April - June 2002, Latino Muslims

El Yihad Latino Musulmán

By Juan Galvan

An Overview

Let all Americans wonder, “Why are so many Latinos converting to Islam? What is it about that religion?” Estimated reports claim 40,000 Latino Muslims live in the U.S. Unfortunately, the rate of conversion of Latinos to Islam is lower than that of African-Americans and the non-Hispanic White population. Most Latino Muslims are converts who were formerly Catholic. Most Latino Muslims embrace Islam as a result of dawah. Like many other Americans, they have realized that Islam is the true, universal religion of our Creator. Many Muslims are beginning to realize what many Latinos have been stating for years. Success of Islam in America depends upon the fastest growing US minority group embracing the fastest growing US religion.

Enlightening American Latino Demographics

The US Latino population is growing at an astonishing rate. By 2050, one out of every four Americans is expected to be Latino. In March 2000, 32.8 million Latinos lived in the United States. According to the 2000 US census, Mexican Americans comprise 66% of US Latinos. The Latino population is younger and has fewer elderly than the non-Latino White population. Half of the US Latinos are under 26 and more than a third are under 18.

In 1990, nearly 9 out of every 10 Latinos lived in only 10 States. California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois, Arizona, New Jersey, New Mexico, Colorado, and Massachusetts have the largest Hispanic populations, respectively. 78% of the Latino population lives in the Southwest. Dawah must target the ten largest Latino concentrated states. Within each of these states, major cities should be targetted. New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, San Antonio, Phoenix, and Miami are cities with the largest Latino populations. Most US Latinos and US Muslims live in major metropolitan areas. Not surprisingly, we find large numbers of Latino Muslims and higher Latino conversion rates within these metropolitan cities. High levels of interaction among Latinos and Muslim neighbors and friends most likely influence the rate of conversions to Islam.

Half of the nation’s Latino population lives in California or Texas. Whereas 20% of all American Muslims live in California, only 3% percent live in Texas. Consider the current condition of Islam in Texas. Texas desperately needs more literature, mosques, imams, and educational centers. Muslims have not created the foundation needed to reach any Texan. Mosques need English and Spanish literature including books, audiotapes, videotapes, and instructional CDs.

We do not need to point out the need for Islam in the everyday lives of all Americans. All Muslims should struggle to eliminate problems within the Latino community around America. For example, Muslims should have a desire to work toward fighting poverty rates, health conditions, and educational attainment along the Rio Grande Valley region. Islam is the answer for various problems within our American cities. We must let Americans see the beauty of Islam by following the example of the Prophet.

Latino Reversions

Conversion to another religion will always continue to be a personal choice. Contradictions in Christianity to Islamic monotheism, or Tawheed, are generally the guiding factors for conversion to Islam among Latinos. Examples of these contradictions include difficulty in believing in original sin, trinity, and sainthood. Many Latino reverts express a deeper relationship with God than experienced with Catholicism.

Many Latinos are also amazed to learn that Spain was Muslim for over 700 years, and Islamic Spain’s influence on Hispanic culture. Thousands of Spanish words are derived from Arabic. Archaeologists have found Islamic inscriptions throughout Cuba, Mexico, and Texas that date back before 1492. Only 20% of Muslims are of Arab descent. My great-grandparents’ birthplace, Mexico, is also finding Islam. Mexican Muslims are reaching out to other Mexicans with truth, patience, and good manners. They acknowledge that the best way to spread Islam is to practice it.

The Jihad Within

A social barrier exists between the Muslim and Latino communities. Muslims and Latinos must break through common negative stereotypes they may hold of one another. Latinos interested in Islam fear negative comments, loneliness, rejection, and alienation from friends and family. Unfortunately, an estimated one-third to half of all Muslim converts leave Islam.

Many Latino Muslims find themselves very alone. They often find themselves breaking their fast alone, studying alone, praying alone, and culturally alone. Most Latinos are accustomed to the traditions of and unity with their family and friends. Before Latinos will embrace another religion, they must believe that the new religion justifies leaving their previous religion. Latinos have a love for family and religion. Islam is both a family and religion. We, Latino Muslims, strive to adapt our culture within the boundaries set forth by Islam.

Organizations and progress

Many Latino Muslims have formed their own organizations and informal groups to reach out to the Latino community. Most have similar strategies. Many groups get together to learn or teach the fundamentals of Islam, the Muslim prayer, and Arabic. Many groups deliver speeches at mosques, high schools, colleges, prisons, churches, and at various organizations. Many organizations seek to distribute Spanish literature to correction facilities, Islamic centers, and dawah groups throughout the USA. Interfaith dialogues at Catholic Churches are also popular. Time is the greatest gift you can give.


Fareed H. Numan, The Muslim Population in the United States, American Muslim Council, Washington DC, 1990.

Ihsan Bagby, PhD, et al. “The Mosque In America: A National Portrait.” CAIR. April 2001. http://www.cair-net.org/mosquereport/Masjid_Study_Project_2000_Report.pdf

U.S. Census. Ethnic and Hispanic Statistics Branch. “U.S. Hispanic Population: 2000.” http://www.census.gov/population/socdemo/hispanic/p20-535/p20-535.pdf

US Census Bureau. “We the American”Hispanics.” Issued September 1993. http://www.census.gov/apsd/wepeople/we-2r.pdf