Why Latinos Are Converting to Islam? Becoming muslim for Latinos

by birtanpublished on July 9, 2020

I had a friend a guy who I used to workwith you know at a real estate companyand he was like hey mancan I ask you a question you won't getoffended noneis it true in your religion part of yourreligion is like taking your life like

You know like like blowing yourself upso I was like if that were the case wewouldn't be here we be all over theplace you know Islam's thefastest-growing religion in the worldand it is the most misunderstood

Terrorism is not so Islam these types ofX are not you know from this religionand that's when I really started gettingan idea what is Islam how deep it wasand it wasn't what the media wasportraying when you embrace Islam it's

Like this way that you have has beenlifted are you in breed for the firsttime yeah you just feel likewhy are Latinos converting in youropinion the statistics suggest that theLatino segment of the overall Muslim

Population is the fastest-growingthey're leaving cultural Catholicismthey don't really understand whatthey're leavingthank you my dear how large is thismovement it's got to be at least 250,000

Wow but it's growingwhat Mexico sends its people they're notsending their best with all the racismand the xenophobia happening where arethe Catholic Christian leaders in thiscountry really taking the strong stand

On that a lot of Latinos are sayingmaybe Islam is offering something thatfor sanity doesn't offer I'm worriedabsolutely I'm worried Islamic cultureis extremely differentinside America's Islamic community one

Of the fastest growing populations isLatinoand the epicenter of that movement ishere in Houston Texas home to not onlyone of the largest Latino communitiesbut also one of America's largest Muslim

Communities just 350 miles away from theMexican American border during one ofthe worst deportation crises in recenthistory and less than a year from theMuslim ban we got to go and we got toknock the out of these people

I've come here to meet Jaime I mean yeahLee the founder of America's first Islamand Spanish Center to find out why twoof America's most discriminated groupsare actually coming together whateverpeople come in we let them know that

Look it's not a traditional mosquewe're the only producers in the worldproducing material in the Spanishlanguage and distributing it you know atthe mass level people come through thecenter today I'm here thinking in the

Ways that the media has portrayedMuslims most of their believing thethings that the media is portrayed aboutmost most definitely in fact that's thedefault when people come in here beforecoming in here we know they have

Preconceived notions you know if Ididn't know Chinese people and on themedia says Chinese people kill peoplewho are not Chinese I wouldn't want toChinese neighbor right you know it'sjust common sense that's the reason why

We built this place yeah getting rid ofsome of these misconceptions then theystart thinking you know why don't I knowthis stuffI'm a what brought you to Islam you knowI grew up in Houston and when I came

Here I was eight years old all I knewwas Colombia and Venezuela I previouslylived there so I'm one of thoseimmigrant youth that came to America myparents wanted for me to have a betterfuture

When I got here I realized that theculture here was a bit different thanwhat my parents expected and we werehaving a lot of issues in regards togangs popping up in the environment andthere was some trouble times where

Unfortunately I saw some of my friendsget killed people getting strung out ondrugs and it was a survival mode I lookfor answers and I looked at so manydifferent religionsand someone who gave me the quarter and

I began to read it and the more I readit the more life made sense my motherthought I was brainwashed when I becameMuslim because I stopped drinkingalcohol going out you know the girls allthe stuff that I had easily I let go of

Itand it was great that I did it at thetime I did it because few months later alot of my friends got caught and somestuff that put them in trouble and I'mlike man that choice of me accepted

Islam saved me from that America is notthe most kind place to Latino immigrantsright now so why would you subjectyourself to being that double minority Idon't think being a Muslim and beingLatino is putting me in a position of

Weakness it actually puts me in aposition of strengthI have to be the best Latino I could benow you got to be the best Muslim whileLatinos are the fastest-growingpopulation within Islam very little

Research has gone into discovering whyso I'm heading the rice university tomeet with professor Considine areligious studies expert to gain clarityon why so many Latinos are becomingMuslim during such a critical and

Divisive time in America why is it thatLatinos are seeking out Islam does ithave anything to do with the commonexperience between Muslims and Latinosin this country absolutely especiallyafter the election in 2016 where a lot

Of these people felt purged when Mexicosends its people they're not sendingtheirthey're sending people that have lots ofproblems and they're bringing thoseproblems with us they're bringing drugs

They're bringing crime they're rapistsa lot of Latinos are recognizing thatnot being white in this country comeswith certain barriers Latinos might alsobe thinking Muslims generally speakingthey faced similar obstacles with all

The racism and the xenophobia happeningfrom the top of the government just afive-year ban to an everyday existenceon the street who knows what they'regonna bring it in this country we'regonna bombs Isis what they need to go I

Think a lot of people are seeing Islamand the Islamic tradition in general asbeing more tolerant of race people haveto recognize you know one of the mostracially diverse religions in the worldis Islam we stand in opposition to them

How large is this movement thestatistics suggest that it's got to beat least 250,000 Latin Muslims in thiscountry Wow but it's growing this is thefuture of America Houston is a microcosmof the future of America it's the

Browning of America you know they say by2050 you white people are not gonna bethe majority hangul 34 percent of theAmerican Catholic population is Latinomainly immigrants and many of thoseconverting to Islam are coming out of

This community so I sat down with agroup of members from st Cyril'sCatholic Church in Houston to get theirthoughts on the Latino Christian move toembrace Islam what has been yourexperience with the number of converts

Moving from Catholicism to Islam withinthe Latino community so it's a verycomplicated issue actually rights it'smultifaceted but there's also aconcerted effort by the Muslim communityto reach out to Latino communities I

Think it's no secret especially in theclimate that we have now and this hasbeen an issue for years with immigrationespecially when you look at thedisenfranchisement of people's right andthat's what we're seeing in the

Immigration stay I'mand they turn to something and of courseI think the Islamic community somethingthat I think that they target and theylook for thank you look at the rise ofIslam within Arab or parts of on Middle

East where do you see its greatestgrowth is the same place you see itsgreatest extremism but you do feel asthough they may like placate to thisdemographic or have a do I think it's aI think it is a it's a concerted effort

I do but I'm worried real worriedabsolutely I'm worried I'm worried froman anthropological standpoint Islamicculture is extremely different we seewhat's happened in Europe we see what'shappening in England

How do you think they'll be received bythe larger American community skepticismI would say very skeptical veryskeptical you know anyone who says thatwe target disenfranchised individualsthey don't know us

People who talk like this they have anyLetus mentality possibly how are wetargeting we're not targetingdisenfranchised peoplewe're on digital media saloons this sothis is the brain man of the whole

Operation right here we reached 14million people just in a month inRamadan Wow sometimes there's someattacks you know and they come due tosome bias sometimes and people have someagendas this is our podcast station

Right here I mean had you had to contendwith Islamophobia or racism becauseyou're a Latino you know when I becameMuslim it was three months beforeSeptember 11I was one of the few Spanish speakers in

The community and so the Muslimcommunity asked me to speak in front ofthe mediaUnivision Telemundo to explain about whyIslam was not what people were thinkingjust happened over there you know with

The team's Twin Towers you know thatsome Colombians for drugs doesn't makeme a drug dealer because I'm fromColombia that some Muslim goes incommits a you know a wrong act ofviolence shouldn't make me feel bad

About being Muslim friends and familythat were so emotionally chargedregarding what happened over there inNew York that they were like how couldyou write be part of that is that thecase for most Latinos converting the

Family is the first shock yeahwe're in the north side of Houston about45 minutes from the Islam and SpanishCenter we're gonna go meet up with RaulRaul is a daca dreamer from Mexico thatconverted to Islam in 2011 at the age of

19 and has since become an active memberof the Islam and Spanish center but likemany Latino converts Raul's familydisowned him for becoming a Muslim I wasin high school I was not doing so goodspiritually you know I was going through

A depression also like I'm under daca aswell at the time I didn't have papers soyou know I'm getting paid you know likefive bucks to to to wash the dishes andour and stuff like that a lot of peopletake advantage of immigrants and that's

When I really started getting an idea ofwhat with what is Islam and how deep itwas and how it wasn't what the media wasportraying and what's whatliterally cured my depression are youconcerned at all being a docker dreamer

And now being Muslim oh man it's like adouble whammy for me yeah and with TrumpI'm just I won I'm lucky no I'm – I'mMuslim and she does anyone get attackedfrom all sides I'm you know long or evenhuh me that

Basically my mom found out that wasfunny in Islam and she pretty muchkicked me out of the house and themoment closed outshe said I was joining a terroristorganization a cult and they were

Training me to kill at the time likealso I stopped being important so my momwas just like when I fed you beans Iwould put pork on there on purposehe's playing straight-up objectionI remember eventually my mom started

Coming into the community seeing therest of the people there really allthese people would come up to my mom'slike hey do you know your son's likegoing out there feeding the homelessbeing a good member of the community and

Stuff like that all they steamed themall on comes up to me she's like howcome he didn't tell me you did all thesethings he never asked you weren'tinterested in tell me I believed themseeing how much change

Aslam had in me it's like when youstarted seeing this like okay this isn'tnecessary for back in Michigan he'sstill all and if anything he's becominga better person my mom accepted Islamjust a few months ago and sent three

Slamming Rivera when she did well yeahmost definitelyshe decided to do out on her own and andit was very very mind blowing you sayton difficile I mean falafel be hereokay you're a chef Kenobi must serve

This family camp ya que estoythe next day my mom told me that shehasn't felt that much peace in yearshis LOM it changes everything we'veheard from a number of conference thatwe spoken to that there was an immediate

Rejection within their family to theirconversion and I'm curious if you cancomment on that why members of theLatino community are so resistant totheir own neighbor his sons daughterswives and husbands converting the Islam

In one word ignorance its lack ofeducation its misinformation right sothis is part of the hangover from 9/11 alot of people in this country who arenot Muslim have certain ideas which aresteeped in stereotypes so they see Islam

As oppressing women they see Islam asbeing backward they see Islam inassociation with Isis and al Qaeda andviolence all things which can befactually disproven if we just look atthe reality

Today's the Muslim holiday of Eid andfor a number of the members of the Islamand Spanish Center this is going to betheir first major Islamic holiday sowe're gonna go inside and meet some ofthe members of this community and find

Out what this transition has been likedid you guys have any misconceptionsabout Islam or about Muslims before youbecame Muslim yes my family makes jokesmy brothers mostly they're like ohyou're going to the Masjid

Oh they're teaching you to make bombs orsomething I'm like no terrorism is notso Islam these types of acts are not youknow from this religion what I knewbefore when I became a Muslim to nowthere's so many different

How has Islam impacted your culturalidentity I'm still we still have ourculture we still have our language andeverything's you know I'm still MexicanI still like the same food I still eatall of y'all so then I just you know my

Faith has changed one of the things thatI think that we're gonna see at somepoint is probably a backlash into thefact that in the Islamic communitieswhen you grow up with that you grow upwith Sharia law there's a Sharia law you

Mean like separation of gender is thingslike separation of genders some of thethings you know they even brought thatout well how you know why would women goto such what they seem as they moreoppressive one of the interesting things

Is that reading some of these youngwomen is they love where in the Hajj ahwhat does it represent it representsmodesty and a sense of purity it is whatI feel like is they feel like when theygo to Islam they're hitting the reset

Button really and this is something thatthat Islam does do in this it's sort ofa demonizing of white culture so do youthink that conversion is a misguideddecision I do I do I think it's a lackof understanding what they're leading

Is there something that Islam has tooffer the Latino community that maybeCatholicism or Judaism or just likeanother religion doesn't the coreprinciple that is so enticing of Islamthat you have a very personal

Relationship with God without anyintermediaries there is nothing betweenyou and God you know traditional ways ofteaching religion has been because Isaid so right because my father did somebut when you look at Islam you're

Encouraged to ask questions in order tomeet doubt many of us came to the UnitedStates from immigrant parents how manyyouth came to America and lost our wayhow many of us lives because of thechoices that were made

How can someone look living as a Muslimas a minority in America right now andlook at what's being said in themainstream but what they're sayingthe little way they're talking aboutwhat's little what they think how many

Of us put ourselves in that situation isthat well victimized mentality or howmany of us look at these circumstancesand say you know what these are justchallenges in life I'm gonna headforward and I'm gonna deal with this in

The best of ways America at itsfoundation is a land of religiousfreedom and it's a country that wasbuilt by immigrants but in today'spolitical climate Muslims seekingreligious acceptance are being

Discriminated against just like theimmigrants seeking a new homeironically this intolerance andoppression has brought these groupstogether and from that shared trauma asupportive and accepting community is

Growing

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