Document Type



Master of Arts (MA)


Religious Studies

First Advisor's Name

Ana Maria Bidegain

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee chair

Second Advisor's Name

Albert Wuaku

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member

Third Advisor's Name

Erik Larson

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee member


Muslim Minorities, Shi'ism, Ethnicity, Colombia

Date of Defense



The purpose of this thesis is to analyze the way in which religious beliefs and practices are instrumentalized by a Muslim community in order to strengthen Afro-Colombian ethnic identity, in an urban context of social exclusion. The study aims to examine the relationship between ethnicity and religion, and the role they play in the process of identity construction, particularly the way in which religious concepts and behaviors can be used to fortify ethnic identity. Another aim of this research is to describe and understand the processes of social change in an ethnic-religious minority and, as a final goal, to analyze the history of the Afro-Colombian Muslim community of Buenaventura. The thesis is based on fieldwork, which includes observation activities and interviews with members of the Muslim community in Buenaventura. A total of 21 participants between the ages of 18 and 72 are included in this study, all of them of Afro-Colombian origin. It is clear that the religious conversion of Afro-Colombians to Islam took place within the complex socio-political context of the Colombian conflict. To be sure, the adoption of this new religious perspective did not evolve in an isolated manner, rather, it transformed the identity of the community by strengthening the value of ethnic differences in a place of segregation. In this way, this thesis analyzes the role of religion as an important element in the construction of ethnic identity. Departing from this paradigm, we will look into some theological concepts, such as the Islamic jurisprudence and rituals, which have been reworked, in order to accommodate local aspirations for social mobility and ethnic differentiation. It is important to keep in mind, however, that this cultural negotiation happens at the margins of the dominant society, which negatively views Afro-Colombian minorities, or simply ignores them. Other findings include the identification of key moments of the historical development of the community; the analysis of the processes of conversion to Islam in this population; and the description of the organization, institutionalization, and hierarchy in the community in accordance with the changes from the Islamic perspective they have developed through its five-decade history.





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