Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Lebanese at 27th annual Ethnic Festival in Rosario

Argentina has a national Ethnic Groups day.

This is the Lebanese section of a 27th annual ethnic festival, in Rosario, which is Argentina’s third biggest city, about 180 miles NW of Buenos Aires.

Depending on who you ask, 8% to 10% of Argentines have some Arab background, though in some cases it is heavily diluted with Spanish, Italian, etc. Mostly Syrian Orthodox or Maronite Catholic. They tend to be less radicalized than Chile’s Palestinians, who are almost totally Christian.

Oddly, Argentina has a bit more Muslims, but they seem to be less radicalized because the Palestinian presence – even a Christian one – is minimal; whereas in Chile, half the Arabs are Palestinian.

Argentina’s Muslims are about 10% of the Arab population – which translates to about 1% of the total population. However, the Muslims in Argentina tend to be totally assimilated. Their own imams try to exaggerate the numbers, but Pedro Brieger, an Argentine Acadamic, has noted that in 2003 the real numbers of practicing Muslims were grossly exaggerated.1

The prevalence of Syrian Orthodox and Maronite Catholic seems to moderate the views of Argentine Arabs. Yes, there is some degree of support for Palestine. That is to be expected from any Arab community; but you do not see the large scale political support one sees in Chile.

The reason I suspect is that Palestinians are less common in Argentina.

1See: La Comunidad Musulmana en la Argentina (In Spanish), Pedro Brieger.
Los datos, extraoficiales, son importantes si se tiene en cuenta que en promedio se habla en Argentina de familias tipo de cuatro integrantes, lo que implicaría que en la ciudad de Buenos Aires habría un poco más que 4500 musulmanes, muy alejado del imaginario popular

Translation: The data, unofficial, are important if one considers that an average family in Argentina speaks of four types, which would imply that the city of Buenos Aires would have a little more than 4500 Muslims, far from the popular imagination

My Note: The Buenos Aires Metro area has 1/3rd of Argentina’s population. Immigrants tend to be found in Buenos Aires rather than the outlying areas which usually have older stocks. So we can assume even lower concentrations outside Buenos Aires. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.

Former President Carlos Menem’s Syrian Muslim parents settled in the interior La Rioja Province; but they ran a winery, a practice forbidden to Muslims; so even the exceptions prove the rule. Carlos himself converted to Catholicism.

What this means, in effect, is less than 10,000 practicing Muslims in a country of 41,000,000. Or roughly about 0.025% practicing Muslims.

This is changing. The Saudi financed King Fahd Mosque is probably re-invigorating some renewed interest in the lapsed Muslim community which is considerably larger. But it is competing with a rising Evangelical Revival sweeping all of South America, even Argentina, which is now 9% Evangelical. Until recently, Protestantism was primarily found among some Swedish- and German-Argentines and the Anglo-American resident communities; but that is changing, apparently rapidly so.

I doubt even a resurgent Islam can compete with it.