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Mexican Muslims in the Shadow of Zapatistas

Avedis Hadjian - IBTimes
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September 22, 2013
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Mohamed Chechev and his wife, Leila, both Mexican Muslims, relax in their home in San Cristobal.( Avedis Hadjian/NYTimes)

SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS, Mexico – “We used to have the god of rain, the god of sun – lots of gods, until the Spaniards came and they imposed their god and blond saints on us,” said Manuel, with the bitterness of a man who feels shortchanged of his divinities.

At that moment, a summer downpour lashed San Cristóbal de Las Casas, setting in motion a confusion of shapes and colors as birds took flight from the rain and Tzotzil Indian women in purple dresses ran for cover. As Manuel, a young attorney of European-Spanish descent, mourned the ancient gods of this land of thick jungles and densely packed cities, a few miles away, just inside the periphery of San Cristóbal, Ibrahim Chechev, a Tzotzil and the leader of a local Muslim group, was honoring the solitary God of the Arabian desert.

... There are now approximately 400 Muslims in Chiapas, a state in the south of Mexico bordering Guatemala, among an estimated 3,700 in all of Mexico. The small yet vibrant Muslim community in Chiapas is divided into three factions, including Ibrahim’s, comprised of approximately 100 members, mostly from his clan. There is disagreement over how Islam was first introduced to Mexico - some say it was brought by Lebanese or Syrian immigrants -- and which Mexican state is its religious center. Chiapas does not have the most Muslims among Mexican states; in fact, it has Mexico's largest Protestant community, owing to a general drift among the locals to alternative religions. Chiapas is noted, however, for its strong ties to Muslims in Granada, Spain.

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