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Using history to find common roots - NJ.Com

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  • Zafar Khan
    Using history to find common roots Monday, July 28, 2003 By Julia M. Scott Journal staff writer
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 30, 2003
      Using history to find common roots
      Monday, July 28, 2003
      By Julia M. Scott
      Journal staff writer


      The Islamic Educational Center of North Hudson took
      its message to a new demographic yesterday: Latinos.

      In a one-day celebration at the Union City center,
      Muslims and Latino converts sought to teach their
      neighbors, the vast majority of whom are Latino, about
      the Spanish Moors, who ruled Spain from the eighth
      century to the fifteenth century.

      The Moors, who were Muslim, brought irrigation
      techniques, farming, and superior schools and
      hospitals to Spain, said Mariam Santos, who presented
      a slide show on the Moors in Spain.

      Latino and Hispanic are terms used to describe
      primarily people in the United States who come from a
      Latin American country. Spain greatly influenced
      indigenous cultures after it conquered such places as
      Mexico, Cuba and Bolivia.

      "We want them to know their Islamic roots and what
      Islam has brought to their culture," said Imam Mohamed
      Al Hayek, who is the spiritual leader of the
      congregation. Al Hayek estimated that there are about
      250 Latino Muslims in Hudson County.

      "We share so many things," said Al Hayek, who added
      that Spanish and Arabic have thousands of words in

      The "Latinos Rediscovering their Roots" celebration
      included a keynote address by Omar Pacheco, who is an
      imam at a mosque in New York City. Pacheco was born in
      Spain, grew up in Argentina, and studied theology in
      Saudi Arabia.

      He spurned his Catholic upbringing for the lack of
      answers the religion offered him and urged Latinos to
      look into their Muslim roots.

      "We have to open our doors to educate people what
      Islam is about," said Alex Robayo, a Latino who
      converted seven years ago.

      "It's needed today more than before," said Mariam
      Elayan, a member of the committee which welcomes
      people to the congregation. Elayan said that Muslims
      as a community are misunderstood by many Americans,
      especially after Sept. 11.

      "It's long overdue," said Mary Ciuffitelli, 47, of the
      event. The Weehawken resident said educating the
      public about Islamic religion and culture was needed
      to win the war on terrorism.

      A non-practicing Catholic, Ciuffitelli said she had
      studied Arabic in New York University's continuing
      education program and came across anti-Muslim
      stereotypes in her work as an EMT volunteer.

      The center hosts open houses for non-Muslims to ask
      questions, as well as Arabic and English language
      classes, and classes on the meaning and memorization
      of the Koran. The three-floor center has five
      classrooms and two prayer rooms, both with diagonal
      lines running north-south so that people praying know
      which way is east.

      "Everybody is responsible for their actions," said
      Elayan. "Nobody should be labeled to their religion."

      For more about Latinos see:

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