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.
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.
… 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.
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.
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.