HOUSTON – Catering to a booming number of Latino reverts to Islam, the first Spanish-speaking Islamic center was opened in Houston, Texas, on Saturday, providing much needed information about Islam to the fastest-growing group of Muslims in America.
“The heart of what inspired IslamInSpanish was responding to the need for information on Islam in Spanish,” Jaimie Mujahid Fletcher, a Colombian-American who founded IslamInSpanish, a non-profit organization that educates Latinos about Islam in Spanish, told Vivala.com.
“My family had a lot of questions when I became Muslim. This is something that’s foreign to a lot of Latinos.”
The new center followed years of hard work to provide Spanish translations of Islamic books to Latino Americans who reverted to Islam.
The scarcity of these materials provided a challenge to many reverts to Islam, including Fletcher himself.
When he reverted to Islam, he had a hard time finding material in Spanish on the religion as there were no books or audio, hardly anything available in the Spanish language to educate Latinos on Islam.
Having a background in film and multimedia, he started creating audios translating books on Islam which he offered to educate his skeptical family about his new faith.
Shortly after, Fletcher was being asked to speak at conferences, universities, and various places of worship.
“I remember the first time I went to the mosques, everyone just spoke Arabic,” Nahela Morales, IslamInSpanish director of operations, said.
“For me to not find anyone that could speak to me in Spanish or even in English was very devastating. In Houston around 80 percent of the people here are Hispanic, this center will make it possible for us to serve them.”
Producing new material in Spanish language about Islam, the number of Latino reverts increased remarkably.
“We’re creating a whole new identity. It’s a subculture literally, Latino Muslims,” says Fletcher who realized it was time to create a center for everyone in the community to meet.
“There was a huge need to have a center,” adds Fletcher.
“We asked the community if they felt we needed a place and everyone raised their hand and said yes. For Latino converts, many of them feel alienated from their families who might think they left their culture to become Muslim and even in mosques where the majority of folks speak Arabic.”
Latinos in the US are considered the fastest-growing demographic group of Muslims in America, according to a report by National Public Radio (NPR).
People who are not able to visit the center will be able to access information directly online.
“Latinos are the largest growing ethnicity in America embracing Islam and we believe it’s because of our long, unknown, and lost heritage,” says Fletcher.
“A lot of people don’t realize that many of our ancestors were probably Muslim because Muslims ruled Spain for 800 years.”
“We hope this is only the beginning of something even bigger,” says Morales.
“We’d like to be able to reach Muslim Latinos across the country and in Latin America as well.”