Alianza Islámica

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Alianza Islámica was the United States' first Latino-Muslim organization.[1][2] It was founded in 1987 in El Barrio, New York City[3] by a group of Puerto Rican Muslims.

The alliance attempts to bring the community together and to improve its quality of life.[3] Cofounder Rafael Montañez Ortíz expressed concerns that neither the African-American-majority nor the immigrant-majority communities sufficiently addressed Hispanic-American culture, language, social situations, and contributions to Islamic history.[4]

In El Barrio, Spanish Harlem, the Alianza mediated relations between rival gangs, mentored jailed Latinos, provided education about HIV/AIDS, offered General Education Development (GED) courses, helped the sick get treatment, and provided free meals during Ramadan.[5]


Alianza Islámica created the first masjid for the Spanish-speaking community. Through wedding celebrations, congregational prayers, English and Spanish sermons, sharing traditional Puerto Rican dishes without pork, music and poetry gatherings, etc., Alianza Islámica became an integral organization for the local community.[6]

Alianza's founders were inspired by their personal experiences, as their Latino identities were used by other mainstream Muslim groups to disregard them.[3] Other Latinos had converted to Islam before Alianza, but the founders noted that many would hide their Latino identity to fit into Muslim spaces. An example of this is avoiding Spanish in a mosque. However, not all Latino Muslims at the time were doing this. Bani Sakr, a Puerto Rican Muslim group established in Newark, New Jersey, publicly embraced their Latino identity and Muslim beliefs. The founders of the Alianza felt that there was "an expression of [themselves] that no longer looked foreign or alien".[7]

Ibrahim Gonzalez was a congero and pianist, and in the early 1980s he made the first Spanish translation of the leaflet "Islam at a Glance", which he printed and distributed himself. Gonzalez' goal with Islam a un Vistazo was to get the attention and recognition of Islamic Society of North America and Islamic Circle of North America. However neither showed interest in highlighting what was for Gonzalez, an important milestone for Latino and Muslim communities.[3]

This is a photo outside of the Alianza Islámica mosque.

As Gonzales and other members saw the lack of recognition from Muslim communities and groups that were majority Arab, South Asian, and African-American, they decided to establish Alianza Islámica.[8] Once the community organized to become the alliance they created a flag that consisted of the flag of Puerto Rico, with a moore[clarification needed] in the center holding a sword and two symbols of African and Taíno descent. The Alianza was properly established in 1990, as they acquired a building to build the first mosque in El Barrio.[3]

In 2005 a fire burned down the Alianza mosque. As most of the founders were growing old, they ended the organization.[3]

Despite Ocasio's concerns which he has stated that "[he] sees this as an extension of that [the Alianza]." in the first in-person meeting of the new group.[3]

One of the founders of Alianza Islamica, Ibrahim Gonzalez, died on June 4, 2013.[9]

Ramon Ocasio[edit]

Ramon Ocasio was a station master for the New York mass transit system. Ocasio was born and raised in New York City. His formative years were during the 1960s and 1970s. He was "radicalized" as young man by nationalist Puerto Rican groups such as the Young Lords. He grew to care about the causes of these groups because of the conditions he observed. The politics then made him turn to religion, "you have to have a moral foundation, you have to make better people" said Ocasio for an interview with National Public Radio on December 2016.[3]

Ocasio was inspired by the Nation of Islam, and translated their approach to the work Alianza was doing. These people were often struggling financially, with substance abuse and were poorly educated.[3]

In recent years, a new community has risen through the internet. Ocasio stated that the circumstances of their lives and their spirituality led them to Islam and Alianza.[3]

Ocasio and his family continue to experience criticism from both Muslims and non-Muslims because of his Latino identity.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. (2002-01-02). "Ranks of Latinos Turning to Islam Are Increasing". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 Jan 2016.
  2. ^ "Latino Muslims are part of US religious landscape". Retrieved 2016-02-04.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "Alianza Islámica: Islam in the Barrio". Retrieved 2019-05-05.
  4. ^ Bowen, Patrick D. (2013). "U.S. Latina/o Muslims Since 1920: From "Moors" to "Latino Muslims"". Journal of Religious History. 37 (2): 165–184. doi:10.1111/1467-9809.12026.
  5. ^ "Olé to Allah: New York's Latino Muslims". Retrieved 17 Jan 2016.
  6. ^ "Alianza Islámica". Encyclopedia of Muslim-American History. Retrieved 14 Feb 2016.
  7. ^ "Alianza Islamica: The True Story". The Islamic Monthly. 2016-03-14. Retrieved 2019-05-08.
  8. ^ "The Alianza Islamica Blog - Reviving the Lost History of Latino Muslims in America". The Alianza Islamica Blog. Retrieved 2019-05-08.
  9. ^ "Ibrahim Gonzalez, a Bronx artist, activist and musician known for his work in community television and radio, dead at age 57". Daily News (New York). Retrieved 28 May 2015.

External links[edit]