Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Islam in Mexico

Official data estimates that there are 318,608 Muslims in Mexico, representing 0.3 percent of the total population. There is very little information about the origins of Islam in Mexico, but most sources claim it arrived with either Turkish or Syrian immigrants. Although the Muslim community in Mexico is quite small, the panorama is already showing considerable diversity: There are roughly equal numbers of Muslims of foreign origin and indigenous Mexican converts. Today, most Mexican Islamic organizations focus on grassroots missionary activities which are most effective at the community level.

The Centro Cultural Islámico de México (CCIM), a Sunni organization headed by Omar Weston, a British convert to Islam, is active in several big cities in northern and central Mexico. It has established a dawah (call for conversion) centre near Mexico City with the aim of offering a place for recreation, prayer and Islamic learning. Apart from CCIM there is a Sufi order called Nur Ashki Jerrah in Mexico City which is headed by two women, Shaykha Fariha and Shaykha Amina, whose beliefs and practices are considered by many to be a fairly unorthodox mixture of Islam, mysticism, and feminism.

Islam in Chiapas

The Spanish Murabitun community, the Comunidad Islámica en España, based in Granada in Spain, has the strongest ties to the Chiapas community. The Spanish missionary Muhammad Nafia (formerly Aureliano Perez), now emir of the Comunidad Islámica en México, arrived in the state of Chiapas shortly after the Zapatista uprising and established a commune in the city of San Cristóbal. Since then there have been reports of indigenous Mayans and Tzotzil-Indians converting to Islam in large numbers. President Vicente Fox has voiced concerns about the influence of the fundamentalism and possible connections to the Zapatistas and the Basque separatist organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), but it appears the Indians have no interest in political extremism. In San Cristóbal, the Mayan Muslims run a pizzeria and a carpentry workshop. In a Quran school (madrasa), children learn Arabic and five times a day they pray in the backroom of a residential building.

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