HOUSTON – Finding shared ethics with their traditions, a growing number of Latinos are converting to Islam in the United States, becoming Islam’s fastest growing ethnic group.
“Some people just jump into it and put on the headscarf, I took my time in doing a lot of research before taking that step,” Lucy Silva, a Muslim who converted from Catholicism 18 years ago, told America CTGN.
Silva recalls how many people cannot believe the Mexican Muslim combination.
“They automatically assume I’m Arab or from ‘over there.’ So when they hear me speaking Spanish – let’s say I’m at a grocery store, or I’m speaking to my Mom or my son – they’re quite surprised. They say, ‘Where did you learn to speak Spanish’ and I say, ‘Well, I’m Mexican,’” Lucy said.
Estimates put the number of American Latino Muslims between 150,000 and 200,000.
One report from Florida International University says 90 percent of them are converts, becoming the fastest growing ethnic group in Islam.
“A lot of their values tend to already be conservative values. They have a higher respect for Jesus who we say is a prophet in Islam,” Mustafa Umar an Imam at the Islamic Institute of Orange County, said.
“They have a high respect for the mother of Jesus, for Mary. So there’s that kind of connection with religion and the idea of God and love for God,” he added.
Wanda, a Puerto Rican who converted to Islam 15 years ago, said that Islam is very close to her Hispanic traditions.
“If you grew up in a traditional Hispanic family home, then it’s very similar to Islam,” she said.
“I was exposed to drugs and alcohol when I was about 11. And for me, Islam was more of like a stability and structure for me.”
However, joining the world’s fastest growing faith was not easy for her family.
“It took my Mom about five years to get used to me converting to Islam. It was quite hard for her. She threw me out of the house. I was 16 and I moved out,” Wanda said.
“Afterward, my Mom called me on the phone and she asked me to come back and stay with her and she said she was going to try to her best to understand why I became Muslim. And do her best to change and now she’s… now we have an amazing relationship but it took well, I’ve been Muslim now for 15 years, so it took a long time.”