Student interviews Rahim Ocasio for a report about Alianza Islamica in 2018.
May 19, 2019
Omar Ibn al-Khattab Mosque
Los Angeles, CA
LALMA’s Ramadan Celebration took place on May 19th, 2019 at Omar Ibn Al-Khattab Mosque. LALMA Board of directors and members started celebrating Ramadan with only family members and Catholic youth (Pastoral Juvenil), but since 2014 LALMA decided to open the invitation to the partners of Los Angeles Voice, a multi-ethnic and multi-religious grassroots organization.
LALMA’s Ramadan Celebration is a reaffirmation of our faith, a call to Islam, and an opportunity to opening our hearts and minds to the multi-ethnic and multi-religious congregations of the Los Angeles community. Therefore, our audience was formed by the Pastoral Juvenil, Dolores Mission, Leo Beck and Ikar Jewish temples. We also invited all of the Muslim community, including the African American, South Asian, and Arab communities.
This year the program was special because LALMA honored Alianza Islamica with a plaque of recognition for its work as the first Latino Muslim organization in the United States of America. It was founded in 1987 in El Barrio, New York City, by a group of Puerto Rican Muslims.
One of the founders, Rahim Ocasio, represented Alianza Islamica and received its plaque of recognition. In his speech, he stated that the main objective of Alianza Islamica was to be part of the community and remove the stigma of “alien.” According to Rahim Ocasio, they had in mind a social agenda that provided social services to the community among them being GED classes, martial arts, ESL classes, nutrition, and counseling.
Alianza Islamica founders kept to their cultural roots while taking on an Islamic identity. For example, traditional Puerto Rican food would be served, and Latin music would be played during the main Islamic festivities of Eid.
We are grateful to Allah SWT and Alianza Islámica for the legacy to Latino Muslims organizations. You felt the basic needs of your community: housing, fair salary, immigration, social and criminal justice, respect for human dignity.
May Allah reward the work of all the founders of Alianza Islamica. May Allah SWT have mercy on Ibrahim Gonzalez and continues to bless Yahya Figueroa, Ramon “Rahim” Ocasio, and their beloved families.
May your work inspire more Latino Muslims organizations as you have inspired LALMA in Los Angeles, CA.
Rahim Ocasio’s speech on the history of Alianza Islamica
at LALMA‘s Ramadan event in Los Angeles, CA on May 19, 2019.
Muslim History Tour NYC Facebook page:
This 1985 article in Islamic Horizons highlights a presentation on Latinx people in Islam at the Museo del Barrio in East Harlem. At this time, a diverse Latino-led community was beginning in the Barrio known as Alianza Islamica, which started in 1987 with a journal of the same name. The founders made claim to Islam as part of the heritage of Latinx people. By the early 1990s, members were visible members of their neighborhood, hosting Islamic classes at their Lexington Ave mosque, providing services for food insecurity and offering funeral services for Muslim HIV/AIDS victims, a novelty at the time.
It is key to remember that El Museo del Barrio was born in the late 1960s from the demands of African American and Latinx parents for representational education for their children. Museum founder Rafael Montañez Ortíz wrote: “The cultural disenfranchisement I experience as a Puerto Rican has prompted me to seek a practical alternative to the orthodox museum, which fails to meet my needs for an authentic ethnic experience. To afford me and others the opportunity to establish living connections with our own culture, I founded El Museo del Barrio.”