Number of Latino Muslims in the U.S. Increases
The North Hudson Islamic Educational Center in New Jersey recently celebrated its 18th annual Hispanic Muslim Day. The mosque located at the center of one of the state's densest Latino populated areas, has been housing a rising population of Latino Muslims since it opened in 1992. In fact, they make up roughly 10 percent of the congregation, according to an article published by NorthJersey.com.
More and more Latino Christians are converting to Islam. This is supported by a 2017 report from the Pew Research Center which shows that about eight percent of all Muslim American adults are Latino, increasing by about a third from 2011.
Urban areas like New York City, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston have been home to vast Latino Muslim communities with different religious background. The "Latino Muslims in the United States" report shows that about 56% of them converted from Catholicism while the rest were Protestants, seculars or atheists.
A Pew survey released last month shows from 57 percent a decade ago, only 47 percent of Latinos describe themselves as Catholic. Meanwhile, the share of Latino Protestants has remained steady at about a quarter of the total.
In interviews, Latino Muslims said they are drawn by Islamic teaching and way of life such as the intense devotion to God, a simplicity in faith and a focus on community that their former religions failed to exemplify.
Moreover, a 2017 report "Latino Muslims in the United States," in the Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Religion states that out of the 560 converts surveyed about 94 percent of Latino Muslims stated their reason for converting as having the need for a more direct, personal experience of God.
But along with their conversion comes certain drawbacks such as breaking ties with family and the Christian community they grew up with.
Columbian Khadijah Noor Tanju, whose birth name is Carol, grew up in a devoted Catholic household. A former choir singer, Tanju, now a teacher's aide and Hackensack resident, married a Turkish-American man, was drawn to the Islamic teaching and started leading an authentic and pious Muslim life. Tensions with her family surfaced when she began wearing the hijab as they lashed out on her choices telling her, "Whoa, qué pasa aquí? (What's happening here?). Publicly, she felt as if all eyes are on her and she is being judged.
Tanju's worries slowly faded when she began attending events for new converts about a year ago and volunteered at the Spanish division of WhyIslam, a nonprofit organization based in Somerset that teaches about the faith.
Tanju said she is really happy with what she has chosen. "I don't feel lonely in my spiritual path."
For some, being a minority in the U.S. is a powerful attraction proven by the increase of Latino converts despite President Donald Trump's rhetoric and his increasingly restrictive immigration policies as reports of hate crimes are on the rise, while Muslims battle against their depiction in the media.
Meanwhile, Harold Morales, an associate professor of philosophy and religious studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore noted that despite having converted to Islam, there are some who still enjoy Christmas as a secular celebration with family.
Morales added, these Latino converts a not choosing to abandon Latinx culture or embrace marginalization. They are choosing to embrace something that has been there. Latino Muslim groups say Islam is part of their heritage and they are only returning to their roots because of the nearly 800-year Moorish rule of Spain that left a linguistic and cultural Islamic influence in the country.
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