July - Sept 2005, Latino Muslims

Conference on Islam among Latino Americans

By Rocio Martinez-Mendoza

Dallas, Texas

During July 4th weekend, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) held its Annual SouthCentral Regional Conference. This year was the 6th Annual Conference on Islam among Latino Americans. This Latino Muslims conference is one of the Islam in America Conferences held in conjunction with the regional conference. We extend our gratefulness to ISNA for allowing us, Latino Muslims, to unite for the simple fact of pleasing Allah (swt) and to obtain more knowledge about Islam.

Approximately 25 Latinos attended the event. The group of Latinos included those born in the United States as well as those who immigrated to the United States. The Latino Muslim conference speeches occurred parallel to those of the ISNA regional conference. All speeches were translated so that everyone could benefit. Spanish speeches were translated to English and vice versa.

Our main lecturer was Sheikh Ahmed Al Arafi who spoke about a very important topic for all Muslims entitled “The Way to Success.” He presented his speech as a four part series during the weekend. He advised us to be patient and gentle in our manner and to avoid arrogance and ignorance. Imam Al Arafi leads the weekly halaqa for the group of Latino Muslims who meet at the Dallas Central Mosque. Although he doesn’t speak Spanish, the Dallas Latino Muslims like him very much, because of his personality, knowledge, and wisdom.

Sister Erika Perez Negron spoke about the “Ten Steps to Paradise.” She advised us on practical steps for being successful Muslims. Brother Isa Garcia shared his personal conversion/reversion story. Isa discussed his family’s journey to Islam. At least twenty members in his family have come to Islam. Some of them also spoke about how they came to Islam. Isa Garcia and his family shared personal experiences as well as experiences about living among non-Muslim family and society. Most importantly, they shared great pleasure, enthusiasm, and gratitude in understanding what it means to be a Muslim. The speeches have been recorded for future reference and should be made available for halaqas and different occasions.

In spite of our concerted effort to reunite Latino Muslims, the number of conference participants was relatively low compared to previous years and compared to the population of Latino Muslims who live within the Dallas-Forth Worth area. I believe that we must make a greater effort to attend these types of events. By doing so, we will be more organized and increase the work of dawah. This will also make our Latino Muslim community stronger and more united. Perhaps, we need to increase the amount of publicity for these events to attract more participants at the local and national level.

Like the number of participants, the number of speeches and speakers should also increase. This year, presentations were primarily about the religion of Islam and were geared for Muslims, in general. Knowledge about the religion of Islam is necessary for successful dawah work. Also, many Latino Muslims have never heard Islamic lectures in Spanish. However, many topics could be included that are specifically for the Latino Muslim population. We should include more topics that focus on Latinos and the problems they experience after embracing Islam. For example, topics could be about recommendations for dawah to Latinos, such as orientation classes for new Latino Muslims.

The information booth was one of the greatest successes of the conference. The booth was located in the entrance to the main hall where people register for the conference. Spanish literature was placed on the colorful flags of Latin American countries that decorated the information table. Plenty of Spanish dawah literature was distributed – pamphlets, books, audio CDs, and Qurans. The table allowed us to call much attention to the Latino Muslim community. Muslim of all races approached to ask about Latino Muslims. Today, Latinos live in almost all corners of the United States. And, Muslims who reside in the United States should know that dawah literature for Spanish speakers is available for them to share. Many brothers and sisters approached the booth to take material to distribute among their close Latino friends and acquaintances. Many Muslims also requested advice about how to introduce Islam to Latinos as well as how to continue the dawah work once they show interest in learning about Islam and Muslims, in general.

In conclusion, the Conference on Islam among Latino Americans was quite successful. Thanks to God. A few years ago Latino Muslim events were essentially unheard of, and in many cases, similar events were almost impossible to organize. During the entire weekend, we could perceive an atmosphere of brotherhood among the participants. Although there is no exact number of Latino Muslims residing in the United States or in Latin America, ther is an estimate of 40,000 converts/reverts. In his article entitled “Latino Muslims Growing in Number in the US,” Greg Flakus wrote, “Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in the United States and Latinos represent one of the fastest-growing minorities. Increasingly, the two trends are meeting in the form of Hispanic converts to Islam.” All thanks to God.

During the weekend, the following letter of appreciation was presented to ISNA. Latino Muslims who attended the Latino Muslims conference signed the letter.

In the Name of Allah, The Gracious, The Most Merciful

Friday July 1st, 2005

Assalaamu’Alaykum wa Rahmatullahi wa Barakaatuh

We would like to thank the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) for its Annual Conference on Islam among Latino Americans. Since its founding in 1982, ISNA has been committed to the development of all Muslims within North America. ISNA has shown its commitment to building bridges with all Muslim communities within the United States. From this spirit of brother and sisterhood, ISNA has committed itself to assisting the growing Latino Muslim community.

When few Muslims knew about the growth of Islam among Latinos, the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) had the courage to embark upon the first conference for the development of the Latino Muslim community, giving many of them an opportunity to have a voice within the Muslim community, and at the same time, giving them an example of how to be leaders in their own communities. They have been given an opportunity to network with other Muslims as well as to educate themselves and others on various topics of interest.

Since 1999, the Annual Conference on Islam among Latino Americans has been a blessing for all Hispanics. ISNA has demonstrated itself to be a model of cultural sensitivity in its development and advancement of this conference. May Allah accept our efforts and continue using us in various meaningful ways to spread this Deen of truth. Jazaak Allahul Khairan. Ameen.

“O mankind! We created you from a single soul, male and female, and made you into nations and tribes, so that you may come to know one another.” – Qur’an 49:13.