There is the mother who converted when she saw her son transition from a life of drugs and crime to one of prayer and faithful religious practice. Then there’s the story of the guy who met the woman of his dreams, moved to Kenya to pursue her, and converted in order to become her husband. Or there is the Marine who took the shahadah while stationed in Japan. There are former Pentecostals and Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses and agnostics, atheists and Mormons; they’ve all converted to Islam. They are from Puerto Rico and Mexico, Argentina and Ecuador, San Franciso and San Salvador, New York, Newark, Miami, and Houston.
They are Latinx Muslims, one of the fastest growing religious communities in the U.S.
When I started learning from Latinx Muslims back in 2012 I was able to cobble together a few articles from scholars such as SpearIt, Patrick Bowen, and Hisham Aidi, read a single monograph (Hjamil A. MartÃnez-VÃ¡squez’s Latina/o Y Musulmán: The Construction of Latina/o Identity among Latina/o Muslims in the United States), peruse blogs, and talk to leading Latina/o Muslims like Juan Galvan, Daniel Abdullah Hernandez, Mujahid Fletcher, Isa Parada, and Juan Alvarado to complete my research. The result was my master’s thesis Islam en Español: The narratives, demographics, conversion causeways, & conditions for community cohesion among Latina/o Muslims in the U.S.
At the end of my thesis, I wrote there was still a pertinent need to expand research in this area and in the quest for quality, comprehensive, newswriting and coverage, that students and commentators should provide more nuanced information about this important religious community. Over the last several years I have seen an increasing amount of new research, publications, and writing on the subject. It’s an exciting time to be in the field.
Just this year, five major publications have come out — or are on their way — that will help scholars and a wider public better understand the why, what, when, where, and how of Latinx conversion to Islam and how Latinx Muslims are shaping the American religious scene and impacting the broader Muslim world. Below I provide a brief overview, review, and comment on each of them before concluding with some ideas for the future, and some suggestions for how these might spur further research and consideration of Latinx Muslims in the U.S. and beyond:
I start with this text because it is both highly valuable and for me, it is highly personal. Since I first met Isa Parada at a masjid in Houston, TX and began learning from my Latinx Muslim teachers and friends I have remained humbly fascinated with Latinx Muslim journeys through the uncertainties of being “quadruple minorities” — Latinx in the Muslim community, Muslim in the Latinx community, Latinx in the U.S., and Muslim in the U.S.