In the Chi­a­pas: Mex­ico’s largest Mus­lim com­mu­nity


Mex­ico’s largest Mus­lim com­mu­nity can be found in the hills of Chi­a­pas, where hun­dreds have con­verted to Is­lam bring­ing strict be­liefs, so­bri­ety and re­li­gious tra­di­tions to the area.

In 1994 two Span­ish mis­sion­ar­ies ar­rived in the south­ern high­lands of Chi­a­pas, Mex­ico look­ing to con­vert the lo­cal indige­nous com­mu­nity, but not to Catholi­cism: They brought the mes­sage of Is­lam.

Ini­tially, in a re­gion of Mex­ico best known for the Za­p­atista revo­lu­tion, it was a tough sell. First the mis­sion­ar­ies tried con­vert­ing the Za­p­atista army’s top com­man­ders but when that didn’t work, they turned to lo­cal charis­matic lead­ers with so­cial and po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence in the com­mu­nity, win­ning them over with prom­ises of peace through an an­cient faith that could pro­vide spir­i­tual re­lief from the ru­ral isolation that de­fined their lives.

Twenty years later, the lo­cal mosque has around 500 mem­bers, mak­ing their tiny vil­lage Mex­ico’s largest indige­nous Mus­lim com­mu­nity. In a re­gion some­times known for “re­li­gious no­madism” - the con­stant switch­ing from one re­li­gion to an­other which is a com­mon prac­tice in Chi­a­pas - Is­lam has taken root.

Fam­ily af­ter fam­ily - all Mayan de­scen­dants from the Tzotzil eth­nic group - have turned away from their past re­li­gious tra­di­tions and com­mit­ted them­selves to the strict tenets of Mus­lim life. Is­lam in this par­tic­u­lar com­mu­nity has pro­vided its mem­bers with a new sense of em­pow­er­ment, a set of con­duct rules like strict hy­giene habits and a change of be­hav­ior like quit­ting al­co­hol con­sump­tion that has re­sulted in the de­crease of do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and a sense of in­clu­sion and self­wor­thi­ness for women.

Mustafa Checheb and his fam­ily were some of the ear­li­est adopters. A charis­matic soc­cer fan and fa­ther of six, he de­scribes him­self as a lost soul, put on the right path by Al­lah.

“The ques­tion is not why have I been look­ing for God all these years, the ques­tion is how can you all live your lives with­out search­ing, with­out be­liev­ing,” he says.

Cher­ished and re­spected by the rest of the com­mu­nity, Checheb and his fam­ily are ea­ger to con­tinue the tra­di­tion. For a place where con­nec­tions to the world are rare, Checheb boasts that his son re­cently trav­eled to Spain to fur­ther ed­u­cate him­self so he can teach Is­lam to his neigh­bours with a higher de­gree of ed­u­ca­tion. Crit­ics of the faith, he added, just don’t un­der­stand the power of God’s truth.

“I don´t care what they say, Al­lah is more pow­er­ful and mighty than any lit­tle f***er whose own ar­ro­gance makes him feel like God,” he adds.

Source: http://fu­

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