Source: The Christian Science Monitor
On September 28, 2006 The Christian Science Monitor reported, "With her hijab and dark complexion, Catherine Garcia doesn't look like an Orlando native or a Disney tourist. When people ask where she's from, often they are surprised that it's not the Middle East but Colombia. That's because Ms. Garcia, a bookstore clerk who immigrated to the US seven years ago, is Hispanic and Muslim. On this balmy afternoon at the start of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, she is at her mosque dressed in long sleeves and a long skirt in keeping with the Islamic belief in modesty. 'When I was in my country I never fit in the society. Here in Islam I feel like I fit with everything they believe,' she says. Garcia is one of a growing number of Hispanics across the US who have found common ground in a faith and culture bearing surprising similarities to their own heritage. From professionals to students to homemakers, they are drawn to the Muslim faith through marriage, curiosity and a shared interest in issues such as immigration. The population of Hispanic Muslims has increased 30 percent to some 200,000 since 1999, estimates Ali Khan, national director of the American Muslim Council in Chicago. Many attribute the trend to a growing interest in Islam since the 2001 terrorist attacks and also to a collision between two burgeoning minority groups. They note that Muslims ruled Spain centuries ago, leaving an imprint on Spanish food, music, and language... 'The more Hispanics and other Americans [who] become Muslim, the stronger and wider the bridge between the Muslim community and the general larger American community,' Bagby says. 'Their words and approach have some weight because they are a source of pride for Muslims throughout the world.'"