October 5, 2005
Growing in number and taking difficulties into strides, Hispanic Muslim women have made an indelible impression on their society, teaching Spanish-Arabic classes, forming support networks and distributing the Noble Qur’an in Spanish, The Miami Herald reported on October 5th.
Melissa Matos, who comes from a family of Seventh-day Adventists from the Dominican Republic and reverted to Islam in April, plans to organize a lecture series this semester at her alma mater on the religion’s little-known history in Latin America, including two lectures that will be in Spanish, said The Miami Herald said.
The 20-year-old political science student at Florida International University (FIU) said some Hispanic Muslim women have founded support networks to rally behind those who want to revert to Islam. Piedad, a network of Muslim women that seeks to educate Spanish-speaking communities about Islam, has more than 344 members nationally, according to the paper.
Other groups, like the Latino American Dawah Organization , which was formed in 1997, promote the legacy of Islam in Spain and Latin America. Another group is the Los Angeles Latino Muslim Association (LALMA) which was formed in September 1999, when a group of five Los Angeles Latino Muslims decided to form a study group to learn more about Islam in Spanish and to share the same culture and language.
There are some 40,000 Hispanic Muslims in the United States, according to the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). The largest populations live in New York, Texas, Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami. Islam’s growth among Hispanic women may result from the broader Muslim outreach following the Sept. 11 attacks, said Aisha Musa, an assistant professor of religion at Florida International University.
‘’It’s a movement that is growing, particularly in urban areas,’’ added Manuel Vasquez, a professor of religion at the University of Florida. ‘’It’s part of the cross-fertilization that’s occurring among immigrant groups.’’
Sofian Abdelaziz, the director of the American Muslim Association of North America in Miami, said his group often gets requests for the Noble Qur’an in Spanish. In the last several years, they have given away more than 5,000 Spanish translations of the Qur’an to South Florida mosques and prisons, he said.
Convincing families of why they have chosen Islam is not an easy job for reverts, the paper said.
‘’Sometimes it does get a little difficult,’’ said Matos, who now wears hijab and starts observing Ramadan for the first time in her life. ‘‘I feel alienated from my family and my old friends, but Islam is so beautiful, it’s worth it. And with Ramadan, I’m just doing it by myself, just me and God. ‘’
Jameela Ali, 26, who became a Muslim seven years ago after she dreamed she was praying in a mosque filled with light, has renounced aspects of Hispanic culture that conflict with her beliefs, like cooking with wine or eating pork. ‘’You give up everything of your old lifestyle — your old clothes, you’re not going to clubs, you’re not drinking, you’re not smoking,’’ said Ali, whose mother, sister and brother have all embraced Islam.
‘’You feel a much closer connection to God,’’ said Ali, who teaches two other Hispanic Muslim women to read and write Arabic.