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Come to your Census! Muslims in Mexico

19 February 2014

While rather interesting, the article by William Schaefer for Global Post about Islam in Mexico (“Mexican Catholics find God in Islam“) is highly misleading in suggesting that there is any growth within the tiny Islamic community in Mexico.  While there are a few converts every year, Islam is only the religion of one percent of the population.  Schaefer’s contention that “a small yet growing group of converts are seeking spiritual salvation in Islam” doesn’t seem to hold up, given the author’s reference source:  a 2011  study by Pew of “The Future of the Global Muslim Population“.

Ignoring the one indigenous Muslim community in Mexico, formed by formerly Presbyterian Tzotziles and Tzeltales who underwent a mass conversion to Islam after being driven out of a traditionalist Catholic community, only to find themselves persecuted by Evangelicals, it appears Mexican Muslims are either immigrants,  from immigrant families, converts through marriage, or… as Schaefer focuses on … those who convert from Roman Catholicism for any number of reasons.

While  Schaefer relies on the Pew study, which “estimates Mexico will be home to 126,000 Muslims by 2030, up from 111,000 in 2010″, the 2010 Mexican Census found 3,760 Mexicans claims “Islamica” as their religious preference.  The Pew figures would show Islam as the religion of one percent of Mexicans (and slated to grow to… one percent of Mexicans by 2030), the latter as less than 0.004 percent.  It’s possible that Muslims did not answer the question, or described themselves as belonging to “other religions” … or… as is common in Mexico for people who practice more than one faith simultaneously (normally Roman Catholicism and some offshoot of indigenous beliefs that incorporate Catholic or other Christian practices… Fidencioismo, Luz del Mundo, etc.), at least publicly, the person claims to be  Catholic or of no particular faith.

At any rate, even using the much higher Pew estimates, Mexico has one of the smallest Islamic communities in the America.  Canada, about eight percent Muslim has the highest percentage in North America; Argentina (also about eight percent) the largest in Latin America and Dutch speaking Suriname (15 percent) the largest in the hemisphere.

As it is, there are probably more Buddhists than Muslims in Mexico .  Unofficially there are an estimated 100,000 Mexican Buddhists, although the  2010 Census came up with nly 18,000 members of “Religiones de origen oriental”… lumping together Buddhists, Shintos and Hindus (including Hare Krishnas among the latter).  Again the Census numbers are much lower than estimates or self-reported numbers, indicating either reluctance by members of minority sects to state their faith, or that the people the sects consider as members, the people themselves do not.

As it is, I don’t see Islam or Buddhism likely to ever be more than very minor sects within Mexico, nor to  factor in political or social policy.

Sources:

Panorama de las religiones en México 2010 (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, 2011)… 278 pages, loads very slowly as a pdf.
William Schaefer
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