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Passion Islam I November 2008 SPECIAL FEATURE I 27
Even though it was short lived, the foreign assistance and individual effort years, Islam has become increasingly
revolt was the largest slave revolt in Brazil have played major roles in the sustainability noticeable in Brazilian society by building
and the largest urban slave revolt in the of the mosques in the greater São Paulo not only mosques, but also libraries, arts
Americas. About 300 Africans took part area. For example the Imam of the Av. Do centres, and schools and also by funding
and the estimated death toll ranges from Estado Mosque is from the Middle East newspapers. The growth of Islam within
fifty to a hundred, although exact numbers and often Imams are chosen jointly by Brazil is demonstrated in the fact that 2 of
are unknown. This number increases the Mosques’ management committees the 3 existing Portuguese versions of the
even more if the wounded who died in and the Arab governments that pay for Qur’an were created by Muslim translators
prisons or hospitals are included. Many the Imam’s services. Ismail Hatia, a South in São Paulo.
participants were sentenced to death, African who came to Brazil in 1956, built a
prison, whippings, or deportation. The mosque in Campinas few years ago. Hatia,
Urgent: Brazil Muslims
rebellion had nationwide repercussions. who also runs a language school, felt that
Imams needed
Fearing the example might be followed, the approximately 50 Muslim families
Dr. Muhammad Hilmy Nasr, president of the
the Brazilian authorities began to watch in Campinas were in dire need of some
Islamic Cenetr of Brazil, has said that the Muslims
the malês very carefully and in subsequent community organisation to help provide
of Brazil are in dire need of Muslim scholars, men
years intensive efforts were made to force cohesion and direction for the Muslims.
of jurisprudence and others, to teach in schools
conversions to Catholicism and erase the The Campinas mosque now holds regular
and universities in the country. He said that there
popular memory of and affection towards Friday prayers and is in the process of
are 73 universities in Brazil, and not one of them
Islam. However, the African Muslim establishing regular night prayers on
has instituted Islamic Studies as a subject for
community was not erased overnight, and Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.
as late as 1910 it is estimated there were The mosque is currently in need of a full
He told a leading Brazilian newspaper in
still some 100,000 African Muslims living time Imam whose salary would be paid for
Brazil that there are no Arabic schools in the
in Brazil. by the Saudi Arabian government. country, and that Muslim children in the country
A recent trend has been the increase do not know any Arabic which is a concern.
Muslim immigrants in Brazil in conversions to Islam among non- Dr. Nasr said that there are 1.5 million
Arab citizens. A recent Muslim source Muslims in Brazil. He gave the example of Sao
Following the forced assimilation of the estimated that there are close to 10,000 Paulo, one of the largest Brazilian cities, with a
Afro-Brazilian Muslim community, the next Muslim converts living in Brazil. Indeed, population of 17 million, and said that in that city
period of Islam in the country was primarily Brazil may have become a hub for Islam
there is only one Islamic school. He said there
the result of Muslim immigration from the in Latin America. During the past 30
are no Islamic publications of any kind.
Middle East and South East Asia. Some
11 million Syrian and Lebanese (mostly
Christians) immigrants live throughout
Brazil. The biggest concentration of
Muslims is found in the greater São Paulo
Architecture and cuisine also bear the
trademarks of the culture brought to the
hemisphere by the Arabs. Not even fast
food has escaped the immigrant influence,
as the second largest fast food chain in
Brazil is Habib’s, which serves Arab food.
And the diversity of influence stretches to
businesses such as the textile industry,
which is dominated by Arab merchants.
The São Paulo city council even has
a Muslim Councillor by the name of
Mohammad Murad, who is a lawyer by
profession. A number of mosques dot
the greater São Paulo area. The oldest
and most popular of these is found on
Av. Do Estado. Since its establishment
over seventy years ago, the mosque has
added a Quranic school, library, kitchen
and meeting hall for various functions.
Number of Muslims
According to the Brazilian census of 2000
there were 27,239 Muslims living in the
country, primarily concentrated in the
states of São Paulo and Paraná. Muslim
community leaders in Brazil estimated
that there were between 700,000 and
three million Muslims, with the lower figure
representing those who actively practiced
their religion, while the higher estimate
would include also nominal members.
The rise of Islam in Brazil
As has been the case in many of the larger
metropolitan mosques in South America,
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