By Alicia Barrón
December 28, 2015
There are many assumptions that all Latinos are Catholic but that’s certainly not the case, especially in the United States. Many Latinos are turning towards Islam for faith which means they find themselves in a unique predicament. They have to balance the social pressures, traditions and beliefs from three different cultures: American, Latino, and Islamic. Below are six fascinating facts about Latino Muslims.
1. Latinos are one of the fastest-growing segments of Islam in the U.S.
Wilfredo Amir Ruiz is an attorney with the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Miami. He told PBS that one of the reasons why more Latinos are becoming Muslim is because they relate to, and feel a cultural familiarity with the Moors in Spain that goes back centuries. Moors are Muslim inhabitants. Also, because 4,000 words in the Spanish language originated in Arabic, Latino Muslims feel like they are reconnecting with a past that does not feel foreign to them. They also like that there’s no middleman between them and God. He is the creator, and that’s all there is to it.
2. Latinos make up 4% of the overall Muslim population in the U.S.
There are between 5 to 12 million Muslims living in the United States. Latinos make up 4% of that population. However it’s important to note that there has never been a comprehensive study of Latino Muslims on a national scale.
3. In 2011, Latinos attending a mosque jumped from 6% to 12%.
Between 2000 and 2011, the percentage of Latino Muslims who went to worship at mosques in the U.S. doubled from 6% to 12%. Although there are is no official data of attendance since then, experts estimate that percentage is way higher today.
4. Latinos grapple with the Muslim rules of no alcohol or pork products.
As a non-Muslim Latina, the struggle to not drink liquor or have pork sounds all too real. And for a lot of Latino Muslims, it is. However, many of them have found a way to re-work recipes that maintain the taste and flavor of traditional dishes, minus the pork. It may not be easy but it’s definitely doable.
5. Muslims organizations can’t keep up with Latino demand for Spanish translations of the Quran and other materials.
Just like the percentage of Latinos Muslims going up in the U.S., so is the demand for materials such as the Quran translated to Spanish. Mainstream Muslim organizations are making it a point to try and help Latino converts a little more. In an astounding statement, the director of AMANA, the American Muslim Association of North America who distributes Qurans and other Islamic literature, says they simply cannot keep up with the demand for Spanish translations of these materials.
6. Latino Muslims don’t lose their Latino identity. They are still very much connected to their culture.
This one should come as no surprise. It’s one thing to stop drinking alcohol or eating pork, but it’s quite another to completely abandon what you’ve always been familiar with. Latino roots are strong and definitely not easy to shake.
Latino Muslims are often accused of giving up on their culture and heritage, and that simply isn’t true. Being Latino and being Muslim are not exclusive identities, particularly if you adopt the religion later in life and must find a way to bridge the beliefs you’ve always known with the new ones you’re choosing to accept now. Your religion may influence your morals and ethics, but your culture remains the same. So don’t be surprised when you come across a salsa-dancing Latino Muslim who loves empanadas. Just make sure they’re not made with pork!