A new generation of Muslims is introducing Islam to Mexicans.
By Michelle Al-Nasr
Mexico may be well on its way to a monotheistic revolution. This new trend is emerging from recent developments, and reflects a similar change evident in other South American nations – people are embracing Islam by the thousands, jettisoning the Catholicism imposed upon their ancestors in Spain.
The prayer congregation has tripled since Mexico City’s Centro Cultural Islamico de Mexico (CCIM) first opened its doors 6 years ago. The numbers could be even higher. However, most Mexicans still have almost no knowledge of Islam. CCIM is spreading the Oneness of Allah at all levels of society and translating Islamic publications into Spanish. It also has several native-born active Da’wah graduates from Saudi Arabian universities who speak fluent Arabic. The Center’s Islamic public radio program had to be suspended because of financial constraints.
In the last 3 years, CCIM built two new mosques in two cities close to the capital. Its ultimate goal is to establish full-time mosques in every major Mexican city.
Mexico has a rich history. The people of pre-Columbian Mexico, the Mayans, led a life similar to Native American Indians and were pantheists who relied upon high priests to mediate with their nature gods. Locked in wars and short of food, they gradually were wiped out and replaced by the Aztecs. These people believed in a polytheistic religion based on the world’s constant creation and destruction. Their religion taught them that disasters could be averted only through warfarre and human sacrifice. By the sixteenth century, the Aztecs ruled a large part of Mexico.
In the early 1500’s, Spanish conquistadors from Cuba and Spain came to pillage Mexico’s natural resources – namely gold – and find glory. Cortez, the most infamous conquistador, posed as an Aztec god to mystify and trick people into joining forces with him. He conquered the Aztecs in less than 3 years, and set up “New Spain.”
In 1535, the first royal court was established to grant Spanish colonists control over native labor and produce. The Roman Catholic Church allied to the Spanish monarchy, worked for creating a land free of religious dissent and to convert the people. During the 300 years of Spanish rule in Mexico, the colonists controlled all wealth and political power, and the natives had no other choice but to bey orders or to face death.
By the seventeenth century, New Spain had nearly collapsed, and Mexican Indians were dying by the millions from the imported diseases and the hard labor imposed by their oppressors. Out of nearly 11 million people in the 1520’s, only less than 1 million remained by the 1550’s. The cattle and sheep herds brought by the Spaniards ruined farmlands and depleted water resources, making it almost impossible for the natives to grow food. After enduring plunder and subjugation for centuries, Mexicans revolted and regained control over Mexico in the early 1900’s.
Today, Mexico has over 90 million people, most of whom follow the Catholicism imposed by the conquering Spaniards. However, the foodgates of religious thought have opened, and people are examing other religions – especially Islam.
There is very little knowledge about the origins of Islam in Mexico. Some sources say Syrian immigrants brought it; others say it came with Turkish immigrants.
Today, most Mexican Islamic organizations focus on grassroots Da’wah. These small organizations are most effective at the community level, going from village to village and speaking directly to the people. As a result of such hard work, Mexicans are eager to learn about Islam, and many are declaring their Shahadah – profession of faith in Islam.