SOMERSET, N.J. — Tucked away in a quiet rural neighborhood in Somerset, New Jersey is an old brownstone that houses the New Jersey Chapter of the Islamic Center of North America’s (ICNA) WhyIslam Project. Within its confines, in a second floor office decorated with rose-colored walls, sits the administrative assistant and only female employee of the department, Nahela Morales.
In a long black garment and gray headscarf, Morales sits in front of a computer entering notes and taking phone calls from the program’s hotline, 1-877-WhyIslam, a resource for individuals hoping to learn more about the religion. A Mexican immigrant and recent convert, Morales is the national Spanish-language outreach coordinator for the program, part of ICNA’s mission to disseminate information about Islam nationwide.
But Morales’ efforts go beyond U.S. borders: the 37-year-old recently led a trip to bring Islamic literature, food and clothing to her native Mexico.
Morales, who was born in Mexico City but later moved to California and then New York, is part of a growing population of immigrant Muslim converts from Latin America – many of them women — now helping to bring the religion back to their home countries.
“Many immigrants are here by themselves,” says Morales, noting that Latina immigrant women are drawn to Islam because of the sense of “belonging” they find within the Muslim community. “When they come into the mosque and see smiling faces, they feel welcome.”
According to WhyIslam’s 2012 annual report, 19 percent of the some 3,000 converts it assisted in 2011 were Latinos, and more than half of those (55 percent) were women. The 2011 U.S. Mosque Survey, which interviewed leaders at 524 mosques across the country, found the number of new female converts to Islam had increased 8 percent since 2000, and that Latinos accounted for 12 percent of all new converts in the United States in 2011.
Experts attribute the phenomenon to recent migration trends.
Morales found her own place in Islam after a turbulent past.
In 1979, Morales’ mother risked crossing the border into the United States illegally and alone, leaving her infant daughter behind in Mexico under her grandmother’s care. When Morales was 5 years old, she was finally reunited with her mother, who by that time had settled in Los Angeles. Mother and daughter gained amnesty under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. However, even as a U.S. citizen, Morales recalls feeling out of place.
During one of her visits to the NHIEC mosque in 2009, a WhyIslam worker overheard Morales speaking Spanish and asked if she would be interested in a bilingual position with the company.
“I asked [God] to please send me a job where I would be able to worship and wear my veil. I knew right then my prayer was being answered,” recalls Morales.
She has now been working with NHIEC for more than three years, and recently led a campaign to deliver Islamic literature and audio, clothing, and toiletries to a needy Muslim community in Mexico City.
During that trip Morales met with her own family members in Mexico, who are mostly Catholic. She says that initially they were not accepting of her decision to practice Islam or of her modest style of dress. They accused her of turning her back on her culture. But on her most recent trip to her hometown of Cuernavaca, she took the opportunity to talk to them more about her religion.
“It is obvious that Islam is still very strange in Mexico,” admits Morales, who says that since her last visit her own family has become more receptive. “But it is also very clear that people want to learn about it.”
“I felt that Muslims in the states are already part of the fabric of the society,” Anaya explains. “But here [in Colombia], we are in the baby steps. If I want something, I have to create it. If I want Islamic classes for my children, I have to create them.”
Anaya and her husband are now in the process of establishing an Islamic school for the Muslims of Barranquilla. Both say that given their commitment to the work, return to the United States is unlikely.
Lot’s more propaganda from the Muslim Brotherhood’s U.S. newspaper (Muslim Link). Oh, and as we’ve posted many times:
ICNA was named in a May 1991 Muslim Brotherhood memorandum as one of the Brotherhood’s likeminded “organizations of our friends” who shared the common goal of destroying America and turning it into a Muslim nation.
On numerous occasions, ICNA has explicitly excluded non-Muslims from its public gatherings. In September 2004, for example, ICNA sparked widespread controversy when, in cooperation with the management of the Great Adventure Theme Park in New Jersey, it organized a “Great Muslim Adventure Day” that barred non-Muslims from the park on that day. This annual tradition is still observed. Source
Previous posts on the continuous stream of Islamic dawah infiltrating the United States including this info:
ICNA executive and original Director of the Why Islam campaign – Sabeel Ahmed has written:
“…showing happiness and joy on Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Good Friday is like shaking hands with Satan and telling him to carry on the good work. Indeed Islam came to tear down the pillars of kufr and replace them with the pillars of Islam”