NEW YORK - A growing number of Hispanic American women are reverting to Islam, admiring serenity and gender equality established by the Islamic faith hundreds of years ago.
For some unknown reason, obviously now I know it was Allah--God--putting that thought and feeling in my heart, I no longer wanted to be Catholic, Zainab Ismail, a Bronx-born Hispanic woman, told womensenews.org website on Tuesday, July 16.
I didn't know what I wanted to be but I no longer wanted to be Catholic," she recalled.
Unexpectedly, Ismail's turning point came in March 2009 after a wedding ceremony at a Catholic church.
Feeling attracted to Islam, she converted to Islam less than three months later in June 2009.
"As a Latina, you are raised, if you got it, to show it, to flaunt it as much as possible," says Ismail, 44, raised in a Puerto Rican Catholic family.
Ismail is not alone.
A growing number of Latino Americans, especially women, were reverting to Islam in the past decade after 9/11 attacks.
Shocking at it might have been; the attacks incited bias and discriminations against Muslims.
Many non-Muslims choose to find the truth about the faith themselves.
They are "mostly educated, young and professional women," said Imam Shamsi Ali, a Muslim scholar and imam of the 96th street mosque in Manhattan, on the border of the city's Upper East Side and Harlem.
Though there are no official figures, the United States is believed to be home to nearly seven million Muslims.
According to the Pew Research Center, 6 percent of American Muslims are Hispanic.
Further, one of 10 American-born converts is Hispanic, and that figure is growing.
The American Muslim Council puts the number of Latino Muslims in the US at about 200,000 in 2006.
The largest communities of Latino Muslims exist in areas with the highest concentrations of Latinos, such as New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami.
Yet, California is the state with the most Latino Muslims.
Like Ismail, SA is another Hispanic female convert who found Islam after 9/11 attacks.
Her journey to Islam began a few years ago, when she started to question the existence of God and decided to attend classes about religions.
Though she was reluctant to learn about Islam, her internet searches led her to Islamic books.
"There are a lot of injustices, and when I started learning about Islam and the rights of women it definitely helped me liberate and, of course, caused chaos in my house," she said in an interview at the Islamic Center of NYU in Manhattan.
"Little by little, I started identifying with a lot of teachings of Islam," she added.
In her search for the truth, the rights of women caught her attention.
"If it wasn't about the balance I found in Islam between men and women, I think I would still be doing a lot of things that made me suffer," S.A. said.
Imam Ali agreed that the strength of Islam for some female converts is linked to gender equality.
"Islam came with the idea that all human beings are equal, including male and female," he said an interview at the Indonesian consulate in Manhattan.
"Women have an important role in societies, not only at home."
Islam, as a divine religion, sets down rules that strike a balance between men's responsibilities and women's rights.
Woman is recognized by Islam as the full and equal partner of the man in the procreation of humankind.
By this partnership, she has an equal share in every aspect.
She is entitled to equal rights, she undertakes equal responsibilities, and she has as many qualities and as much humanity as her partner.