Saturday, March 21, 2009

Learn something new every day

Apparently, Islam is gaining followers among the indigenous Maya in Chiapas - the southernmost state in Mexico. These passages are particularly interesting:
Rather, they belong to the Sunni, Murabitun sect that was founded by the Scotsman Ian Dallas and is seen as an offshoot of a Moroccan religious order. The Murabitun followers represent a sort of primal Islam: Earning interest profits through money lending is a no-no and they preach a literal interpretation of the Koran.

"The see themselves as restorers of Islam," says the anthropologist Gaspar Morquecho, author of a study of the Muslims of Chiapas. "Their defiance of capitalism is similar in many respects to the critique of globalization espoused by many left-wingers."

[snip]

While the Mayan Muslims in Chiapas have been receiving extra attention of late, the Tzotzil conversion has been underway for some time. In the mid 1990s, a group of Spanish Muslims embarked to Latin America to spread the word; their leader was Aureliano Perez, who is now worshipped by the Maya-Muslims as Emir Nafia. He offered the Zapatista rebels fighting under Subcomandante Marcos, whom Perez supported, an ideological-religious alliance. Marcos was hesitant to enter the odd pact, but the Muslim missionaries were unperturbed: They discovered that the Tzotzil Indians made up the majority of the Zapatista rebels and were quite open to the teachings of the prophet Mohammed.

[snip]

"In Islam, the Indians rediscover their original values," claims Esteban Lopez, the Spanish secretary general of the Muslim community. "The Christians destroyed their culture." He presents the use and abuse of alcohol as proof. Alcoholism is wide-spread under Tzotzil Indians and the strict ban on spirits in Islam helps many to break the vicious circle of addiction and poverty.
There does appear to be some common ground between the revolutionary work of the Zapatistas and the Muslim converts in the region with regard to capitalism (neither group seems to have much kind to say about it) and lifestyle (the Zapatistas' leadership has worked diligently to reduce the rampant alcoholism and self-destruction over the last couple decades).

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