By Cortney Fielding
October 10, 2006
ARCADIA – Growing up a Catholic in Mexico during the 1960s and ’70s, Marta Galedary knew nothing about Islam.
Even while attending university in Mexico City, befriending a Muslim was as unlikely as spotting a unicorn.
“I had no idea of the word Islam or Muslim in my life,” the 49-year-old registered nurse said.
So the odds were against the younger sister of a nun becoming both a Muslim and a vocal champion of Islam as a religion of peace, and not the instrument of violence most Americans are familiar with.
“There is nothing in the Quran to justify the killing of one innocent person,” she told a group of more than 50 women and a few men during a meeting of the Arcadia branch of the American Association of University Women. “The Quran says, to kill one man is to kill all mankind.”
Before giving her audience a crash course in the “real” Islam, she recounted her own story of conversion, which began after meeting a group of Muslims in England and realizing they believed in God – he just went by the name Allah.
“I was so shocked to see it was the same God that I knew as a Catholic,” said Galedary, who said she is one of about 70,000 Hispanic Muslims in the country.
But it wasn’t until moving to Los Angeles and venturing into the Islamic Center downtown that the Muslim message of submission to God overtook her. “I was finally at peace,” she said. “When I found God, I found myself, too.”
Today, Galedary, who lives in Culver City, has made it her mission to speak to as many non-Muslims as possible to explain that true Islam doesn’t include suicide bombers and Holy War, she said.
“The media play a major role in creating the myth that all Muslims are terrorists,” she said. In reality, those who perpetrate crimes in the name of Islam are taking the Quran’s sacred Muslim texts completely out of context, she said. Muslim countries that degrade women are violating their faith, she said.
AAUW member Phyllis Brewster asked Galedary to lecture after she and a group of male followers came to Brewster’s church to speak. “We didn’t get to hear her much because the men were doing all the talking,” she said.
Brewster said the exchange left those in the audience re-examining what they thought about Islam, which was Galedary’s goal all along.
“I’m not here to prove who’s right and wrong, or convert you,” Galedary said. “I only want to inform.”