According to a recent PEW report, about 8% of all Muslim Americans adults are Latino, the population increasing by about a third from 2011. Latino Muslim communities have found a home in mostly urban areas like New York City, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles and Houston. Their backgrounds are diverse — about 56% converted from Catholicism and the rest hail from Protestant, secular or atheist backgrounds.
Latino converts say they are drawn to Islam because of the intense devotion to God, a simplicity in faith and a focus on community. The group also feels that Islam is part of their heritage. They say they are returning to their roots because of the nearly 800-year Moorish rule of Spain that left an Islamic influence on Hispanic language and culture. “Those ties are often cited by Muslim outreach groups,” says Harold Morales, an associate professor of philosophy and religious studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore.
The message is that “we’re not choosing to abandon Latinx culture or embrace marginalization. We’re choosing to embrace something that’s already there,” continues Mr. Morales, who wrote the 2018 book Latino and Muslim in America: Race, Religion, and the Making of a New Minority.
Khadijah Noor Tanju came to the U.S. from Colombia when she was 9 and says at first her family wasn’t supportive about her conversion. “It was more when I started to practice Islam that they were like ‘Whoa, qué pasa aquí?’” (“what’s happening here?”). Ms. Tanju says for advice about the faith, she has turned to WhyIslam, a nonprofit that has a division in Spanish. Ultimately Ms. Tanju says she is happy now. “I don’t feel lonely in my spiritual path.”