Channel: The Deen Show
This audio is brought to you by Muslim central.com My name is Alfredo unhemmed Rhys, I was born with that name. Now people call me, Wilfredo I am.
I'm a Puerto Rican born attorney and chaplain.
Something happened in my life in 2003. That changed it.
I embraced Islam.
From that point on,
my life has taken many turns to unexpected places with unexpected duties carry into unexpected people.
And right now I'm on my way to meet a good friend.
And I'm excited because Is this one of the few times out of those hundreds of times that media have interview me, that is a Muslim media. So believe it or not, I'm kind of nervous.
I'm used to to any news, national, international or local news to interview me. And now it's just a friendly Muslim media. And perhaps it gets me more excited than than the regular international news outlets and things like that. So I'm excited to be brother Eddie is waiting for me in my office heating Sonrise South Florida. And I hope this goes well. I believe you're gonna enjoy this. This
on a call
with you. Nice to meet you. Nice to meet you too. Oh, Allah insha Allah in sha Allah. Yes. So that's the same thing. Oh, Allah insha. Allah. Yes. Yes. How do you how do you say peace be with you in Spanish? labasa contigo para la paz La Pass Sia, Sia. contigo canto? contigo contigo. I think they figured out already. You're very quiet. Yeah.
Have you here.
Nice to be here with you. So now that we broken ice a little bit. Tell me so you actually you were an attorney back in Puerto Rico? Yes. Yes. And then from there, the story went on to you being an attorney here. Exactly. Fighting for Muslims rights. Yes. Yeah. It was a long journey. But I'm here. That's what I'm doing. Yes, I'm blessed.
In 2003, after after some search on what religion should I educate my children with?
One day, I was driving in a city called Vega Alta in the suburbs of San Juan. And I observed an Islamic center that you can see in a hillside from the expressway. And I said, I'm going to learn about Islam. And that was end of 2002,
early 2003, January 2003, I embraced Islam. In that same Islamic Center. I pronounce my Shahada tell us your life before I got educated in a Catholic school most of my life from from first to middle school. Yeah. On high school. I went to a public secular school. Yeah, but yes, I was raised Catholic, most of my family's Catholic, although not all,
but very practicing Catholics, my brother, as my mother was and my sister
described for our audience. What does it mean to be like a practicing typical day of a practicing Catholic in your family? Oh, so of Christians that are considering some practicing, they attend the weekend service? Yeah. And if you're Catholic, you you participate in the sacraments do take the Eucharist or you do go and confess your sins. There's some called sacraments that are some core practices of your religion that if you're a practicing Catholic, you will do non practicing Catholic is when you abandon those practices and no longer relate to a particular church. Would you still hold some of the beliefs of Christianity or do you consider yourself a Christian Right? Because
that's how you got educated even if you don't practice it? Yeah. You normally approach the church then for extraordinary events, a wedding a baptism or, or a funeral.
And the same happens in all religions are people that adhere to the practices of their religions and their practice in our case Muslims, that then we'll do the five daily prayers will fast in Ramadan we aspire or go to perform hoche and that is something that that just naturally came to me when I after me becoming Muslim. I got a passionate about learning about Islam when I first embraced Islam. I wanted to learn it more than what the
was being offered in the Islamic centers. And I wanted to have some academic instruction on Islam. So I surely after embracing Islam in 2003, like in 2004 or five, I started
a program in the Hartford seminary. It was a master's degree program on Islam and Christian Muslim relations, and was also at the same time hoping that they will pay for the studies, but they did not. I, I reconnected with an old institution that I was connected before. When I was an attorney. In my early years as an attorney before embracing Islam, I joined the Navy in the JAG corps, so they maybe have different court for dentists for professional court. They have a court for attorneys. And I joined that and I worked as a active duty in the military, as a Navy jag was a defense counsel. After that, I, I went to my private practice. And then when I encounter Islam, I thought, hey, the
Navy was paying me as a jab perhaps if I get a professional degree in Islamic studies, they may have, they may pay for my studies.
So I reconnected with the Navy. And I joined them. And I again swore it was sewn in, in what they had a program called the chaplain can candidate programs, officers program. This is EPO.
So while you're studying in the seminary, you are in the chaplain Corps as a seminarian, right. So I had the opportunity to join the Navy while during my studies on Islam, this time as one of the few in the chaplain corps, because in the whole fleet, there were only four Muslim chaplains back then. So I was very privileged to hold that to be in that core of very few Muslims, who were catering. The interesting thing is we kept it to Muslims and non Muslims when you're serving in the armed forces. So that that that was a in a snapshot where we're how my my life changed within being an attorney to becoming a chaplain, and an historic incorporating Islam in my life, because these opportunities
that one in the Navy, and one that I have soon after to work as a chaplain in the immigration detention centers, first in Puerto Rico, and later here in Florida.
It was working with Christian institutions, but I was presenting, I presented myself as a Muslim chaplain, and they did hire my services to lead to, to direct the religious services program in those centers. Let's go back a little bit. Because, you know, here, a lot of people are going away from religion, or some people say I believe in God, but I don't want to follow any source. I don't want to follow any organized religion, you know, how was the temple at that time you coming up? You know, from your young adult years, you know, and a lot of times I can imagine, you know, you got the Latin music, you know, the songs are filled with, you know, chasing this and that bling bling. I
don't know if they call it Yeah, it wasn't the bling bling.
Generation, but yes, he was. But what was it that had you, you know, strike a chord that you started to go down that route that you're now thinking more, you know, thinking more about purpose of life? Why am I here? Why have I been created these really important questions, a lot of people, they're so tuned in to the song and they're numb to all the the reality of these types of things, important things that we should be thinking about, you know, at when I first started visiting the Islamic centers, and I heard those first DARS first lessons on Islam. Yeah.
Honestly, when I was listening to, to the discussions of
the concept of God, it was something that was not new for me.
He was something that I, when I first heard and listen to people talking about the heat and how that is essential to our faith. That is the essence of our faith.
I that naturally resonated to me. Why? Because when I was a Christian, I always truly never was convinced, never I received an adequate explanation on the concept of the Trinity, that what what is known in Christianity is a triune three and one God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit. That concept when I had that first x exposes two of what is what this means in Islam and the importance of it, and how believing in the One God
is really what our faith is about. The rest
are what falls from it. And
to, to discover that that was the essence of our religion, and that the essence of that religion, that belief was something that I naturally believed in that God was one the Creator.
I perfectly fit nobody ever needed to try to explain me in Islam, the concept of the One God
when it was exposed to me, and this is our teaching, and I was taught that I didn't have any questions. Because I said, this is what I have always truly believed God was on the Creator. I say Spanish, but in the US on the old iOS, Lila, on the earth. Yeah. And that's not broken up into parts like a trinity.
And I found that in Islam, the, the
and our heart perfectly conjugates perfectly get along.
Ours is not only logical religion,
for example, to believe that some thing or someone that you believe is God could suffer thirst, or hunger, or to be born one day, or die for three days, or been offered something as a temptation by by your creation, because even the shaitan is your creation. Yes. So what the shaitan is going to offer you, his creator to tempt you. That's a good point. Yeah, yeah. So all those things quickly had an answer. When I embraced the thought and the belief of the debate of the One God, a fear monotheism, the pure motivation because he's truly logical. You say, God can never be bored. God is the owner of everything, what can he be offered? What can he be offered, you can't have
everything so or be born there'll be a suffered hunger or thirst, or, or offer a sacrifice for his creation.
As his the creation was superior to him, while into heat, there nothing higher than Allah subhanho wa Taala or believe that Allah is the highest is essential. So you can put the highest offering something to his creation. It is the contrary his creation should be offering sacrifices on his behalf should creation be offers acts of gratitude to the the creation should be offer the worshipping to him, there's nothing for him. It's just the the blessings and the baraka oz. And the mercy as he wants to extend it to humanity when you learn this. Obviously, this makes sense. This is very logical that God is not his creation. He's the creator of creation, that you worship only the
Creator, not the creation when you're sharing this. Now with your family, what are they saying? Because they're practicing Christians. There were many reactions
from being very welcome as something as a new teaching in my inner circle my by children, my family in our family. It was, it was okay. I didn't went back home say this is what everybody needs to start believing. That's true. I did explain what he said that I am raised. And what is this religion about?
The thing happen in my in my mother's we all right, my mother, her husband, my stepfather.
For her was hardest because she was a
practicing Christian that had leadership positions in her church. Christians normally go once a week to church, my mother will go every day. So is a little like a typical Christian, not every question, not even the majority, or half of them goes everyday to church as my mother used to do. And she took other leadership positions as well and in within this church, and she was very active. She said she wanted us educated as Catholics, she sent us to Catholic school. So for her, it was we it was hard for some months.
I can gladly tell you that after some months,
there were a Christmas season where I receive a sash,
a Muslim prayer rug as a Christmas gift from my mother. So that tells you the level of acceptance that she finally embraced to the level that her gifts was worth to encourage me to be even more profoundly involved with my faith.
So evolve the inner core of friends were there, they knew that they were other practices now that I probably will not join them as I used to.
But the inner core, I can tell you there were always there. There's others that people call friends that are that an outer core of friends. They were just acquaintances of your, of your entertainment, right?
Or other circles, right? And those are quickly quickly disappear.
has been something very
How can I explain you, Eddie.
From the first time I learned in that most about Islam, I became fascinated by it.
It was natural for me to want it to seek more knowledge and seek it in, in a seminary.
It was natural for me to to to be a voice for Islam in back in Puerto Rico for many years. I was a regular columnist in the main circulation newspaper on all my columns were about Islam, and the practice of one we Muslims do so you accepted Islam. And then you started writing in the Puerto Rican newspaper? Yeah, Islam is how was that taken by the your readers?
Oh, it was it was I received the love love letter saying, Hey, I do I'm not Muslim. I do respect your religion of what I'm learning about it off from another's insulting letters, right. Yeah. It all started with me offering as I was attending the seminary.
A talk to the editorial board of that newspaper saying, Well, I'm visiting Puerto Rico, in during my breaks from the seminary, and more than willing to give your talk to all the journalists for free about What is Islam. And you know, back then, the we had already worse going that God the interesting the bad way of Muslims, it was 2003 2004, fresh from September 11.
So I can tell you that most of Puerto Ricans were very welcoming of online information. They were either misinformed by ignorance or intentionally misinformed by Catholic schools who intentionally misinformed on on who, especially older practices. Now, I see a more in the especially in the recent 15 years, open openness to foreknowledge about Islam by people of all religions, they really welcome and a come to my school and speak about Islam or come to my college and speak about Islam. But when that happened, I gave that that talk to the, to the journalists that that morning, it was like a two three hour talk. Normally, these talks take the director and later told me an hour. And I was
already there to two and a half past two hours. And the journalists were asking your Caelian questions about our deen about Islam and the Muslim faith. Because remember, they're just, most of them touch Islam tangentially. Because it's the religion of something, or because it's the religion that practice some kind of people, some people from these, but we have a conflict in Iraq or Afghanistan, but as a religion when they had the opportunity to here, what is it our beliefs that what are what are our practices, the status of our family, our Mo, our woman, our men or children, our responsibilities as Muslims. When they started learning about that they really got a super
interest, there's a thirst
for people to know Islam, not necessarily because they're looking for a spiritual path. People are very curious about Islam, especially since September 11. To this day, you will not find a single issue of a newspaper that doesn't mention the word Muslim, or Islam somewhere in the newspaper, for good or for bad, is a constant in our culture now. And even though it is a constant, a lot of people and made they're very ignorant about this. So these opportunities, this really opened me up in our communities and poor weekends, perhaps a window to What is Islam and there were some issues that were more controversial, for example, when we were discussing the Palestinian rights and how their
rights are violated in Israel.
Obviously, those are contentious
statements, not only in the United States from everywhere in the Caribbean, where you raise it right.
They're easily misconstrued. Right? And that was something that after many years of writing in the paper, they even call me a recent years. Hey, could you please, as a guest columnist, write about
again about the Palestinian conflict, because
media knows, there is a vacuum of information when it comes to the rights of Muslims in Palestine, to the rights of Muslims in China, the Uighur Muslims, to the rights of Muslims, the Rohingya Muslims, to the rights of Muslims that reside in Russia. And the result of the the rise of Muslims throughout Europe and Africa. So those right, those
are normally topics that they don't want to be talked about, and in our culture, mainly with the assertion that we have nothing to do with that. And we experienced that it is on the contrary, what affects Syrians affects us, what affects Afghans affects us, what affects Iraqis affects us. So we are coming to know on the highway, our communities that Muslims will not do anyway, Muslims are here to stay. The Muslim community is one of the fastest growing community religious communities in America. This is not that you like that to me or me. Like, that's a fact. So people need to really start wanting to learn, legitimately learn about us, and they're curious. And we always find those
people that that that motivates me to do what I'm doing now. That is to defend the rights of Muslims to practice the religion. Because very early, when I started to practice my religion,
the bombs that Hispanic Muslims were suffering after embracing Islam,
those that embraced Islam that were Hispanics, and if you are another layer that were imprisoned,
that moved me to eventually gravitate to working in civil rights, like I'm doing with care, Florida, and
I've been next year is going to be 20 years of me becoming Muslim and humble. Half of those have been directly working with care Florida, first as an attorney, and now as a communications director, but very determined that the rest of my life is going to be for the service of the Muslim community. It could be California for the rest of my life, but if not interflow, either, I don't see me doing other thing that's serving
the Muslim community to for them to have for our kids and our grandkids to have a better place that that what we found here, and, and that they don't need to suffer what we have suffered, hear, or listen from either the the greatest leaders of our country, how they salt, our religion, even in Century 21.
I hope they have a better America than the one we are inheriting. And I feel very good doing it. It's very satisfying.
Put in all my knowledge as a Senate, even the to my attorneys experienced throughout my life, the experience as a as a as a chaplain, and as a communicator,
for the sake of our communities, really, perhaps a little what fits
Because this is part of we know, as Muslims that this is how we worship, that every act that we try to do, on the way Allah told us to do it is as good as worship as the last goddess worship as any other worship. And I have found that my preferred way of group worship is serving my community saving protecting the Muslim community, educating the Muslim community on the rights
making them stand pride for their identity, right when they see a convert, openly practicing Islam that they don't mind look and Muslim. Muslims are Muslim brothers or sisters. A is truly
an experience right? And that a know says a lot about Islam. I can tell you when I did hatch, I was blessed to do Hajj in 2007.
Whenever I was introduced to anyone in any store or in any circle, they stopped whatever they were talking to say for you. Tell me your story about how you embrace Islam.
It was of utmost
exultation to them to learn how somebody embraces Islam in America
this is nothing
In my life No, there's no other experience. I can tell you about the have experienced in my life that equates to what happened after I embraced Islam in 2003. This is very beautiful and very motivated to see someone who not only accepted the deen accepted this beautiful way of life, but now had the passion to continue moving forward writing in the newspapers educating people sharing because if you share you care if you care you share and you've been sharing and putting your experience to work serving the Dean serving your Creator serves our community. I want to thank you for that. If for the Spanish speaking audience, can you go ahead and leave us with something in this
Puerto Rican Spanish language? You know, of course, but a number of you have Bismillah thing you know, Mario's explaining explaining Islam in one minute and spear Islam he who not only home simply
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Samaniego, la pasado theory. One more time we started with peace we end with peace a Salam aleikum wa rahmatullah
And if you like this episode of the deen show, like this video, share this video far and wide and support us on our Patreon page so we can continue this work. Thank you for tuning in. Peace be with you a Salaam Alaikum