Olé! Allah! Most people would guess that these two words are worlds apart, but they’re actually not. Surprisingly, nearly 200,000 Latinos in the United States identify themselves as Muslims, according to the American Muslim Council.
Across the United States, many Latino communities are in close proximity to Muslim centers, especially in states like Florida, Texas, New York and California. As Latinos learned more about Islam, they became more connected to the Muslim heritage, making their religious transition easier.
Both Latino and Islamic culture share a deep appreciation for religion and family. Alex Robayo, who has been Muslim for over a decade, was drawn to the same values in Islam that he grew up with. “There are a lot of similarities with our culture, with the way our families are. It’s almost like if you replace the religion and the language, the families would be almost the same,” he said of his attraction to Islam.
Women have historically been drawn to Islam and Latino women are no different. Sixty percent of Latino converts are women, estimates Latino American Dawah Organization.
Irene Abbasi, a native of Puerto Rico, has been Muslim for more than 30 years.
“When they say Islam deems women as second class citizens, I find that ridiculous,” she said. “In Islam, if you’re in a miserable marriage, you have the option of getting a divorce and getting your rights … right now it’s called a prenuptial. Well, Islam had this in the 13th century.” (MORE)