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22 I SPECIAL FEATURE Passion Islam I December 2009
ISLAM
IN CHILE
The statistics for Islam in Chile origin and their faith, since religion was
estimate a total Muslim population of not included in that census. However,
approximately 4000, representing less the census of 1895 registered
than .1% of the population.[1] There the presence of 76 “Turks”, 58 of
are a number of Islamic organizations them Muslims, who were primarily
in Chile, including Sociedad concentrated in the north of Chile in
Musulmana de Chile y Mezquita As- Tarapacá, Atacama, Valparaiso, and
Salam (“Muslim Society of Chile and Santiago. In the census of 1907, the
Masjid As-Salam”) in Santiago de Muslim population was reported to
Chile, Mezquita Bilal (“Bilal Mosque”) have increased to 1,498 people, all
In 1988 the construction of the
in Iquique and the Centro Cultural of them foreigners. They were 1,183
mosque of Santiago de Chile named
Mohammed VI (“Mohammed VI men and 315 women, representing
Mezquita As-Salam was initiated by
Cultural Center”) in Coquimbo. only 0.04 percent of the population,
Sheikh Taufiq Rumie’, who had led
although this was recorded as the
the Muslim community for more than
History highest percentage of Muslims in
sixty years. The mosque was finished
According to Chronicles of the History Chile’s history. In 1920 a new census
in 1989 and was inaugurated by a
of Chile by Aurelio Díaz Meza, there showed that the number of Muslims
prince of Malaysia in 1996, and it was
was a man in the expedition of had decreased to 402, with 343 men
reported that by end of the 1980s
discoverer Diego de Almagro, called and 59 women. The greatest numbers
some indigenous Chileans had also
Pedro de Gasco who was a morisco, were in Santiago and Antofagasta,
converted to Islam, with numbers
or Moor from al-Andalus in Spain who with 76 in each province.
increasing after the completion of the
was forced to convert from Islam to In Santiago, the first Islamic
mosque. Muslim Chilean population
Catholicism. The coming of moriscos institution of Chile, the Society of
was increased by the presence of
was covered by history but, recently Muslim Union of Chile (Sociedad
foreign trade and investment from
scholars of Chilean history have Unión Musulmana), was founded on 25
Muslim countries. Many Malaysian
started acknowledging the country’s September 1926. Later, on 16 October
businessmen and their families
Moorish heritage and its effects on 1927, the Society of Mutual Aids and
settled Chile after the inauguration of
the development of Chilean culture Islamic Charity was established.
the mosque by a Malaysian prince.
and identity. With the 1952 census, the number of
Due to the external interference,
It is known that in 1854 two “Turks” Muslims had risen again to 956. The
and in special to the strengthening
resided in the country, a situation majority lived in Santiago, with tbe
of Shia Islam by part of the Iranian
that was repeated in the censuses rest of the population scattered in the
help in 1996, they inaugurated Centro
of 1865 and 1875. Their country of provinces of Antofagasta, Coquimbo,
de Cultura Islámica, in Las Condes,
origin is not known, just that they Valparaíso, O’Higgins, Concepción,
Santiago, where they consolidated
were natives of some territory of the Malleco, Cautín and Valdivia, without
a Shi’ite Muslim community who
immense Ottoman Empire, and this much organization among them. Their
mostly arrived in Chile in 1800s. Most
was followed two years later by the numbers decreased again, so that by
Shi’ite Muslim Chileans are of Iranian
first major wave of Muslims to Chile 1960 there were only 522, with the
blood, they may still speak Persian
began in 1856, with the arrival of Arab majority of 209 living in Santiago. A
and/or other Iranian language, aside
immigrants from the Ottoman Empire decade later, the number of Muslims
from Arabic and Spanish. In 1997,
territories consisting of today’s Syria, had increased to 1,431. However, the
Pakistani retailers purchased land for
Lebanon and Palestine. census did not indicate whether they
the construction of the Bilal Mosque
According to the 1885 census, the were men or women, nationals or
and madrasa in Iquique, which was
number of “Turks” had risen to 29, but foreigners. Nevertheless, they were
completed in 1999. Following the
there is no precise information on their spread throughout the country.
death of Sheikh Taufiq Rumie’ in 1998,
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