Islamic Faith Finds a Fertile Home in the Latin American Community

latino-muslimsJason Margolis, PRI "The World"

Like most Latinos, Fletcher was raised in a Catholic family, but he says his parents also encouraged him to find his own truth. After briefly studying Christianity, Judaism, Taoism and Buddhism, Fletcher came to believe Islam was, in fact, the true religion of God.

He converted and now goes by the name Mujahid Fletcher. He says Islam incorporated the family values he liked from Catholicism, while getting rid of one big disadvantage: confession to a priest.

"Islam brings about a clear sense of asking for forgiveness or repentance directly to God, without having an intermediary," Fletcher says.

That holds great appeal for many Muslim converts, says Katherine Ewing, a professor of religion at Columbia University.

"There are frustrations with the structure of the Catholic Church, the hierarchy. A number say that they're kind of bored with the mass, that it doesn't seem related to their everyday needs," she adds.

Ewing says Islam and Protestantism are addressing those voids for many Latino Catholics.

It's difficult to estimate how many Latinos in the US have converted to Islam. Ewing puts the figure somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000. Still modest numbers, but Ewing says there's a clear upward trend.

Latinos aren't simply being pushed away by the Catholic Church, many Latinos have been pulled toward Islam, especially since September 11th, says Ewing. She says after the hijackings -- and the immediate backlash against Muslims -- Muslims began to reach out to outside communities to explain who they were. And many non-Muslims grew more curious about Islam. (Read more)


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