Are more Hispanics converting to Islam? A director for the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says so, along with a reminder of the sufferings that American Muslims have endured. From the Sun-Sentinel, with thanks to Sparta:
Ramadan, which begins around Oct. 4, depending on when the new moon is sighted, is a monthlong holiday in which Muslims abstain from food, drink, and any worldly pleasures from sunup to sundown. The holiday is part of five requirements, or pillars, of the Islamic faith. The other four pillars are the shahaddah, or the witnessing, where a believer declares three times that there is one God and Muhammad is the messenger of God; the performing of five daily prayers; paying the “poor due” or zakat, which amounts to about 2.5 percent of a person’s monetary worth; and performing a pilgrimage, or hajj, to Mecca in Saudi Arabia once in a lifetime, if it can be afforded.
Melissa Matos is among some area Muslims who will be celebrating the season for the first time.
When she speaks of celebrating her first Ramadan, the 20-year-old clasps her hands excitedly and a smile spreads from ear-to-ear.
Matos, who took the shahaddah in order to become a Muslim in April, has started down a path toward a new way of life, a new circle of friends and a tradition that, she said, she knows will teach her to be a better person.
“What I am looking forward to for the month is letting go of a lot of things I do,” said Matos, who lives in Miramar. “I am going to be more sensitive to things I didn’t notice before, like hunger; I am looking forward to what it is going to do for my sensitivity.”
Matos represents a growing number of Latin women who are taking the shahaddah and donning the traditional hair covering, called a hijab.
Altaf Ali, executive director at the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Pembroke Pines, said Islam is gaining an increasing number of Hispanic converts.
“More so in California, but in Florida it’s a new trend. “¦Yes, there are several Hispanic Muslims that have been in Florida for some time now, but in regards to the conversion rate within the last few years, I’ve seen an increasing rate in Hispanics converting to Islam,” said Ali, a native of Guyana. “I think the Hispanic culture itself is very rich in terms of family values, and that is something that is very prominent in the religion of Islam.
“Family values play an integral role in the formation of a Muslim community. Because of those family values, there is a lot of other norms that are consistent within the Hispanic community and Islam; for instance, respect for elders, married life and rearing children, these are some of the traditions Hispanics have in common with Islam.”
Ali said Ramadan also offers an opportunity for starting another year on a better footing.
“What I think is very significant this year is that taking into consideration all that has happened within the Muslims who live in America and the “¦ challenges that we faced, the month of Ramadan once again boosts our morale and it increased our self-esteem,” he said. “And once again we apply forgiveness toward those who have wronged us in many ways; the negative publicity and the injustices passed upon us.