Latina Muslim Converts Gather to Share and Forge their Newfound Faith, Friendship

October 23, 2006

Author: Barbara Karkabi

Source: Houston Chronicle

When Zulayka Martinez left the Roman Catholic Church and converted to Islam six years ago, she was happy and at peace with her decision. But she felt like an outsider in her new faith.

Looking back, she realizes her problem was more of a cultural and language barrier. Most members of Houston mosques were of Arab or Pakistani backgrounds. She didn't know any Spanish-speaking Muslims. And as a single woman, she found it especially hard during holidays.

"My first two Ramadans, I felt very alone," she said, referring to the holy month. At first, she was afraid to tell her parents that she had converted. "But after I did, my mother would fix me food to break the fast."

What a difference six years make.

In that time, Martinez has become the center of a close-knit group of Latina Muslims who support each other throughout Ramadan and the rest of the year. For today's festive Eid al-Fitr, the day that ends the month of fasting, she is organizing the women for morning prayers and a celebratory brunch.