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M. Syamsi Ali


Many in City Were Catholics Seeking Old Muslim Roots
By DANIEL J. WAKIN, The New York Times, 1/2/2002

The Alianza Islamica has bounced from East Harlem to the Bronx, buffeted by local resentments. Like its green-lettered sign, hanging crookedly close to the ground in front of its brownstone, it is keeping a low profile for now.

But the Alianza endures as a touchstone for Latino Muslims, a little-known but growing population and one of the more surprising examples of the kaleidoscopic nature of Islam in America. It is a population trying to assert itself through community organizations like Alianza Islamica, Web sites and publications. It is also a subset of American Islam that endures a particular set of pressures, and presents an unusually diverse set of paths to the faith.

Alianza Islamica, founded in 1975, is one of the oldest organized Latino Muslim groups in the United States.

It found a home on Lexington Avenue, off 107th Street, in East Harlem in 1985, serving as something of a community center as well as a mosque. It took a stand against crime in the neighborhood and tried to spread the word of Islam......Nationwide, Latino Muslims number in the low tens of thousands, according to their own estimates and those of national Islamic bodies. They are mainly converts, concentrated in Southern California, Chicago, Miami and New York. They span the spectrum of Hispanic people, from recent Mexican arrivals to Puerto Ricans born on the mainland to Central American immigrants.

They are making their presence felt through groups like Alianza Latino, Piedad, which tries to bring together Latino Muslim women, and the Latino American Dawah Organization, which promotes the faith through a newsletter and a Web site, Latinodawah.org. Another site, HispanicMuslims.com, also tries to link people through the Web. The Islamic Society of North America has a Latino coordinating committee. Other groups publish the Koran and educational materials about Islam in Spanish...

..The process is similar to how some blacks view the adoption of Islam as an invocation of their African roots, said Hisham Aidi, a political science graduate student at Columbia University. He has studied Latino Muslims as part of a university project examining Muslim communities in New York City.

At the same time, there has been a movement among scholars of Islam in recent years to show the religion's influence on Spanish culture, Mr. Aidi said. "These scholars are taking on these works of art and literature, considered unassailably Western, sacrosanctly Spanish, and showing how there's a strong Islamic influence, an Arab component, a Moorish component," he said.

For many Hispanics, turning to Islam is also a way of countering feelings of being downtrodden. "Islam historically has always started with slaves and moved up to kings," Mr. Aidi said. "In New York, you find a similar phenomenon. Islam is entering America through the streets, through the inner city, the ghetto, the prisons...

M. Syamsi Ali adalah seorang muslim anggota ISNET yang tinggal di New York
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