LATINOS AND ISLAM CONVERSION
By Mailyn Salabarria - July 8 2006
Nineteen years of Catholic religious traditions were left behind when Hugo Hernández decided to convert to Islam. A teacher and political science graduate, Hernández, 26, came to a turning point in his life during his freshman year of college in Denver.
Born and raised in a traditional Catholic Latino family from Evans, Hernández said when he was a child then teenager, he followed all the rituals, traditions and ceremonies of the Catholic religion, including his first communion.
"I've always had many questions and I've never received an answer that convinced me 100 percent," he added. "I truly believe those things only take us away from God."
That closeness with God is what Hernández said he's found in Islam. He said, "When we pray, we do it directly to God; it's only him and I."
The first time he walked into a mosque, Hernández said that the experience impressed him so much he wrote out the details of his feelings.
"It was like if I just walked into my home." Only when he goes back to Tamaulipas, Mexico, to visit his relatives, has he felt something similar.
Shakir Mohammed of the Islamic Center of Fort Collins said that, from the social point of view, Latinos convert to Islam because it's a religion that treats everyone equally, giving them dignity and respect.
"And all immigrant minorities, one way or another, always feel underestimated."
From a religious point of view, Mohammed believes conversion takes place because they're disappointed with the religion they professed before.
"Then, they come to Islam looking for the simplicity of God; for a religion where the key point is the direct relation between the person and God."
Did you know that in Northern Colorado:
- In 2001, the Council of American-Islam Relations reported that 6% of the converted in the U.S. were Latino.
- It was predicted that by 2010, the Muslim population will be larger than Judaism.
- It will also be the second-largest religion in the U.S., after Christianity.
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