In The Name Of God The Most Merciful, Most Compassionate

In the Chiapas: Mexico’s largest Muslim community

by Paulina Villegas & Marcela Zenejas

Filed under: Featured,Islam,Islam Today |

By: Paulina Villegas & Marcela Zenejas


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. Due to the graphic nature of a goat slaughter for a religious ritual, viewer discretion is advised.  

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 self-worthiness 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 neighbors 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.

IftikharAhmad1 5pts

A new study found that the number of Britons converting to Islam is growing, a London-based newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The Independent newspaper said that the estimated number of British converts has always been difficult to count because “census data does not differentiate between a religious person that has adopted a new faith or was born into it.”

According to a new study by the inter-faith think tank Faith Matters, the real figure could be as high as 100,000, with as many as 5,000 new conversions nationwide each year. Previous estimates have placed the number of Muslim converts in the UK at between 14,000 and 25,000.

The study used data from the Scottish 2001 census, the only survey to ask respondents what their religion was at birth as well as at the time of the survey; researchers broke down what proportion of Muslim converts there were by ethnicity and then extrapolated the figures for Britain as a whole, the newspaper said. In all they estimated that there were 60,699 converts living in Britain in 2001.

The researchers polled mosques in London to try to calculate how many conversions take place a year. The results gave a figure of 1,400 conversions in the capital in the past 12 months, which, when extrapolated nationwide, would mean approximately 5,200 people converting to Islam every year.

Meanwhile, the figures are comparable with studies in Germany and France, which found that there were around 4,000 conversions a year in each country.

“This report is the best intellectual ‘guestimate’ using census numbers, local authority data and polling from mosques,” Fiyaz Mughal, director of Faith Matters, told the newspaper.

“Either way, few people doubt that the number adopting Islam in the UK has risen dramatically in the past 10 years.”

Asked why people were converting in such large numbers, he replied: “I think there is definitely a relationship between conversions being on the increase and the prominence of Islam in the public domain. People are interested in finding out what Islam is all about, and when they do that they go in different directions. Most shrug their shoulders and return to their lives, but some will inevitably end up liking what they discover and will convert.”


London School of Islamics Trust

Alex Sanchez
Alex Sanchez 5pts

Just a correction. The largest Muslim community in Mexico is actually in Mexico City, since there are more than 2000 Muslims there. The Muslim population in Chiapas is about 200 people.

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