Latino Muslims Gather in Hayward to Support Each Other

July 17, 2006

Source: Inside Bay Area

On July 17, 2006 Inside Bay Area reported, "On a sunny afternoon, a dozen people file into the teaching room at Zaytuna Institute, a Muslim teaching center in downtown Hayward. But they have not showed up to learn about the Prophet Muhammad, Islam or the Arabic language. They are gathered to enjoy fellowship with one another and discuss what it means to be a Latino Muslim in the Bay Area. Murabit Benavidez, a lanky Mexican-American wearing a long gray tunic, said he has been pondering the duality since college, but most recently since he returned from studying in Syria. He grew up in Fremont immersed in Latino culture but, lately, he has been trying to reconcile the two cultures since he converted to Islam seven years ago. 'Am I still a Chicano?' he asked. 'We have this Islamic identity and, being Latino, we have this Catholic background. I'm not Christian anymore, but am I still Latino? We're redefining what Latino is.' A small group of Latino Muslims — mostly college students and young professionals coming from Silicon Valley — have been meeting recently at Zaytuna to support one another in their new conversion and educate one another on their Latino connections to Islamic culture... There are an estimated 40,000 to 70,000 Latino Muslims in the U.S. and about 1,000 reside in Southern California."