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Challenges faced by a Latino Muslim

Jaime “Mujahid” Fletcher

Founder, Islam in Spanish Centre

“I grew up in Houston and when I came here, I was 8 years old. I was one of those illegal immigrants that came to America. My parents wanted me to have a better future. When I’m here, I realised that the culture here is different from what my parents expected. We were having a lot of issues about gangs in the environment. There were unfortunate times when I saw some of my friends being killed. People got hung up on drugs- it was a survival mode.

I looked for answers and I was looking at so many different religions. Then someone gave me a Qur’an and I began to read it. The more I read it, the more my life makes sense.

My mum thought that I was brainwashed after becoming a Muslim, because I stopped drinking alcohol and stopped going out with a girl. All of the stuff I had, easily, I let go of it. It was great I did it at that time because a few months later, a lot of my friends got caught and put themselves in trouble. That choice of me accepting Islam saved me from that.”

Latinos are a minority in America, and being a Muslim makes Ahmed a double minority. Why did he choose this path?

“I don’t think being a Muslim and a Latino is putting me in a position of weakness, but a position of strength. I can be the best Latino I can be now, I can be the best Muslim.”

He continued, “When I became a Muslim, it was three months before 9/11. I was one of the few Spanish speakers, and the Muslim community asked me to speak to the media and explain about how Islam is not what people think it is. Some Columbians take drugs but that doesn’t make me a drug dealer because I’m from Columbia. Same goes to this - doesn’t mean some Muslims committed an act of violence, I should feel bad about being a Muslim. People were getting so emotionally affected that they were asking, how could you be a part of that?”

During an interview, Dr Carig Considine, a Sociology Professor in Rice University said, “Latinos are the fastest growing population in Islam. Even during critical times in America. They realise that not being white in America comes with certain barriers. Latinos are thinking that Muslims in general are facing similar obstacles.

People have to recognise that one of the most racially diverse religions in the world is Islam. Statistics suggest that there are at least 250,000 Latin Muslims in this country. Houston is the ‘browning’ of America. They say by 2050, white people are not going to be the majority anymore.”

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