The killing of Nabra Hassanen, allegedly at the hands of Darwin A. Martinez Torres, has brought forward a powerful discussion on Islamophobia within the Latino community and how it impacts the lives of Latino Muslims.
PEN America, an organization that promotes literature and free expression, put forward questions Tuesday focused on Latino Muslims with the Twitter hashtag #LatinxRamdan. The conversations sparked deep discussions about how Islam is perceived within the community and highlighted the isolation many Latino Muslims experience because of it.
A male driver reportedly got into an altercation with Hassanen and her friends after they finished Ramadan prayers at their mosque. Police are investigating the death as a “road rage incident,” but her family feels that the killing was a hate crime. The teens were donning traditional Islamic clothing, prompting the idea that they were targeted.
“Nabra’s death on Sunday revealed layers of discrimination within our society,” PEN America’s first question of the two-hour chat began. “How do Islamophobia, racism, and xenophobia affect Latinx Muslims?”
And the tweets came pouring in.
There were an estimated 150,000 Latino Muslim converts in 2015, which is almost four times the 40,000 estimated in 2006 by the Islamic Society of North America. And even with their growing numbers, Latino Muslims struggle to find their place among Muslims in America.
PEN America’s conversation highlighted the discrimination Latino Muslims experience from all sides of their lives. Users discussed how they have felt anti-Islam sentiments from other Hispanic allies, even though the two communities have very similar experiences with discrimination.
Some of the conversations users had via the hashtag were about retaining their Latinx identity. Many of the Latino Muslims in the chat said they were tired of having their ties to their community wiped away by others after their conversions.
“I had to constantly remind loved ones that no, I wasn’t brainwashed by ISIS, and no, I can’t eat because I’m fasting,” one user wrote.
The flip side, however, is not being accepted by other Muslims.
In another thread, people revealed how uncomfortable they feel in mosques.
“I am currently unmosqued. Mainstream spaces can be exclusive and violent to Latinx and Indigenous women and non-binary folk,” another user tweeted. ”‘Progressive’ Muslim spaces can be sources of misogyny and white supremacy.”
Another user described how she often feels the need to fight stereotypes with non-Latino Muslims, and many people echoed the sentiment, encouraging “born Muslims” to learn about the rich history of these converts.
To read more discussion on what it’s like to be Latino and Muslim, follow the #LatinxRamadan hashtag here.
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