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MEXICO: Muslims in Mexico

Susana Hawyard of Knight-Ridder publications sends me this inquiry: "In an article entitled "Muslims in Mexico and Latin America", you say conversions to Islam are a new phenomenon. Although they are a small number compared with Muslims in Argentina in Brazil, I too believe, as you say, something is going on in Chiapas. But what, how significant and why? Chiapas has long been a sort of religious melting pot, with Protestants, Evangelicals and "traditional Catholics". As the bishop of San Cristobal said to me, new groups appear with such frequency that he's adding a new term:"non-Biblical Evangelicals." Considering its size and population, Chiapas stands out as a sort of melting pot, which often reaches boiling point, especially between Evangelicals and "traditional" Catholics. Do you see anything special about Chiapas that makes the state, the Maya, particularly susceptible to these conversions? You also ask, who is behind this, referring to Muslim missionaries. Why do you think some money is coming from Arab sources, possibly Al-Qaeda? Why do you think this could be a scheme to turn MX into base of anti-U.S. activities? As so often happens in Chiapas, the original Muslim converts broke off from Aurelio Perez, president of the Da'Wa mission in San Cristobal, charging that his group was not faithful to the Koran, respectful toward women etc... The breakaways are all mostly Chamula ex-Protestant Indians. They now run their own Islamic Center in outskirts of San Cristobal and profess to be Sunni. The Da'Wa are all mostly white Spanish and are having trouble with the government, which is trying to find loopholes to not renew their visas... Is there any connection with the Zapatistas? When they came, the Spaniards apparently offered them money, which they rejected, but it suggests the missionaries believed that, being rebels and needing money, they would be easy prey".

RH: If anyone has solid information on this subject, please e-mail it to me and I will forward it to Susana.

Ronald Hilton - 4/30/03