Imagine being a woman, Latina, and a Muslim. What does it mean to fall under not one, but three demographics being attacked during an election cycle that has the United States severely divided? As Mexican-American journalist Jorge Ramos points out, there’s been a rise of Latinas converting to Islam.
But why would a woman of color, already subject to being treated as a second class citizen, want to join a religion receiving nothing but bad press? Professor and researcher at Florida International University (FIU), Stephanie Londono, is an authority on the current trend of immigrant Latinas converting to Islam, and says that with 3.3 million Muslims and 55 million Latinos in the U.S., approximately 200,000 are Latino Muslims. About 90 percent of that are converts, and of those converts, most are women.
“[Islam is] what saved me from committing suicide,” says 21-year-old Gabriela, whose parents are Evangelical Christian pastors. “That’s what stopped me from wanting to give up, because it was the only thing that I had.”
The part Nicaraguan, part Cuban South Florida native told Fusion that she had been involved with a guy with whom she got pregnant, something her parents presumably saw as an unforgivable thing. “I made a choice to have an abortion and it was really hard,” she explains. “Someone told me that once you become Muslim, God forgives you for everything… I think that’s what I really wanted.”
Londono not only maintains the religion will continue to expand, but that Islam will inevitably bring together people from varying walks of life: “Islam is not going anywhere, Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world, and it is projected to become the second largest religion in the United States. These women are great examples of how [Islam] can actually join cultures from all over the world.”