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Latino Muslims (Spanish: musulmanes latinos. Portuguese: muçulmanos latinos) are people of the ethnic group in the United States of Latin American origin who share the Islamic faith. In countries such as the United States, where due to a historical misunderstanding regarding to the real meaning of the words Hispanic and Latino, these terms may be confused.[1] Latino Muslims may also be called Hispanic Muslims. Note that this is the particular case of the United States, and thus it can not be extrapolated to other countries. Therefore, the terms Latino Americans and Latin Americans should not be used interchangeably.[2]

Refer to the article Latin American Muslims to learn about Muslims who live in Latin America. Latin American countries generally lie south of the United States.

Contents

Latino Muslims and the Moors

The Moors were the medieval Muslim inhabitants of the northernmost Mediterranean coast of North Africa, who invaded Hispania (modern-day Spain and Portugal) in the 8th century forming what became known as Al-Andalus. They were expelled by reconquering Catholics of the Peninsula in the 15th century through a process called Reconquista, after eight centuries of war.

Though Spain is and was a Christian area before the Islamic invasion, some Latino Muslims argue that the heritage of the Spanish Moors renders their affiliation with Islam a reversion as much as a conversion as some Moors and Moriscos (Christian converted Moors) from Hispania emigrated to the Americas, though the majority were expelled to North Africa.[3] Although according to the American Journal Of Human Genetics, the Moors played a small role in the development of the genes of the Spanish and groups of Spanish descent, also, almost 20% of Spaniards are descendents of the Sephardic Jewish community[4] Furthermore, a mere 10% of Spanish dna can be traced to North Africans, though this does not necessarily derive from the Arabs, as most Berbers whom the Moors descend from (they also descend to a lesser extent from Arabs), in the past practiced Judaism, the adoption of Islam amongst the Berbers is often associated with the defeat of the Jewish Queen Kahina, of the Berbers, and later conquering of her empire. In fact many Moors who were of Berber descent recounted the story of Queen Kahina, to Moors of Arab descent, when they were discriminated by Moors of Arab descent in Andalusia.

Reasons for conversion

In addition to the historical relationship to Spain, Latino Muslims also state other reasons for their conversion to Islam. Latino Muslims also argue that Islamic values harmonize with the traditional values of Latino culture. Converts may, for example, cite such similarities as respect for social solidarity, the family, the importance of religion, and education. [1]

For many Latinos, this aspect of Islam is effective in bridging this void, especially in Latino communities in the US. (Compare the similar role of Pentecostalism in Latino communities.) According to Chris L. Jenkins of the Washington Post, the Catholic Church estimates that up to 100,000 Hispanics or Latinos are abandoning the faith every year.[2]

The Catholic Church's past involvement in the Spanish and Portuguese colonization of Latino America has also stained the religion. Dr Fathi Osman, resident scholar at the Omar Foundation, says "in their own countries Hispanics did not see the Church supporting the rights of the poor. Rather it sided with the rich and the influential." This, he argues, has contributed to the popularity of Islam within Latinos.[3]

Statistics

Many Latino Muslims live in various cities within the United States, their numbers estimated to be from between 70,000 and 200,000[5]. The Latino Muslim phenomenon has had a growing presence in states like New York, Illinois, New Jersey and Florida. Since the United States Census Bureau does not provide statistics on religion, statistics are scarce and wide ranging. Some estimates say there are between 15,000 to 50,000 Hispanic Muslims in the United States[6]. According to the Islamic Society of North America there are 40,000 Hispanic Muslims in the United States[7]. The majority of Hispanic converts to Islam are women[8]. Many Latino Muslims also include people with Middle Eastern descent from Latin America.

Persistent anecdotal evidence suggests that Latino Muslim converts face discrimination from their own families, [4] and sometimes from the wider US society.

Organizations

Many Latino Muslim organizations have been developed. Various Latino Muslim organizations exist including the Latino American Dawah Organization and Alianza Islámica. The Alianza Islámica is the oldest Latino Muslim organization in the United States. It was founded in 1975 by a group of Puerto Rican Islamic converts. Other Latino Muslim organizations include the Los Angeles Latino Muslim Association (LALMA), the Chicago Association of Latino-American Muslims (CALAM), the Latino Muslim Association of the San Fernando Valley (LMASFV), Alameda Islamica: Latino Muslims of the Bay Area, PIEDAD, and the Atlanta Latino Muslim Association (ALMA).

See also

Notes

  1. ^ In the United States of America, both terms are used according to meaning given by the U.S. Census Bureau. An example of the interchangeability of these terms can be found, for example, in their website 1. See also: Ethnicity (United States Census)
  2. ^ The rest of Hispanic American countries and Spain use the term according to its original meaning, given by the Real Academia Española: 1 (source in Spanish)
  3. ^ Olé to Allah, article from IslamForToday.com and Hispanic Muslims a Growing Presence in America from HispanicMuslims.com. Both articles claim the Moors to be the original Spanish ancestors from the Latin Americans.
  4. ^ http://www.cell.com/AJHG/abstract/S0002-9297%2808%2900592-2
  5. ^ "More Hispanic Americans are Converting to Islam" - Voice of America, Steve Mort (Orlando, Florida). Retrieved on 13 February 2007.
  6. ^ http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6133579 "Latinas Choosing Islam over Catholicism" by Rachel Martin.
  7. ^ http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1146265 NPR "Islam and Hispanics" by Shirley Jahad.
  8. ^ http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6133579 "Latinas Choosing Islam over Catholicism" by Rachel Martin.

Further reading

External links

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