Islam on Lands of Ancient Maya: Closer Look at Muslim Community in Mexico
Few would be surprised at seeing a girl wearing a hijab in Mexico’s San Cristóbal, as for more than 20 years there have been Muslim communities living there. Today the city may be considered the unofficial center of Muslims in the state of Chiapas.
Sputnik has spoke to a leader of one of these communities to understand how Islam came to prosper in the lands of the ancient Maya.
The history of Islam in Chiapas is linked, oddly enough, to the 1994 Zapatista uprising. Shortly after the rebellion, a group of Spanish preachers suggested converting the rebels to Islam to Subcomandante Marcos, the main ideologist of the group. However, the Zapatista leader refused to meet with the preachers from Spain and hence they started converting local people on their own.
A Muslim indigenous woman walks at a mosque in the outskirts of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas state, Mexico
Over time, the local Muslims separated into four groups. Among the members of the Chiapas Muslim community, the majority consists of Maya and Tzotzil peoples.
A Muslim indigenous woman prays at a mosque in the outskirts of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas state, Mexico
One of the Muslim groups with a large presence in the state of Chiapas is the Ahmadiyya Muslim community. Ibrahim Chechev, an imam from San Cristóbal, told Sputnik of the community’s origin and prospects.
Today the Ahmadiyya community is made up of 60 families and this number is increasing.
Many indigenous people are looking for a true guide. They find it in our community and get it through the teachings of Islam
Several groups converted to Islam in 1995. Many people were part of the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation), Chechev said.
Once they were converted to Islam, all kinds of fighting were left aside. So, the Muslim community is free of any armed group
“Now there we don’t have much contact with the EZLN. The Ahmadiyya Muslim community has no prejudice against anyone, much less with the Zapatista Army of National Liberation,” Chechev said.
According to Chechev, of San Cristóbal’s four Muslim groups, two are Sufis, one is Wahhabi and the other is the Ahmadiyya community.
A Muslim indigenous young man prays at a mosque in the outskirts of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas state, Mexico
“Being Muslims and San Cristóbal’s citizens, we don’t have any kind of misunderstanding or any other issues. On the contrary, we’re strengthening maintaining ties with other religions,” Chechev said.
We’re always in favor of peace and union, regardless of the type of religion that is professed. We respect, love and follow our Christian brothers no matter if they are Evangelicals, Catholics or anyone else.
“The members of the community have a good and close relationship both in the environment of their mosque and with the society in general,” the imam added.
According to Chechev, the Ahmadiyya Muslim community is totally against terrorism and those who tarnish the name of Islam.
Muslim indigenous people pray at a mosque in the outskirts of San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas state, Mexico
Mexican Imam Ibrahim Chechev gestures as he speaks during an interview at a mosque in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas state, Mexico on January 22, 2016.