A former Latino gang member told a story to a group of UH students Tuesday of how converting to Islam saved his life, and he described why Latinos are more likely to convert to Islam.
As part of Islam Awareness Week, the Muslim Student Association welcomed Mujahid Fletcher, who moved to Houston from Colombia at age 8.
Starting in middle school, Fletcher led a troublesome life after he began his own gang based on self-defense.
“If it weren’t for Islam and their rehabilitation of the Islamic lifestyle, I don’t even know if I’d be here today,” he said. “I may be in jail, or I may be dead. I used to have people calling my house and telling my mother at three in the morning that they were going to kill me.”
Mujahid said that these phone calls came when he was between 13 and 16 years old.
Believing Fletcher’s future was in peril, his mother sent him to school in Colombia. Surrounded by a different group of people, Fletcher excelled in school. When he returned to Houston years later, he longed for the slower pace of life in Colombia.
However, he soon began to fall into the same habits that got him in trouble many times before. He knew it was time for a change.
After many years of living a fast-paced life, Fletcher began reading about Kabbalah and Buddhism and even his own religion, Catholicism, but he said he found “holes” in them. With his father’s encouragement, he began searching for life’s meaning.
“He never put an ideology on me. He only told me there was one God, and how ever I would find that God was up to me,” Fletcher said.
After questioning followers of multiple religions, he became more attracted to Islam for the clarity of the answers an Islam expert provided him.
“The person would always deal with me with etiquette, with wisdom. He wouldn’t argue,” Fletcher said. “He wouldn’t try to pin me down. He would just give very plain, open answers and say, ‘Just go look at an Encyclopedia Britannica.’”
After a long time of studying the religion, Fletcher finally accepted Islam at a Muslim convention in Florida, where he spoke to a Colombian Muslim for two hours and said he learned ways Islam ideology could offer solutions for Colombia.
“That’s when I learned the real meaning of submission,” he said. “When you surrender to something, it’s something you can’t argue. The only thing I knew was I felt clean.”
Fletcher admits he had some doubts in converting to Islam because, similar to other religions, he witnessed hypocrisy among some.
“Some of the people say they’re Muslim, but their actions may not be Islamic, the same way a Christian may say he’s Christian and his actions aren’t based on Christianity,” he said.
Fletchers said after converting, he didn’t have the desire to return to his old ways. So great was the impact he had on others that, a month later, his girlfriend converted and, years later, his parents and mother-in-law also converted.
Fletcher said Latinos embrace Islam more because of Islamic roots that exist in Latin America’s history. Fletcher said many Latinos have ancestors from Spain who were Muslim.
“We have so much from Islam that we don’t understand, (that) we don’t know,” he said. “The natural family values that Latinos have come from Islam. When they realize that it’s not contradictory and so far-fetched from their background, many of them are becoming Muslim.”
Today, Fletcher runs a non-profit organization called Islam In Spanish, which provides multimedia material in Spanish to inform people about Islam. Fletcher also opened the Andalusia Social and Educational Media Center, a center that facilitates interaction between people of all religions and backgrounds by holding discussions and workshops.