And We sent not a Messenger except with the language of his people, in order that he might make (the Message) clear for them… (Qur’an, 14:4)
In 2009, only one percent of Muslims identified as Hispanic. By 2018, that number had reached seven percent, according to the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding’s annual report “American Muslim Poll: Predicting and Preventing Islamophobia. “That’s a 700 percent growth in less than 10 years, and no other group has grown at this rate,” reported Dalia Mogahed, ISPU’s Director of Research.
Islamic outreach and education for the Latino/Hispanic population both in the United States and Latin America is of paramount importance. Since 2005, Hablamos Islam, Inc., (formerly the PrimeXample Company) has made it a priority to educate Spanish-speakers and their families about Islam and Muslims. It was a labor of love back then, and a family affair.
Founders Wendy Díaz and Hernan Guadalupe were actively translating Khutbas (Friday sermons), Fatwas (Islamic rulings), and Islamic lectures into Spanish even before they were married. When their family grew, they vowed to raise their children bilingual. Díaz is from Puerto Rico and Guadalupe from Ecuador. Both have members of their extended families who only speak Spanish and “there would be no way that our kids can’t communicate with their relatives.” To this day, Spanish is the language spoken in their home. As their children grew, they searched for Spanish-language books that also focused attention on Islam. The search came up empty in the United States. But what was mindblowing was the fact that there were no Spanish books for children about Islam anywhere, not even in Spain (an unfortunate fact that speaks to the successful annihilation of the culture and religion of Islam following the Spanish inquisition).
Rather than accept the lack of resources, the couple worked to fill the void. Hablamos Islam began producing educational audio and video lectures in Spanish; organizing bilingual educational events and seminars about Islam; creating children’s programming in Spanish such as their popular puppet show “Hablamos Islam con Ahmed” (We Speak Islam with Ahmed), and publishing and distributing bilingual Islamic children’s books.
As the demand and work grew, more family members got involved. Guadalupe’s brother, then president of his local MSA, organized events and provided graphic design support. He still designs t-shirts and other promotional items. His mother, a fashion designer and seamstress, makes all of the costumes for the puppets. Díaz’s sister-in-law is a regular contributor to songs and story lines. And more recently, their son Uthman has lent artistic skills, illustrating his mother’s latest book, “The Secret of My Hijab.”
To support the filming of the puppet shows, the family converted a shed in their backyard to a working studio, complete with set lighting, green screen, and a computer for digital editing. And when a given show includes a number of puppets at one time, all of their children contribute. Díaz admits that when the whole family is involved, it can be “so much fun.” But it serves a larger purpose than the immediate need for more hands. These proactive parents hope that “if our children see the importance that we put into what we are doing, they will also do the same.” Alhamdulillah, it seems that has already taken hold.
Hablamos Islam Islamic children’s books have been distributed in over 12 different countries. The books are available for purchase on Amazon and other major online bookstores under the name of author Wendy Díaz. See Finding Islamic Books for and with Latino Children for details.
Zahirah Lynn Eppard is Sound Vision’s Director of Religious Education.