“Muslino” is of course the hybrid term I concocted back in 2005 or so, to summarize the trend of Hispanics and Latinos converting to Islam. A trend which, thankfully, remains small. But still perceptible enough that it gets some coverage every year or two. The year opened with this update, which Liz M. circulated last month, and if this doesn’t sell you on immigration reform, nothing will:

Hispanic American immigrants increasingly finding home is Islam (Jan. 25, 2013, Public Radio Int’l By Wendy Diaz / The Muslim Link)

A growing number of Latina women are choosing to convert to Islam. (Photo by Wendy Diaz / The Muslim Link.)

A growing community of Hispanic American immigrants, as well as Hispanics in their home country, are choosing to convert from their predominantly Christian religions to Islam. It’s especially common for women.

Tucked away in a quiet rural neighborhood in Somerset, N.J., is an old brownstone that houses the New Jersey Chapter of the Islamic Center of North America’s WhyIslam Project.

Within its confines, in a second floor office decorated with rose-colored walls, sits the administrative assistant and only female employee of the department, Nahela Morales.

…A Mexican immigrant and recent convert, Morales is the national Spanish-language outreach coordinator for the program, part of ICNA’s mission to disseminate information about Islam nationwide.

But Morales’ efforts go beyond U.S. borders: the 37-year-old recently led a trip to bring Islamic literature, food and clothing to her native Mexico.

According to WhyIslam’s 2012 annual report, 19 percent of the some 3,000 converts it assisted in 2011 were Latinos, and more than half of those (55 percent) were women. The 2011 U.S. Mosque Survey, which interviewed leaders at 524 mosques across the country, found the number of new female converts had increased 8 percent since 2000, and that Latinos accounted for 12 percent of all new converts in the United States in 2011.

Muslim and Latino immigrants are increasingly living side by side in urban neighborhoods across the country, from California, Texas and Florida to New York and Illinois….At the same time, these five states are also home to the highest number of mosques, The American Mosque 2011 Report shows, reflecting a growing Muslim presence as well.

Wilfredo Ruiz, a native of Puerto Rico who converted to Islam in 2003, is an attorney and political analyst specializing in the Islamic world… “More women than men convert…” Ruiz said.

Latina immigrants, he explains, often feel exploited both in Latin America and the United States. The higher status afforded women in Islam and their modest dress, he believes, offers a sensible alternative.

“I have heard from Latina women that they seek protection, and they find (that) protection and respect in Islam,” he added.

Juan Galvan, executive director of the Latino-American Dawah Association and author of Latino Muslims: Our Journeys to Islam, believes that Islam may also hold another, distinctly religious appeal to Latino immigrants because it reveals to them what he calls a more profound understanding of monotheism.

Because Islam emphasizes God’s, or Allah’s, oneness, Galvan says, it presents Latinos with a unique alternative to traditional Christian theologies that accept the existence of holy deities – Jesus, the Holy Spirit, saints and miracle workers — which are connected to, yet distinct, from God.

“While Protestantism may have fewer intermediaries than Catholicism, Latinos come to Islam because they believe in a concept of God that acknowledges him as the most powerful and therefore, needs no son,” said Galvan, who is himself a Mexican-American convert to Islam.

[If Catholics want something less polytheistic, they could try Judaism. You know, the religion that first came up with the concept of one all-powerful god. Then again, that’s the religion they’ve been taught for centuries to revile. I guess Islam is the way to go, then.]

…[Morales] moved to New York in 2001. Shortly after her relocation, the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks occurred. When news reports blamed Muslim extremists, Morales began to research Islam.

Situated in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood, 30 percent of NHIEC’s [North Hudson Islamic Educational Center’s] congregants are Latinos. The Latino influence is so great that the mosque offers simultaneous Spanish translation of its Friday sermons and Islamic studies classes, and even hosts an annual “Hispanic Muslim Day.”

During one of her visits to the NHIEC mosque in 2009, a WhyIslam worker overheard Morales speaking Spanish and asked if she would be interested in a bilingual position with the company.

She’s been working with NHIEC for more than three years, and recently led a campaign to deliver Islamic literature and audio, clothing, and toiletries to a needy Muslim community in Mexico City.

“It is obvious that Islam is still very strange in Mexico,” said Morales, adding that since her last visit her own family has become more receptive. “But it is also very clear that people want to learn about it.”

Isabela Duarte has been in the United States since the age of seven. A Muslim convert living in Chicago, the 30-year-old left Mexico with her family in 1990, crossing the border illegally….she has found solace and community, participating regularly in events held by the Latino Muslims of Chicago, an Islamic group that serves the needs of Latinos….

Part of a growing Hispanic population in the United States, Duarte is also among a Muslim community that, according to the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion and Public Life, is expected to increase dramatically over the next 20 years, thanks largely to immigration from South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa.

An estimated 5.3 million Muslims live in North and South America as of 2010. That number is expected to more than double by the year 2030.

Liliana Anaya, a 34-year-old Muslim convert from Colombia and a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., is familiar with the trend. The mosque in her hometown, Barranquilla, Colombia, reports an average of four conversions a month…

[S]he met her husband, a Muslim convert from Argentina, and together they applied for U.S. citizenship. While Anaya was expecting their first child, she decided to travel back to her country to give birth. After their arrival, she and her husband discovered the Othman bin Affan Mosque in Barranquilla, a small Muslim community that lacked adequate resources. Because Anaya’s husband had earned a degree in Islamic Propagation from Umm Al Qura University in Saudi Arabia, they became involved in the mosque, organizing and teaching classes…

As if Americans didn’t have a hard enough time distinguishing Arabs and Muslims from Latinos. Well, at least the latter becoming the former should make things easier.

This topic is one I’ve had loads of fun with since 2005, starting with my article “Move Over Spanglish, Here Comes Sparabic!” Then there was a sort of Top 10 list:Why are Black and Hispanic Converts to Islam on the Rise since 9/11? , as well as “Why Call it Crime when you can Call it Religion?” and “Officials Worry About Some Latino Converts To Islam.”

But a more meaningful analysis came in an email exchange with Jim Jatras, who posited the following, after I brought up the possibility of a somewhat easy transition from Catholicism to Islam:

I suspect the salient element that influences Hispanic immigrant converts today is less their Catholicism or their specifically “Hispanic” (Spanish) identity than an ethno-racial one: the large majority of these people are not ethnically Spanish at all, or only slightly so. They are basically Indians (and among the large majority who hail from Mexico and Central America, for many of them Spanish isn’t even their first language). Their attraction to Islam reflects both a lack of any stable identity (not American, not Mexican, not Spanish, and separated from their indigenous roots) and the attraction of “the Other” to a counter-cultural identity. It’s kind of like a reverse assimilation to America specifically, and the declining Anglo-Protestant founding culture generally.

Not mentioned in this article but what I have seen elsewhere (not so much in the US but in the home countries) is the role of alcohol and North American missionaries. See:http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gxSW-iziKthNvGV1A_db-cIIIwvw?docId=CNG.e423a3fd012d67b0e15204cd3cffed5a.391. Like many indigenous communities, the places these people come from are ravaged by alcoholism. Their religion is less standard Roman Catholicism than a mélange of Catholicism and home-grown pagan beliefs. Then along come Protestant Evangelical (or often, Mormon, Jehovah’s Witness, Seventh-Day Adventist, and other) missionaries from the U.S. — and they stop drinking. Then, a few years later, they convert to Islam.

Anyway, something similar may be evident in the US among immigrants, though this story really didn’t highlight it.

Just to harp for another moment on the Catholic-Islamic affinity, however (which worked ever so symbiotically to hand over Bosnia and Kosovo to Islam), let me also point out something obvious about Islam. It’s anti-Semitic. Which, in turn, brings me to a little-discussed aspect of the 2012 election season. I got a flyer in my door, which read — in both English and Spanish — as follows:

Billionaire Sheldon Adelson can’t take away our right to vote…He doesn’t want us to vote…The candidates he bought and the extremist groups he funds have treated us like second-class citizens, harass us and disrespect us. But they can’t stop us….We want [fill in with synonym for “free stuff”] and we will make our voices heard…Our votes can beat his money…No one can take away our rights. Stand up for the right to vote and STOP THE GREED AGENDA.

Spanish-language radio stations were peppered with the same types of ads. Stations which have good relations with La Raza, and which fanned the flames of the 2006 protests against immigration reform.

But the point is: we have a prominent Jewish name along with the words “GREED AGENDA.” Surely this is entirely unrelated to La Raza’s racism and anti-Semitism.

Meanwhile, it’s curious that it was Adelson who was the target of their wrath — not any of the rich non-Jewish conservatives, and not the far more plentiful rich left-wingers of Jewish stock. They went after the one vocal rich guy that the right has, as opposed to the countless ones on the left, starting with that other Jewish rich guy, George Soros, who has destroyed entire regions of the globe. He gets a pass, since he toes the ‘correct’ line. Starting with the line he toes on Islam and Muslims:

Iranian TV Loves Soros Report on Islam (Accuracy in Media, Sept. 8, 2011, By Cliff Kincaid)

As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 was approaching, a new report from the Soros-funded Center for American Progress (CAP) purported to examine a conservative network of people and groups described as “Fear Inc.” and said to be guilty of “Islamophobia” toward Muslims…

On cue, another Soros-funded group, Media Matters, ran with excerpts from the report, emphasizing the “role played by right-wing media” such as Fox News in supposedly fanning the flames of “Islamophobia.”

But CAP has its own propaganda network, which includes foreign propaganda channels Al-Jazeera and Iranian Press TV, an official government-funded propaganda channel.

Press TV is an anti-Semitic channel that frequently blames Jews and/or Israel for what goes wrong in the world….

CAP’s “Think Progress” affiliate notes with pride that the “Fear Inc.” report’s authors have appeared on CNN.com, Al Jazeera English, Current TV, Guardian.co.uk and have done radio interviews. It says that print media outlets such as The Jewish Daily Forward, The Atlantic, Salon.com, The Washington Post and The Nation ran articles on the report’s findings.

However, CAP failed to highlight how Iranian Press TV, which is completely funded by the government of Iran and has a Washington, D.C. bureau, has run several reports about the CAP study….

One of the Iranian Press TV stories about the report ran under the headline, “US Empire foments Islamophobia.”

The CAP report made much of the claim that seven conservative-oriented foundations gave $42.6 million to “Islamophobia think tanks” between 2001 and 2009. But CAP’s income in one year alone, according to Guide Star, which monitors public policy groups, was $38,600,935. The latest annual income of the Center for American Progress Action Fund was reported as $8,966,943.

So this means that CAP’s money surpassed the think tanks it attacks in the report by about $5 million in one year alone.

The CAP report, based on “a grant from the Open Society Foundations,” which are funded by Soros, used information from one Jim Lobe, a frequent contributor to Al-Jazeera and Washington, D.C. correspondent and chief of the Washington bureau of Inter Press Service (IPS), described as “journalism and communication for global change.” IPS is supported by the United Nations, foreign governments, and the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations, as well as the Soros-funded Open Society Institute…

It turns out that Jim Lobe’s story about the CAP report that used him as a source ran under the headline, “New Report Identifies Organizational Nexus of Islamophobia,” the same headline over another Press TV story about the report. An official of the Muslim Public Affairs Council appeared on camera to promote the report, while the Iranian reporter, Marjan Asi, said the network under scrutiny was based on money from “several extreme right and Jewish family foundations.”

Daniel Greenfield at FrontPagemag.com recognized the same theme, saying that CAP was trying to peddle a “Jewish conspiracy theory.”

Ed Lasky at AmericanThinker.com said CAP was trying to blame “rich Jews” for stoking so-called Islamophobia.

While CAP’s authors may try to deny that they intended to single out Jewish-American support for educational activities exposing radical Islam, that was one of the messages taken away not only by conservative writers but Iranian Press TV. It wanted its international audience to know that CAP was going after conservative Jews…

Just like that Spanish-language ad played and replayed throughout the presidential campaign season.