BUMBORET VALLEY (Reuters) - Nestled among the valleys of mountainous northwest, a tiny religious community that claims descent from Alexander the Greats army is under increasing pressure from radicals bent on converting them. The Kalash, who number just about 3,500 in countrys population of 180 million, are spread over three valleys along the border with Afghanistan. For centuries they practiced polytheism and animal sacrifice without interference from radical elements in Islam. But now they are under increasing danger from proselytising militants just across the border, and a hardline interpretation of Islam - as Pook Shireen discovered. After falling unconscious during a car accident, the mid-20s member of the paramilitary Chitral Scouts woke to find that people with him had converted him to Islam. Some of the Muslim people here try to influence the Kalash or encourage them by reading certain verses to them from the Quran, said his mother, Shingerai Bibi. The men that were with him read verses of the Quran and then when he woke up they said to him, 'You are a convert now to Islam. So he converted. The lush green Kalash valleys, which sit below snow-capped peaks of the Hindu Kush, have been a magnet for tourists, both for the scenery and for the people, who are indigenous to the area. Most are fair and with light eyes, which they say proves their descent from the army of Alexander of Macedonia that passed through the area in the 4th century BC to invade India. The community brews its own wine and women are not veiled. But the smooth co-existence between the Kalash and Muslims has been fading in recent months and the area is suffering from many of the religious tensions. The conversions are causing splits among the Kalash - converts become outcasts overnight, described by many as dead to their families. When a Kalash converts we dont live with them in our houses anymore, said farmer Asil Khan, sitting on a neighbours balcony. Our festivals and our culture are different. They cant take part in the festivals or the way we live. Some in the area are so concerned that they believe segregation is the only way to protect the Kalash. We should move the Muslims out of the valley to make more room for the Kalash, said Shohor Gul, a Kalash member of the border police who lives in Rumbur valley. This area should be just for us. We dislike these conversions - it disturbs our culture and our festivals, and it reduces our numbers. The subject of Kalash festivals is raised often in these narrow valleys, where carefully cultivated corn crops cover what flat land exists, and the Kalash communitys distinctive wooden houses terrace the valley walls. Held to usher in seasonal change or to pray for a good harvest, Kalash festivals include hypnotic dancing and animal sacrifice, fuelled by the grape wine with which the Kalash lace their gatherings. Converts to Islam say, though, that these rituals quicken the decision to leave the Kalash. The main thing wrong in the Kalash culture are these festivals, said 29-year-old convert Rehmat Zar. When someone dies the body is kept in that house for three days. Muslims usually bury people the day they die. Zar added of the Kalash: They slaughter up to a hundred goats and the family are mourning - but those around them are celebrating, beating drums, drinking wine and dancing. Why are they celebrating this? Thats wrong. Not all of the areas Muslims feel this way. Qari Barhatullah is the imam, or priest, at the Jami Masjid in Bumboret valleys Shikanandeh village. He stresses that many of the valleys Muslims value the Kalashs contributions to the areas tourism industry and contends that Kalash festivals run parallel to their own. He admits though that there is tension between the two communities. Unveiled Kalash girls in colourful homemade skirts and head-dresses grow up alongside Muslim women covered by the all-enveloping burqas. The Kalash girls are also free to marry who they chose, in a country where arranged marriages are common. We do support the Kalash - Islam teaches us respect for other religions - but there are people here, maybe they are not as educated - who dont like the Kalash because of their religion, Barhatullah said. Akram Hussain oversees the Kalasha Dur, a cultural centre devoted to promoting and protecting the Kalash culture, a stunning structure of elegantly crafted carved wooden beams and stone where Kalash children are educated. It also houses a library, clinic and museum, which are open to both the Kalash and Muslim communities. Some of the Muslims here dont want to educate the Kalash people. They dont want us to have an education, he said. Without more schools that cater exclusively to the Kalash, though, Hussain worries his community and culture will be disappear. A provincial spokesman said the regional government is funding development projects for the Kalash and that Pakistan was committed to protecting their unique heritage. We have set aside Rs 15 million over three years for projects such as improving roads, water supply systems and community centres, said Ahmad Hassan. Whatever the Kalash say they need.