The Politics of Conversion to Islam in Southern Mexico

Sandra Cañas Cuevas

in Islam and the Americas

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print April 2015 | ISBN: 9780813060132
Published online January 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780813050584 | DOI:
The Politics of Conversion to Islam in Southern Mexico

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This chapter discusses conversion processes to Islam among indigenous people in Southern Mexico, Chiapas. It focuses on the important role Maya women play throughout the religious conversion process. In particular, Sandra Cañas Cuevas shows the ways Muslim indigenous women appropriate Islamic doctrine, from a selective use of the veil and an open rejection of polygamy to learning Arabic and incorporating Quranic teachings into their everyday lives. Cuevas also explains how indigenous converts negotiate not only gender relations but also, and more importantly, their ethnic identities. In doing so she reveals that identities are constructed in relation to specific socio-historical contexts and that those who choose Islam as their religion are not mere victims or passive followers of religious discourses. Finally, this religious conversion experience sheds light on the question of how it is possible to be Muslim without abandoning ethnic identity.

Keywords: religious conversion; indigenous people; Maya women; gender relations; ethnic identities; Southern Mexico; Chiapas

Chapter.  9108 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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