U.S. Latina/o Muslims Since 1920: From “Moors” to “Latino Muslims”

By Patrick D. Bowen
Journal of Religious History
Volume 37, Issue 2, June 2013

This article provides a historical overview of the development of the U.S. Latina/o Muslim community. U.S. Latina/os have been converting to Islam since the 1920s. Early converts were primarily found in African-American-majority Islamic communities, though there were some others who entered Islam through ties to Muslim immigrants. In both cases, the U.S.’s racist social system had brought the two communities together.

In New York City during the 1970s, however, a group of around a dozen Latina/o Muslims felt that neither the African-American-majority nor the immigrant-majority communities sufficiently addressed Latina/os’ particular culture, languages, social situations, and contributions to Islamic history. To correct this, they created the first known U.S. Latina/o Muslim organisation, the Alianza Islamica, a group which fostered a “Latino Muslim” identity.

Since that time, due to the growing numbers of U.S. Latina/o Muslims, as well as a tendency to foster ties with Latina/o Muslims in countries outside of the U.S., U.S. Latina/o Muslims are more and more adopting the “Latino Muslim” identity, which is now being promoted by several organisations and prominent leaders.


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