First Steps In A New World
The Islamic Party
The Spanish Mosque Debacle
Ibrahim Gonzalez Puts Latinos On The Map
At first, it was just the two, then four, then six. They kept coming, brothers mostly and one sister, until all the seats were filled, then all available floor space. We then had to open another class on Sundays due to the increasing numbers of students. Something wholly unexpected was happening. These were the same newly minted Puerto Rican Muslims, straight out of rehab, that Yahya had been mentoring for some time. Now, with their lives turned around, they were hungering for more Islamic knowledge and primed for action.
In time, bonds of brotherhood developed and Yahya and I agreed to seize the moment and formalize it by creating an organization. When the issue of a name came up, I suggested using the name mothballed and lying dormant since the mid 80’s (we were unaware at the time Carl was still publishing a journal under that name). All the pieces had come together. Alianza Islamica was re-born.
Getting To Work
By consensus, Yahya became the director of the newly-resurrected Alianza and assumed the reins with an aggressive leadership style that moved things along very quickly. Anxious to implement an Islamic activist social agenda, he secured a storefront on 107th Street and Lexington Avenue, solidly in the neighborhood where we all grew up.
All the early members and students from the aqidah classes were Boricuas from El Barrio. We had home-field advantage.
Drug And Prison Wars
Latinas in Crisis
Alianza was blessed with a cadre of dedicated members who bought totally into the dream of making a Latin expression of Islam a reality and seeing it spread among our people. Shukrey (Fabel) Pabon, Mustafa Rivera, Peter Robbasa, Sa’id Concepcion, Maryam Roman, Safia Figueroa, Mikail (Miguel) Marrero, and Abdullahi Rodriguez and others were the indispensable cogs that kept Alianza’s engine running.
Pluralism In Practice
Though the vast majority of Alianza’s members were Puerto Rican, the organization could count on a number of non-Latinos whose contributions were invaluable.
Chief among them was Shaikh Shair Abdul Mani, a brilliant Afro-American polymath, who grew up in Spanish Harlem, was fluent in Spanish, and was the organization’s public relations officer. He brought an urbane sophistication, professionalism, and polish to a somewhat gritty organization. Muhammad Omerjee was a Burmese gentleman of Gujurati descent who always sought ways for us to work more efficiently. And Christie Aziza Zimmerman, a German-American firebrand with an indomitable spirit who along with her husband Shukrey were pillars of unflinching support.
La Mezquita Del Barrio
A New Era, A New Dawn
Back in Texas, the ribbon was finally cut and visitors were now pouring into the new center. The new day had arrived. Yet for we who were approaching the twilight of life, it was a time to reflect. A journey that began with 4 Boricua teenagers 47 years ago had brought us to this day. But we were no longer a quartet. Abdus Salam left for Riyadh at the end of first Gulf war. As the self-titled Latin from Manhattan, he is reported to have brought a great number of GIs to Islam and Ibrahim Gonzalez, the youngest of us and an innovative, determined pioneer, died suddenly in his sleep a couple of years ago, may Allah envelop him in forgiveness and mercy.