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Panel highlights plight of many Latino Muslims

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  • Zafar Khan
    Panel highlights plight of many Latino Muslims By Mima Mohammed Staff Writer Friday, February 24, 2006 last updated February 24, 2006 2:42 AM
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 26, 2006
      Panel highlights plight of many Latino Muslims
      By Mima Mohammed
      Staff Writer
      Friday, February 24, 2006
      last updated February 24, 2006 2:42 AM


      While Latinos and Islam may first appear to be
      unrelated subjects, yesterday’s 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:
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