By Juan Manuel Benitez
By Nicole Akoukou · Feb 13, 2014
By and large, Latino Americans are Catholic; a majority of the 52 million Hispanics living in the United States belong to the Catholic Church and many of their traditions are rooted in its teachings. However, Cathedrals are emptying, and former occupants have taken to worshiping in mosques... or at least that's the case in the Latin American community. Latinos are flocking to the Islamic faith at an unconfirmed rate, and there's an estimated 100,000-200,000 (though competing sources says 15,000 to 50,000) Latino Muslims in the United States. Six percent of U.S. Muslims population is Latino, and one-in-five new converts to Islam are Hispanic.
PRI (Public Radio International)
By Jason Margolis · Dec 23, 2013
Growing up was rough for Jaime Fletcher in Houston. He moved from Colombia to Texas when he was 8. In high school, kids splintered off into ethnic gangs. One day, he says an African-American gang leader attacked him.
“And so I just fought back, and because I beat him, beat up the gang leader, by default, they thought it was another gang. And I was the leader,” Fletcher recalls.
Amanda Figueras | Madrid
Actualizado domingo 16/12/2012 03:38 horas
Con su suave tono de voz y su discurso articulado es capaz de embelesar a enormes auditorios. Muhammad Isa García nació en Argentina y vive en Colombia pero es conocido mucho más allá como uno de los eruditos en el islam -suní- del mundo hispanohablante. Ha traducido del árabe innumerables textos relacionados con la religión y acaba de ser reconocido como uno de los 500 musulmanes más influyentes.
By Ken Chitwood · Jul 5, 2012
Growing up in New York and Houston, Isa Parada was always part of a vibrant faith community. An altar boy in his family's Roman Catholic parish, his family regularly prayed and read Scripture together. Today it is no different for Parada, save for one thing: He is now a Muslim imam.
A convert since 1996, Parada is fluent in Arabic and was educated in Muslim theology in Saudi Arabia. With family roots in El Salvador, Parada is part of a growing number of Hispanic converts to Islam.
A former Latino gang member told a story to a group of UH students Tuesday of how converting to Islam saved his life, and he described why Latinos are more likely to convert to Islam.
As part of Islam Awareness Week, the Muslim Student Association welcomed Mujahid Fletcher, who moved to Houston from Colombia at age 8.
Starting in middle school, Fletcher led a troublesome life after he began his own gang based on self-defense.
Converts to Islam say their choice wasn't made lightly
By ZAHRA AHMED, FOR THE CHRONICLE Published 6:30 pm, Thursday, September 8, 2011
Sarah Prucha and Christy Thephachanh were both spiritual seekers when the people around them who most lived their faith were Muslims.
Prucha was 25 and working at a downtown Houston bank when she noticed co-workers pausing five times each day to pray. Even things as small as saying Bismillah (In the name of God) before eating or saying Alhamdulillah, (All praise is due to God) after sneezing caught her attention.
Thephachanh first became friends with Muslims while in college. A few years later when she wanted to make faith a bigger part of her life, she decided to learn more.
Her parents, Laotian immigrants, had been Buddhists, but slowly fell away from their faith after moving to Corpus Christi where there's no real Buddhist community.
In the past year, both women - like 20,000 other Americans each year - took the Shahada, a creed declaring their conversion to Islam.
Prucha and Thephanchanh both said their conversion to Islam was about faith rather than politics. American-born or not, conversion to Islam at a time when political animosity is high isn't always an easy decision.
Since neither woman wears a hijab, or headscarf, outside of a mosque, there are no outward signs that they're Muslim. But like many Muslims they worry about how their faith community is perceived.
A recent survey by the Pew Research Center shows that 28 percent of Muslim Americans report "being looked at with suspicion," and 22 percent said they'd been called offensive names. Their feelings of being subjected to intense scrutiny at airports, by police and in everyday life haven't changed since a similar survey in 2007.
Many of those who come to classes led by ISGH lecturer Mazhar Kazi are educated, from the upper middleclass and have studied many religions, he said.
"They're looking for something to make them happy," he said. "Many people who come in have emptiness in their life. They want to fill up that blank and find peace in their own personality."
Jamie "Mujahid" Fletcher, who runs a non-profit called IslamInSpanish in Houston, said two to three people convert every month at Houston's main mosques. "Sometimes, they have looked into a religion and they're not satisfied," he said. "They aren't finding straightforward, logical answers to their questions."
Fletcher, a former Catholic who converted to Islam three months before September 11, said many Americans are drawn to Islam because of what they hear in the news. Some, curious about the religion, learn that the Muslims living in Houston are not like those being portrayed in the media.
When Daniel Hernandez converted to Islam in 1999, his parents, who immigrated to the United States from Puerto Rico, were amazed at their son’s change in character. “I became more calm, patient, and better spoken,” says Hernandez, who quit drinking and smoking and began fasting, praying five times a day, and giving to charity.