7984Latino Muslims: BC Islamic Society Introduces Latin Muslims
- Mar 31, 2007BC Islamic Society Introduces Latin Muslims
By: Ezra Rich
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
"I grew up Catholic in Ecuador. I was an alter boy,"
Guadalupe went on to say that from an early age, he
was plagued by questions he couldn't find satisfactory
"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,"
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
"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
"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
"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