ISLAM IN LATIN AMERICA
A brother from Peru sent us this picture from a park in Lima. The park is located in the district of Magdalena del Mar. It is very close to the ocean. The exact date of its construction is not known, but it is one of the many legacies left by the Muslims who migrated to Peru. The park is known as "El Parque de la Media Luna", Which means The Park of the Crescent!
Examples of Islamic architecture, dress, customs, and words of Arabic origin are found everywhere among indigenous peoples in the Americas.
- NEW, August 2003: My Journey to Islam: A Mexican-American Discovers the Truth of Islam - by Ali Mexici
- Islam Taking Root in Southern Mexico - by Dudley Althaus, Houston Chronicle
- From Mexico to Mecca:
How a Latino immigrant reinvented himself in America as a Muslim
By Ana Campoy for the San Francisco Chronicle
- Spanish Muslim mission grows in Mexico By Susan Ferriss - Cox Washington Bureau
- Latino Muslims Build Identity by James Janega, Chicago Tribune, 7/5/02
- Islam has Long and Resurging Presence in Hispanic Culture by Deborah Kong
- A Matter of Faith: Islam is Fastest-Growing Religion in the U.S. by Stephen Magagnini, Sacramento Bee
- An article about Latino Muslims published in La Prensa Newspaper
- Islam Luring More Latinos by Chris Jenkins, Washington Post
- Olé to Allah: New York's Latino Muslims by Hisham Aidi
- A Letter from Brother Ismail Lopez, Mexico City.
- Report on the Muslim Communities of the Republic of Panama.
- A Brief History of the Muslims in Panama by Dr. AbdulKhabeer Muhammad.
- Los Musulmanes, the Spanish Ummah of the Muslim World by Sister N Ballivan.
- Islam in Brazil - two brief articles on the needs and deeds of Brazilian Muslims.
- News of Islam in Cuba - a detailed description of the situation of Cuban Muslims.
- Pobladores usan túnicas y turbantes: Descubren pueblo que no figura en mapa - This is a magazine article (in Spanish) about a town that has been discovered in the jungles of Perú, in a region called Cañete. There are no roads to this town. The houses are described as resembling Masjids, and the inhabitants dress in turbans and thobes (Arab robes).
- Postcards: these postcards from Lima clearly show the Islamic and Arab influence upon Peruvian architecture.
- Under Wraps: this story published in Iviews magazine details the history and presence of Islam in Argentina and Brazil. Worth reading.
- New Islamic Movement Seeks Latino Converts - by Margaret Ramirez, published in the L.A. Times. Good article about Latino Muslims in the U.S.
- Small Wave of Latinos Feel Draw of Islam, by James W. Blair Jr., Special to The Christian Science Monitor
- Spanish and European words of Arabic origin - anthologized by LAMU from several different sources.
- Latin America's First Mega-Mosque Opens Eyes To Islam - by Chris Moss, Islam Online
HISTORY OF ISLAM IN PERU
Muslims came to Peru with the coming of the Spaniards. Many Muslims, then called "Moros", or Moors by the Spaniards, arrived fleeing persecution in Spain. They settled in many places in Latin America, especially Peru, where they had a strong influence on the local way of life including, dress, food, architecture, and the social and political systems. Many of them had very important positions in society, and the women until recently used to wear hijab and were known as "Las Tapadas Limeñas", or "the Covered Ones from Lima". This was a sign of distinction, as many of the Muslim women who immigrated from Spain were the social elite. Today in Lima we have the famous "Balcones Limeños". These balconies are crafted in the "Arabescos" style. They are wooden balconies which protrude from the building's facade and offer the women views with privacy. Walking through the streets of Lima, one can almost imagine that he is walking through the streets of Al-Andalus. Islamic architecture pervades the city.
So the Limeño way of life has been heavily influenced by Islam. But many Muslims, because of persecution, were forced to go into hiding and became "crypto-Muslims", identifying as Christians but secretly practicing Islam. Over time, even this secret affiliation was lost and Islam disappeared from Peru.
The second wave of Muslims came with the migrations from Palestine and Lebanon in the 1940's of Muslims fleeing the Jewish persecution in their homelands. These Muslims were largely merchants. Over time they developed considerable wealth but lost some of their Islamic identity. The descendents of these immigrants still exist in Peru in large numbers, but their Islam is, for the most part, not apparent.
Beginning in the 1980s, Latinos who had travelled abroad and encountered Muslims began converting to Islam. They began da'wah activities, inviting both the immigrant Muslims and the Latino community to Islam. However, being for the most part economically disadvantaged, the resources of these Latino Muslims has been limited. A musalla was opened in a neighborhood in Lima called Jesus Maria in 1993 but was closed due to lack of funds. Another musalla, opened around the same time in Villa El Salvador, was later closed for the same reasons.
Today these nomadic Muslims of Lima have no place to worship Allah as a group. LAMU's immediate goal is to re-open a musalla in Lima which will serve the needs of the Latino Muslim community.
FOR MORE INFO ON THE HISTORY OF MUSLIMS IN THE AMERICAS, SEE THE FOLLOWING SITES:
- Islam and Columbus' America by T.B. Irving.
- Muslims in the Americas Before Columbus by Dr. Youssef Mroueh.
- Muslim American Indians by Mahir Abdal-Razzaaq El, a Cherokee Blackfoot American Indian.
- NativeTech: Native American Technology and Art. This site displays the traditional clothing of Native American tribes in North America. Note the striking similarity to traditional Muslim clothing, especially among the Cherokee women, and Crow, Huron and Seneca men. Is it coincidence, or is it the influence of Muslims who are known to have explored and settled in the Americas before Columbus? You decide.
- MUSLIM LEGACY IN EARLY AMERICAS: West Africans, Moors and Amerindians. Quite fascinating.
- Columbus: What If? Columbus actually employed the navigational skills of Muslims to arrive in the New World, and brought along an Arabic-speaking interpreter.
- Timeline of Muslim exploration of the Americas. Reprinted from The Islamic Bulletin.
- Muslims Were in America Before Columbus. Reprinted from the Saudi Gazette.
- Muslim scientists, mathematicians and astronomers before the European Renaissance, 700 - 1500 C.E.
- Sequoyah and Cherokee Syllabary: fascinating article on the influence of Muslims on the development of the Cherokee culture.
The Shahaadah (Muslim testimony of faith) in Spanish:
DOY TESTIMONIO QUE NO HAY MAS DIVINIDAD QUE ALLAH,
Y DOY TESTIMONIO QUE MOHAMED ES SU SIERVO Y EL ULTIMO DE LOS MENSAJEROS.