Latino Muslims in the Bronx
By Ethan Lazuk
The process of faith exploration occurs in all parts of the world. People who have recently converted to Islam have been seen comprehending the scripture and the culture of Islam.
In North America, one of several West African mosques in Morris Heights, Zaynab al-Samat is in the minority, being the only Latin supplicant who visits the mosque named Masjid Annasr to say her prayers. Masjid Annasr is located in the Northwest Bronx community in an area which has a large West African population.
Zaynab al-Samat holds an interesting story of faith exploration over the years. She was always attracted towards the fundamentals of Islam and later, in the year 2010, she was officially converted to the religion of Islam. Zaynab al-Samat says she failed to find a deep sense of satisfaction in the Catholic Church. After her conversion process, she began to enjoy coming over to the mosque Masjid Annasr to say her prayers.
Al-Samat, a native of the Dominican Republic, has completely transformed into a Muslim woman, she wears Abaya mostly in a purple color with a matching headscarf. The reasons stated by her for the frequent visits to the mosque Masjid Annasr are the welcoming environment which encourages her to learn. Zaynab al-Samat holds Islamic classes for the children in the mosque. She has a strong desire to maintain the Islamic culture in her Bronx community as most of the Latin Muslims think that some aspects of the culture are for Arabs only. Zaynab al-Samat wishes to promote all rituals of Islam in her small community. She regularly teaches groups of children the meanings and concepts of Islam.
Apart from Zaynab al-Samat, there are also other Muslim women who are devoting their time to the cause of spreading Islam and resolving general problems. Amongst them, Aisha Ahmed Hernandez is the founder of the Latin-American Muslim Women's Association, a South Bronx-based organization established in 2007. Aisha Ahmed Hernandez runs her organization by resolving all kinds of issues that occur for the Latin Muslims. Most of the Muslims who have converted recently are looking for the answers to their questions. They call the Latin-American Muslim Women's Association regarding their marriage problems, prohibited items, social issues, birth issues, relationships, neighbor rights, rights of women, equality and justice etc.
Aisha Ahmed Hernandez has also further expanded her work space, she also runs and maintains a Facebook page by the name of "Muslims Who Speak Spanish," the page has now around 500 likes, which has surprised Aisha Ahmed Hernandez. She is seeing a great response from the people of her community and beyond.
Aisha Ahmed Hernandez has high hopes that her small effort will soon be expanded and will form a bigger organization of Latin Muslims. Hernandez is very hopeful and is always ready to help the Latin Muslim population with any problems they have, no matter what the source.