork. Jesus used to prostrate on the floor when he prayed, and Muslims do the same. In fact, many Muslims even dress like Jesus centuries ago! Islam was the only religion that kept the rituals and teachings of the Biblical prophets alive in practice.

To my surprise, I soon noticed that virtually all Islamic practices can be found in the Bible, including ablution before prayer (Exodus 30:17-21, Acts 21:26) and even the veil of women (I Corinthians 11:5-6). Although these practices were often skewed and abandoned after centuries of neglect, they were all there.

It didn’t take long for me to come to the realization that Jesus was simply a messenger in a long series of prophets, from the first prophet Adam to the last prophet Muhammad (peace be upon them all). They were all sent by Allah to teach the same basic message, that is, the oneness of Allah and the teachings of how we as humans should live our lives in order to please Allah and worship Him in the best manner.

Allah states it best in the Holy Qur’an: “The Messiah, the son of Mary, was no more than a messenger: many were the messengers that passed away before him. His woman was a mother of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah makes His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth.” (English translation, 5:75)

Two years later on December 24th 1999, I officially declared Shahadah at a local mosque, but Allah knows best when I truly professed the Shahadah in my heart.

Praise be to Allah, most of my friends and family were very accepting of my choice, and many noticed the positive change in my attitude and actions right away.

I still remember the first time I entered a mosque. Coming from a Catholic background and attending church services where everyone was either Puerto Rican or Dominican, and to now attend Friday congregational prayers at a mosque where no one is from the same country is quite a change. In my opinion, the best feeling is to walk into a mosque and not know where everyone is from. I have yet to find a place more diverse than a mosque. Only there will one find brothers from the Philippines, Senegal, Bangladesh, Brazil and Palestine, all praying side-by-side to the One God, in the same language, with the same beliefs. The fact that I could pray alongside a person who doesn’t even speak the same language as I do moves me. It shows me that Islam truly transcends culture, language, class, race and any other artificial divisions that humans tend to set up amongst themselves.

Mankind as a whole can benefit from accepting Islam and following the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad. I believe that doing so makes one realize that he or she is special; not because of his or her physical looks or financial status, but because one becomes aware that he or she was created by Allah, and specially chosen to be a Muslim. Allah guides whom He wishes to the straight path. I could be anywhere right now, but Allah has willed that I am a Muslim. What a blessing, indeed!

In addition, Islam places a great emphasis on truth and justice, self-discipline, and the pursuit of knowledge; these principles would appeal to anyone.

I am a 20-year-old first generation Dominican-American, and I am currently in my 3rd year in Utica College of Syracuse University. I officially took my Shahadah at age 18 in 1999, but I really became a Muslim at age 15 in 1996.

Jan - Mar 2002, Stories

My First Family Visit As a Muslim

By Juan Galvan

As I fly home to Austin, Texas, I remember the days before my conversion to Islam. I am reminded of Armando, a Latino Muslim. He helped introduce me to Islam. While pointing to the East and then the West, Armando said, “Look what God has given us. He created everything. God is All-Powerful.” He had just finished praying magrib. The beauty of the sunset is still present in my mind. “Truly, in remembering Allah do hearts find rest,” Allah states in the Qur’an 13:28. Looking outside this window, I cannot help grinning as I look to my left and then to my right. I found the true purpose of life. The purpose is not to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Instead, we must accept God as God. We Muslims acknowledge the true nature of our Creator. By doing so, we accept our own purpose as slaves to our Creator.

I am on my way home after visiting my family for the first time after my reversion to Islam. People who knew nothing about Islam surrounded me. My fourteen-year-old sister Cathy asked, “Isn’t Muhammad your God?” “Uh, no,” I replied. My parents, my brother, and my five sisters all live in Pampa, Texas. My dad and I joked about each other’s religion. “Why are you praying to that carpet?” he asked.

“Why do you have statues of dead people on your wall?” I asked, pointing to the large Jesus cross in the living room. On my first day home, I went to Cathy’s room to pray after seeing a cross and religious images on my parent’s wall. No crosses or Jesus pictures in her room. However, there was a huge Backstreet Boy’s poster. I figured it was a lesser of two evils. My parent’s have statutes or pictures of Jesus and Mary on almost every wall in their house. I have a great relationship with my family. Mexican-American households are well known for their love of family and religion.

During my visit to Pampa, I spent much of my time discussing Islam. People who ask you why you chose “that religion” are asking for Dawah. I gladly provided answers. My dad said, “My mom was Catholic, and I’ll be a Catholic when I die.” Mexican-Americans seem to think that their ancestors have always been Roman Catholic. Our ancestors from Spain were Muslim. Our ancestors from Mexico were pagan. Clinging on to a religion simply because of tradition is insane. I refuse to be a blind follower. I am Muslim because Islam is true. While visiting my family, I spoke frequently about Islam. If you love something, you discuss it any chance you get. I hope I did not annoy my family. I gave my brother a copy of the Qur’an and a small introductory book about Islam. I bookmarked www.LatinoDawah.org and www.HispanicMuslims.com on my family’s computers. I copied several Islamic related files to their computers hoping they would accidentally run across them. I asked questions that only the true religion of God can answer. God is three? Jesus is God? Original sin? We find the answers to such questions by studying the fundamentals of Islam: the Oneness of God, Prophethood, and the Day of Judgment.

I spent much time trying to clear up misconceptions about Islam. Why aren’t Americans better informed about Islam? Americans have many questions about Islam. Many times, it is good to bring those questions out in the open. I wanted my sister to understand that Islam is not oppressive to women. I wanted to explain why Muslim women cover. Eventually, I would ask her, “Do you know why women wear scarves?” She simply replied, “Nuh uh.” I feared her reply would be, “What? You think I dress like a slut or something?” I explained that Muslims believe that women should not be treated as sexual objects. I also explained that Islam is like risk management. Men and women are both instructed to lower their gaze.

On my way to Pampa, the airport security was very tight. A security guard checked my bags. He saw my Qur’an, my Islamic literature, my Islamic audiotapes, and my prayer rug. I hope I did not scare the security guard. I considered praying at the Austin airport before stepping onboard the plane but I did not want to give any passengers a heart attack. I skipped fajr prayer for America. George Bush, Jr would be proud. After telling my brother about this, he suggested that I return home with a flight instructor’s manual. Soon after the attacks, my dad asked my mom, “What’d he get himself into?” They had not heard from me in a while so they were a little concerned. People act as if some Arab in Saudi Arabia has a long list of Muslims and can call anyone on the list when he wants to blow up a building.

On my return to Austin, not only were my bags checked but my shoes as well. Most Americans are happy to see increased security. The camouflaged military guys who carry machine guns seem rather unnecessary. The airlines will do whatever it takes to make Americans feel safe and secure. Before takeoff, airline attendants reminded us that our seats could be used as a floatation device although we knew chances of hitting a body of water were slim. Suppose we had to jump ship. A witness would point to the sky saying, “Oh my God look at all those weirdoes up there holding on to their seats!”

My mom cried after hugging me goodbye. I tried to hold back my tears. I hope that she cried because she would miss me and not because she feared I would join the Taliban. As I look outside my window, I see glimpses of the Texas Panhandle. I see canyons then farms and deserted roads then canyons again. I am reminded of Father Dale. During a Sunday sermon, he admitted, “While I was a priest in Hawaii, I would see a beautiful beach and palm trees on my way to work. Now, I see miles and miles of cotton on my way to work!” Father Dale has since left the priesthood and has gotten married. Maybe he will embrace Islam next. You never know. Looking outside my window, I must thank Allah for the canyons, the cotton, and the other gifts He has given us.

Jan - Mar 2002, Stories

Finding Allah in Texas

By Juan Galvan

In high school, I received a jolt to my long-held belief when a Christian friend told me that the Holy Trinity was not true and that Jesus was not God. “He was wrong” I told myself. Jesus had to be God. God and humanity were disconnected by the sin committed by Adam and Eve. God sent his only ‘begotten’ son to die because He loved us so much. Because only God forgives, Jesus had to be God. I even had the Bible quotes to prove it! Indeed, being a devout Roman Catholic Christian, I have read almost the entire Bible. In high school, I was a lecturer, usher, Eucharistic minister, and CCD teacher. I am the godfather for a nephew and a niece. The idea that Jesus was God made much sense.

I am a Mexican-American who comes from a modest background. I spent my adolescent and teenage years in such small Texas Panhandle towns as Quitaque, Turkey, Lakeview, and Memphis. None of them has a mall, a movie theater, or a McDonald’s. Memphis, Texas, population 2,300, proudly proclaims itself “The Cotton Capital of the World.” In Memphis, if you hear a fire truck or police car, either your neighbor’s house is on fire or your neighbor is being arrested. Growing up in small communities gave me much appreciation for the simplicity in God’s creations.

I graduated from Memphis High School in Memphis, Texas in 1994. I did well in high school and would attend Texas Tech University in Lubbock. In 1998 I began attending the University of Texas at Austin. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in MIS in December 2001. Not bad for a kid who had to hoe cotton most of his junior high and high school summers to pay for his clothes and school supplies! My dad was a cotton ginner. Now, he is a custodian at a junior high school in Pampa, Texas. I had eight siblings, but in 2000 my 17-year old sister died in a car wreck.

I have always had respect for other religions. I would often attend other Christian churches and join interfaith Bible study groups. While in one such group, I told my friend Chris that I was a Catholic. Chris blatantly told me that the Catholic Church was “a false doctrine.” As you can imagine, I defended my religion. Chris accused me of worshipping Mary, Saints, and the Pope. I argued that we only revere them. Around this time, I happened to see a man praying. His knees, hands, and forehead were touching the ground, and he was barefoot. After he finished praying, I introduced myself to him. He said his name was Armando, and that he was a Muslim. I thought to myself: “Ok, freaky, you’re Muslim. You can’t be Muslim. What’s this Hispanic guy doing praying to Allah?” He later told me that Spain was Muslim for over 700 years and that thousands of Spanish words have Arabic roots. The ruins of mosques with Qur’anic writings have been found in Cuba, Mexico, Texas and Nevada.

Most importantly, Armando spoke to me about Islam. I began to realize that my reverence for Mary and Saints was much more than mere reverence. Chris was right. However, we were both worshipping Jesus! Armando said that Jesus was only a prophet and that nothing and no one is worthy of worship but Allah. Allah literally means “The God” in English and “El Dios” in Spanish. Muhammad (pbuh) perfected religion. Islam is the true, universal religion of God.

Many of my questions were answered! What is the purpose of life? How can the Father be the Son? Why can’t God just forgive anyone He wants? What happens to babies who die before baptism? In Qur’an 5:83, Allah states: “And when they (who call themselves Christian) listen to what has been sent down to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflowing with tears because of the truth they have recognized. They say: ‘Our Lord! We believe; so write us down among the witnesses.'”

Indeed, my eyes overflowed with tears as I read that verse. Yet I did not embrace Islam until three years after meeting Armando, because I did not want to change. A struggle occurs within everyone, everyday, and everywhere. We struggle to attain what is most important for us. By embracing Islam, we tell Allah (swt) that He is most important and that we are prepared to struggle to do what is right and to avoid what is wrong. I am a Mexican-American Muslim.