July – Sept 2008

Islam, July - Sept 2008

Programa Radial En Español Sobre El Islam

Escuche el programa “Elementos de Fe’

Cada domingo 10:10 – 10:30 AM
Radio KCHN 1050 AM, Houston

Con Alejandro Hamed

O escuche la transmisión en vivo en www.kchnRadio.com. (Click en “Listen’)

Cada domingo nos reunimos a hablar sobre el Islam y de temas que afectan a la comunidad latina y, en particular, a la comunidad latina musulmana de Houston y otros lugares.

Hoy en día, los medios de comunicación constantement presentan un imagen distorcionada de lo que realmente es el Islam, concentrándose el los actos y declaraciones de una pequeña minoría que no representa al Islam o a la vasta mayoría de musulmanes en el mundo.

El Islam ofrece una forma de vida que proporciona al humano un estado de armonía con el Creado y con la naturaleza, una visión coherente e integrada de nuestras vidas y el universo, y la posibilidad de alcanzar paz interior y felicidad eterna.

¿Desea saber qué es realmente el Islam?

¿Quiere enterarse de por qué un creciente número de latinas y latinos sigue las enseñanzas y preceptos islámicos?

¿Desea informarse de cómo nuestro idioma español y nuestra cultura latina/hispana han sido históricamente influenciados por el Islam?

¿Sabía usted que Jesús y la Virgen María son reconocidos y altamente respetados en el Islam?

¿Quiere obtener respuestas a preguntas fundamentales: cuál es el propósito de nuestras vidas, qué espera Dios de nosotros, cómo obtener paz espiritual, y muchas otras respuestas?

¡Que la paz sea con todos ustedes!

July - Sept 2008, Spain

Islam Comforts Spanish Intellectuals

By Al-Amin Andalusi

http://www.islamonline.net/servlet/Satellite?c=Article_C&cid=1221720273234&pagename =Zone-English-News/NWELayout

September 25, 2008

MADRID Thousands of Spaniards, especially intellectuals, academics and anti-globalization activists, are finding comfort and solace in Islam.

“Embracing Islam is on the rise despite ferocious Western media campaigns,” Abdul-Nour Brado, the head of the Islamic Society of Catalonia, told IslamOnline.net.

Estimates suggest that between 3,000 to 4,000 Catalonians accepted Islam recently.

“The numbers could be much higher than that,” Barado believes.

Local media reports have noted that intellectuals, academics and anti-globalization activists make up the bulk of the new Muslim reverts in Spain.

Catalonians first embraced Islam in the 1960s and their numbers were quite few.

Now thousands of Catalonians are believed to have joined the fold of Islam.

The Spanish autonomous province of Catalonia covers an area of 31,950 km² with an official population of 6.3 million, and its capital is Barcelona.

It is home to around 100,000 Moroccan immigrants, which is attributed to the geographical proximity with Morocco.

The southern European country has an estimated Muslim minority of about at 1.5 million out of a total population of 40 million.

Islam is the second religion after Christianity and has been recognized through the law of religious freedom, issued in July 1967.


More Spaniards in the northern province of Palencia, in the northern part of the autonomous community of Castile and Leon, are also finding solace in Islam.

“Nearly 4,000 people in Palencia embrace Islam every year,” said Saed Al-Ruttabi, the head of the Islamic Council of Palencia.

He said many Spaniards start their soul-searching journey by delving deep into the Islamic faith.

“And when they do so, they discover that the faith is quite different from the perceptions they had.”

Al-Ruttabi noted that out of the 150,000 Muslims in Palencia, only 90,000 are of immigrant backgrounds.

“This reflects a global trend not only in Spain but across Europe and the US.”

But the rising number of reverts is creating a “cultural problem” in the southern European country.

“New Muslims tend not to attend prayers in the mosques of Muslim immigrants,” Barado said, attributing this to “cultural differences”.

“This is because the reverts believe that such mosques have become like social centers for immigrant Muslims.”

But Mohamed Halhul, a spokesman for the Islamic Cultural Council of Catalonia, sees a positive side.

“Differences between Muslim immigrants and new Muslims are a positive sign in a democratic country.”

Islam, July - Sept 2008

18 ways to make this Eid special

18 ways new Muslims and immigrants can make this Eid special

By Abdul Malik Mujahid


For those who have Muslim families celebrating Eid with them, it’s easy to enjoy this blessed day. For others though, Eid can be a lonely affair.

For instance, if you’re a new Muslim, while other Muslims happily hug their parents, spouses or kids and wish them “Eid Mubarak”, you may be left standing in the prayer hall, alone.

Also, if you’re a recent immigrant or student here with family back home, Eid day can be depressing, since you’ll be missing your family and feeling there is little reason to celebrate.

Or, you could have just moved to another city and are unfamiliar with the local Muslim community. That means standing aside as those who know one another hug and share Eid greetings.

Muslims have a great tradition of hospitality, but during the short Eid salat time, there is a whole lot people have to attend to. They may be just shy or busy with children. Maybe it is you who need to take an initiative.

Here are some ideas to help you avoid experiencing the Eid blues:

1. Go as often as you can to the mosque
This is a great way to meet other Muslims on a regular basis. Participate in Masjid activities, whether it’s classes, Iftars during Ramadan or other programs. If other Muslims see you often enough, you can strike up a conversation after prayers and become friends or at least good acquaintances with some. Then you can make arrangements to see each other on Eid day.

2. Help out at the mosque
This is not only a great way to gain the blessings of Allah, but it’s also how you can get to know other Muslims more closely. You can, for instance, work with the Masjid administration, asking them if there is anything you can do to help with the mosque’s activities or administration. Or you can suggest the next idea

3. Be an “usher” on Eid day
Being an usher means working with other volunteers as a representative of the mosque, to make sure lines are straight for prayers, kids are babysat and things generally run smoothly on Eid day.

4. Look for others in your situation
The pool of people you’ll meet on Eid day will be even greater than the number you meet at the mosque regularly, as many more Muslims turn out for Eid prayers. Take advantage of this. Look for the other brothers/sisters who you notice standing awkwardly apart from everyone else, and approach them. They are most probably missing relatives or new in the community. Invite them over and spend the day with them.

5. Plan ahead
This can’t be stressed enough. Planning ahead for Eid has two advantages.

First, if you come up with a couple of ideas of what you want to do on Eid day, you’ll have enough time to plan for them. For example, let’s say there’s a brother/sister you know who works in the same department as you. You’ve exchanged Salams but haven’t really gotten to know each other.

If you plan ahead, you can call them a few days in advance and arrange to hang out together on Eid day.

6. Take the day off from school/work
Got to do an experiment at the lab? Did the boss put you on the weekend shift? Rearrange your schedule. Eid can’t really be special if you’re working that day.

7. Read about the Sunnahs of Eid ul-Fitr and do them
This will enhance the spiritual significance of the day, and will remind you that Eid is not just a day off work or school but an important Muslim holiday.

8. Invite others over
Even if it’s that Muslim classmate you don’t know very well, invite them over. Also, invite a Muslim family. If you’re a student, maybe you know or have a Muslim professor. Invite him/her and the family over. If they have kids, even better, since children add life to a party. Arrange to have Halal entertainment for them ready.

9. Visit relatives and friends
Maybe you have a Muslim relative or good friend two or three hours away who you rarely see because both of you are so busy. Go and visit them on Eid. And take a gift for them or at least an Eid card. If that’s not possible visit those closer to home.

10. Buy and wear new clothes
Part of the Eid fun is getting new clothes. Buy new ones if you can afford them. If not, you must have at least one or two fancy outfits. Get them washed or dry cleaned and ironed for the big day.

11. Clean and decorate the house
Okay so maybe all you’ve got is a tiny apartment which doesn’t really give you much space to work with. Decorate it anyway. You can use balloons, banners, lights, streamers, the works.

Start off by clearing up the clutter and making the place spic and span. Decorations don’t look particularly appealing in a dusty, disorganized home.

12. Enjoy saying the Takbirat
This is a great way to get into a good mood for Eid day. There are few things as enjoyable as praising Allah at the top of your lungs (just don’t disturb your roommate/ the neighbors.And don’t do this in the shower).

13. Go to the planetarium
If you’re an astronomy or science buff, this is a great place to go with a friend, especially a Muslim one, to find out more about moonsighting and to marvel at Allah’s creation of the planets, stars and galaxy.

14. Rejoice on the good you did this Ramadan or over the past year Look back at all of the good Allah gave you the ability to do over the past Islamic year (Zul Hijjah is the last month of the Islamic calendar) by doing a quick self-evaluation. Did you start praying regularly? Did you work harder to treat your parents well. Were you a more conscientious student? Did you attend Taraweeh prayers regularly during Ramadan?

Whatever positive things you remember, thank Allah for them, especially on Eid day. This is a great way to lift your mood.

15. Give gifts
If you’re on a tight budget, can you make something and give it to those you feel close to? It could be as simple as your first attempt at chocolate cake or a box of cookies. The point is to share and enjoy this blessed day with a fellow Muslim.

16. Call your family
Schedule a specific time to call your family and to wish them Eid Mubarak. Even if you feel lonely in your community, hearing your family’s voice should give you a great boost on Eid day.

17. Send Eid cards
Sending Eid cards via e-mail or snail mail to family and friends on Eid day is a great way to keep your mind on the holiday. Don’t just write a standard greeting on each card. Write a couple of lines, especially on cards for family and close friends, about how you’ve been doing, your hopes for them, and how you spent your Eid day.

18. Share Eid with your neighbors
Invite them over and serve them great food, some “ethnic” and some not too unfamiliar to them. If they are non-Muslims, explain briefly what Eid is about.

© 2002 Sound Vision Foundation, Inc.

July - Sept 2008, Other

Casa A.L.I., Inc


Casa A.L.I., Inc is a non-profit organization in NY. The initials A.L.I. stand for Alianza Afro-Latina Islamica. Casa A.L.I. is focused on providing high-quality service; we will do everything we can to meet your needs.

At Casa Ali we provide substance abuse and HIV/AIDS awareness, anger management, aid to pregnant unmarried women, counseling, ESL and computer literacy classes, and much more, in addition to a sober house environment for our clients. Unfortunately not all people released from jail have the support of a family or friends who will be there to help them or provide a decent place to stay where they are not tempted by the same things that caused them to turn to a life of crime in the first place.

Our founder Robert Kennedy decided to start this organization because he realized that a lot of people go back to their old lifestyles due to hopelessness caused by a lack of the proper support network. We target all impoverished and low-income areas in our communities

Our mission is to give men and women released from incarceration or treatment facilities a place where they can live, keep personal property, have access to phone calls, job searches, public assistance programs, parole, and basic needs till they get on their feet.

We give our residents not only a respectable living environment but also guidance on how to conduct themselves, and how to deal with adversity and/or rejection in order to avoid re-arrest or denial of employment.

Men and women are given spacious living areas where they do not feel as if they are in a shelter environment and have to be up at the crack of dawn to leave the facility in search of employment

Our intake and residential program is six months long with the reserved option of extending that period for three months if necessary for a total maximum of nine months.

We also provide them with transportation for them to go to and fro to the places they need to. We have The Aftercare Services Program, which provides a follow up for one year after they leave our residence to ensure their success.

Our After Care Director sees to it that after our residents leave our homes they are not left without a support group to assist them if they encounter difficulties.

Residents successfully completing the program are eligible to return if they encounter difficulties or are unable to maintain gainful employment and stable residence, but only on a case by case basis.

As Afro-Latinos and African-Americans ourselves we have firsthand experience with the effects that lack of decent community assistance programs can have on our neighborhoods so we know our market.

We will be also taking the burden off of government by providing a valuable service and lifting part of the financial burden recidivism, homelessness, and unemployment create.

Our approach is more holistic in the sense that we also provide mentoring through our volunteers and staff, some of whom in the past were incarcerated or underwent treatment at a substance abuse facility but have successfully made the transition into responsible, gainfully employed adults and can now show our residents how they did it in order to have a positive impact on their lives.

Casa ALI is a member organization of the New Lots Community Enrichment Coalition and the East New York Enrichment Coalition providing services in a ‘one stop shopping’ from our easily accessible community location at New Lots Family Center in Brooklyn, NY. We provide access to Housing, Comprehensive Social, GED and Computer Literacy Education, STD Prevention and Awareness, and Business Services. These services help Casa ALI live up to our motto ‘ Helping Those In Need.’

Our target client population include: Ex-Offenders, Low Income Families, Senior Citizens, Recovering Addicts/Alcoholics, and Disabled. Our coalition of organizations provide 175 years of experience and services to the community.

We accept all donations including cash, autos, clothing, etc. to help us in our mission to assist those of us that are disadvantaged.

We also need mentors.

Thank you.

Send us an email or call to make an appointment if you are interested in being accepted into one of our homes.

We accept men and women.

Alianza Afro Latina Islam

Casa A.L.I.


Aqui hay informacion sobre una organizacion islamica sin fines de lucro en NY. Casa A.L.I. significa Alianza Afro-Latina Islamica.

Casa ALI es una organizacion para ayudar personas que salen de la carcel, prision, o centros de rehabilitacion sin tener a donde ir a vivir. Proveemos hospedaje temporal (transitional housing) y ayuda con ciertos problemas sociales. Proveemos hospedaje en cuartos amplios y limpios donde pueden mantener sus pertenencias, tener acceso al telefono, recibir correo, y tener contacto con sus oficiales de la supervison.

No somos un refugio, sino un lugar donde pueden vivir por 6 meses y recibir consejos de nuestros voluntarios, algunos de los cuales tambien han pasado por el camino de la carcel o han sido descargados de centros de rehabilitacion en el pasado pero que hoy son exitosos en sus carreras y pueden mostrarle a otros como se hace.

Si usted es una persona creyente en Dios o caritativa, y tiene recursos financieros o de su tiempo para ser un mentor voluntario y tener un impacto positivo en la vida de alguien que necesita su ayuda, favor de ponerse en contacto con nosotros por correo electronico o llamarnos por telefono.

Apreciamos su donacion y su apoyo.

Gracias por su interes en nuestro programa y en su visita a nuestra pagina. Favor de mandarnos un correo electronico

Que dios los bendiga.

Alianza Afro Latina Islam

July - Sept 2008, Other

We are Growing

By Nurah Khaled (Lucy)

Assalam alaikum,

I am in vacation back home in Mexico. I came to spend some time with my family. I’m writing because I want to share something really nice with you. When I moved to the USA about eight years ago, there were about only five Muslim families here in my town of Puebla. Every year that I came back I found that many others were here but have never thought that there were other Muslims.

I met a wonderful family about six years ago. The husband is from Pakistan; and she is from Mexico. The brother’s name is Aquel, and the sister’s is Sanah. Brother Aquel managed to bring his brother from Pakistan to Mexico about two years ago. His brother is educated in Islamic studies. He has memorized the Quran; and he also studied in Saudi. He and his brother decided to give Dawa here in my town and also united the few Muslims that reside here in Puebla, Mexico.

They rented a small room in a very ironic place – in front of the cathedral, which is the major church in Puebla. My town is one of the most Catholic states in Mexico, which is why I found the location of the Madraza ironic. Since opening the Madraza two years ago, the community has gathered together on Fridays for Jumah Prayer. Mashallah. Every time I come to visit my family, I contact the brother and his wife; and I come to the masjid on Fridays.

The great thing is that many people have converted to Islam since they started, but they have a problem keeping the people interested in coming back. I think that is because they lack material in Spanish to give to people. Also, the Shaikh does not speak Spanish very well and his sermons are Spanglish. It is kind of hard to give information when you do not have resources.

But Mashallah this past Friday, another sister said that she might be doing her Shahada. Also, the Shaikh agreed to help my daughter with her Quran memorization to keep her from falling behind when she returns to school, inshallah, which is a blessing for me. Alhamdulillah. Now you must be wondering why I am telling you all of this Like any great cause, they need funds and materials to keep up with their mission, Inshallah.

Although they have not asked me to request help, I’m requesting that you help them to grow, inshallah. Maybe some of you can donate some money. Anything is good. Or, maybe you want to buy some Qurans in Spanish for them to distribute among the new converts. You can provide anything that you think might help them. As I said before they have never asked me to do anything for them. I think they are determined to make this masjid bigger, inshallah. Please let me know how you would like to help.

This Friday I’ll be going again, and I will take some pictures to send to you. Inshallah. This place of worship is very small but very nice and cozy. We should say “Mashallah!” because Islam is spreading everywhere. Alhamdulillah.

I’m very proud of these brothers. And, I’m honor that they are spreading the message of Allah SWT. I’ll be here until August 1 but my husband travels all the time to Mexico, so maybe we can keep helping them afterward inshallah.

Allah Hafiz.

July - Sept 2008, Latino Muslims

Latinos and Islam

By MuslimBridges.org


Why so many young Muslims are falling in love with Latinos, getting married, forming wonderful families, and integrating together with such harmony and positive contributions to each other?

Why many Hispanics become Muslims, and why many who are not Muslims, give their children Islamic names (like Omar, Fatima, Salma, Ismael, …), loving the Islamic culture and art, and integrating it in their homes (arches, patio gardens at the center of the homes, tile roofs, even cooking traditional Muslim meals like Paaia? Many women (especially in Mexico) are empowered by the Islamic Rights and keep their last name after marriage!

Few years ago, “El Clon” was one of the most watched Spanish language soups on Telemondo TV station. The story was based on a Moroccan Muslim family member falling in love with a Brazilian. This soap was so popular, they stretched it for a year, and you could not escape hearing conversations about it.

These days you can’t easily distinguish between a Mexican American, and Arab American, in fact, right after 9/11, hate crimes against Muslims took a sharp rise, and many Latinos were harassed, chased, and attacked mistakenly for looking like Muslims. If you drop by at any local high school during lunchtime, there is a good chance you will see students grouped together by ethnic background and areas of interest. The blacks form a group, the skaters form another, the Latinos normally form several groups and among them you will often see the Muslim kids.

Young-Muslims-Love-LatinosI asked around a lot to find some of the sources causing this mutual attraction, and discovered several interesting views. One view is based on commonalities in terms of close family ties and the social life founded on group setting. American Muslims with knowledge of the Arabic language find it relatively easy to pick up Spanish language, since a good amount of the Spanish vocabulary is actually based on the Arabic language. Also, Latinos and American Muslims have endured much of the same struggle, particularly the immigrants from both groups during the last several decades, while pursing their American dreams.

On the surface, these common factors certainly contribute to the mutual attraction, but there has to be more profound reasons that reach far deeper with strong roots. Indeed we discovered that when we say we have the same blood, it is not just a figure of speech. To pursue the truth, we arranged to take a trip to Spain in search for these roots.

1400 years ago, Islam was delivered to humanity with its scripture “Quran”, as the last and final testament, following earlier testaments delivered by prophets and messengers of God, including Abraham PBUH, Moses PBUH, and Jesus PBUH.

The message was always consistent by all the prophets, to worship none, but God, have no associates with Him, do and recommend what is good, avoid and forbid what is bad. Recognize that God will judge our conduct, and there will be a hereafter, where we will receive our reward or punishment.

The massage of Islam, and the revelation of the Quran were delivered through Prophet Mohammed PBUH over a period of 23 years, and amazingly within just 30 years, Islam has spread from a small remote area of the Arabian Peninsula to cover vast areas in Asia, Africa, and Europe, including large territories from both the Persian and Roman Empires at the same time, and extended all the way to reach Spain. Large areas of Southern Spain was named “Al Andalus” (heaven on earth) Andalusia, and not only became a Muslim country for 800 years, but also a source of influence and fountain of Muslim culture during the Dark Age in Europe.

After just a couple hours drive from the capital Madrid, I found myself in Andalusia, one of the most beautiful regions of Europe. I could see fig, citrus, and ancient olive trees planted originally by the Muslims on thousands and thousands of acres. Today, olive oil and oranges are among the top agriculture exports for Spain, and I’m sure there is a sense of gratitude to Muslims even if it is not publicly admitted.

Muslims lived in harmony with the locals, as we consider Christians and Jews as people of the book and recognize their rights. Islam forbids forced conversion “There is no compulsion in religion” Quran 2:256. This gave our Jewish cousins a chance to flourish, and to live their golden years in harmony under the Muslim rule.

Muslims went to Spain in response to the locals asking for their help against tyrant rulers that overburdened the locals with unbearable taxes, and injustice. They built, planted, educated, and contributed much to bring this region out of the dark ages. Some of the most renowned libraries, architecture, and cities such as Alhambra, Cordoba, and Granada are still standing today as a testament for the Islamic contribution to Spain.

Cordoba-Mosque-in-SpainMuslims endured many attacks from the North, and after 800 years of defense, were defeated during the period right before Coulombs conquest to America. Within just 2 years, all Muslims and Jews were prosecuted, deported, executed, and the rule of the “inquisition” became law. This was a brutal forced conversion to Christianity or death by worst kinds of torture. Any one accused of continuing to practice Islam in secret, was brought before religious courts and put to death. Can you imagine erasing an 800 year old nation (this is 4 times as long as the existence of the USA) from the face of the earth.

If you visit the Andalusia, look at the faces of the people and examine their features, look at their culture, walk the streets and smell the Arabian Jasmine and Orange blossoms perfuming the air. It is certainly very much influenced until today with Islamic culture.

Shortly after, Columbus was on a mission from the Queen Elisabeth of Spain, to accomplish two goals, discover new land that will increase the wealth and influence for Spain, and to convert its people to Christianity. It is reported that Columbus included a number of Muslims on his team, as Muslims were very advanced in science, medicine, astronomy, calculations – Algebra which is taught today in colleges and high schools around the world is in fact the product of a Muslim scholar from the 8th century-,and mathematics. We all know what happened, and how the two wishes of the queen were fulfilled, but at a very high cost paid by the Native Americans.

It became clear to me that it was not a coincident or just simple commonality that binds Muslims and Latinos, but bloodline, heritage, culture, and 800 years of common history. During the past 50 years, Islamic centers are appearing in Mexico, Central, and Latin America, and there are more than 1000 Islamic centers in the USA today.

I have seen Muslim Latinos as heads of Islamic centers where the members predominantly a mixture of African American, white, Asians, and Arab Americans. This speaks volumes about the beauty of Islam, where color, social status, and ethnic groups cannot elevate you before God, but only your good and righteous deeds.

Thank you for taking the time to read this brief, and we encourage you to learn more about our common history, and Islam.

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.

July - Sept 2008, Poems, Ramadan

Soy Ramadan

Por AbdelAziz


Sept. 16, 2005

En Nombre de Alah, El Misericordioso, El Compasivo

Salam Alaikum a Todos/as!!

Me llamo Ramadán”
Algunos ya me conocen, les veo sonriendo, Os acordáis de mí?
También entiendo por qué estáis emocionados” Es una relación de muchos años
Y yo tampoco me he olvidado de vosotros, os conozco a todos
Sí Sí, esas noches de paz, misericordia, tranquilidad y esas oraciones”
Compartimos el salat, el duáa, el corán, y muchas lágrimas”

Este año, como todos, vengo con muchas sorpresas
Regalos, cartas, señales, susurros, milagros y pruebas
Soy el mensajero del misericordioso para sus siervos
Me ha hablado de cada uno de vosotros y si supierais”
Si supierais lo que sois para él de valiosos
Me lo dijo: “Les quiero a todos y a todas”

Vengo de invitado por la tierra
Dónde están para acogerme los generosos?
Dónde están para recibirme los brazos?
Esos triunfarán y tendrán éxito
y quien a ello se niegue, perdido sea y desgraciado.

Estoy muy contento”
Nuevas caras este año voy a conocer
Y con otros corazones me voy a relacionar
En China, Australia, Japón, Jordania, España y Senegal”
Nuevos Musulmanes y niños que ya son mayores
Para esos tengo regalos muy especiales
Y de parte de Alah, mucha fuerza, fe y bendiciones.

Para ellos me quiero presentar:
Os habrán hablado de mí vuestros amigos y padres
Y vuestros sabios en sus libros me tienen presente
Soy hermano de Muharram, Safar, Shaaban y Shawal”
Y gracias a mi señor, de entre ellos el más especial
Soy parte muy valiosa del tiempo y el tiempo es oro
Con ser el mes del corán Alah me honró.

Alah dijo de mí: “En el mes de Ramadán se hizo descender el Corán, dirección para los hombres y pruebas claras de la Guía y del Discernimiento; así pues, quien de vosotros vea el mes, que ayune” Sura 2/ Aleya 185

Y vuestro profeta Muhammed (s.a.s), el ejemplo a seguir y la guía luminosa para la humanidad entera, deseaba verme teniendo el paraíso más alto asegurado antes de su muerte” Decía: “Oh Alah!! Bendícenos este mes de Shaaban, y haznos vivir hasta alcanzar el Ramadán? “

Me creéis ahora, que no soy un mes cualquiera?
Alah prepara un ambiente especial para mi presencia
Cierra las puertas del infierno, abre las del paraíso y las fuentes de la gloria
Encadena a vuestro enemigo y origen del mal Iblis, maldito sea
Multiplica las buenas acciones y borra los errores”
Si Alah perdona a miles y miles, por qué no ser de ellos?

Os pido” Buena recepción y aviso: Voy a estar poco…
Un lugar en vuestros corazones, más atención y esfuerzo
Son días que pasan volando” y ya estoy llegando”
Despertad!! Preparaos, oh buscadores del éxito!!

Por otro lado” Estoy triste, Muy triste”
Veo en el mundo mucho odio y en cada rincón una guerra
Qué os pasa delegados de Alah en su tierra?
Esto no puede seguir así, tú y yo lo vamos a cambiar
Con un mundo más justo soñamos y lo vamos a lograr.

Espero verte pronto y que el encuentro te sirva de algo
Yo estoy ansioso por verte, qué hay de ti?



Islam, July - Sept 2008

A Visit to Muslims in Austria: Vienna and Vorarlberg

By Marta Galedary

I visited two Muslims communities in Austria: Vienna and Vorarlberg, in April 2008. A small group of four American Muslims including myself met with a variety of Muslims and non-Muslim leaders, professors and activists. The main objective of the visit was to dialogue with the Austrian Muslim community and exchange information about the way of living as Muslims in the USA. The group was shocked to find out the poor conditions of the Muslim Turkish community living in Vorarlberg.

Statistics Muslims in Austria

There are approximately 340,000 Muslims in Austria, with 7.8 % living in Vienna. The majority are of Turkish descent (120,000), and Bosnians (about 50,000).

In Vienna Muslims are the second largest religious group, followed by Orthodox Christians and Protestants. The lowest percentages of Muslims live in Styria (1.6%) and Burgenland (1.4%).

History of Muslims in Austria After World War II

A law issued in 1867, guaranteed respect for all religions throughout the Austrian empire, and gave Muslims the right to establish mosques.

The country’s first mosque was built in Vienna in 1878, with the government’s assistance, to service Bosnian Muslims enlisted in the Austrian army.

New waves of Muslims immigrants entered the country following World War II, mostly skilled laborers from Turkey attracted to work in the country’s reconstruction efforts. The economic boom in Western Europe during the 1970’s and the disintegration of Yugoslavia at the beginning of the 1990’s caused more immigration to Austria.

Present Conditions of Muslims living in Austria.

According to Dr. Doerler (liaison person among Christians and Muslims), after September 11, 2001 the condition of the Muslim community in Vorarlberg deteriorated. There is a great salary disparity between Austrians and immigrants.

There is no second language service to improve the German language skills of immigrant children.

The segregation of Turks starts at an early school age, within the Austrian educational system.

According to a local Turkish Muslim:
Austria’s school system classifies the children since elementary school in two levels, which locked the students in two categories for future school placement. The criteria are based on the knowledge of the German language. Most of the children of the immigrant Muslim community will encounter a problem with proficiency in the German language. Therefore, these students will never achieve a professional career because their lack of German language proficiency insures that they will be locked in the lowest classification. Even though immigrant students can master their knowledge of German, they will not be promoted to go to university level. These students will be eligible to attend a technical skills school only.

It is hard to believe that in the 21st century a modern European state and European Union member could discriminate so openly against immigrant Muslims residents. The extreme fundamentalist Christians and a neo-Nazi mentality are still present.

In order to understand the behavior and way of thinking of the Austrian society is necessary to go back to the history of the region:
1. According to the historian, Richard Jaklitsch, Christianization of the region started in the 7th and 8th centuries by Irish missionaries, led by St. Columban, who came to spread the word of God.

The main figure associated with the ecclesiastical penetration of Austria was a Rhenish noble, St. Rupert, who first came to Bavaria in 696 and who later chose Salzburg as his base for his Austrian mission.

It was in Salzburg that he founded the abbey of St. Peter (now a Benedictine house), considered by many the “mother church” of all Austria and Bavaria (Leeper 87). The conversion of Austria made swift progress, evident from the fact that the Pope elevated Salzburg to a bishopric.

The Roman Catholic Church possessed the power of the state, religion and wealth, for many centuries.

Austrian knights joined the First Crusade and participated in the conquest of Jerusalem. It seems that the “crusader” sentiment of some current Catholic bishops is still present.

2. The Austro-Hungarian Empire was engaged in major warfare with the Muslim Ottoman Turks from the 16th Century to the late 19th Century and did not end until the weak Ottoman Empire allied with the Germans during World War I. There is still historical resentment towards the Turks, who, during the time of the Ottoman Empire, unsuccessfully laid siege to Vienna twice once in the 16th century and once in the 17th century.

3. Racism and Fascism are still present in Austria, 63 years after the defeat of Nazi Germany. Anti-immigrant sentiment simply feeds the resurgence of neo-Nazi and extreme right wing groups.

Visit to the Austrian State of Vorarlberg

According to the 2001 census 8.4 to 9 percent of the population in Vorarlberg is Muslim. Dornbirn is the largest city in the Austrian State of Vorarlberg, as well as its business and economic center, with its 45,650 inhabitants (2006)

Dornbirn benefits from its favorable location among diverse cultural and natural settings in the four countries area of Austria, the Principality of Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Germany.

The first Muslim Turks arrived in Vorarlberg

In the 1960’s Austria invited “guest-workers” from Turkey and the former Yugoslavia. The workers were poorly educated, and many of them were illiterate.

Quoting Dr. Doerler on the issue of integration, she said: “Austrians and guest-workers, thought they were going back home soon, therefore, nobody worked for integration. No German language courses were offered. The problem is felt now with the youth.”

The young Turkish Muslims’ have feelings of despair without an identity, no culture, low self-esteem, no voice in Austria’s political system nor anyone who can speak for their civil rights. There is nobody to look up to, no winners, nor any role models.

The youth became assimilated and still NOT wanted

There are no tutoring services available to students who need to improve in any subject, especially in the German language.

There are few job openings. The unemployment rate is about 40 percent.

The jobs are denied to applicants whose names sound Turkish.

Entry is denied to young Muslims in youth centers where the Austrians gather.

Reminiscent of the American South during the Jim Crow, pre-civil rights era, there are signs posted outside of buildings stating: No Turks Allowed.

Jobs and housing are regularly denied to a people whose names sound Turkish.

ATIB mosque (Austrian Turkish Islamic Union)

The ATIB mosque is the largest in Vorarlberg. The majority of members are of Turkish origin. The financial support comes from the members of the community.

In order to have an Imam, they followed the rules of the Vorarlberg government, which included a stipulation that the Imam must be approved by the Turkish government

Strict Rules to hire an Imam

The period of serving is 4 years; when the serving period ends, the Imam must return to Turkey. The Imam is paid by the Turkish government and by the local community The Imam’s activities include: teaching of Islam, visits to hospitals and jails and sometimes working as a social worker.

Struggle over Construction of a Minaret

Dr. Doerler mentioned that the Catholic Community is divided in two: the mainstream followers of the Pope’s orders of Muslim acceptance, after Pope John Paul II acknowledged that the Qur’an was a holy book inspired by God.

The second group consists of Catholics who adhere to an ideology of “Defending Christianity against Orientalism-Islam.”

Quoting scientists Kurt Greussin, “some Catholics’ views are apocalyptic in the sense of defending Christianity from the Orient.”

Quoting from the newspaper: “A high ranking representative of Austria’s Catholic Church for the first time openly voiced reservations against the construction of minarets. Austrian Bishop Condemns Minarets as a Provocation.” Elmer Fischer stated, “Mosques with minarets would be a provocation.” Nowadays, the Muslim Turks are still fighting the right to build a minaret to the Atib mosque.

Conclusion of the Dialogue in Vorarlberg

The poor condition of the Muslim community in Vorarlberg might lead to a phenomenon of resentment and anti-social behavior from the younger generation. The major critique from Catholic fundamentalists is to put the blame on Islam. The Muslims have already been labeled as violent people.

There is a resurgent racism, supported by the fundamentalist Catholics, many of whom identify with the Opus-Dei movement, against the Muslim community.

The Catholic fundamentalists have a powerful influence in the government and the media, often denigrating and stereotyping Muslims.

The Austrian authorities complain about the inability of Muslims to integrate into society, while, at the same time, they have segregated the Muslim community from interacting with the rest of the society. The young generation of Muslims appears to be losing their identity and religion, without successfully assimilating.

In the end, they are still not wanted.

July - Sept 2008, Quotes of the Month

Quotes of the Month

“Do the unbelievers not realize that the heavens and the earth used to be one solid mass that we exploded into existence? And from water we made all living things. Would they believe?” – Qur’an 21:30.

“And keep up prayer in the two parts of the day and in the first hours of the night; surely good deeds take away evil deeds this is a reminder to the mindful.” – Quran 11:114.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said, “Beware of suspicion, for suspicion is the worst of false tales; and do not look for faults in others, and do not spy, and do not be jealous of one another, and do not desert (cut your relations with) one another, and do not hate one another; and O God’s worshipers! Be brothers (as God has ordered you)!” – Sahih Al-Bukhari 8.90.

The Prophet (sallallaahu ‘alaihi wasallam) said, “Facilitate things to people (concerning religious matters), and do not make it hard for them and give them good tidings and do not make them run away (from Islam).” – Bukhari 1.69. Narrated by Anas bin Malik (Radhiallaho anho).

“A world in which it is wrong to murder an individual civilian and right to drop a thousand tons of high explosive on a residential area does sometimes make me wonder whether this earth of ours is not a loony bin made use of by some other planet.” – George Orwell.