“Through the Eyes of Latino Muslims” turned out to be quite lovely!
March 03, 2011
The event was supposed to start at 5:30 but one of the guest speakers, a representative of the Latino American Dawah Association (LADO), got held up (he/she was actually unable to make it, unfortunately) so we didn’t get started until around 6:00.
We began by praying maghrib, which was wonderful because I usually pray alone, so I jumped on the opportunity to pray with others.
Once we finished, there was an “ice-breaker” exercise where each row of students got a post-it with a “fact” about Latinos/Muslims written on it, and it was our job to decide whether the fact was true or false.
Some “facts” (I use parentheses because I’m not quite sure how “factual” all of these statistics are):
There are around 40,000 Latino Muslims in the US today.
You will find at least 5 Muslim Latinos in every mosque in America.
4,000 Spanish words have Arabic origins.
The numbers of Latino converts to Islam increased by 3-4 times after 9.11.
After our ice-breaker, two Latina sisters came up to act as panelists for discussion. One sister was an older Chilean convert from Catholicism, the other was a young Puerto Rican sister who was born Muslim.
Represenatives from both NYU’s United Muslim Association and Latinos Unidos Con Honor & Amistad asked the panelists a series of questions, dealing with clashes between Islamic culture and Latino culture, the experience of living/growing up as a Latino Muslim, challenges of conversion and perceptions of Latino Muslims in both the Latino community and the Islamic community.
The older sister was absolutely adorable, mashallah! She was so full of life and spirit, and hearing her story brought out many emotions within me. She converted after 9.11 and told us about various instances where she was harassed, pushed and even spat on by strangers just for wearing her hijab. She also told us about the struggle with familial acceptance and the lack of support, particularly from her mother, but even while sharing these intimate, heartbreaking details one could tell that her faith had never been shaken. She was so positive and supportive, it was absolutely amazing.
The other sister was hilarious and spoke very eloquently, mashallah, but that older woman really captured my heart – so much so that I head to approach her after the event ended to tell her so! After I told her I was also a Latina convert she insisted I take her e-mail and message her if I ever needed advice or support or anything.
Overall the experience was wonderful, alhamdulillah. Another sister from the UMA invited me to juma’a prayers, which was incredibly kind of her. Inshallah I’ll be able to attend one day!