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.

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