From Panther Now, a publication from Florida International University:
Muslims have had a significant impact on Latin culture, politics, and society, with 3,000 Spanish words having historical connections to Arabic, such as the words “pantalones” (pants) and “arroz” (rice). Their influence, however, has been unnoticed because of the lack of conversation around the topic, according to a professor.
Ken Chitwood is a [religion scholar] at the University of Florida. For the past six years he’s been studying Islam in the Americas and other subjects. But like many people, there was a time he was unaware of Islam’s influence in the west, he said.
Chitwood was writing a weekly report during a mosque visit when he met a man dressed in a tunic who told him of how he converted to Islam in New York, he said. It was then that Chitwood decided to research conversion stories, and after researching 135 conversion stories, he soon noticed a pattern: they had connections to Latin America.
He knew there was a large amount of research done to show Islam’s ties to Latin America, but people weren’t paying attention to it. When he taught a course on the subject years later at the University of Florida, students found it difficult to research. There were plenty of documents and statistics, but it was hard to piece together an “overall narrative.”
Through the event “Islam in Latin America,” which [was] held at [Florida International] University on Tuesday, Nov. 7, Chitwood [spoke] about Islam’s heavy presence in both Latin America and the Caribbean, as well as Islam and Muslim communities’ influence in the past and present.