Saturday, July 21, 2012
There are an estimated 3,000 Muslim Hispanics in South Florida
Overall, the number of Muslims living in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties has grown from about 70,000 10 years ago to more than 100,000 today. "The Hispanic Muslim community is very well integrated into the Islamic-American community. They go to the same mosques, celebrate the same feasts and holidays and have the same beliefs that the Muslim community around the world has," said Oubay Atassi, 58, who grew up in Argentina and whose father was an ambassador to Syria. He lives in Doral. “We have big families,” said Nezar Hamze, director of the South Florida chapter of the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), referring to the growth in South Florida’s Muslim population. He described Muslim Hispanics as a “minority within a minority.” Much of the growth among Hispanic Muslims comes from Latin America and the Caribbean. Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador and Chile have large populations of residents with Arab ancestry. Chile is home to more than 200,000 Palestinians. Brazil has an estimated 10 million people of Arab descent, including more than seven million Lebanese. Atassi estimates that 80% of South Florida’s Hispanic Muslims come from migration, with the remaining 20% stemming from conversions. The growth can be seen in South Florida’s mosques and Islamic schools. Shamsuddin Islamic Center in North Miami Beach is expanding, while mosques in Pembroke Pines, Miami Gardens and Kendall, among others, have steadily grown. Masjid Al Sultan Sallah Deen on Griffin Road in Fort Lauderdale is also popular with the Hispanic Muslim community, South Florida’s Muslim leaders say. Shaikh Shafayat Mohamed, the imam at Darul Uloom Institute in Pembroke Pines, expects 600 to 700 to attend services Friday, about 200 more than the average turnout. Of those, Mohamed estimates about 40 to 60 will be Muslims of Hispanic origin, with most being Catholic converts from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil and Ecuador. Most of those who convert are usually younger than 35, he said. The current global Muslim population is 1.6 billion, the world’s second-largest religion after Christianity. Within the next 20 years, projections call for 2.2 billion Muslims by 2030. Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world.