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Passion Islam I June 2009 SPECIAL FEATURE I 23
Lets call it Fate
Islam growing in
Latin America
Some three-four million Muslims years, increasing numbers of
live in Latin America and over Catholics of Hispanic and Indian
50,000 of them are Hispanic. American origin have been
Majority of Muslims there have accepting Islam. Local mestijo and
roots from Middle Eastern indigenous people are embracing
countries like Syria, Lebanon and Islam in larger numbers.
Palestine. There are large Muslim In the 1990s, majority of Da’wah
populations in Brazil, Venezuela activities were spearheaded by
and Columbia. Mosques and reverts (converts) to Islam. Each
prayer houses can be found in all year more students from Latin
major cities. America complete their Islamic
Islam in Latin America began studies at institutions around the
with Muslim journeys to the Muslim world.
continent even before the arrival Influential Arab Muslims did
of Columbus. Evidence of this play an important role in setting
early contact is based on world up Islamic centres. But now the
maps produced by Muslims in the spread of Islam has been taken
early 16th century. Later, during forward by Hispanic Muslims.
the voyages of Columbus to the Converts in Mexico run majority
New World, some Muslim Moors of activities.
are believed to have accompanied
him, fleeing persecution in the Colombian Dawah Center
Iberian Peninsula. In Brazil, the One of the Islamic centers in Latin
importation of African slaves during America is the Colombian Dawah
the colonial period accounted for Center, situated in the area of Dos
a substantial influx of Muslims Quebradas in the city of Pereira.
into the continent. Little is known Pereira itself is located in one of
whether these early Muslims were the main coffee growing regions of
able to maintain their faith. Colombia. Its central location and
The Islamic influence on easy access to other parts of the
regional architecture and culture country make it an ideal location
between 1600-1800 CE is still for the establishment of an Islamic
visible today in cities such as center.
Lima, Cholula and Guatemala The first mosque in Pereira
City. Lima, the capital of Peru, is was built in 2007. It is the focal
famous for its Tapadas Limenas point of the Muslim community,
or Covered Women in Lima. and serves as a center for Islamic
During the 18th Century, there learning and social gatherings.
was uprising of Muslim slaves Some of the activities and facilities
(Brazil201835). at the Colombian Dawah Center
Since late 19th century, Arabs include:
first began to immigrate from the • Baraka Cafeteria, which serves
Middle East to Latin America. The halal food for Muslims;
descendants of these immigrants • Islamic classes that teach basic
are still found today in significant aspects of the religion;
numbers. Further, emigrants from • Hosting regional Islamic
Syria, Lebanon and Palestine conferences and Da‘wah
increased during the mid 20th workshops;
Century after Israel’s occupation The Center aims to become
of Palestine and its surrounding self sufficient in due course so
areas. These Muslims were that it can fund its own activities.
largely merchants and became It does not want to be dependent
influential in local trade. Many on external bodies for assistance.
have even held leading positions The key focus is on developing an
in government. Islamic center that caters to the
In the 1980s, many who had needs, culture and sensitivities of
previously lost touch with their the local people.
Islamic roots have been turning
back to Islam. Over the last 25 By Dr. Mozammel Haque Masjid Omar in Maicao, Colombia
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