California: According to organizations that cater to Hispanics converting to Islam, Latinos in the U.S. are considered to be the fastest-growing of Muslims in America.
Most US official measures also say that Latinos in the US are considered to be the fastest-growing demographic segment. According to Press-Enterprise, there are an estimated 150,000 Muslim converts among the Latino community in the US.
Rafael Delgado, born and raised as a Catholic in Nicaragua, doesn’t call his shift to Islam “converting”. Instead, he describes it as “reverted”.
“It’s our belief every human being, every soul comes with a natural disposition to submit to Allah, to God,” Delgado explained. “That’s what we call a reversal; you’re going back to your origins.”
Mark Gonzales, a Muslim poet and artist in California, said that immigration officials’ targeting of Mexicans and Muslims after the September 11 terror attacks helped the two demographics find common ground. “Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world, and Latinos are converting to Islam at a rate higher than any other [ethnicity],” Gonzalez, who converted to Islam 12 years ago, said.
Jihad Turk, president of Bayan Claremont, an Islamic graduate school in California, told the Press-Enterprise that Islam is most similar to Catholic beliefs. Muslims believe in many stories contained in the Christian Bible, including the prophets, he said.
“Muslims not only believe in God and the Ten Commandments, but also in Jesus as Christ born to the Virgin Mary and her story is told in the Qur’an in more detail than it’s told in the Bible”, Turk said.
Rida Hamida, president of the Arab American Chamber of Commerce in Orange County, California, has been working with Latino Muslims to highlight the merging of cultures.
A series of public events scheduled for January will focus on a time of Muslim rule in Spain and Portugal, from 711 and 1492, when Muslims, Christians, and Jews cohabited along the Iberian Peninsula, Hamida said.