Muslim population in Latin America grows 25% amid radicalization concerns

(BREITBART) — Islam had an estimated 3 million adherents in Latin America and the Caribbean as of the end of last year, marking an increase of nearly 25 percent from the 2.3 million who were residing there in 2010, a Breitbart News analysis of U.S. Department of State (DoS) data shows.

Among the Muslims in the region are people who emigrated from Muslim majority countries – including Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Egypt, and Pakistan – and locals who converted. Most of them are recent migrants and descendants of those who made the journey years and even generations ago, namely Palestinians, among others.

The most recent data found in the International Religious Freedom Reports issued annually by the DoS reveal that there were at least an estimated 2,990,000 Muslims residing in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2015.

In 2010, the number was about 2,290,000. That means the Muslim population grew by nearly 700,000 (23 percent) between 2010 and 2015. Some experts have indicated that Shiites outnumber Sunnis in the region. Iran’s growing influence has sparked concern within the U.S. government.

DoS, also known as State, did not include estimates for all the countries in Latin America and Caribbean, so the actual number of Muslim residents there could be much higher.

Various sources, including State, show that in 2015 there were concentrations of Muslims across the region: in Brazil (1.5 million); Argentina (750,000); Colombia (10,000); Venezuela (100,000); Panamá (14,000); Suriname (81,200); and Trinidad and Tobago (60,000).

Breitbart News’ analysis comes nearly a month after the top U.S. commander in Latin America and the Caribbean warned that the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) is actively recruiting and radicalizing converts in his area of responsibility.

In fact, Navy Adm. Kurt Tidd, chief of U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), revealed earlier this year that “hundreds” of Muslims from countries in the region, primarily Trinidad and Tobago, have traveled to the Middle East to fight on behalf of ISIS. Some of those nations have expressed concern about the possibility of such individuals returning radicalized and launching attacks.

They are also worried about self-radicalization in the region. Panama became the first Latin American country to join the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS.

Both SOUTHCOM and the State Department have recently warned that ISIS and the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy, are operating in the region.

Moreover, the U.S. military has sounded the alarm about human trafficking groups that specialize in bringing in individuals from terror-linked countries into the United States. Hundreds of them have been recently apprehended trying to sneak across the southwest border and into the U.S. It remains unknown how many actually got through.

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