Monday 14 October 2019

Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries: Chile

Chile, the Latin American country, has one of the least significant Muslim population in the world: approximately 5000 or merely 0.1% of its total population. But despite their small numbers, the Chilean Muslims live a very active and faithful life. And while for reference material, I came to a very pleasant surprise that I added at the end of the post.

The earliest presence of Muslims in this part of the world dates back to mid nineteenth century when presence of two Turk Muslims back in 1854. This figure continued to rise rather slowly and by 1895, there were 76 Turks in the country, 58 of which were Muslims.

In the census of 1907, the Muslims had risen to 1,498 people, all of them foreigners, representing only 0.04 percent of the population. This is the highest percentage of Muslims in Chile’s history. In view of the growing Muslim population, specially in Santiago and Antofagasta, the first Islamic institution of Chile, the Society of Muslim Union of Chile, was founded in 1926 in Santiago. This was followed by establishment of the Society of Mutual Aids and Islamic Charity in 1927. By 1952, the Muslim population had almost reached the 1000 mark, 956 to be exact.
Magnificent view of As Salam mosque, Santiago [photo]

As Salam mosque was the first ever Muslim worship place that was commissioned in 1995 in Temuco, inaugurated by the King of Malaysia. the mosque is considered one of the three best ones of Latin America, after those of Venezuela and Brazil. 
“I’ll never forget that day,” says the imam of Al-Salam Mosque, Sami Elmushtawi. “The day of the mosque’s inauguration was a day where the dreams of the Muslim community became true.” The Egyptian imam says further, “For us this was a unique opportunity, because not every day we are visited by kings, nor mosques are inaugurated either.”
The mosque, built to welcome 500 people, consists of three floors. The first has reading rooms, multipurpose hall, baths and cafeteria. The second contains the prayer hall, and the third has the office of the imam and rooms for guests.
Interior of As Salam mosque, Santiago [photo]

By end of the 1980s many indigenous Chileans converted to Islam. Usama Abu Gazaleh was elected Imam of the mosque following the passing of Taufiq Rumie'in 1998. In 1997 Pakistani retailers purchased land for the construction of the Bilal Mosque and madrasa in Iquique, which was completed in 1999 [details in last part of the post].

Islam is spreading out of Santiago. The Islamic Chilean Corporation of Temuco, founded in October 2001 in the city of Temuco, has the mission of spreading the Islamic culture and traditions. In addition, today it tries to open more channels to spread the moral values of Islam, overcoming the prejudices after 11 September 2001.

Chileans women converted to Islam describe how they live as Muslims in a country which is dominantly Catholic, and how they are perceived. The attack of 11 September generated insults and practical jokes against them.

Karima Alberto, a 35-year-old housewife married to a Syrian merchant, has two children. She met her husband in his store. “He was the reason I converted to Islam, he told me marvelous things about Islam so I began to go to the mosque and learned more about Islam. It was like self-discovery,” she says.

Karima says that some people started treating them differently because of the 11 September attack. Although she is yearning to go to Makkah, she has already met her husband’s relatives in Damascus. “It was not difficult to stop eating pork or drink alcohol. It’s God’s will, and it’s stated in the Qur’an. Although some people think it’s a big sacrifice, I don’t look at it that way at all. Islam has given me a new vision.”

Carla Olivari, an 18-year-old student in a mixed school, says, “Now I do not feel pressured to drink alcohol at parties or to lose my virginity.” At the age of 16, she used to pass by the mosque until one day she decided to enter. She left the mosque as a Muslim. “I feel that Allah chose me.” Her parents, who are Catholic, did not oppose, but her brother did. “When he sees me praying in my room, he calls me a lunatic.” However, she not only fasts during Ramadan, but on other days as well. “Above all, I pray for the victims in Palestine and Iraq.” Carla wants to marry a Muslim. “My husband has to be a Muslim. I want my children to grow up in a Muslim family that teaches them important family values. Then I will get veiled permanently, not like now, when I only use it in the mosque.”

Habitat Abdullah, 40 years old, is a doctor at Roberto Del Río Hospital. She emphasizes that she carries the surname of her father, “Because Islam permits us to conserve our surname and not to be Mrs. Somebody.”
Mezquita Bilal - Masjid Bilal [Photo]

A small Pakistani community is also part of the Chilean Muslims. As mentioned above, small businessmen from Pakistan have constructed a mosque, Mezquita Bilal Masjid Bilal, and an adjoining school in Iquique, a port city and commune in northern Chile ,which is home to gathering of small Pakistan community for offering prayers, specially the Jumma and Eid prayers.
A selfie of Pakistani Muslims on the eve of Eid ul Fitr 2019 Iquique Chile [Photo]
Eid Greeting at Masjid Bilal

Today, Islam can be felt in Santiago and it is on the rise. The best part is that they are coexisting well with the mainstream Christian Orthodox. Watch a small video of Chilean Muslims:
Author's Note: The data for this post 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.

To know more about life of Muslims in other non Muslim countries, please visit our page: Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries

Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 |
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