About 56 students, faculty and community members came to Haven Hall Wednesday to hear Morgan State University professor Harold D. Morales speak about his new book, “Latino and Muslim in America: Race, Religion, and the Making of a New Minority.” The event was sponsored by the Romance Languages and Literature, Global Islamic Studies Center, Department of American Culture, Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs, Latina/o Studies and La Casa.
Morales started off with statistics of Latinx Muslim representation in the United States population. According to Morales’s research, there is a high concentration of Latinx Muslims in Northeastern and West Coast states, including California and New York. In addition, he said by the year 2043, the United States will be the first nation where the current racial minority populations will outnumber the racial majority population.
As an example of a prominent Latinx Muslim, Morales shared a video of Hamza Perez, a Puerto Rican-American rapper who converted to Islam. In the video, Perez labeled himself as “America’s Worst Nightmare” because of his shared identities as Puerto Rican, Muslim and a rapper.
Morales said he disagrees with the idea that being a minority is a negative feature.
“So, he’s got all of these things that are often portrayed as negative stereotypes and they're lumped all together, and all of a sudden, it’s amplifying the negativity somehow,” Morales said. “Why in the world would you choose to increase your marginality? Why would you choose to increase the discrimination that you will experience? There are certain assumptions that are being made about what is lacking and what is Islam or Islamic identity, and I think that’s really telling and important to keep in mind.”
As part of his presentation, Morales shared a passage from the first chapter in his book. Many videos and news clips were also shown throughout the event to illustrate the research Morales shared in his presentation. He said his first encounters with Latinx Muslims occurred through news coverage and much of that news coverage focused on the Latinx community converting to Islam.
University alum Asma Baban attended the event and was interested in how the media portrayed Latinx Muslims.
“Most media representation of Muslims tends to be negative — we know that. But specifically, it targets like a certain type of ethnic Muslim,” Baban said. “So, to hear and learn about the Latinx perspective and blind next experience of it, all of that was very insightful, and fascinating.”
Rackham student Ivana Lopez-Espinosa said the way Morales approached his research stood out to her because he presented multiple intersecting views.
“I thought the overall presentation was well thought out,” Lopez-Espinosa said. “There were multiple intersecting ideas in terms of the identity and the language aspect of it. So, I thought that was fascinating because there are very few times where you see an academic actually respect the identities and the preferred perceptions of the groups that were studying.”