Latino Muslims Growing in Number in the US
- Latino Muslims Growing in Number in the US
By Greg Flakus
13 July 2005
Over the Fourth of July weekend, several hundred
American Muslims came together in Dallas, Texas for
the south-central regional conference of the Islamic
Society of North America. Among them were many
Spanish-speaking people who have embraced Islam.
Islam is one of the fastest-growing religions in the
United States and Latinos represent one of the
fastest-growing minorities. Increasingly, the two
trends are meeting in the form of Hispanic converts to
San Antonio native Juan Galvan says the transition to
Islam is made easy for many Hispanics because of
historic and cultural traditions dating back to the
time when Muslims ruled much of Spain.
"Islam was in Spain for over 700 years. Spanish, as we
speak it today, has been highly influenced. There are
over a thousand words which have Arabic roots, says
Mr. Galvan. Muslims and Latinos have a lot of
similarities. Both appreciate family, both appreciate
religion and I think that is one of the reasons that a
lot of Latinos are coming to Islam."
The Islamic period in Spain came to an end when
Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella succeeded in
driving the Muslim Moors from the Iberian Peninsula in
To this day, many Hispanic Christians maintain a
negative view of Islam, which has been reinforced by
images of terrorism and unrest in the predominantly
Muslim Middle East.
Muslim converts try to counter that image by
presenting theirs as a religion of peace and
Latino Muslims are encouraged by the success of Islam
among African-Americans. Nearly half of all Muslims in
the United States today are black, as are around 90
percent of all new converts to the religion.
Dallas resident Mustafa Carroll says Islam has spread
among blacks and other minorities by the example
Muslims have provided. "We are not out proselytizing
and we are not asking people to do it. All we do is
present the word and people take it."
One of the biggest sources of new converts to Islam is
the U.S. prison system. Mustafa Carroll says Muslim
brothers offer support to those inmates who want to
change their lives.
"We have a very dynamic inner-prison group right now
in the Dallas, Texas area, which helps a lot of
inmates to come out. They start the transformation in
prison and then they get help to stay out of prison
once they get out."
At the Islamic Society conference, one
Mexican-American man told how his conversion to Islam
took him away from a life of crime. He says his faith
and the support of his brother Muslims has given him a
For most Latino Muslim converts the transition is
generally less dramatic. Reyna Cazares converted some
months after her husband and daughter. "I was
undecided in accepting all of it, in accepting the
part that is very difficult for us Hispanics."
One of the things that she found difficult at first
was the role of the Muslim woman, but Reyna says there
are advantages in this new life she has chosen.
"The woman has her rights in Islam and they are
respected by the man. The man and woman cooperate in
following the rules established by God."
There are no firm figures on how many Latinos have
converted to Islam, although there is an estimate of
around 40,000, a small number compared to the overall
U.S. Latino population of more than 35 million. But
Latino Muslims say they believe many more will follow
in their path as they spread the word about Islam in
More on Latino Muslims at:
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