By Wilfredo Amr Ruiz
El Diario NY
August 31, 2011
More than 200,000 Hispanics in the United States have embraced Islam as our faith. The stories of how each of us came into contact with Islam are as diverse as the human experience, from the most profound to the simplest. Some Latinos have approached Islam out of curiousity. Others discovered it through some subtle sentiment provoked by the profound emotion of The Love Poems of Rumi or the melodic recitation of the Koran.
Those who also ran into Islam were also moved by some romance that sparked interest in the faith of their eventual companion. There were some who were drawn to Islam when they saw a co-worker or neighbor fasting during Ramadan, or a Muslim woman wearing her veil.
Thousands of others came to know Islam in difficult moments, such as during incarceration. Still others came to admire the spiritual discipline of a Muslim neighbor who rose in the dawn for the first of five daily prayers. As tourists abroad, some families became enamored of Islam after they witnessed the collective devotion of Muslims. Others were struck by the magnificence of the Blue Mosque in Istanbul or the splendor of the Alhambra in Spain.
But the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 kidnapped the true face of Islam. It was a tragic and unforgettable day in which nearly 100 Muslims died, including the emergency medical technician and 9/11 responder Mohammad Salman Hamdani.
Yet if it is true that there was an increase en islamaphobia following the attacks, it is no less true that there was also an unprecedented awakening of general interest in the religiÃ³n of the prophet Muhammad.
Thousands of Hispanics decided to study Islam, embrace it and adopt it as our new way of life. The fear mongering after 9/11 also sparked a new generation of Muslims who became more assertive about expessing their faith. Others founded or participate today in the American Muslim Association of North America (AMANA), which since its founding has distributed thousands of copies of the Koran, in addition to educational guides on how to avoid and recover from disasters.
Despite the incessant effort of people who persecute us, we are the religious group that has experienced the most growth in the United States. As we come to understand our faith more, we realize that our best defense of our Islam is to live it piously.
Millions of Hispanic Muslims in the United States, Spain and the rest of Latin America have found a gem that represents the Moorish blood that runs through our veins. It is the Andulsian heritage of what was once Muslim Spain “Al-Ándalus,” where there was a Muslim presence for nearly 1,000 years. It was a trascendental period that enriched our culture not only in a spiritual sense but also in the way we speak. More than 4,000 Spanish words originate in Arabic and the centuries of influence left countless contributionsin the arts, sciences, philosophy and mathematics.
Muslim Hispanics live our spirituality as we at the same time enjoy our culture. We savor our cuisine and we delight in our stories, novels, art, music and poetry. We are not at the margins of the Latino community-we are part of it. We are your police officers, firefighters, doctors, soldiers and workers. We are your sons, brothers and sisters, cousins or nephews. We are you.