Latin Arabia

A World You Never Knew Existed

Friday, August 31st, 2012

The King Fahd Mosque

The King Fahd Mosque was built on eight acres of downtown Buenos Aires on land donated in 1995 to the Saudis by Carlos Menem, the president of Argentina, and the Argentine Congress. Menem was a nominal convert to Catholicism, being himself the son of Syrian born Muslim immigrant parents.

In the 1990s, Buenos Aires was a boom city, and one of the most expensive places on the planet to live (This was before their currency collapse). So donating eight acres was equivalent to donating Bryant Park in Manhattan to the Saudis. One wonders what possessed the Argentine government to donate such prime real estate to the Saudis.


A Tour of South America’s Largest Mosque

Non-Muslims in Argentina don’t seem to know much about this complex other than that former President Carlos Saúl Menem (himself of Syrian descent) was responsible for it. This is somewhat true. King Fahd of Saudia Arabia financed the construction, which totaled some U$15m. Menem’s contribution was arranging the donation of the land, which has been valued at around U$10m. Congress passed a national law in 1995, giving the land to the cultural centre. The first stone was laid on 7th December 1998, not without some slight controversy: neighbours were unsure about the increased traffic and architectural disharmony, among other issues. But the centre opened on 25th September 2000 with much fanfare as King Fahd himself and 250 other dignitaries came from Saudi Arabia to celebrate the opening.

It is architecturally beautiful, and positively enormous. – it is the biggest Mosque in South America. But there were only 4,500 practicing Muslims in Buenos Aires, at that time, and there was no need for it. It has given the Saudis a door into Argentina to create future headaches.

Source: The Muslim Community of Argentina

… a realistic guess for the Muslim population of Buenos Aires might be around 4,500, far fewer than the number projected by some Muslim officials.

Already the Mosque’s Islamic Center has caused some controversy. A very popular secular Arab-Argentine show, Desde El Aljibe (From the Well)1 was cancelled to make way for Muslim programming that no one wanted – rumors flew around as the to the reason; but what is interesting is that Argentina’s Arab Community, which is 90% or more Christian were among the loudest to complain.

Islam is roughly 1% of the population in Argentina, but even that number may be grossly exaggerated. As academics have noted, the vast majority of Muslims in Argentina do not practice their religion; and were historically inclined to marry into Catholicism. This mosque may slow or halt that process of assimilation.

Until recently, much of South America was content to remain out of Mideast politics. However, now Iranian and Arab Oil Money have infiltrated this very Christian continent. Every nation in South America, except Colombia, recognized Palestine as a nation and set up embassies.

If the USA and Israel do not wake up, the Arabs will turn South America against Israel. Certainly the Saudis and Iranians won’t convert the mass of the Latins to Islam; but they will spread a virulent anti-Zionism.


1Desde El Aljibe (From the Well) was a generic show about Arab culture, music, cooking, dance, history and travelogues. They even had short lessons on the Arab language, geared to teach the Spanish speaking audience a few phrases.

Music and singing were common on Desde el Aljibe (From the Well).
Source: ElAljibedetodos, a viewer who assembled hundreds of these videos on his YouTube channel.

The hosts were Christian, but the show was secular. The show had Muslims and Jews on regularly. It was aimed at a generic audience, not just Arab-Argentines. A typical show might have a cooking lesson, some history, maybe a travelogue about Jordan or Syria, etc. There might be a discusson of politics. And it would have Arab or Arab-Latin music; and often close with an Arab folkdance troupe. It was on Argentine Public TV, and their old webpage is still up though the show has been cancelled. The show was primarily harmless and pushed no strong agenda. Palestine might be mentioned from time to time, but the show did not beat a war path.

No one wanted this but the Saudi financed Islamic Center

When Desde El Aljibe got cancelled to make way for a blantantly religious Muslim show, centered from the King Fahd Mosque, there was a degree of community protest. Was this due to money or bribes? Did the ratings drop that much because a popular host on the show died? But even if the ratings dropped, why would the show be replaced with a show geared to Muslim prosyletization to a Catholic country?

The fate of Desde El Aljibe seems to be symptomatic of a general trend of growing Arab Oil Money influence in the continent. The issue was not so much that it was cancelled, but that is was replaced by Muslim programming nobody seemed to have wanted but the Islamic Center.

When news got out about the cancellation, FEARAB Argentina (Federation of Arab Societies in Argentina) put out a protest video to stop the cancellation. No one listened, but it does show that the Arab community in Argentina had enough guts to stand up to Islamic encroachment which did not represent them.

Their video – which I translated – is worth watching as it shows a gutsy political incorrectness missing in American political dialogue


The background music is Awal Sahur
a piece by Mario Kirlis, an Arab-Latin musician,
and it was Desde El Aljibe‘s closing theme

Sadly, their request was ignored.

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Restaurant Al Shark

This is an Arab Restaurant in the Palermo district of Buenos Aires, one of Buenos Aires’ better neighbordhoods.

The restaurant’s name Al-Shark comes from Al Sharq which is Arabic for “the East.” It does not mean the man eating fish, shark, which in Spanish is tiburón.

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Arabic Language Instruction

Now this is the Colegio Argentino-Árabe , where Arabic language instruction is taught.

It is a Muslim institution, one of the few in Argentina; but notice the blonde in the front row. Notice the teachers. Notice how European many of the teachers and students look. All of the ladies are wearing pants. No burqas or hijabs here. The children are mixed gender. The dress is conservative, but Western.

Hardly what one would expect from a Traditional Sunni school.

From what I have read, a lot of non-Muslims take their courses to learn Arabic.

Of course, the Colegio-Árabe wants to convert Christians, and instruction in the Arabic language is a way to effect that; but it remains to be seen if the Christian students will actually water down Islam in Argentina.

Until recently, with the advent of Saudi money, Islam took a real beating in Argentina. Most Muslims were non-practicising. Intermarriage and conversion kept them pretty much on the edge of demographic collapse.

If you think I am exaggerating, this article by Pedro Breiger, an Argentine Academic and news commentator noted in 2000:

Muslims in Argentina

The number of Muslims in Argentina is decreasing, and this is due to several factors. Firstly, in families of Muslim origin, customs are being lost, from the Arabic language to food and drink. Secondly, there is relatively little reading material on Islam available in Spanish. There is a growing tendency toward mixed marriages in which children lose all references to Islam, and there are too few study centres for disseminating Islam. This may, however, change in the future with the construction of the new Islamic Cultural Center King Fahd, financed by the Saudi government, which includes a school and a mosque with a minaret in the heart of Buenos Aires. It is considered to be the largest of its kind in Latin America.

Pedro Brieger noted that Islam in Argentina, around 2000, was on life-support. It was dying out. There were not enough local support to save it.

But he also noted the potential problem of Saudi Arabian money and the King Fahd Mosque, which in 2000 was being built. This observation was prescient on his part.

The King Fahd Mosque – and Saudi Money – has caused some noticeable problems. However other sources indicate most of any increase in Muslims is coming from new non-Arab immigrants, NOT Arab Argentines. If true, the King Fahd Mosque may only be delaying the death of Islam.

It remains to be seen if Saudi Money will cause some major problems. If so, Argentina was foolish to have even allowed it in at all.


BTW: as an aside, notice the winter clothing (this is the Southern Hemisphere, and June is the dead of winter). Argentine schools are in disrepair. Central heating is not one of their strong points. Buenos Aires is borderline subtropical; but in winter it can get close to freezing.

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