Latino Muslims in Houston
Growing up on the streets of New York and Houston, Isa Parada was always part of a vibrant faith community. An altar boy at his family’s Roman Catholic parish, his family regularly prayed and read Scripture together. Today it is no different for Parada, spare for one thing, he is not a Roman Catholic, instead he is a Muslim imam.
A convert since 1996, Parada is fluent in Arabic and an expert in Muslim theology, having studied in Saudi Arabia. With family roots in El Salvador, Parada is part of a growing number of Hispanic converts to Islam in Houston and the United States.
As the Muslim population continues to grow in the United States, so does its Hispanic contingent. According to the Pew Research Center there are 2.6 million Muslims nationwide. Of those, 6% are Hispanic, which equates to 160,000 Hispanic Muslims. Further, one of every ten native born converts are Hispanic, and that figure is growing.
For Parada, and others like him, the conversion process is more than switching faiths, it is a cultural odyssey replete with promise and pitfall.
"The Islamic community and the Hispanic community don’t know much about each other,” said Parada, "when I converted many Hispanics thought I was rejecting my Latino culture. They thought I had to ‘become Arab’ to be a good Muslim.”
This tension during his conversion was felt most potently within his own family.
"My conversion was a shock for my family, they thought I rejected Jesus, Mary, my culture,” said Parada. "My dad thought I was going to be a terrorist,” he said, "but that’s because he watches too many Chuck Norris movies.” (...)