New Generation Benefits from Deep-Seated Latin Roots |

New Generation Benefits from Deep-Seated Latin Roots

The 49th annual ICNA-MAS Convention held over Memorial Day weekend from May 25-27, 2024, at the Baltimore Convention Center, hosted tens of thousands of attendees from around the country. Promising a bigger and better event from previous years, organizers worked tirelessly to exceed the expectations of the over 30,000 Muslims gathering to explore the theme "Unshakeable Faith: Trusting the Will of Allah." The convention aimed to highlight the essence of finding peace through belief in Allah’s perfect plan, while navigating contemporary challenges. Its program offered more than one hundred sixty sessions and workshops with over a hundred inspirational speakers alongside the ever-popular bazaar featuring 500+ vendors. As one of the largest Muslim conferences in North America, ICNA Con attracted a diverse body of attendees and presenters, all dedicated to inspiring, educating, and uplifting the Muslim community. One of those distinct groups in attendance was the Latino Muslim comunidad

Amid a harrowing backdrop of global atrocities affecting the Muslim World, the convention provided key lessons from the Quran and the Sunnah that emphasize how believers can overcome unimaginable obstacles. Keynote sessions focused on the unshakeable faith of prophets like our beloved Muhammad, Ibrahim, Nuh, and Isa (Jesus), peace and blessings be upon them all, highlighting their commitment to spreading the message of submission to One God. Additionally, the three-day program addressed critical issues like activism, community engagement, outreach, and social awareness, with special sessions dedicated to the current situation in Gaza and ongoing protests. Notably, the inclusion of the Latino Muslim presence with the Reunión de la ComUnidad Latina added to the event's commitment to celebrating and addressing the rich diversity within the Muslim community. The 49th ICNA Con not only delivered on its promise but also reinforced the importance of faith, resilience, and community solidarity in the face of adversity.

Spanish Language Sessions 

The convention traditionally features parallel language sessions to serve and address the growing diversity within the Muslim community. One of these noteworthy gatherings is the Spanish session, which has been a part of the convention for at least the past fifteen years, sometimes offering multiple sessions within the Spanish language track. I have had the pleasure of serving as one of its organizers, hosts, and/or panelists since 2010. This year, there was a single session on Saturday, May 25, titled Reunión de la ComUnidad Latina or Latino CommUnity Reunion. This meet-and-greet style gathering brought together six Latino Muslim panelists serving their respective communities in various capacities. The session provided an opportunity for the audience to engage with these educators, professionals, activists, influencers, writers, community organizers, and more. 

Low attendance in previous years threatened the sustainability of parallel language sessions that included lectures in Malay, Turkish, Arabic, Urdu, and Spanish. However, it was the aim of this year’s Spanish and Latino-centered program to attract the rising number of local converts in the Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia areas, as well as seasoned Latin American Muslims planning to attend ICNA Con. The six-person panel at the Latino CommUnity Reunion featured myself as the emcee, Ustadh Jamal Abdul-Karim, Nahela Morales, Dr. Hernán Guadalupe, DMV Latino Muslims co-founder Jacqueline Cortez Alvarez, and Latina Muslimah Circle founder María Grijalva. The latter two are up-and-coming young leaders whose community organizing and social media presence has aided in the current growth of the local Latino Muslim community while the former have been involved in Spanish dawah, education, and convert care for decades. 

Latino Muslim Reunion 

The Latino Muslim reunion began with an inclusive bilingual introduction to accommodate all attendees, some of whom were non-Latinos and others who were primarily English speakers despite identifying as Latin American or Latino descendants. Around fifty audience members joined together, including some surprise distinguished guests including Imam Daniel Hernández,  CAIR Communications Director and attorney Wilfredo Ruiz, and Alianza Islamica founder Ramon Ocasio. Attendees and presenters were asked to stand if they converted in the 1970’s, 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s, 2010’s, and 2020’s, or if they were born into Islam, to acknowledge the continuous presence and contributions of Latino Muslims in the U.S. Those sitting in the hall were amazed by the realization that among this community, there are now elders, pioneers, and youth who continue the struggle for visibility within the broader global ummah

The theme of comUnidad, emphasizing unity, resonated deeply with presenters and attendees who noted the lack of support and resources for Latino Muslims even though their presence in the U.S. dates as far in history as the colonization of the Americas and into the 1920’s in modern times. Ustadh Jamal Abdul-Karim mentioned the relevance of Islamic history in the conversation of community-building. He said, “There's a resurgence going on throughout Latin America, let alone the resurgence that's going on with in Cordoba (Spain).” He highlighted the cultural connections that exist between Islamic history and the trajectory of Latinos in Islam. He said, 

“Al Andalus, what was once the apogee of learning in the Western world, and that particular transition, what came into the Americas, that whole history, la historia de la cultura, is important. In the Western Hemisphere, the largest Masjid is in Argentina. And many, many Latinos are coming into Islam every single day. Through what? Because of the Latino diaspora and learning about what and how people were affected.”

Latin American Muslim Diaspora 

Discussing the Latin American Muslim diaspora, Ustadh Jamal and other panelists focused on the importance of understanding the history and brotherhood that existed between Muslims in the past. All speakers emphasized the need for a community space to grow, learn, and meet, including online spaces, as well as brick and mortar centers to serve as headquarters for outreach work. There were various perspectives shared on the topic of community-building, both from historical and modern perspectives, so that audience members, especially the youth, could be inspired and motivated to also get involved.  

Referring to the ties of brotherhood forged between Muslims at the behest of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, Dr. Hernán Guadalupe said, “When we talk about this whole concept of community, I constantly think about the muakhat – or the brotherhood that existed – that love that existed between the Ansar and the Muhajireen.” 

He went on to mention companions like Abdulrahmah ibn Auf, who left everything behind and reestablished himself with the help of his brothers in faith – a relatable story to many converts who have had to sacrifice their own relationships with family and friends after embracing Islam. When the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, and his followers were forced out of Mecca, they settled in the city of Madinah, and established a unique bond. The Ansar, or the helpers, were the converts of Madinah who welcomed their brothers and sisters. The Prophet paired them with their counterparts from Mecca so the former would aid them in their transition to their new place of residence. Similarly, the elder-convert Muslims must welcome recently converted Muslims or the youth who are still learning to ease their journey. Dr. Guadalupe called Saturday’s event a “family reunion” rather than a meet and greet, emphasizing the commitment we have toward one another.

Filling the Gaps 

María Grijalva, a single mother of seven in her thirties, founded Latina Muslimah Circle in Northern Virginia more than a year ago. She told her story of how she sought out and built a community because of a need to provide a safe space for herself and her children. She said Latina Muslimah Circle was born, “Not only to provide resources and information, but to come together to connect with other Muslims. It was necessary to let all the communities around us know that we were here and that we needed a space to be able to grow and to learn and connect.” María has not only inspired the brothers and sisters around her, but more importantly, her own children. Her teenagers are part of Latino clubs at their high school, as well as the MSA. She said, “The same way they have seen me organizing, they encourage both clubs to work together because they are stronger together.” 

Sister Nahela Morales, the co-founder of Embrace, the convert care wing of ICNA, lived through similar experiences. She struggled to find community as a single mother, recalling how she spent her first Eid alone with her toddler son. Eighteen years later, she is a recognized leader in the Latino community and beyond, advocating for new Muslims wherever she goes, whether that be in the US, her native Mexico, or overseas. She advised, “Community often becomes the family that we lost along the way. It is extremely important to uplift, empower, and hold on to our community when we find it.”  

Audience members were moved to tears when social media influencer and co-founder of the DMV Latino Muslims, Jacqueline Cortez Alvarez, told her story. With a group of her friends and fellow converts cheering her on, she explained how she embraced Islam only a few years ago. She sought Muslim friends through social media, and eventually began posting Islamic content on the Tiktok platform. Eventually, other local youth interested in Islam reached out to her and converted. Now she and her friends form part of the DMV Latino Muslims, a group that works together to organize events, meetings, and Quran study circles in Spanish for Latino Muslims in Washington D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. As Jacqueline told her story, she could not hold back tears. She said, “One of my duas when I first converted to Islam was to have a community, and I think this is the answer to that dua, and I am just so happy.”

Showcasing Strength and Unity 

After the panel, other Latino Muslim leaders in the audience joined the stage to offer insights and advice. Attorney Wilfredo Ruiz reminded the audience that as Muslims, we should strive to achieve our goals and never expect anyone to help us or make it easy. Imam Daniel Hernández shared a few words about how Allah delivered the followers of Moses to safety, overcoming unbelievable odds through the power of faith. The founder of Alianza Islamica, the first fully Latino masjid in the U.S., Rahim Ocasio, encouraged his fellow Muslims to not be stagnant and to follow the blueprint of Alianza in establishing community centers catered to the needs of Latinos. He said, “I’m 70 now. I don’t want to come back here in five years when I’m 75 to hear the same thing!” The program culminated with an Islamic clothing giveaway for sisters, sponsored by the Latina Muslimah Circle, as well as a chance to network.

Overall, the Reunión de la ComUnidad Latina, held as part of the 49th ICNA-MAS Convention, was a powerful gathering that showcased the strength and unity of the Latino Muslim community and its unshakeable faith. The session provided an opportunity to foster a sense of camaraderie and mutual support. Stories of resilience, sacrifice, and the continuous struggle for recognition within the broader Muslim community were shared and solutions were offered to inspire everyone present to continue the work of their elders and pioneers. As the reunion concluded, it left participants with a renewed sense of purpose, hope, and a strengthened commitment to developing a cohesive and supportive network.

Photo Caption: Leaders from the Latino Muslim community address the audience at the ICNA-MAS Convention Spanish session - Reunión de la ComUnidad Latina - at ICNA-MAS Convention in Baltimore, Maryland on May 25, 2024.

Wendy Díaz is a Puerto Rican Muslim writer, award-winning poet, translator, and mother of six (ages ranging from infant to teen). She is the co-founder of Hablamos Islam, a non-profit organization that produces educational resources about Islam in Spanish ( She has written, illustrated, and published over a dozen children’s books and currently lives with her family in Maryland. Follow Wendy Díaz on social media @authorwendydiaz and @hablamosislam.



Salaamu alaykum,


I am conflicted by your opinion or your background information on certain individuals you are supporting.

i don’t like to be misled, and I don’t want the community to have misrepresentation of the truth out here in northern VA.

I have the truth behind the false narrative being published.

Please have anyone come verify the information before I post it on social media for everyone to decide.

lets do this the Islamic route and have an opportunity to cure the situation.

thank you.



kind regards,


Christopher James Lucero TTEE



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