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Latino Muslim by Design: Names, Descriptions, and Identity Politics


Identity-based associations or organizations help to mobilize diverse individuals toward liberation, to combat injustices, and to provide mutual support. Despite these advantages, there are significant practical and conceptual difficulties to identity politics. This paper thus seeks to critically engage Latino Muslim identity politics as emerging from contexts of marginalization and from complex relations between Latino Muslims and the scholars who work with them

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  1. I use the etic term Latinx when referring a broad range of gendered and transgendered identity groups. I also use the emic term “Latino Muslim” when referring to specific individuals, groups, or organizations that choose to self-identify as such.

  2. U.S. Census 2010

  3. Pew, “Roughly half of Hispanics have experienced discrimination.”

  4. Pew, “U.S. Muslims Concerned About Their Place in Society, but Continue to Believe in the American Dream.”

  5. etu (2003)

  6. Wendy Brown writes, “Politicized identity thus enunciates itself, makes claims for itself, only by entrenching, restating, dramatizing, and inscribing its pain in politics; it can hold out no future—for itself or others—that triumphs over this pain.” What I refer to as a hierarchy of dependence, Brown bemoans as a self-damnation. (Brown 1995: p. 74)

  7. Appiah (1994), pp. 149–164

  8. Chitwood (2015), pp. 36–37

  9. The little demographic information available on Latino Muslims is mostly contradictory. A 2007 report by the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) estimated that there are 40,000 Hispanic Muslims in the United States (“Latino Muslims Growing in Number in the US,”,, whereas, the American Muslim Council reported an estimated 200,000 in 2006 (Conci, “Latinos Converting to Islam”). The Pew Charitable Trusts–funded Hispanic Churches in American Public Life national survey (n = 2060) put the number of Latino Muslims at approximately 52,000 when the percentages were updated per the 2014 US Census data released in 2015 (Espinosa, 2004). A 2011 study conducted by the Pew Research Center showed that Latino Muslims accounted for an estimated 6% of all Muslims living in the United States. See Pew Research Center, “Muslim Americans: No Signs of Growth in Alienation or Support for Extremism,” August 2011, Pew, “The Future of the Global Muslim Population.” The Pew Research Center estimated that, in 2015, there were about 3.3 million Muslims in the United States. See Mohamed, “A New Estimate of the U.S. Muslim Population.” That puts the Latino Muslim population at 198,000. A 2017 report by the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding (ISPU) estimated that 5% of Muslims in the United States identify as Hispanic. See Mogahed and Chouhoud, “American Muslim Poll 2017: Muslims at the Crossroads.” The report did not produce an estimate of the total Muslim population; if we estimate the total Latino Muslim population using Pew’s estimated total U.S. Muslim population of 3.3 million and ISPU’s estimate that 5% of these are Latinos, then the total Latino Muslim population is closer to 165,000. However, given the low number of Latino Muslim clergy and Spanish-language mosques and my ethnographic experiences, it is likely that there are far fewer Latino Muslims in the United States than both the PEW- and ISPU-based estimates.

  10. The Latino Muslim Voice, from 2002 to 2012. Advanced Google Search, retrieved April 22, 2019

  11. Leonard (1992) p. 130

  12. Ibid., p. 267

  13. Bowen (2010a, b), p. 391

  14. Ibid., p. 400

  15. Ibid., p. 401

  16. Ibid., pp. 402–403

  17. Thomas, Down These Mean Streets, pp. 85–92

  18. Bowen (2010a, b), p. 405

  19. Ibid., p. 408

  20. Aidi (1999)

  21. Ibid.

  22. Although Aidi’s “Olé to Allah” cites 1975 as the founding date of the Alianza and several others have incorrectly cited Aidi on this date, Aidi has since then revised the date to “the late 1980’s” in his 2016 Al Jazeera article “Latino Muslims Are Part of US Religious Landscape.” In a January 2016 interview with Ocasio and Figueroa, I was given 1987 as the founding date which was also the date cited in Ocasio’s March 2016The Islamic Monthly article “Alianza Islamica: The True Story,” accessed April 17, 2017,

  23. Ibid.

  24. Bowen (2010a, b), p. 394

  25. Martínez-Vázquez (2010), p. 8

  26. Ibid., p. 8.

  27. Morales (2018), pp. 78–84.

  28. Ibid., p. 9

  29. Martínez-Vázquez (2010), p. 48

  30. Ibid., p. 66

  31. Ibid., p. 69

  32. Rather than draw on a conversion model, Patrick Bowen draws on Benedict Anderson’s “imagined community” model for engaging the role of Latino Muslim discourse in constituting the identity group. See Bowen 2010a, b, p.11.

  33. Martínez-Vázquez (2010), p. 73.

  34. Ibid., p. 74

  35. Ibid., p. 94

  36. Ibid., p. 47

  37. Espinosa et al. (2017) pp. 13–14, 17

  38. Ibid., pp. 20–21

  39. Morales (2018), pp. 201–202

  40. Maria Rosa Menocal titled her scholarly monograph The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain, echoing popular references to the region’s “golden age” while under Muslim rule. The region-time period is often romanticized as producing a “convivencia” or working together between Muslims, Jews, and Christians. This view is complicated by more critical engagements who describe the region-time period as much more stratified and unjust than the positive accounts produced by Menocal and the like, including by Fernández-Morera in his The Myth of the Andalusian Paradise, 2016.

  41. Aidi (199)

  42. Padilla-Alvarez (2017)

  43. Ibid.

  44. Figueroa (2016)

  45. Chitwood (2015), pp. 36–37


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Correspondence to Harold D. Morales.

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Morales, H.D. Latino Muslim by Design: Names, Descriptions, and Identity Politics. Int J Lat Am Relig 3, 116–138 (2019).

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