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Why So Many Latinos Are Becoming Muslims

Why So Many Latinos Are Becoming Muslims

Oct 12, 2013

By Tim Padgett
 
Most Latinos know the country is celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month right now. What far fewer Latinos know is that next week marks Eid al-Adha, one of Islam’s most sacred holidays.
 
And yet the two observances are more related now than most Latinos realize.

Just as the U.S. Latino population is on the rise – Hispanics are now the nation’s largest minority – so is the number of Latino Muslims. And it’s not just a result of Arab Latin Americans emigrating to the United States.
According to organizations like WhyIslam.org, Latinos are one of the fastest growing segments of the Muslim community. About six percent of U.S. Muslims are now Latino – and as many as a fifth of new converts to Islam nationwide are Latino.
The American Muslim Association of North America, based in North Miami, says heavily Hispanic South Florida in particular is home to a rising number of Latino Muslims.
Not that conversion to Islam is easy in Latino society, as Marina Gonzalez knows. A Nicaraguan-American nurse in Miami, Gonzalez converted five years ago and wears the hijab, the Muslim women’s head garb. At first her family stopped talking to her.
“They [were] calling me Talibana,” Gonzalez recalls. “My mother, she didn’t like to go [out] with me because I wear the hijab.”
But now her mother “understands. When I go to my parents’ house they turn off the TV when I have to pray. I’m so happy.”
Najib Sowma’s first name was Dario before he converted six years ago. Today he’s a leading member of the Al-Ihsaan mosque in South Miami-Dade. But his Cuban mother was initially shocked.
“Now her views have changed,” says Sowma. “Prior to me being Muslim to who I am now, she sees a big difference in my character.”
Spain’s Islamic Past
If it’s a surprise that many Latinos are moving from a predominantly Roman Catholic culture to an originally Arab faith, perhaps it shouldn’t be. For one thing, like African-Americans in the 1960s, Latinos are discovering their own historical and cultural ties to Islam and the Arab world. And that starts with what most defines Latinos: Spanish.
“Our language is nurtured by more than 4,000 words that come from Arabic,” says Wilfredo Ruiz, a Puerto Rican-born Muslim who converted a decade ago and is a lawyer for the South Florida chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations. “Every word in Spanish that starts with ‘al,’ for example, like alcalde, alcantarilla, almohada.”
That’s because Arab Muslims ruled Spain for some 800 years during the Middle Ages – and made the Iberian Peninsula one of the most advanced civilizations of its time. A millennium later, Ruiz says that past is an inescapable part of the Hispanic DNA.
“What most Latinos who have embraced Islam find most amazing is their cultural affinity to the Muslim culture,” says Ruiz. “It’s like rediscovering your past. That area of our past has been hidden from us.”
Ruiz points out that both Latinos and Arabs highly value the extended family and traditions like offering hospitality to strangers. In religious terms, Latinos like Gonzalez say Islam provides a simpler, more direct form of worship than Catholicism does. They also feel more structure than they see in the evangelical churches so many Latinos join today.
“The connection I have with God now is better than before,” says Gonzalez.
Yet many take comfort in the overlap between Catholicism and Islam. Muslims, for example, venerate the Virgin Mary as well as Jesus, at least as a prophet.
“At the beginning when I was reading the Koran I said, “Oh, [Muslims] believe in the hereafter, in angels,’” says Liliana Parodi, a Peruvian-American surgical technician in Miami who converted 24 years ago. “You know, it’s not so much difference.”
Appeal To Women
More Latina women convert to Islam than Latino men do. Islam is admittedly questioned for its segregation of women. But Latinas like Parodi say it’s hypocritical for a male-dominated Catholic Church – which forbids women priests, birth control and divorce – and an ultra-macho Latino society – whose Spanish-language television networks still portray women as spitfire sexpots – to criticize their new faith in that regard.
“I tell them, ‘Look at yourself,’” says Parodi. “The sad part is [when they] see women as objects.”
A decade ago, the nation’s image of a Latino Muslim was unfortunately Jose Padilla, the so-called “Dirty Bomber” who was convicted for aiding terrorists. But for Ruiz, who was also a Navy chaplain, much has changed since then – and Latinos are less fearful now of converting.
“They soon come to learn that [Muslims] abhor violence,” Ruiz says. “We have the same aspirations for social justice as a Christian or a Jew does.”
Which means, as Eid al-Adha arrives next Monday evening, more Latinos will be saying “Eid Mubarak.” Which is Arabic for “Eid Bendito.” Which is Spanish for “Have a Blessed Eid.”
Article Courtesy: WLRN, Miami, South Florida

47 Comments

  1. D.E.H

    This article truly warms my heart, I am of Mexican decent and Alhumdillilah I took my shahada this August. Although it is difficult to for family to adjust keep in mind that you are doing the right thing if you are thinking about reverting to Islam.

    Reply
  2. D.E.H

    This article truly warms my heart, I am of Mexican decent and Alhumdillilah I took my shahada this August. Although it is difficult to for family to adjust keep in mind that you are doing the right thing if you are thinking about reverting to Islam.

    Reply
  3. Roselin Ali

    Alhmdullah !!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  4. Darartu Shafi

    MashAllah Rosalba Soto-Vazquez

    Reply
  5. Fakher Ahmad

    الحمد لله علي نعمه الاسلام

    Reply
  6. Julio Juarez

    Because we finally found the best way to love Allah and correct path to follow

    Reply
  7. Iqra Shaikh

    MashAllah 🙂 <3

    Reply
  8. Myron Johnson

    I reverted back to a more natural sate of being…the only one…to serve the one and only truth! Allah hu ackbar!

    Reply
  9. Rosalba Soto-Vazquez

    Darartu Shafi this is beautiful 🙂

    Reply
  10. Travis Tarrant

    I converted to Islam three years ago and I saw on a documentary where a lot of Puerto Rican women were converting to Islam and lately at our masjid, there have been quite a few Latinos declaring Shahada-ALHAMDULILLAH!!!

    Reply
  11. Khaled Dardar

    Is it possible to get a copy of the data?

    Reply
  12. Star Noble

    I reverted to Islam about a month ago. It’s been a bit of a rough road as I am alone here, no mosques even remotely close to me.

    Reply
    • Dastagir

      Say Bismillah and take the noble step of building a mosque nearby.

      Reply
    • Faiza

      MaShaAllah may Allah put blessings in your way! please keep in touch with people at whyislam.org. they will inShaAllah be able to help you find more muslims in your area and if possible, you could just all get together at any fixed place where you all can pray inShaAllah! then you can work towards establishing a proper mosque later.

      Reply
    • guymacher

      Which part of Islam attracted you?

      Reply
    • aayesha

      You are not alone. Most of all, Allah and HIS grace is always with you . when u are in bed about to sleep,try to remember Him and talk to HIM as your friend closest to u . ESTABLISH a connection with Him in true trust on Him alone. Ask for His help and guidance. He will ease your way and make your life happy inshallallh.
      YOU can also connect to aayesha77@ gmail.com for any islamic queries.

      Reply
  13. Michelle K Sullivan

    Wow didnt know all that. Bless you all and your dedication to the lord threw your faith. 🙂

    Reply
  14. Athar Ali

    Its fascinating that despite of media Islamophobia, people still finding way to see and embrace Islam. Would love to hear what prompted them to accept this new faith? May Allah Bless us All!!

    Reply
    • guymacher

      Explain Koran 48:29 to us non-Muslims, aka, kafirs.

      Reply
  15. Maqbool Malik

    May ALLAH (SWT) accept all of us. Aameen.

    Reply
    • guymacher

      Allah acts on whims. The angels which carry Allah’s throne, pray that he/she/it allows those who deserve to get into Muslim heaven are allowed to! No guarantees of heaven for Muslims.

      Reply
  16. Julissa Jewels Fikri

    Allahu Akbar!!!!

    Reply
  17. Muslimah

    SubhanAllah

    Reply
  18. Muslimah

    SubhanAllah

    Reply
  19. Huda Qureshi-Rehman

    Alhamdullilah this is just beautiful

    Reply
  20. Dua Friss

    i think a lot ppl relized that NT is fabricated and all dogmats, and faith base is like too much humans in it..than God guidence, things taht science juyst dicrover that Jesus pbuh didnt die on the cross…islam knew first. Its a very interesting…and anyway church really have alot problems with lead..priests are disguided…which is sad. A lot ppl relaized its juyst the organisation for making $$$. Far away from real Jerusalem stories and Jesus and Holy Family life, unfortulatelly.

    Reply
  21. Arif Khalil

    Sarawoot Sriwannayos we need to visit upper Thailand for a week or so soon after Eid if you agree

    Reply
  22. Moh Riaz

    Eid Mubarak.” Which is Arabic for “Eid Bendito.” Which is Spanish for “Have a Blessed Eid.”

    Reply
  23. Nizam

    Eid mubarak!

    Reply
  24. Nizam

    Eid mubarak!

    Reply
  25. Saima Ashraf

    This is heart warming! Alhamdullilah!!! “What most Latinos who have embraced Islam find most amazing is their cultural affinity to the Muslim culture,” says Ruiz. “It’s like rediscovering your past. That area of our past has been hidden from us.”

    Reply
    • guymacher

      My dog reverted to a more natural state– a wild dog!

      Reply
  26. Firoz Kamal

    The greatest gift of Allah SWT ia the guidance towards His path. Those who get it they are really the blessed people.

    Reply
  27. Dastagir

    Say Bismillah and take the noble step of building a mosque nearby.

    Reply
  28. Faiza

    MaShaAllah may Allah put blessings in your way! please keep in touch with people at whyislam.org. they will inShaAllah be able to help you find more muslims in your area and if possible, you could just all get together at any fixed place where you all can pray inShaAllah! then you can work towards establishing a proper mosque later.

    Reply
  29. guymacher

    My dog reverted to a more natural state– a wild dog!

    Reply
  30. guymacher

    Which part of Islam attracted you?

    Reply
  31. jacinto

    Mexicanos: los 3 jinetes del apocalipsis c.6 cabalgan rrumb a mexico el primero ya llego, preparense para recivir los otros 2, almacenen lo que crean necesario porque lo que ocurrio en la historia de mexico en los anos20s esta por reocurrirpero esta vez mas grave

    Reply
  32. jacinto

    Mexicanos: los 3 jinetes del apocalipsis c.6 cabalgan rrumb a mexico el primero ya llego, preparense para recivir los otros 2, almacenen lo que crean necesario porque lo que ocurrio en la historia de mexico en los anos20s esta por reocurrirpero esta vez mas grave

    Reply

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  1. Niche Audiences On The Rise: Latino Muslims - Multicultural Programmatic Media - […] practices and beliefs. Historians point out, of course, that this increase is not the first time Islam has won…

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