Number of Latinos Converting to Islam Growing in the US
The Latino community has always been strongly aligned with the Catholic Church, but recently there has been a significant number of Latinos in the U.S. choosing to convert to Islam. A report from Press-Enterprise called the Latino Muslims one of the fastest-growing ethnic groups in the nation. Statistics isn't tracked, but the report said there are an estimated 150,000 converts in the country.
Rafael Delgado, born and raised as a Catholic in Nicaragua, doesn't call his shift to Islam "converting". Instead, he describes it as "reverted".
"It's our belief every human being, every soul comes with a natural disposition to submit to Allah, to God," Delgado explained. "That's what we call a reversal, you're going back to your origins."
It was when he began wondering what followed the death of Jesus Christ that his faith led him in another direction as an adult. The 58-year-old said, "That led me to Islam."
A member of the Latino Muslim Association of America, Delgado is concerned that the San Bernardino attacks earlier this month has painted a negative picture of the religion. Another Latino Muslim convert, Enrique Marquez Jr., has been closely associated to the tragic events as a friend of the attackers and the provider of the weapons used.
Delgado said, "It's been damaged. We have to convey the message the way it is, about peace and tolerance."
The report revealed that most of the Latinos in the U.S. are still part of the Roman Catholic Church, although the number is declining and the Protestant or unaffiliated share of the community is increasing, according to the Pew Research Center.
In a report from OC Register, poet and artist Mark Gonzales, whose father is Mexican-American and mother is French-American, explained the strong bond between the Latino and Islam communities and why the two are no longer "separate identities".
After the deadly Sept. 11 attacks, immigration officials began targeting both groups, who eventually drifted together out of finding a common struggle.
"Both communities witnessed themselves coming under attack for things they felt they had no responsibility for," Gonzales said. "Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world, and Latinos are converting to Islam at a rate higher than any other [ethnicity]."
He added, "As seen in 'Al-Andalus', the two cultures meeting and coming together is nothing new. We just seem to have a short-term memory and need to be reminded from time to time."
"An Adventure of Al-Andalus" is conveyed in a series of public events through different mediums such as poetry, music, art shows and more. The story is set in Spain and Portugal during a time when Muslims, Christians and Jews shared the Iberian Peninsula, and music, poetry, architecture, art and cuisine flourished.
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