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.