Latin Americans, those who come from a Latin heritage but who are based in the United States, form a wildly diverse array of different cultures and ethnicities. Recently, although relatively small in number but steadily growing, Latin Americans are embracing the religion of Islam, as many Latin Americans convert and become Muslim.
Based off of a 2017 national survey, out of the approximately 3.5 million Muslim Americans, 8% identify as Latin American, making this one of the fastest growing subgroups within the Muslim community in the United States. Based off of another 2017 study by Espinosa, Morales, and Galvan, 31% of Latin Americans interviewed identify their heritage from Mexico, 22% from Puerto Rico, 12% to South America, 5% to the Dominican Republic, and 3% to Cuba. This not only shows the diversity amongst Latin Americans, but the beautiful diversity amongst Latin American Muslims as well.
In 2009, only 1% of Muslims in the United States identified as Hispanic, according to the DC-based Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. But by 2018, however, that number has jumped almost 8%, with more than 250,000 Latin American Muslims and counting in the United States. As the numbers continue to grow, organizations and mosques that cater to both the Spanish language and Hispanic Americans are growing as well.
The Latino American Dawah Organization (LADO), PIEDAD (Propagacion Islamica para la Educacion y la Devocion a Alah el Divino), and the Texas-based Islam in Spanish are a few examples of the organizations that cater towards Latin American Muslims. Offering a range of services from Spanish-based translations of the Quran and other religious material to events catering towards Latin Americans, organizations like these are increasing in number as the demand for a Latin community of Muslims grow.
While the majority of Latin American Muslims are converts to the religion, there is also a growing number of those born into Muslim-Latin American families, either from parents who have converted or from a more historical lineage of Latin Muslims. Many Latin American Muslims also attributed elements of the 1990’s hip-hop culture in the US as being a part of why they became interested in Islam; from Malcolm X to the resurgence in understanding many of their Andalusian roots of historical Islamic Spain, many Latin Americans have explored Islam through the exploration of civil rights and Spanish history.
According to this year’s survey by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, co-led by Dalia Mogahed, Hispanic Americans are the most likely to know Muslims in the United States, in comparison to other ethnic groups such as Black Americans or white Americans. 63% of Hispanic Americans claim to know a Muslim personally, in comparison to the only 51% of white Americans who know a Muslim. In the survey, Mogahed notes the interesting fact that both Hispanics and Muslims have been at the relentless end of attacks from US President Trump, which might partly explain their solidarity as well as the sharing of cultures that may result in many Hispanic Americans converting to Islam.
As the open playing ground for horrifying abuses in Islamophobia, racism, anti-immigrant rhetoric, and right-wing extremism take off at both the societal level as well as the political level, it becomes more important than ever to create an atmosphere of solidarity between all groups of vulnerable peoples. With the numbers of Hispanic American Muslims growing, it stands as a timely reminder in the importance of celebrating diversity, and not repressing it.