Panel highlights plight of many Latino Muslims
- Panel highlights plight of many Latino Muslims
By Mima Mohammed
Friday, February 24, 2006
last updated February 24, 2006 2:42 AM
While Latinos and Islam may first appear to be
unrelated subjects, yesterdays panel titled Hispanos
Musulmanes: Latinos embracing Islam highlighted the
unique population of Muslims residing in Latin
American nations and the Caribbean.
The three-person panel, comprised of members from the
organization Members of Latino Muslims of the Bay
Area, came to the El Centro Chicano community center
to address students, with MeCHA and the Muslim
Students Association co-sponsoring the talk.
The panelists focused on the phenomenon of young
Latinos in major cities converting to Islam. These new
converts face myriad hurdles in trying to reconcile
their new faith with Latino cultural backgrounds. The
speakers candidly spoke of their personal strife in
fighting to win acceptance from their families and
friends about the tenets of the Muslim faith.
The panel was composed of Alejandro Hamed, Daniel
Islam and Issa Delgadillo. Hamed, a Muslim by birth
but raised in Chile, was the first to speak. The son
of Syrian immigrants, Hamed made immigration a central
focus of his issue. He traced the roots of Islamic
populations in Latino countries to the influx of
Indian indentured servants to the Caribbean sugar
canes in the late 1990s. Hamed also braced the
influence of Islam on Spain as well, reflecting on its
effect on architecture. He addressed the fact that a
lot of Stanford architecture originated from Spanish
and Islamic influences, as seen in the arches
throughout the Stanford campus.
The second speaker with the coincidental name Islam
hails from Tijuana and was raised in a Catholic
family. However, after finding many of the Catholic
rituals insufficient to fulfill his spiritual thirst,
he turned to Islam, which he found to be more
sensible. Despite his past frustration with his faith,
however, Islam nevertheless expressed a strong respect
for the Catholic community.
Faith that the Mexicano have with the Catholic faith
is incredible, Islam said. Their faith was so
strong, that they would give their last peso to people
who were poor when in church.
Delgadillo, who is originally from Nicaragua but grew
up in Los Angeles, said that converting to Islam
changed his life completely. After a shameful past of
gang activity and illegal activity, an old girlfriend
of his, who had converted to Islam earlier, introduced
him to the religion by bringing him books. Then she
also took him to a mosque, where he was able to learn
from other Muslims. Since he has become a Muslim, his
life is completely different since he no longer
drinks, as alcoholism is prohibited by Islam.
Since I converted, my life from that moment changed,
Delgadillo said. My life is very different from how
it once was, it is a lot easier, I have not had
alcohol in over two years.
His mother, however, who is from a strict Catholic
background, still has trouble coming to terms with her
son being a Muslim, he said.
Audience members were drawn to the event for different
reasons, ranging from personal connection to mere
I was interested in this topic because of friends I
had in Texas, where there is a large Latino
population. This topic of Latinos in Islam is not
understood by a lot of Muslims or Latinos, said
freshman Fatima Hassan, who organized the panel and
This program brought to light the influence of Islam
in our Latino culture that I never realized, said
sophomore Joshua Bogus. It also highlighted the
difficulty that members of our community face who are
trying to balance their Latino and Muslim identifies.
The talk really intrigued me I never realized how
connected the histories of Islam and Latinos are, and
the personal stories of identity, struggle and
conversion were truly heart warming, said MSAN
President and junior Omar Shakir
To learn more about Latino Muslims see: