by Edwin Mora, Breitbart News
The Orlando massacre at the hands of Omar Mateen will not cause a rift between the Latino and Muslim communities, even though the overwhelming majority of the victims were Latinos, an Islamic organization told Breitbart News.
“Despite a significant number of victims of the recent San Bernardino attacks were Latinos, the relationship has been as strong as ever,” declared Waqas Syed, deputy secretary general of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), referring to the December 2015 rampage in California that was also carried out by a jihadist. “We expect the same to continue as we are both against terror and extremism.”
“Latinos are becoming the fastest growing segment of Muslims. Their attraction mainly is the strong emphasis Islam gives to family and community values. They see this as being eroded in their Christian communities,” continued the official from ICNA, which bills itself as the largest American Muslim grassroots organization. “Also the strong concept of Social Justice, like supporting and helping the poor and the weak, as well as strict prohibition of vices like corruption, alcohol, narcotics, that are seen by Latinos as becoming prevalent in their society, are clearly attractive to new converts.”
Sami Haiman-Marrero, identified as an Orlando-based activist for Latinos, echoed Syed, telling the Washington Post (WaPo) that although Mateen was a Muslim and the majority of his victims were Hispanic, the terrorist attack “should not cause a rift” between Muslims and Latinos.
“I could not care less what [the Republican party’s presumptive presidential nominee Donald] Trump has to say. We are stopping the cycle of intolerance,” said Haiman-Marrero.
“We will not judge the character of a community based on the actions of one individual,” she added.
On June 12, Mateen, a U.S. citizen born to Afghan parents, massacred 49 people enjoying “Latin night” at the popular Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando, FL, and injured 53 others. He pledged allegiance to ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for the attack. Mateen was killed by law enforcement after carrying out the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history and the nation’s worst terrorist attack since 9/11.
More than 90 percent of the deceased victims are Latinos.
Over half of all the murdered victims, the majority of whom were members of the LGBT community and therefore likely to object to the dictates of Islam regarding homosexuality, are of Puerto Rican descent. Islam forbids homosexuality.
According to the Pew Research Center, Puerto Rico ranks low among Latin American regions where moral objections to drinking alcohol, which is forbidden by Islam, are prevalent.
The number of Hispanic Muslim converts in the United States has been on the rise in recent years, according to various assessments. Latino Muslims have been described as the fastest growing segment of Islam in the U.S. by some analysts.
The Latino Muslim population in the United States has at least tripled since 2006, from an estimated 40,000 to between 150,000 and 250,000, ICNA and other groups estimate.
Echoing other analysts, ICNA’s Syed has attributed the rise in Hispanic Muslim converts to the Muslim and Latino population’s shared experience of immigration and the allegedly negative rhetoric by politicians considered by critics as anti-Latino and anti-Muslim.
“Our joint fight is against the rising bigotry and hate among the politicians,” Syed told Breitbart News, referring to the Latino and Muslim community in the U.S.
“[The] relationship between the Latino and the Muslim community stretches back eight centuries to Islamic Spain. Many Muslims have migrated to Latin America and have become very successful and productive citizens,” he added. “Unlike Europe and North America, Latin America has been quite untouched with any of the anti-Islamic rhetoric and the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslim Latinos can be described as excellent and strong.”
Some Hispanic Muslim converts in the United States are not born in America.
In 2007, a Pew Research study reportedly found that 10 percent of native-born Muslims in the U.S. are Hispanic.
The U.S. military has warned that both Sunni and Shiite extremists in Latin America are radicalizing converts and other Muslims in the region, having found a sizable Islamic population with which to engage.
Although most Latinos in the United States remain primarily Roman Catholic, that segment of the Hispanic population is declining, the Pew Research Center reported in May 2014.
Hispanics are considered America’s fastest growing demographic, making up 17.3 percent of the U.S. population, according to the latest estimate by the Pew Research Center.
In Orange County, where Orlando is located, Latinos comprise nearly 30 percent of the population.
“Florida has the third-largest Hispanic population in the country: While Hispanics make up 17 percent of the national population, it’s 24 percent in Florida, and rising fast, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,” notes WaPo. “So an attack on Latinos here ripples into every corner of the local economy and culture.”
According to the Pew Research Center, there were an estimated 3.3 million Muslims of all ages residing in the United States in 2015.
Today marks the 20th anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. It serves as both a reminder of one of the most traumatizing occurrences to unfold on American soil and as a testimony to the resilience of every community living here in America.