Jan - Mar 2003, Muslim converts

One Woman Reclaims Her Roots

By Suha Siam

Do idol worshippers realize what they are praying to? Do Christians know they are not supposed to worship anyone other than God? It’s clearly stated in the Bible, but many Christians do not read the book they claim to follow. Very few of those who read the Bible question their priests about why the church rituals and lectures do not match what God says in their holy book. A formal Catholic by the name of Diana Maria Santos always questioned her religion. Diana was not spiritually fulfilled until she learned about Islam.

Diana Santos grew up in Cadiz, Spain. Although she attended Catholic school, she never practiced Catholicism. She questioned the religion her family wanted her to practice. Diana would ask the priest at her school why they had images in the church and kept praying to them even though the Bible says, “You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is the earth beneath, or that is the water under the earth,” in Exodus 20:3-5. One day, the priest sent Diana home for three weeks because she was influencing the other students. During the three weeks at home, she read about the history of the Bible and had more questions for the priest when she went back to school. A few weeks later, Diana was forced to leave the private school and would have to enroll in a public school.

During her three weeks at home from school, Diana also spent time sharing different points of view with her Muslim neighbor from Morocco. At the age of twelve, she realized that what she was reading all her life that made sense was not Catholicism but Islam. Soon after these conversations, her Muslim friend moved to France. Diana would have no one to speak with about Islam until four years later after moving to New York.

While living in New York, Diana started working at a supermarket owned by a Muslim family. She immediately started to practice Islam with the Muslims around her and even fasted Ramadan. Soon after, Diana learned from her grandparents that her family’s history comes from the time of Al-Andalucia, when Spain was Muslim. Her ancestors were among the Moors who liberated Spain in 711. After the Christians defeated the Muslims in 1492, Diana’s family converted to Christianity to avoid being thrown out of Spain. Her family decided to convert to Christianity in order not to loose their land. Diana says, “We did not loose our land, but we lost our identity. Even today, my family denies their history because they don’t want to lose their status in the society. Even though we are in 2003, we still have racism and conflict over this issue. I am very proud to say that we come from the lineage of the Moors who ruled Spain.” Diana is now even more proud to say she reverted to Islam after learning about her Muslim roots. She now uses the name “Mariam” after the mother of our beloved prophet Jesus (Isa). Two years later, Mariam married a Muslim bookkeeper who also worked at the supermarket with her.

Some members of Mariam’s family do not speak to her and think she’s too radical. Others accept her as a Muslim but do not understand why she has to cover. This lack of understanding is very ironic considering the Bible states, “that a woman must be covered. If she’s not covered, it dishonors her head,” in Corinthians 11:1-16. As a Muslim, Mariam is glad she no longer prays to sculptures. She said, “I always felt that the God I believed in had to be bigger than a piece of rock in a human form.”

Mariam is now a member of the Latino American Dawah Organization (LADO). Mariam helps translate Islamic literature from English into Spanish. Because Latinos are reverting to their Muslim roots in large numbers, translating Islamic information to Spanish is extremely important, and Mariam is making it happen. She said, “I think spreading the word of Allah is one of the things that needs to be done in our community for Muslims and Non-Muslims.”

Mariam says that events surrounding 9-11 helped her become a much stronger Muslim. People are very uneducated about Islam. Fortunately, many new Muslims like Mariam are helping nonMuslims understand the one true religion, Islam. She would like to see more Muslims talk about Islam more often to let nonMuslims know who we are and what we believe in. This is called dawah and is a requirement of every Muslim. It is how Mariam Santos learned about Islam. Now, she spreads the message that clarified the purpose of life for her.