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7984Latino Muslims: BC Islamic Society Introduces Latin Muslims

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  • Zafar Khan
    Mar 31, 2007
      BC Islamic Society Introduces Latin Muslims
      By: Ezra Rich
      Posted: 3/26/07


      Last week, the Islamic Society and Latin Women hosted
      an event on Latin American Muslims. The event featured
      two Ecuadorian Americans who converted to Islam from

      The event, entitled "Latin Muslims: the Sons and
      Daughters of Golden Spain," focused on two seemingly
      different cultural groups, Muslims and Latinos, and
      their respective cultures. The event was attended by
      over 50 students.

      Ahson Mahfooz, vice president of the Islamic Society,
      served as master of ceremonies for the event and
      introduced the two speakers, brothers Yusuf and Hernan
      Guadalupe of Hoboken, New Jersey.

      "The reality is that prosperity lies in this world and
      the next. Islam is not a religion, but a lifestyle,"
      said Mahfooz. He added that not all Muslims are Arabs.
      "There are 80 million in China and thousands in
      Brazil," he said. There are an estimated 1.4 billion
      Muslims worldwide. Mahfooz then gave the microphone to
      Hernan Guadalupe.

      "I grew up Catholic in Ecuador. I was an alter boy,"
      he said.

      Guadalupe went on to say that from an early age, he
      was plagued by questions he couldn't find satisfactory
      answers to.

      "If God is everywhere, why must I go [to church] to be
      close? The contradiction of values between what's said
      and what's going on, the monotone voice (during the
      Mass) wasn't capturing people," he said.

      Guadalupe said that he always believed in God and he
      explored many religions, including Hinduism, Budhism
      and Judaism. He also looked into science and Darwinian
      evolution theories. He recalled that at age 15, "I
      felt completely lost, I looked up at the moon on a
      clear night and I couldn't stop crying. I said 'O God,
      please guide me.' It didn't come right away."

      He then spoke of his college years at the Stevenson
      Institute in Hoboken.

      Guadalupe recalled becoming very interested in Latin
      politics and pledged for a Latino fraternity. He said
      he enjoyed debating religion and politics, and that
      his Muslim friend from a Pakistani and Saudi Arabian
      background always gave the best answers.

      "What shocked me was that his answers were more
      profound and clearer than priests, scholars in their
      fields," he said.

      He began learning more about Islam, and reading the
      Quran on his way to work.

      "It scared me. I wasn't ready to commit and give up
      parties...but in my heart, I knew this was the right
      way," Guadalupe said.

      Guadalupe accepted Islam on September 11, 2001. He
      recalled going to school in Hoboken that day and
      finding, to his excitement, that his chemistry course
      was cancelled that morning. He then learned that
      planes had crashed into the World Trade Center.

      "The environment on campus was dark; everyone was
      hoping that everyone would be OK. Then [the Twin
      Towers] collapsed. At that moment, I realized everyone
      woke up for a regular day, but today was their last
      day and they didn't know it. I thought of the Quran-
      accept Allah or go to Hell. I thought it could be my
      time right now. Death comes to you without you
      knowing, I'm being arrogant thinking I could enjoy it
      and ignore what Allah chose to show me. At that point
      my friend said, 'I have to go pray,' and I went with
      him. It's been that way since." Guadalupe said.

      He concluded his remarks by saying, "Allah has a plan
      and he knew that was the day to change. Now I'm the
      happiest man alive. I now have a wife and an
      eight-month-old son and my brother, mother and three
      cousins [have since] converted."

      Mahfooz then introduced the event's second speaker,
      Guadalupe's brother, Hernan.

      "My brother was the leader and when he accepted Islam
      I didn't want to change my friends, dress...I had a
      totally different lifestyle, but by the mercy of God
      he put into my heart to accept Islam. I accepted it
      blindly and began learning all that I had done wrong;
      my disrespect to my parents and what not. I wanted to
      obey my friends more than my parents or Allah's laws,"
      Guadalupe said.

      He went on to explain that he began partying at age
      14, and that it was hard for him to change his
      lifestyle. He changed after he survived a car
      "My parents asked me, 'How are you still alive?' and
      my brother told me, 'Allah has given us all of this
      bounty and we take it for granted.' I thought my
      purpose was to hang with friends and do things that
      aren't permissible and not submitting to the will of
      Allah," Guadalupe said.

      He concluding his remarks by saying, "As Muslims, we
      possess a treasure, whether you see it or not. We have
      the example of the best person in mankind: Mohammed."
      Mahfooz then began a question and answer session.
      Women wrote questions and passed them up, while the
      men asked theirs orally.

      The first question concerned how Guadalupe's parents
      reacted to the news that he (Diego) had converted to

      "Mom said, 'At least you found God.' My father asked,
      'Why are you doing it at this time?' He was worried
      for my safety. They asked a lot due to misconceptions
      by the media, but they've been supportive. They saw
      the dramatic change to people focused on serving God.
      We were lucky, they're truly understanding. Others
      aren't as lucky," Guadalupe said.

      The next question was about the historical ties of
      Latino culture to Islam.

      Guadalupe answered that, before Columbus discovered
      America, there were Muslims there.

      Guadalupe said Columbus described them in his travel
      diary as "people who were peaceful and committed to
      God. They probably spoke Arabic and didn't eat pork.
      He called it Mohammedism, a popular term until the
      1970s, as opposed to Islam which means to submit."

      Guadalupe said that he juggles the Latino lifestyle
      and Islam.

      "We speak Spanish and cook Spanish at home, but there
      are things [Latin culture] considers permissible that
      we don't practice, such as drinking wine. We follow
      the example of Mohammed first, and whatever doesn't go
      against it, we do. We don't eat pork, but growing up,
      we ate it almost everyday," he said.

      Those in attendance found the event, which featured
      Halal Chinese food, informative.

      "It was interesting. I learned some new things. I
      liked the speakers," said freshman Ifedapo Oyeyemi, a
      biology major.

      "It was very informative. I've learned more about the
      Muslim religion which isn't much publicized in the
      media or on campus," said Steven Buffett, a member of
      the Sigma Lambda Beta Fraternity.

      Some students enjoyed the cultural exchange of ideas
      and beliefs.

      "It was nice to have a room filled with different
      cultures. It was an opportunity for people to get
      informed of something that they weren't informed of,"
      said Norma Hirsch, president of Latin Women.
      "It was good to hear their experiences and point of
      view, coming from Catholicism to Islam. They were very
      articulate in what motivated that chance," said senior
      Yousra Abdelhadi, a double major in chemistry and

      © Copyright 2007 Excelsior