Countries

Each country in South America has a different profile. Some are completely different. All they share is a common Latin language; and even that shows heavy dialectal differences.

Likewise, the Arabs among them show the same differences.

Country Numbers of Arabs % of Population Ethnic Makeup of Arabs
(N/A to Suriname)
Religious Makeup of Arabs
(not of total population)
Argentina ~ 4,000,0001 ~ 9% Mostly Syrian and Lebanese 80 – 90% Christian
Bolivia ???? ???? Various Heavily Christian,
only 2000 Muslims in Bolivia
Brazil ~ 10 – 17,000,0002 ~ 7-1/2% Mostly Lebanese and Syrian Over 95% Christian
Colombia ~ 1,500,0003 ~ 3% A mix of everything. Mostly Roman Catholic4
Chile 800,000 5% Half or more Palestinian 99+% Christian
Ecuador ~100,000 ~ 0.6% Mostly Lebanese5 Almost all Catholic
El Salvador small small Mostly Palestinian and Lebanese6 Almost all Christian
Honduras 250,000 ~ 3% Heavily Palestinian7 About 97% Christian
Mexico 1,100,000 1% Almost half are Lebanse 99+% Christian
Suriname 112,0008
Muslims, not necessarily Arabs
20% Indonesian, Asians, Arabs,
Africans
Not Applicable
Uruguay 50-70,000 ~ 2% Mostly Lebanese. Almost all Christian
Venezuela 1,600,000 ~ 6% A mix of everything. Almost all Christian

1Numbers vary. Fearab Argentina claims 4 million / 10%. Others claim less. But there is a large amount of intermarriage now. 9% is a good estimate.
2Numbers vary from 2 – 17 Million, but the estimate of Lebanese-Brazilians alone is 7-10 Million, so 15 Millon for all Arabs is a conservative estimate.
3Very rough estimate. Doubled number of Lebanese. The key was that many arrived as Eastern Christian, but the Maronites are affiliated with Roman Catholicism. So those who arrived as Eastern Christian were probably not Lebanese.
4Many arrived as Eastern Christians, but became Roman Catholic
5Wikipedia reports varying figures. From 20,000 (official) to 97,500 (private figures). However given the tendency of Lebanese Maronites to not identify as Arabs, and given their incredible tendency to assimilate rapidly, the higher numbers are probably more reasonable. Most, however, would be intermarried with other ethnics, which might explain why they do not show up on official figures. Ecuador has had 3 presidents with Lebanese ancestry, so we have to assume the higher figures were more reasonable. What is clear is that they still constitute less than 1% of the population. To produce 3 presidents shows their elite status.
6Though small, El Salvador has had a president of Palestinian ancestry. Antonio Saca. His opponent, Schafik Handal, in the election was also Palestinian. Even more amazing, Saca, the winner, is a devout Evangelical.
7Former President Carlos Roberto Flores Facussé’s mother was Palestinian born.
8Suriname is 19.6% Muslim; however, it is not clear how much of these are Arabs, or the relic Islam of black slaves or the descendents of Javanese/Indonesian/Asian laborers. I used the Muslim figure. Suriname was populated by peoples from the former Dutch empire, and the Arabs in the country may be minimal. The country is: 41% Christian, 27% Hindu, and 20% Muslim, with various indigineous religions as well. Guyana and Suriname are members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference.

What must be remembered, however, is that Suriname and the Guyanas have very small populations. In total, not even equal to a good size Latin America city. Their Muslims are usually not even Arab, but often descended from Indonesians or Asians brought over the the colonial powers.


NOTE: The data can be hard to collect. The problem is that Lebanese Maronites often refuse to be classified with other Arabs. You get ridiculous statistics for Argentina and the USA where there are more Lebanese than Arabs. A good rule of thumb is to roughly double the amount of Lebanese – maybe add 10% on top of that. When you keep that in mind, and do some cross-checking, the numbers often make sense. For example: Doubling the number of Lebanese-Argentines and adding 10% comes close to the 4 million Arab-Argentines claimed by Fearab Argentina.

For a marvelous discussion about the difficuly caused by Maronite misidentification: (Click Here)

As a rule, if you just look for Arab-Argentine or Arab-Brazilian, the numbers will be low, and quite often less than Lebanese-Argentina or Lebanese-Brazilian. There is a history to this. The persecution of Lebanese Maronite Catholics by Muslims made them consider themselves as Phoenician Westerners, NOT Arabs. The upshot is that the estimates for Arabs in South America are often woefully under estimated. This rule of thumb does NOT apply to Chile or Honduras where Palestinians have a very heavy concentration apart from the general Arab community.

Mexico is a wonderful example. The Arabs in Mexico are 45% Lebanese. With the exceptions of Chile and Honduras, where Palestinians are strong, this is a good rule of thumb.

RELIGION: Do not trust Wikipedia’s statistics for Islam. The imams often consider any Arab to be Islamic. For ex:

The imams of Argentina claimed 3 million Muslims.
The census claims only 400-700,000 Muslims.
The number of Christian Arabs is over 3,000,000.
The reality is that less than 20,000 Muslims are practicing. The rest will intermarry into Christianity over time.

The media goes to imams for statistics and we get panicked newsreports of creeping Islam in Latin America; but the imams are delusional.

The number of practicing Muslims in South America is small, even if loud and noticeable.

This may be changing, but South America is also in the midst of a major Evangelical Revival which is sweeping up tens of millions, so do not be upset if the news reports 100,000 more Muslims in Brazil. In the same period of time there are probably 10 Million more Pentecostal Christians. Islam cannot compete against this.


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