Ethnicity in the United States becomes racialzed unlike in many other countries said Dr. Harold Morales, author of “Latino & Muslim in America: Race, Religion, and the Making of a New Minority
,” at America’s Islamic Heritage Museum in Washington, D.C. Like many other marginalized groups, Morales says many "Latinx" Muslims like the research that went into his book because, “the population is being recognized.”
Ironically, while many people associate Spanish speaking Americans with Catholicism, Patrick, who was visiting Washington from Los Angeles and identifies as Hispanic, says he is a Mennonite. Patrick had been planning a trip to DC and timed it to be in the nation’s capital for the presentation. “I came as a Latino to hear about the Latin Muslim experience,” he told Port Of Harlem.
Morales affirmed that most Latinx Muslims are living in Los Angeles, New York City, and Union City, New Jersey. His research found that many of the converts are first generation Muslim, female, and are Sunni Muslims.
Latinx refers to men, women, and now non-binary people who are of Spanish-speaking culture and descent. In the United States, Latinx includes those often considered Hispanic or Latino, as Patrick identifies.
The explanation of Latinx and Islam led to another investigation into identity: Are many of the current converts really “reverts,” since many Spaniards were Muslims when the Moors ran Spain (circa 711 AD-1492) before the Spanish Inquisition? In 1478, the Catholic Monarchs began the famous Inquisition to purify Catholicism in all their territories, including the Americas. During the Inquisition, non-Catholics including Muslims and Jews “were systematically erased.”
Interestingly, the audience generally accepted that the story of Hamza Perez, a Puerto Rican rap artist who converted to Islam, poses a threat to some Americans who, like the Catholic Monarchs, fear diversity and inclusion. The 2009 documentary “New Muslim Cool
” follows the life of Perez, which echoes that of Malcolm X.
Perez was a Pittsburgh drug dealer who decided to end his street life and spend his time on the streets and jail cells spreading the message of Islam to at-risk youth and communities. American Society then forces the American rapper to confront the realities of the post-9/11 world.
Interestingly, the audience generally accepted that the story of Hamza Perez, a Puerto Rican rap artist who converted to Islam, poses a threat to some Americans who, like the Catholic Monarchs during the Spanish Inquisition, fear diversity and inclusion.
Morales, who is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and the City at Morgan State University in Baltimore, also has a complex history and multiple identities. He is of Guatemalan descent; his wife was born in Mexico. His parents came to the United States illegally. “I had a lot of family members living in the shadows and still do,” he says.
Baltimorean Khalil Ismail said the presentation and lively post-discussion left him knowing that everyone is complex and has multiple identities. “We all want to show individuality, but we want to belong to a larger group and be affirmed,” he said at the end of the hour long presentation.