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Islam and the Americas$
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Aisha Khan

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780813060132

Published to Florida Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.5744/florida/9780813060132.001.0001

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The Politics of Conversion to Islam in Southern Mexico

The Politics of Conversion to Islam in Southern Mexico

(p.163) 8 The Politics of Conversion to Islam in Southern Mexico
Islam and the Americas

Sandra Cañas Cuevas

University Press of Florida

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

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