Rabu, 13 Januari 2010

US Hispanics Embracing Islam

US Congress in 1968 for the first time designated the week of September 15 as National Hispanic Heritage Week. But in 1988 that was amended to make it a whole month, thus at the moment Hispanic Heritage Month runs from September 15 through October 15. Having such a month seems necessary for a country like United States having a great number of Hispanics spreading over the states.

President Bush's insistence to fence the US- Mexico border in order to prevent illegal immigration of Hispanics from Mexico to US during this period signifies the importance Hispanics and generally immigration has to US government. The total cost of this 700 mile fence is estimated from $2 billion to $9 billion. However, US government is disregarding Mexican officials' grievances of this issue. “The Mexican government expresses its strong rejection of the construction of the wall ... This decision damages the entire bilateral relationship, is contrary to the spirit of cooperation that must prevail to guarantee the security of the frontier," Mexican presidential spokesman Ruben Aguilar. The news raised lots of controversies inside and outside US; border communities, religious groups, advocates and lawmakers were among serious opponents inside the country. "Critics have also argued that it would make the border more violent; would force illegal immigrants to take more dangerous routes through the desert; would harm trade and relations with Mexico; and still wouldn't solve the problem of illegal immigration."

Simultaneous to this news, another issue came up regarding Hispanics in US which I was always concerning about. The news was published in New Mexican website on October 6, claiming that the number of Hispanics leaning to Islam is increasing. It explains the life of a Muslim Hispanic who was born in Colombia and is now living in US. The population of Hispanic Muslims has increased 30 percent to some 200,000- although it is still very few in comparison to the number of Christians in US- since 1999, estimates Ali Khan, national director of the American Muslim Council in Chicago. This growing trend to Islam by Hispanics may be assumed as a consequence of 9/11 terrorist attacks and also the collision between two burgeoning minority groups, means Muslims and Hispanics. It is important to notice that there are several similarities in faith between Hispanics and Muslims such as family- orientation, being religious, poverty, health care and issues regarding immigration.

The previous ruling of Muslims in Spain can not be ignored as a crucial reason for this tendency of Hispanics to Islam. Ihsan Bagby, professor of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky indicates: “Many Hispanics … who are becoming Muslim, would say they are embracing their heritage, a heritage that was denied to them in a sense." Another point to be mentioned is that the number of Hispanic Muslim growing is very high in New York, Florida, California and Texas, where Hispanic communities are largest. The number of Hispanics attending mosques is ascending gradually, the need for Spanish books especially Koran is a reasonable proof for this claim.

Hispanics as a very significant and influential minority in United States bear a very important role in coming US elections, both Congress election in 2006 and 2008 presidential elections. Among the total registered people of voting, more than 2.7 million voters have Hispanic surnames, an increase of about 560,000 since 2002. Of the 85,000 additional voters this year, about 77,800 were people with Hispanic surnames, Williams' office reported. It is interesting to know that for example there are about 8 million Hispanics in Texas, and of those 3.4 million are eligible to vote, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

To conclude the discussion of Hispanics, their intention for Islam and Hispanics' role in political decisions by voting, I would like to conclude that a country like Iran which is facing severe conflicts with US should be clever enough to make use of these conditions; current dissatisfaction of Hispanics of US government, Hispanics' inclination to Islam and their role in US elections. Iran is said to be a driving force in preaching Islam, thus it should equip itself with qualifications that grant it opportunities to be able to contact Hispanics in States and direct them more to Islam. In this way, Muslims and Hispanics can unitedly protest for unjust rules treated to them since earlier this year, Muslims joined Hispanics in marches nationwide protesting immigration-reform proposals they felt were unfair. Islamic Republic of Iran can build a constructive relation with the Latino American Dawah Organization, established in 1997 by converts in New York City and increase its policy supporters inside the land of US. One of the ways by which Iran can improve its relation with this center is to hold joint conferences and research projects.

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