Using history to find common roots - NJ.Com
- 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
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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