Muslims in Mexico

“Religion of Peace” takes root south of the border

While some have claimed that official data estimates that there are 318,608 Muslims in Mexico, representing 0.3 percent of the total population, the Mexican government does not identify particular non-Christian religious traditions individually within its census, so such figures are estimates.

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 to be found praying in the main centres of worship. Today, most Mexican Islamic organizations focus on grassroot 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, has been active in several big cities in northern and central Mexico. It has established a dawah (call for conversion) centre in Mexico City with the aim of offering a place for prayer and Islamic learning. This group is the subject of a study carried out by British anthropologist Mark Lindley Highfield of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen. Apart from CCIM there is a branch of the Nur Ashki Jerrahi Sufi Order in Mexico City which is headed by two women, Shaykha Fariha and Shaykha Amina. There is also a small Salafi community (the Centro Salafi de México) and an educational centre, el Centro Educativo de la Comunidad Musulmana en México, within the capital city. In the state of Morelos, there is a prayer hall and centre for recreation, learning and conferences, called Dar as Salaam, which also operates Hotel Oasis, a hotel that offers halal holidays for Muslim travellers and accommodation for non-Muslims empathetic to Islam.

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 Pérez), 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 Tzotzils converting to Islam in large numbers. President Vicente Fox 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 converts have no interest in political extremism. In San Cristóbal, the Mayan Muslims run a pizzeria and a carpentry workshop. In a Quranic school (madrasa), children learn Arabic and five times a day they pray in the backroom of a residential building.

Centro Cultural Islamico de México, A.C. (Spanish) Mexico Discovers Islam, Michelle Al-Nasr Islam Is Gaining a Foothold in Chiapas, Jens Glüsing, Der Spiegel – Islam in Mexico Centro Educativo de la Comunidad Musulmana, A.C. Centro Salafi de México Hotel Oasis Bayt ul Islam de Guadalajara, Mexico