Latino Muslims are a population that is relatively unknown within the Muslim American community. While still a small minority within the United States, they are a growing segment of the Muslim community’s population. The American Muslim Council estimates that in 2007 there were 200,000 Latino Muslims, a significant jump from 40,000 in 1997. A study conducted by the Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life in 2008 estimates that Latino Muslim U.S. residents make up 4% of Muslim Americans.
Many Latino Muslims come to Islam from Roman Catholicism, often saying that they had problems with some practices of the faith and the hierarchy of the church. Some said that they chose Islam because of shared values and traditions between Islamic and Latino culture–the emphasis on family and conservative values.
This group of Muslims face challenges from their families and sometimes from their new community. Mosques that are dominated by particular groups–Arabs, Pakistanis, etc.–do not make a space for their Latino culture. However, many Latino Muslims say that they were drawn to Islam because they could preserve their cultural background alongside their Muslim identity and have found spaces to do that. For example, the North Hudson Islamic Educational Center in Union City, New Jersey holds classes on the Qur’an in Spanish and has an annual Latino Muslim Day. Moreover, 35 % of the congregation is Latino.
Unlike in many Muslim majority countries, the Muslim American community is unique because it is so diverse. Its diversity not only adds another dimension to Muslim American identity, but to American identity in general. As a growing segment of the Muslim American community, Latino Muslims are demonstrating that you can be more than one thing: American, Latino, and Muslim.
Are you a Latino Muslim? What is your experience? What are some of your challenges? Do you think the diversity of the Muslim American community is an asset or an obstacle? Please share your thoughts below.