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Friday, February 15, 2019

Muslims in Non Muslims Countries: Argentina


Argentina is home to one of Latin America’s largest Muslim communities. There are varying estimates as to the exact number of Muslims living in Argentina as state census does not take into account the religious considerations while counting the heads. However the best estimates by the Pew Research Centre put Argentinians Muslims around  1,000,000 in in the year 2010. The first mentioned Muslim settlers were the 15th century's Moorish-Morisco (Muslims of the Iberian peninsula of North African, Middle-Eastern and Spanish descent) who explored the Americas with Spanish explorers, many of them settling in Argentina who were fleeing from persecution in Spain such as the Spanish Inquisition. [1]

Later Syrians and Lebanese, came to Argentina as immigrants during the 19th and 20th century. Currently, Islam is easily accepted in Argentina as a religion, and there is no oddity to being a Muslim in Argentine society. According to The Argentina Independent, “no discrimination exists [in Argentina] on account of being Muslim” and “a Muslim in Argentina…can practice his faith in complete peace, without any inconvenience.” [2]

There are also many mosques and cultural centers throughout Argentina, including the Central Mosque, built by Muslim Argentines in 1989, and the King Fahd Islamic Culture Centre, which is the largest mosque in South America.

In Argentina, there are a small community of believers, who are converts that attend retreats and social programs in order to share their commitments to spread the teachings of Islam. Many Muslim Argentines would gather on a weekly basis to learn about their faith, the Quran, and the meaning of belonging to an Ummah (Community).




Although Muslims represent a minority in Argentina, the government is making an effort to ensure that Argentine Muslims are free to express their religion without facing discrimination. In 2011, the government passed legislation allowing women to wear Hijab in public without facing persecution. This law expanded the freedom of religion and expression in Latin America, and helped “the Muslim community to better integrate into Argentine society.” In addition, “according to the new law, Argentinean Muslim women can use photographs wearing headscarf for their national ID cards.”

While in many other countries where Muslim population is increasing, it is the other way in Argentina where the number of Argentine Muslims is decreasing due to several key factors: [2] 
  • Firstly, many customs are being lost including learning about the Islamic culture, religion, and the Arabic language. Many Muslim Argentines only have one Muslim parent and do not know Arabic as the younger generations have learned Spanish as their first language. 
  • Secondly, there is very little reading material for native Spanish speakers or texts relevant to Islam, especially the Quran. 
  • And lastly, there is a lack of study centers and madrasas (Schools) for Islamic teachings. Many Argentine Muslims have better integrated into their country’s culture and they are sometimes not aware of their origins.
Thus the present community feels that there is an urgent need to establish Muslim teaching communities in Spanish language as there are millions of Latin Americans whose native language is Spanish. The problem for conserving Islam in Argentina is that some Argentine Muslims no longer connect to their faith, and most Argentines do not even consider themselves Muslim, even though their ancestors were Muslim. There is less of a fear for Islam in Argentina than in Europe. According to Waqas Syed, the Deputy Secretary General for the Islamic Center of North America, “Unlike Europe and North America, Latin America has been quite untouched with any of the anti-Islamic rhetoric and the relationship between Muslims and non-Muslim Latinos can be described as excellent and strong.” Many Europeans and Americans associate Islam with radicalization, but this is not necessarily the case in Argentina. [2]

The Muslim and Jewish communities rather go well with each other. Despite the fact that there have been attacks on the Jewish communities and Jews had reservations about Muslims' involvement, both the communities still get together and try to have harmonious relationship. 

I came across an article "In Argentina, Muslims and Jews make hummus not war" - which is about a coexistence initiative, by both Muslims and Jews in Argentina’s bustling capital city of Buenos Aires. In September 2017, 20 amateur chefs participated in a hummus-making competition at the Tetuan Moroccan Grill restaurant in the trendy Palermo Soho neighborhood. About 300 people showed up to see judges award a winner of what was unofficially dubbed The First World Championship of Hummus. The event was less about competition and more about bringing people of different cultures and religions together through the food they all love. [3]

However, the Muslim community in Argentina, along with the Diaspora across Latin America and worldwide, has been subject to the Western media’s biased and faulty inferences about Muslims. But despite these reservations, Muslims live a life as per their beliefs and trying to coexist with Jews and other faiths. In the capital Buenos Aires, one can find halal meat and eateries serving halal food. Besides there a re number of centers teaching Arabic and selling Islam related books.

Watch a video in which Muslims are seen welcoming the Hijab law in Argentina:

Author's Note: The data above has been collected from the references as given below. IF any one differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

Photo (King Fahd Islamic Cultural Center)| References: | 1 | 2 | 3 |
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