US Hispanics urged to convert to Islam
Islam is practical. It’s social. It’s very easy to translate it into Hispanic culture, and it’s even easier to communicate it in the Spanish language.
So says Carlos Lopez, who lives in Texas. Last December, Lopez took the shahada and joined the ranks of what the American Muslim Council estimates is a 200,000-member Hispanic Muslim community across the US.
Unlike previous generations of Hispanic Muslims who were attracted to the faith by their own spiritual explorations, Lopez and many others like him are converting as a result of targeted Islamic outreach efforts.
This new form of Islamic “da’wah,” or outreach, aims to translate being Muslim into a Latino cultural and linguistic vernacular, according to this report.
Said Imam Daniel Abdullah Hernandez who teaches an “Islam in Spanish” course in Pearland where Lopez converted:
To reach Hispanics, we have to be practical. Islam is practical. It’s social. It’s very easy to translate it into Hispanic culture, and it’s even easier to communicate it in the Spanish language.
Hernandez includes the basics of Islam and specific elements he and others believe are important to Hispanics, including the links between Hispanic culture and Islam, taking care of the poor and differences and similarities with the Catholic faith.
Many Latinos do not know about Andalusian Spain, when Islam gave birth to much of what we know as Hispanic culture today, including over 3,000 Spanish words. We are opening their eyes to how being Latino and Muslim makes perfect sense.
Islam in Spanish says a growing number of Hispanics convert as a direct result of outreach.
The Pew Research Center says four percent of Muslim Americans are Hispanic, and one of 10 native-born US Muslims are Hispanic.
“The American Mosque 2011” report found the number of Latino converts has been steadily increasing since 2000, more so than any other ethnic group.
As they convert, many face ostracism from their often Catholic families who feel they’re abandoning their Hispanic identity. Likewise, many Hispanics do not find a ready welcome in masjids largely made up of Middle Eastern, North African, Southeast Asian and African-American Muslims.
Said Imam Isa Parada, one of the leaders of Islam in Spanish.
My conversion was a shock for my family. They thought I rejected Jesus, Mary, my culture. My Dad thought I was going to be a terrorist.
His dad had pretty good grounds for concern.
Although terrorism is not exclusive to the Islamic ideology, it should be noted that a disproportionate number of terrorists are Muslims who converted to the religion. Peter Neumann, a Professor of Security Studies at King’s College in London, noted that Western converts were “over-represented among jihadists”, and a 2011 study found that 55 percent of US born Muslims arrested for Islamic terrorist activities were converts.
Those who were born into Islam may be ignorant of their religion and its actual teachings, therefore they are Muslims who are most likely to interpret Islam in a peaceful way. However, many converts to Islam are more zealous; learning as much about their new found faith as they can. When they do that, the only conclusion that they can draw is that Islam’s deity endorses terrorism and rewards terrorists.
If someone is involved in crime and terrorism and they had converted to a certain faith system, it is almost always Islam that the person converted to. The hate for non-Muslims found in Islam is quickly picked up by them. As a result, these converts often turn to the practice or support of terrorism and violence; often showing hatred for their own family, country, and former way of life.
Parada said the community did not know how to deal with Hispanics and lacked resources for Spanish-speaking converts.
Islam in Spanish is not the first organsation to focus its efforts on reaching Hispanics. The Latino American Dawah Organization, or LADO, paved the way.
Shafiq Alvarado helped found LADO, which offers support to new Hispanic Muslims. Born into a Catholic family of Dominican ancestry, Alvarado converted at 25 through efforts of Allianza Islamica (Islamic Alliance) in New York.
LADO spends time on university campuses among Hispanic students, provides open houses, YouTube videos and puts on events such as the North Hudson Islamic Education Center’s Hispanic Muslim Day, which features a blend of Hispanic culture and Islamic teaching.
Lopez and two other men converted in the Houston area at such an event. All three are learning Arabic, doing daily prayers and sharing their religion with family back in Mexico, Puerto Rico and elsewhere.
People who become Muslims inevitably become ambassadors for Islam. Hispanic Muslims are not sitting on the sidelines. They learn Arabic, the Quran, Islamic jurisprudence and … give it back to their communities, their families.
Lopez is no different.
As soon as I converted to Islam I wanted to share with my family in Mexico, so they could do the same.