It surprises many of their friends and family, but some young US Latinas say Islam offers women more respect.
Many of the Latina converts say that their belief that women are treated better in Islam was a significant factor in converting. Critics may protest that wearing the veil marks a woman as property, but some Latina converts say they welcome the fact that they are no longer whistled at walking down a street. "People have an innate response that I'm a religious person, and they give [me] more respect," says Jenny Yanez, another Latina Muslim. "You're not judged if you're in fashion or out of fashion."
Other Latina Muslims say they also like the religion's emphasis on fidelity to one's spouse and family.
Some Latina Muslims say they harbored stereotypes about Muslim women before deciding to convert, but changed their minds once becoming close friends with a Muslim.
"A women is respected because she is the mother, she takes care of the children, and she's the one that enforces the rules," Pinet says. "They're the ones who are sacred."
An increasing number of Hispanics are being drawn to Islam. Since 1999, the U.S. Hispanic Muslim population has increased by 30% to an estimated 200,000, according to the national director of the American Muslim Council in Chicago.
Many of the new converts, often second- and third-generation Hispanic Americans, are attracted to Islam due to curiosity, marriage and a common interest such as immigration.
The boom is especially significant in New York, Florida, California and Texas, where Hispanic communities are the largest.