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25 Things Latino Muslims Want You To Know

You may have heard that Latinos are not only the fastest growing minority in the United States, but they are also the fastest growing minority within Islam. However, the history of Latinos is just as rich with Islamic roots and influences as their future promises to be. Not all Latino Muslims are converts; many have been practicing Islam for generations and some are even descendants of Muslims from faraway lands. Because Latinos have been involved in Islamic and civil rights movements in the United States as far back as the 60’s and 70’s, and may have been here for even longer, one would think that Muslims would do their best to familiarize themselves with the culture, traditions, and geography of Latin America to better understand their brothers and sisters. However, the non-Latino Muslim community still knows very little about Latin America, what it really means to be Latino or Hispanic in America, and what it means to be Latino and Muslim.

That is why we have compiled this list of things that Latino Muslim leaders all over the US want you to know:

 

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1. We want to be treated as equals.

Muslim Latinos want to be seen on equal footing of respect, admiration, brotherhood, and affection. This requires work on our parts, as well as that of our communities… We want others to know that many of us feel hurt and that we are being treated as we have been treated by non-Muslim society: like second class citizens, but that we stand with our brothers in religion even though our social and political agendas may look and sound different.

Hajj Yahya Figueroa, Alianza Islámica (formerly New York), Pennsylvania

2. We come from good families.

Many, if not most of us, came from very moral families. The idea that we converted from some horrible background simply because we’re Latino is not our narrative.

Shinoa Matos, Journalist, New York

3. We can be Muslim and keep our Latino identity.

I would like others to be able to understand and identify the difference between the true practices of our religion Islam vs the diverse cultures that Muslims who practice Islam belong to. For example, someone can be Mexican and Muslim and nowhere in the religion are we encouraged or obligated to choose between the two. We can be just as proud of our faith and culture. We do not need to compromise.

Nahela Morales, ICNA Dallas, Texas

4. Latinos helped to establish Islam in the US.

Latino Muslims were instrumental in establishing Islam in the US; they possess a role in Muslim American history not known to many. Unfortunately, despite these facts, not enough has been done to assist the growth and continuity of the Latino Muslim community by the larger body of Muslims. So, the community is forced to struggle to address its needs with very little support.

Imam Yusuf Rios, 3 Puerto Rican Imams Project, Ohio

5. Our community can relate to both the indigenous and immigrant experience.

Latino Muslims offer a unique experience within the narrative of what is American Islam. We can be a bridge between the African-American Muslim community and immigrant Arab and South Asian Muslim communities. For many of us, we understand and are affected by many of the issues that affect the African-American community due to our proximity and long history within the U.S. yet at the same time, we understand the immigrant experience and the notion of what “back home” means. Latino Muslims are at a crossroads and we are still defining who we are.

Hazel Gómez de Crain, Organizing Fellow at Dream of Detroit, Michigan

6. We are a collage of cultures and customs.

The ethnic mix of the Latino Muslims reflects people of a broad spectrum including: Africans, Native Peoples, and Europeans etc. This has increased because of the diaspora, the Triangular Slave Trade, and the Pre and Post-Colombian Exchange. We should consider the possibilities (and find common ground in): Why we look like we do, eat what we do, speak like we do, and all those other traits that make Latino Muslims a unique group of individuals.

Jamal Abdul-Karim, MEd., Teacher, Maryland

7. All of us deserve to learn about Islam.

We have the right to know and learn about Islam just like everyone else. Not all of us are blue-collar immigrant workers, nevertheless, a Latino or Hispanic person should never be regarded as inferior because of where they are from or their occupation. It kills me to see a Latino person cleaning the mosque or working on landscaping outside a mosque, who doesn’t even know anything about Islam or Muslims because no one bothers to talk to them. There is no excuse.

Wendy Díaz, Co-Founder, Hablamos Islam, Maryland

8. We are just like you.

We came to Islam because it appeals to our very Latinoness (Latinidad). We are converts just like born Muslims are nothing more than the descendants of converts.

Shinoa Matos, Journalist, New York

9. We have been inspired by our predecessors.

As Latino Muslims, our inspirations are the great scholars who learned the Deen and became prominent while being Non-Arabs: Imam Bukhari (Uzbekistan), Imam Muslim (Nishapur), Imam Qurtubi ( Spain ).

Imam Daniel Hernandéz, Pearland Islamic Center ISGH, Houston, TX

10. We want you to acknowledge that we are valuable.

We are not 2nd class citizens, rather we are servants of the Most High and that makes us brothers/sisters under His Mercy and Grace. Affirm our specialties and acknowledge that we are no less than you in our professions. Do not use us to gain wealth or move your organizations the way the slaves were sold in the markets.

Imam Wesley Abu Sumayyah Lebron, Misericordia Para La Humanidad (Mercy for Humanity), 3 Puerto Rican Imams Project, New Jersey

11. We want you to get to know who we are.

Latino Muslims coming to Islam just add feathers to our beautiful Peacock. We are many nations who are diverse in culture and customs. Please take the time to personally understand the Latino Muslims you come across and not only their conversion stories.

Imam Daniel Hernandez, Pearland Islamic Center ISGH, Houston, TX

12. Latinos are diverse.

We are not all Puerto Rican or Mexican. Latin America is very diverse.

Nivia Martinez, Grassroots Dawah, New York

13. We do not want to confuse culture with Islam.

Don’t bring us your cultural baggage and confuse it with Islam. Islam is just as much a part of our heritage as it is of yours. We are equal because we share this Deen with you, and we follow the footsteps of the best generations because we accepted Islam based on knowledge and not culture.

Hernán Guadalupe, MEng., Doctoral student, Business Administration, Maryland

14. We do not want you to believe the stereotypes.

I would want non-Latino or “native” Muslims to know that we are no less than them (some would argue our higher standing due to our choice of Islam vs being “born” into it – but I reject those divisive thoughts).  Secondly, not being “born” into it then gives us a certain push in the Islamic direction. The last point – is sad because I have to say it – we are not all bad or criminals or the sort, as all Muslims are not terrorists or murderers or the sort. There are just a few bad apples in every culture!

Alex Robayo, ME, Physics Instructor, New York

15. We are not just learning about Islam in the prison system.

Some people believe that we have come to (learn) Islam in prison. Not all of us have come to know about Islam because of prison, alhamdulillah.

Juan Alvarado, Caseworker, Pennsylvania

16. Our conversion stories are just as diverse as we are.

Many of us did not become Muslim for marriage. Not to shame those who did, but some of us made this choice on our own.

Nivia Martinez, Grassroots Dawah, New York

17. We demand respect.

Just as every Latino is not Mexican, every Latino is not a drunkard. Almost all immigrant Muslims who contact me are trying to marry a Latina. Many of them see us as no more than a Tinder (dating app). Maybe they could ask to help in the dawah, instead.

Juan Galvan, Co-founder, LADO, Illinois

18. Our women are not for sale.

Unfortunately, we Muslim Latina sisters are fetishized and sexualized amongst the men in our Ummah; considered cheaper alternative brides and punked (many times out of ignorance) from having a legitimate wali, then offered less in dowry, dignity, and honor, and discarded. It’s not right and these conversations need to be had.

Paulina Rivera, MSW candidate, USC, California

19. Rather than criticize, lend a hand.

Do not criticize the Latino once he is learning about Islam; instead, you should help him, get to know him, befriend him and learn with him all the things you do not know about our culture.

Sonia García, The Latina Muslim Foundation, California

20. If you want to know more about us, just ask.

Do not assume to know who we are, what we have been through, or how we got here. If you want to know our story, just ask. We will be happy to tell you. And when we do, don’t judge us; just listen.

Melissa Barreto, Homeschooling Educator, New Jersey

21. We are proud of who we are.

After coming to Islam, Latino Muslims truly appreciate their home countries and who they are because they get to have Islam and be Latino at the same time.

Dr. Julio Ortiz-Luquis, Professor of International Relations, New York 

22. We want you to learn about our rich history and contributions to society.

There is much to celebrate in our Latino customs, from our past indigenous contributions in the pre-colonial American landscape to the more recent contributions throughout Latin America. Islam is as transformative to Latino Muslims as it is to non-convert Muslims. Find out more on how to make a more meaningful impact in our communities by getting to know our histories, our people, our values.

Nylka Vargas, P.I.E.D.A.D National Coordinator, NHIEC Dawah Committee, New Jersey

23. Just as we have a shared past, we have the same goals.

We aspire to belong to the Ummah of Muhammad, the mercy for mankind. I would like for the Muslim community to accept us as Muslims with an Andalusia flair.

Imam Yusef Maisonet, Masjid As-Salaam, Alabama

24. We want to feel accepted.

As a Muslim Latina, I would like to let non-Latinos know that we are very open and accepting individuals. I would like to share my Dominican recipes and put a spunk to their dishes! Most importantly, I want them to know that we just want to be accepted, not rejected from the (Muslim) community.

Sahar Amada Quesada, Teacher, New York

25. We are here to stay.

We exist, and we are here to stay. Islam is for everybody; it is universal and not confined to one place or time.

Imam Danny Khalil Salgado-Miralla, Masjid the Abrar, New York

“O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (Qur’an, 49:13)

Historically, Latino Muslims have sought refuge in Islam because it resonated with our spirituality, morals, family values, and traditions. There is so much to learn from our “Latinidad,” what makes us innately Latino*. We are a people from various countries and backgrounds bound together by a shared language and principles and a history of colonization, oppression, and injustice. Now, we have been united with you under the banner of Islam. We have so much to offer the greater Islamic community, but this begins with acceptance. Make a conscious effort to get to know your Latino brothers and sisters today.

 

*Note: The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a Latino as: “a person who was born or lives in South America, Central America, or Mexico or a person in the US whose family is originally from South America, Central America, or Mexico,” whereas Hispanic means: “coming originally from an area where Spanish is spoken and especially from Latin America.” Latino origin is based on ancestry, lineage, heritage, nationality and/or country of birth, therefore Latino people come from a variety of countries, backgrounds and social statuses.

Mexico is the only Spanish-speaking country that shares a border with the US. However, there are a total of 21 countries in the world where Spanish is the official language. The bulk of those are in Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. All Spanish-speaking countries are represented throughout the US.

 

 

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Columnist Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, poet, translator, and children's book author. She is the Spanish content coordinator for ICNA-WhyIslam. She is also the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in the Spanish language.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Imam Daniel

    October 1, 2018 at 3:38 PM

    Asalamu Alaykum Susan may Allah bless you for your sincere concerns.
    Most of us by the favor of Allah are involved in many causes pertaining to Muslims from all over the world. We make dua, donate, and join efforts for the sake of Allah.
    Regarding Culture:
    It has to be understood that Allah chose for us our unique cultures while we share the same Deen many of us even Latinos/ Hispanic dont share same food, dialect and customs. Our beloved prophet (pbuh) said:
    “Speak to the people according to their mental capacity”
    As human beings we should know our culture and embrace it so long as it doesn’t contradict with our Deen. We should learn our history in order to learn from the past. And we should use wisdom when dealing with diversity making sure we dont impose our cultural practices in the name of Islam while new muslims are unaware of it.
    The objective of this article is to create awareness and help the community better understand how to deal with the Latino Muslim Community and their needs since they too are part of the community as a whole.

  2. Avatar

    farah naaz

    October 9, 2018 at 10:59 AM

    Yes amazing article about Latinos
    in Quraan Allah says Allah human-beings are equal and every child deserve to be TREATED EQUALLY.
    And then Allah azwajal says those who are righteous are most valuable then why not Latinos be treated equally? they indeed deserve respect, liberty and equality.

  3. Avatar

    mohamed qayum

    August 21, 2019 at 4:20 PM

    “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Allah is Knowing and Acquainted.” (Qur’an, 49:13)

  4. Avatar

    Arshaad

    February 27, 2020 at 2:53 PM

    Slmz I would like o commend you on well written and Import-page, Ma sha Allah. I have for many years now followed and tried to keep myself informed as to the state and Status of Latin American Muslims on a whole. I have looked through background and history of Islam and it first reaching the South American shores.

    With regards to importance both in the US and outside it’s borders Muslim’s play a huge role in the challenges that are faced by humanity as a whole and based on the fat paced era and last 100years of history, I believe Latino Muslims have yet even more to bring to a world that is in need of salvation. it is truly heart warming to see the effort of Unity and preservation of family, which is possibly the hardest steps many Latino Muslims have taken.

    And from just reading through these Alghamdulillah we are a Global Ummah and you have shown this. We All have a role to play and one I currently am working on for this Ummah may be of assistance. It may not hand out money’s though it is a social economic reform we in South Africa are embarking on. Should there be the ability to talk and possible convey some of this over to my brother and sister I would like offer it as an alternative to what we face as Muslims and i think Human being globally now. +27628987176

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#Life

What Repentance Can Teach You About Success

When losing weight, one piece of advice you’ll hear often is the following – if you fall off your eating plan one day, pick yourself back up and think of the next day as a fresh start.

Annoying, isn’t it?

You’ll hear this advice from people who have “made it” – they’ve lost a lot of weight, their lives have changed, and they’ll tell you to stick through it, and you’ll be like, yeah, I have, I tried, and I keep failing. I keep trying, I can’t sustain the motivation, I have life factors, I have stuff going on that makes this difficult.

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And you’re right.

You don’t have millions of dollars, a dedicated personal trainer and chef, the free time and lack of commitments others do, the lack of sleep, the injuries, or personal life circumstances that advantage others, nor do they have those that disadvantage you.

That’s not the point.

When you make a mistake, if you run through the process of regret, repentance, and retrying to do the right thing, Allah (swt) is pleased with you. And if you keep failing, repenting, and trying again, and again, and again, until you die, Allah keeps forgiving you.

The process of both recognizing your weakness, of getting out of denial, and humbling yourself and not thinking yourself so high and mighty has its own sobering effect. Not only does it help you in dealing with that atom’s weight of arrogance you don’t want to meet Allah (swt) with on the Day of Judgment, it helps make you a better human being, a more compassionate one, a more empathetic one, when calling others away from mistakes.

I’m not perfect, and you’re not perfect. Perfection is only for Allah (swt). But we’re trying. And the process of recognizing your weakness and at least attempting to rectify it means that maybe you’ll sin a little less, maybe you’ll still not invent excuses for mistakes and you’ll teach others, “Hey man, I know this is a sin, I know this is wrong, I hope you can do better than me.” And maybe they do change, and you’re both better for it.

Maybe in trying and failing again and again, what you end up doing is coming a little bit closer to success, and that process of trying and failing is the teacher you needed to get you out of your weakness and to then help others do likewise. Maybe that learning process serves you in succeeding elsewhere down the road in other treacherous turns and trials of life.

Whether it’s in losing weight, fixing broken relationships, pulling away from a heavy nafs addiction (eg pornography), don’t ever put yourself mentally in a position where “you’ve lost” and “you may as well give up” because “there’s no hope for me”. Don’t identify yourself by your failures.

So then, what is the point?

The point isn’t that you hit your goal perfectly. The point is that give your best, even with the little that you have, and that is good enough for you and for all of us. Ask Allah (swt) to help you better yourself, and in these 10 Days of Dhul-Hijjah, increase in your du’a, cry to Him for help, in whatever area of life it is you’re trying to improve.

And whatever you fail at, don’t fall off for weeks on end. Acknowledge your mistake, own it completely and take full responsibility. Try to figure out where you went wrong in your process, get help from others if you need to. Forgive yourself, and don’t resign yourself to an identity based on your mistakes.

Never get tired of failing, getting knocked down, and picking yourself back up and trying to do and be better again.

It’s always a brand new day tomorrow.

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 19: My Mercy Encompasses All Things

Now that we have learnt about when the angels surround us, let’s now talk about how Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy encompasses all things.

We say بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيمِ  (bismillah Ar-Rahman ar-Raheem) a lot, right? It means ‘in the Name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.’ 

We say it when we pray, before we eat, and we’re encouraged to say it before we begin any new task. But do we really understand what rahma (mercy) means? 

Question: What do you think rahma means?

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Do you know that the word rahma comes from the root word, رحم (rahim), which means womb? 

Question: Who can tell me what a womb is?

That’s right. A baby is usually in their mommy’s womb for 40 weeks. The baby gets all the nourishment it requires; the temperature in the womb is perfect, the nutrients are always administered, it is safe and warm. All the baby has to do is grow, and alhamdulillah all its needs are being met. 

Question: How do you think the womb relates to Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy?

Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy is constantly surrounding us like a safety net. That doesn’t mean that we’ll never experience any pain, but Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is constantly showing us mercy with every breath we take. Even blinking is a mercy from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) that we don’t even have to think about. Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even has more mercy for us than a mother has for her own child! 

One day the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was walking with a group of his companions, and they passed by a woman who was frantically looking for her child. She would take any child to her breast and try to feed him/her. Then the Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said to the companions: “Do you think that this lady can throw her son in the fire?” We replied, “No, if she has the power not to throw it (in the fire).” The Prophet ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) then said, “Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) is more merciful to His slaves than this lady to her son.”

And guess what? There’s even more mercy in the hereafter than we’re experiencing right now. 

Salman al-Farisi reported: The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said, “Verily, on the day Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) created the heavens and earth, He created one hundred parts of mercy. Each part can fill what is between heaven and earth. He made one part of mercy for the earth, from it a mother has compassion for her child, animals and birds have compassion for each other. On the Day of Resurrection, He will perfect this mercy.” [Sahih Muslim]

99 parts of mercy on the Day of Judgment! That is one reason why it’s so important to have a good opinion of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)! Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) even tells us in Surat Al-A’raaf:

وَرَحْمَتِي وَسِعَتْ كُلَّ شَيْءٍ ۚ

“My mercy encompasses all things” (Surat Al-A’raaf; 156]

And you all, my dears, are all encompassed by Allah’s subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) mercy, alhamdulillah. 

 

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 18: When the Angels Surround Us

Now that we have learnt about Hajar raḍyAllāhu 'anha (may Allāh be pleased with her) and her sa’i, let’s now talk about when the angels surround us.

Do you know that every time we sit together and remember Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), we are not alone in our meeting? We have very special visitors, and these visitors love to hear us praising Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)and thanking Him. 

Question: Who can tell me who these visitors are?

Yes! They are angels! Can anyone name some angels for me?

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We have Angel Jibril 'alayhi'l-salām (peace be upon him) who has delivered every message to every Prophet since the beginning of time. We also have our angels on our left and right who write down our deeds.

Question: Does anyone know the name of the angel that is in control of the weather? 

His name is Angel Mikai’l. 

There are so many gifts that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) grants us when we gather together and remember him. Four things happen every single time! I want you to pay close attention to this hadith, because I’m going to ask you what those four things are after I read it. 

Are you ready?

‏لا يقعد قوم يذكرون الله عز وجل إلا حفتهم الملائكة، وغشيتهم الرحمة ونزلت عليهم السكينة، وذكرهم الله فيمن عنده‏

The Prophet Muhammad ṣallallāhu 'alayhi wa sallam (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) said: “When a group of people assemble for the remembrance of Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He), the angels surround them (with their wings), (Allah’s) mercy envelops them, tranquility descends upon them, and Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) makes a mention of them before those who are near Him.”

Question: Can you believe that Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) makes mention of your name when you make mention of His? What do you think it means when “tranquility descends upon us?” Do you feel how calm your heart is? 

That is a gift from Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) and He tells us that our hearts find rest in His remembrance:

أَلَا بِذِكْرِ اللَّـهِ تَطْمَئِنُّ الْقُلُوبُ

“…Unquestionably, by the remembrance of Allah hearts are assured” [Surah Ar-Ra’d; 28] 

 

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