Muslim Latinas Open Up About Their Journey To Islam



Photo Credit: Walter Thompson-Hernández
Two days had passed since the Islamic State’s attacks in Paris, which took the lives of over 120 people. While citizens from nearly every corner of the globe mourned the deaths of the victims and braced for a military response to the attacks, four Muslim Latinas and I met at the Long Beach Islamic Center in Long Beach, California, to talk about their journeys to Islam.
Prior to arriving to the mosque, I wondered if rescheduling would have been a better decision, given the somewhat hostile climate that had dawned upon us. Nevertheless, I continued to drive to the mosque and arrived just in time for our meeting.
I was greeted by a jovial group of women who, despite exhibiting some natural reluctance, were eager to commence the interview. This would be the first time that each of them had spoken about their experiences as Muslim Latinas with other Latina converts in a group setting. There were supposed to have been eight women in our group, but only four made the trip that day. Each woman was between the ages of 21 and 36 and drove to the meeting alone, except for one, Noelia, who was accompanied by her Jordanian husband and their small child.
The women had arrived to Islam in various ways. One of them, Lina, was born into the religion but often struggled to reconcile it with her mother’s Peruvian culture, which she felt was more “liberal.” Two others, Myree and Noelia, converted as a result of marriage. Miriam, the daughter of a Mexican mother and an Egyptian father, converted to Islam on her own accord. (Part two of this series will delve into the lives of Latinos, who are more likely than women to have converted outside of marriage.)

The women asked for their last names not to be published; they felt that exercising even a small amount of anonymity would be wise given the current racial and political climate.

A few weeks later, the shooting in nearby San Bernardino would cause simmering anti-Islamic sentiment to spike. But listening to each woman describe her experience, as well as those of other Latinas who had also embraced the Islamic faith, signaled that perhaps the Latino conversion to Islam was a phenomenon that would……
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