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Diana Marquez: Convert to Islam says newfound
faith has made her more compassionate

By Joseph Freeman
Orlando Sentinel
September 10, 2011

On Sept. 11, 2001, Diana Marquez was living in Queens, N.Y., with her husband, who worked at the New York Stock Exchange. A Jehovah's Witness with Hispanic heritage, she had little contact with Muslims.

But the attacks that day sparked an interest in Islam for the first time, Marquez said. "It made me want to learn more. ... Their God, Allah, told them to do this? I just couldn't see it."

Marquez's interest remained dormant until she moved with her husband and son to Orlando in 2006. At the time, she was still searching for something spiritually. She met Muslims here from the Middle East and North Africa. In 2009, she started to read up on Islam and found meaning in what she called the beautiful simplicity of the faith.

"It was so uncomplicated for me," said the 38-year-old Marquez, who now has a second son. "When I found Islam here, I found a peaceful, loving, beautiful religion."

Marquez covered her hair with the hijab, the traditional Muslim head scarf for women, and fasted for Ramadan. She got an administrative job at the Islamic Society of Central Florida on Goldenrod Road.

With her background, she now sees herself as a cultural bridge: a Spanish-speaking Muslim who can reach out to different groups. Islam has taught her to be more compassionate, more sensitive to others' feelings, she said.

Today, on the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, she plans to attend an interfaith service at Spirit of Joy, a Lutheran church in Orlando. "Even if I wasn't Muslim, I'd be there anyway."

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