When Greisa Torres moved from Cuba to Miami four years ago, she “says she lost her identity in the move and found it in the Prophet Muhammad,” reports Voice of America. “While she was pregnant with her second son, Mahdi, Torres converted to Islam. ‘It was very hard for me because we do not have family here, just my husband and my kids. On this day, my baby — Mahdi — he was going to be born. That is why I convert to Islam because I was scared,’ Torres says.”
The story says that there may be 40,000 Hispanic Muslims in America, making up about 6% of the American Muslim population. (It does not give the source of these figures.) A slight majority of the converts are women. Stephanie Londono, who has written a short study of the subject,
says some women turn to Islam because they are repelled by Western values of success — as measured by careers, schooling or wealth. She says they are more comfortable with traditional gender roles.
. . . “It [Ilsam] defines their world on a clear grid of what’s permitted or ‘halal,’ and what’s prohibited which is ‘haram.’ So they know exactly where they stand,” Londono says. “So the Koran becomes this guidebook that tells you exactly what to wear, what to eat, how to wash, how to behave, when to pray.”
Torres, the only convert quoted in the story, says of wearing the hijab, “When people see you with the hijab, they respect you first. Second, it’s the emotion you feel because you are different. You believe in something. It’s amazing.”
The story is certainly suggestive, though it follows the usual lines for evaluating the appeal of religion: Islam provides security in an insecure world, identity in an anonymous world, a community in an atomized world, a morality and way of living in a pluralistic world. Those lines usually contain the unspoken addition “For those poor needy people who it.”
If you begin with the belief that these are all human goods and goods a religion ought to provide, the appeal of Islam as described in this article becomes a challenge for Catholicism, a much deeper, more subtle, and more expansive expression of these goods, whatever one might think about its truth. In its legalism, as burdensome as that appears, Islam is in another way Catholicism-Lite.
I first saw a story on the report on Aquila Style, a magazine of “Modern Muslim Living.”