(Tigre Delta, Buenos Aires | Image credit : planetware.com )
Argentina is home to one of Latin America’s largest Muslim minorities; the Muslim community is estimated to make up around 1.9% of the overall population, according to The Association of Religious Data Archives.
Between the late 19th century and the early 20th century, the Argentine government witnessed a wave of Arab migrants coming from the Middle East, notably from Syria and Lebanon, which were both part of the Ottoman Empire. Thus, Islam began spreading through the migrants' families.
The country’s first two mosques were built in the 80’s; first, the At-Tauhid mosque was opened for the Shia community of Buenos Aires in 1983, with support from the Iranian embassy. The Al-Ahmad mosque was built for the Sunni community in 1985 and is the first building in the country that has Islamic architecture.
(King Fahd Mosque | Photo credit : u/redshift17970 on Reddit)
Argentine Muslims were overlooked by the population, but this began to shift in 1989 with the election of Carlos Menem, whose Muslim background pushed him to donate to the Muslim community. In 1995, he sold 8 acres of land in Buenos Aires to build the King Fahd Mosque, the largest mosque in Latin America, following his state visit to Riyadh. Many Argentine Muslims see this building as the capstone of Menem’s legacy. The King Fahd Islamic Cultural Centre was built in 1996 and includes the actual mosque, a library, two schools and a park.
Sadly, the number of Argentine Muslims is decreasing due to several key factors :
Many customs are being lost including learning about the Islamic culture, religion, and the Arabic language.
There is very little reading material for native Spanish speakers or texts relevant to Islam, especially the Quran.
There is also a lack of study centers and schools for Islamic teachings.
However, in contrast to Europe and the United States, Islamic customs in Argentina are followed more openly, even though there are some who still keep their religion a secret. Argentine Muslims are optimistic about practicing their faith freely throughout the country. Many Muslim officials see Argentina as an ideal location where Islam has played a positive role in spreading the unbiased truth of Islamic values.
Islam is beginning to be explored in Latin America, and in the near future, there is some hope for Latin American citizens and their political leaders to increase tolerance towards Muslims in the region.
Sources : Wikipedia, Amaliah.com ( by Israa Abid ), COHA ( by Vincent Lofaso )