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Islam [from The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States]

Islam [from The Oxford Encyclopedia of Latinos and Latinas in the United States]

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Unformatted text preview: 400 IOWA With the exception of the Chicago area, the Midwest has typically not had large concentrations of Hispanic persons. While there have been Latino families in smaller Iowa communities for generations, the rapid increases in Iowa’s Latino population is a relatively recent phenome- non of the last six to eight years of the twentieth century. Since much of this growth took place after the 1990 cen- sus, it is difficult to precisely estimate the Latino popula- tion. In Iowa, the Latino population is estimated to be 99,000, but at least one-third of Iowa's counties have ex- perienced rapid increases. In Iowa’s rural areas, some of this increase is due to the meatpacking industry. The innovations of modern meat- packing have allowed companies to locate plants in areas close to where the animals are raised, rather than in cities where consumers live. Locating in rural areas allOWs for lower transportation costs, less stress to the animals, lower wage rates, and an escape from the union-domi- nated labor markets of the cities. Although these new plants are automated, this is still a labor-intensive industry, and it requires many employees working at fast line speeds to maintain profitability. The work is hard, is sometimes dangerous, produces many motion injuries, has relatively low wage rates, and results in extremely high worker turnover. The rural areas of Iowa generally cannot supply enough workers from the local labor market, and therefore the companies rely on attracting an immigrant labor force largely composed of Latinos and Latinas and Southeast Asians. Storm Lake was one of the first small communities in Iowa to experience the changes associated with an in- creased immigrant population. Although meatpacking plants have existed in Iowa since 1935, the demographics of the workers changed in the last ten years of the twenti- eth century. What was once a mostly white, male work- force now includes Thai and Laotian refugees, Latinos and Latinas, Ethiopians, and Somalis. The effects of Latino and Latina immigration have changed the demographics of the state in other ways. For example, in 1990 Storm Lake’s Hispanic population was 102; in 1996 it was estimated that 1,000 to 1,500 Latinos and Latinas lived there. Housing problems have also arisen in Storm Lake and many other communities with signifi— cant Latino and Latina surges in population. Often there is not enough affordable housing to meet the needs of the new residents. Unscrupulous landlords sometimes over- charge Latinos and Latinas and other immigrants for housing units that fail to meet the requirements of housing codes. Confronted with such housing conditions, situa- tions more typically found in more urban centers replicate themselves, as in the case of twenty-five Latino and Latina individuals living in one house but using it and sleeping in different shifts. Adding to these poor conditions, some landlords charge Latinos and Latinas rent by the head rather than using a flat monthly rate. The increased enrollment of Latino and Latina students in the public schools has also created new challenges for school districts. Costs associated with education have risen dramatically as school districts provide larger num- bers of school meals and English as a Second Language classes. Indicators of this growth are reflected in the ex— perience of Marshalltown, Iowa. In 1990 the Marshall- town school district had forty Hispanic students; in 1996 the district had four hundred. At the post secondary level, an above—average Cuban-American student enrollment in the Spanish department at the University of Iowa has re— sulted in higher graduation rates than their Iowa His- panic student counterparts. However, given that the Iowa Latino and Latina immigrant culture is highly work- oriented, some attrition takes place when Hispanic youths are old enough to work in the meatpacking plants or related service industries. Healthcare systems are also straining to meet the needs of the new immigrants. Hospitals have hired translators and set up medical clinics to provide care when there are physician shortages. And the new patients are largely without health benefits, because benefits are usually not offered until after six or more months of work. Turnover in the service industries is high. Workers leave because the work is hard and the pay is low but also be- cause conditions are bad and they are treated poorly. The various service industry companies do not offer vacation, and workers who go to Mexico to visit family must quit work and start again at beginning pay when they retum. However, a number of communities in Iowa and else— where are more aware of the importance of increasing di— versity, not only as part of economic vitality (Latinos and Latinas who leave low—paying jobs are often entrepreneur— ial and start new businesses in the community) but also as part of communities that value Latino and Latina culture. Numerous Iowa communities are working hard in part- nership with new immigrants to include them in the com— munity through the provision of affordable healthcare, adequate housing, and a good education. These economic development benefits will eventually aid the entire com- munity and provide stability for a new, more diverse Iowa population base. See also Census; Demographics; Education; Immi- grant Incorporation into US. Society; Immigration; and Meatpacking Industry. JosE MIGUEL AMAYA ISLAM. In discussing why Latinas and Latinos should be concerned about the aftermath of prejudice against Muslims and people from the Middle East and South and ARAB IMMIGRANT. Monument to the Arab immigrant, Centro Libanes, Mexico City. (Enrique Franco Torrijos Fotografo) East Asia in the new millennium, the Chicana writer Sandra Cisneros narrated a story about her uncle who bore a striking resemblance to those being demonized. Her point about the interconnections of Latinas and Latinos to Muslims, in particular those from regions with historical interconnections with Spain, is a crucial and often understated one. Muslim culture was integral to the cultural package Spain brought to the New World. Language and architecture offer some of the most obvi- ous evidence. Some of the most prevalent words and ar- chitectural practices in New World Spanish culture are of Arabic/Moorish derivation. Latina and Latino Mus— lims, who in the 19905 became one of the fastest-growing groups of new converts in the United States, are drawn to these indications of a shared Muslim-Latino cultural and historical heritage. ISLAM 40 1 Historical Influence of Islam Islam began in the Arabian desert near Mecca. Yet, in the twenty-first century, there are fewer Muslims in the Middle East than in several other regions. Sub—Saharan Africa, North Africa, and South Asia all have more Muslims than does the Middle East; Indonesia has the largest number of Muslims of any country. Therefore, to equate Muslims and Arabs, or to pinpoint Islam to any single region, is inaccu- rate. Since Islam found a place in Spanish culture within a century of the religion's founding, through the Moorish oc- cupation of Spain, a long history exists of cultural inter- connections between Arab Muslims and the Spanish and African ancestors of Latina and Latino peoples. This his- tory is traced, in Spain, back to 711, the beginning of Is- lamic movement into the Iberian Peninsula. Inconclusive scholarly evidence currently suggests that the first Muslims in the Americas may have arrived from Spain and Africa's northwestern coast in the two centuries before the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492, as well as with Columbus. That same year, the Moors with- drew from Granada, ending their occupation of Spain. In conjunction with these political changes, centuries of har- monious cultural relations between Muslims, Jews, and Christians ended, and Muslims and Jews faced the choices of emigration, death, or practicing their religion in secret. Research suggests that some Moors who were expelled may have come to the Caribbean Islands and what is now the southern United States. This possibility, compelling to Islamic Latinas and Latinos, implies a lengthy, complex history of Islamic influences in the Americas. Connections to African American Islam African Americans, realizing the legacy of Islam in African countries that extends back before the European slave trade, also find cultural significance in their historical con- nections with Islam. In the last decades of the twentieth century, Latina and Latino interactions with Muslims— particularly those leading to conversion—often occurred in conjunction with African American communities. Contem— porary Islam appeared in Latina and Latino communities, especially Puerto Rican neighborhoods in New York, in the 1970s, often through affiliation with African American mosques. Muslim leaders also offer counseling and other services to inmates in US. prisons, ministering particu- larly to African Americans, and Latina and Latino inmates have gained respect for the lifestyle and ideology demon- strated by these Muslims. Subsequent to their primary focus on African American converts, Arab and other Amer- ican Muslim communities began organizing missionary movements among Latinas and Latinos and have encour- aged their integration into Muslim communities. Some Latinas and Latinos have found Islamic cultural practices and ideologies similar to their own, especially 402 ISLAM in the importance given to family and gender roles. Some socially conservative Muslims and Latina and Latino Catholics, particularly among women’s groups, have bonded over shared minority views and have organ- ized together For example, such an alliance was formed in response to issues raised in the Beijing (Women’s Con- ference) Platform for Action. At the same time, many Latinas and Latinos have come to Islam through African American, Latina and Latino (particularly Puerto Rican), and other Muslims involved in civil rights, anti-war, and other progressive struggles. Numbers of Latina and Latino Muslims Estimates of the number of Latina and Latino Muslims in the United States range from 15,000 to 40,000, with the American Muslim Council estimating 25,000 Latina and Latino Muslims out of 4 million U.S. Muslims (six times the 19703 Muslim population). Latina and Latino mosques now exist in New York, Los Angeles, Newark, and Chicago. Mus- lim Latino and Latina organizations serve their needs and express Latina and Latino Muslims’ cultural positions. A strong Web presence includes organizational websites, testi- monials of conversion and reversion, artwork, articles, bul- letin boards, and listservs such as Latino Muslims NYC, for "Latino Muslims or Latinos with interests in Islam to meet those w/similar interests. . . to unite and give each other support" (www.Latin omuslimnyc). Hispanic Muslims are part of a larger trend of Muslims converting from Catholicism. Signs of the growth of Islam among Hispanics in the United States include an increase in Muslim student centers. Some Latinas and YOUNG LATINo MUSLIMS STUDYING THE QUR'AN. (TK/Lightstream) Latinos convert as college students when exposure to di- verse religions and cultures and the social interaction be- tween students of different faiths and backgrounds make Islam a more visible option. Many of the conversion/reversion testimonies on Latina and Latino Muslim Internet sources are written by youth in their teens and twenties who have recently converted or, as some explain, reverted to their natural state through Islam. In many of the stories, the authors describe them- selves as immigrants or as youth who have struggled to make sense of cross-cultural experiences including mar- ginalization, poverty, and prejudice. They are often drawn to Islam when they find, through research or fellowship, that Islam meets spiritual, emotional, self—identity, and ac- tualization needs, and sometimes also political and intel— lectual needs, more adequately than do their previous belief systems. Some have sought out mosques and Islamic communities, where they were welcomed. Prospects for the Future Muslims feel that Islam is a religion for all humanity re- gardless of race or ethnicity. In particular, Muslim leaders in the United States looking to protect civil liberties for Muslims have concluded that they need to reach out to other minority groups, such as Latinas and Latinos, and stand up for each other. In the postcolonial context, both Latinas and Latinos and Muslims have a common legacy in struggling against European colonialism, U.S. imperialism, and economically based structural violence, and both groups suffer from eth— nic stereotyping and immigrant-bashing. People in bOth groups, as well as those who identify with both, may em— brace cross—cultural empathies and action. In doing so, they draw on a history of mutual respect long held by some political and intellectual leaders in both communities. See also Religion and Spirituality. BIBLIOGRAPHY Aidi, Hisham. “Olé to Allah: Hishan Aidi Profiles New York's Thriving Latino Muslim Convert Community. " Islam for Today. www. islamfortodaycom/olehtm Bayes, Jane H., and Nayereh Tohidi, eds. Globalization, Genden and Religion: The Politics of Implementing Women's Rights in Catholic and Muslim Contexts. New York: Palgrave, 2001. Findley, Paul. Silent No More: Confronting America’s False Images of Islam. Beltsville, Md.: Amana Publications, 2001. Hispanic Muslims Web site. www.hispanicmuslims.com/ Homestead. www.homestead.com/nur/ltruth~ns4.html Jenkins, Chris L. "Islam Luring More Latinos." The Washington Post, January 7, 2001. Available at www.islamfortoday.com/american— latin052.htm. Latin Muslims Web site. www.1atinmuslims.com/about.html-http:// www.islam-online.net Lawrence, Bruce B. Shattering the Myth: Islam beyond Violence. Princeton, N .J .: Princeton University Press, 1998. Leone, Bruno, ed. The Spread ofIslam. San Diego, Calif: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Smith, Jane. Islam in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999. wwwlatinodawahorg KAMALA PLATT ISLAMIC RIGHT OF THIRST. The Moors and Berbers occupied Spain for eight hundred years between 711 and 1492 C.E. and left a lasting mark on the agricul- ture, foodways, architecture, cultural landscapes, lan- guages, and laws of Spain. This influence is particularly strong in the regions of Valencia, Murcia, and Granada. Islamic influences are evident in agriculture and espe- cially irrigation technology and water resource manage- ment. The customary law of the acequia (a community irrigation ditch) is part of this cultural development. Is- lamic influence persists in the water law and resource management traditions of many communities in contem- porary Spain and Mexico and the southwestern United States. The persistence and geographic scope of this in- fluence belies the conventional obscurity or muted recog- nition afforded Islamic contributions to the cultural histories of land-based Spanish- and Mexican-origin com- munities in the Americas. Much of the tenninology for the management of water rights in US. Hispano and Hispana acequia irrigation systems derives from Arabic words. One example is the word "acequia,” a Hispanicization of the Arabic as- Saquiya, which translates as “the water bearer” with the double entendre of “the barmaid.” In New Mexico and Colorado parlance, non'a is a water well and atarque is a small dam. The term tarea refers to the labor time every ISLAMIC RIGHT OF THIRST 403 irrigator is obligated to provide for the annual mainte- nance of community ditches. The administration of water rights in US. Hispano and Hispana acequia communities illustrates the enduring in- fluence of important elements of Islamic law and custom- ary practice. The daily management of acequias is overseen by a mayordomo (ditchrider), a farmer-irrigator elected by the parciantes (local irrigators) on each acequia. This rule of one irrigator—one vote is rooted in Islamic customary law. Acequias regulate water as a community resource, and this defines the fundamental norms of prop- erty ownership and resource rights in such a domain. In southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, community acequias are still vital civic institutions for local collective action and decision making in the administration of water rights and watersheds. Acequias have thus been described as a network of mutual reliance interests based on the def- inition of water as an asset—in-place. Arabic influences are evident in numerous aspects of acequia customary law and practice. Of particular rele- vance are the right of thirst and the norm of shared scarcity. The Islamic "right of thirst" (haq-i shurh) is one of the principles of water law that persists in the historic acequia communities of the upper Rio Grande. The right of thirst states that all living things with thirst, including plants, animals, and humans, have a right to water. More- over, it is considered a mortal sin to deny water to any liv- ing thing with thirst. Contemporary Hispano and Hispana acequia commu— nities prefer the traditional unlined earthwork ditches. The acequias have porous banks that provide water to a wide range of native plant and animal species as well as to domesticated animals and irrigated crops. Acequias protect and extend riparian habitat for native wildlife. The ditches produce a characteristic landscape mosaic pattern of native vegetation that follows the reach of the dendritic networks of local acequias. This cultural land- scape extends native riparian habitat, which is rich in biodiversity and plays a critical role in regulating and conserving water quantity and quality. Ethnographies of ecological politics in Colorado acequia communities suggest that resistance to the modernization of irrigation ditches in part springs from a commitment to the principle of the right of thirst. When faced with the prospect of cement lining of the acequias, many of the irri- gators in Colorado’s Culebra watershed opted to preserve traditional earthwork structures since these provide water to wild and domestic animals, create habitat for native ed- ible and medicinal plants, and contribute to soil conserva- tion by preventing wind-driven erosion. These ecological benefits are often invoked by acequia parciantes to express opposition to the destruction of riparian corridors by the modernization or cement lining of the ditches. ...
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