The Sun Maker Special News Feature
The Cultural Islamic Centre King Fahd and Custodian of the Two Sacred Mosques, in Buenos Aires, Argentina is the largest Mosque in Latin America and the Caribbean. There are approximately 1.5 billion Muslims in the World. In the year 2010, the Muslim World is said to account for one fith (20%) of the World population. Islam is thoroughly covered by international media in Middle East, Asia, Africa, Europe and in North America. Rarely is Islam identified with Latin America, South America and the Caribbean. However according to "Muslims in Latin America", by Muhammad Yusuf Halla, the number of Muslims in Latin America is over four million. Serving as an example 700,000 in Argentina and more than 1,500,000 in Brazil.
Muslims migration to the new world began with European explorers in the late 1490 and early 1500. Moorish Muslims and African Muslims have always had a strong presence on the Iberian peninsula. In the 20th Century, the Muslim migration to Latin America increased significantly and its sources diversified. Migration stopped in the midst of the Second World War. However today Islam is growing in the region. The Cultural Islamic Centre King Fahd and Custodian of the Two Sacred Mosques in Buenos Aires with open doors offers wide variety of services in the region. The idea for The King Fahd Islamic Cultural Centre came in the 1970s when the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia resolved to open its Embassy in the capital of Argentina.
The King Fahd Islamic Cultural Centre, was completed in 1996 with the help of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques. Built on a strategic terrain in Palermo, Buenos Aires, the land measures 20,000 m². The project is said to have cost 30 million USD. It was inaugurated on Monday 25th of September in the year 2000 by the Prince Heir to thrown of Saudi Arabia and 250 important figures and guests. The objectives of Islamic Cultural Centre are to provide their services to Islam and to the Muslims in Argentina, South America, Central America and the Caribbean. They state another objective as, ”Creating awareness of the importance for Muslims to collaborate and develop the society in which they live, fulfilling their basic duties”.
Also present in Buenos Aires, The Islamic Organization of Latin America (IOLA) is headquartered in Argentina. It is considered the most active organization in Latin America in promoting Islamic affiliated endeavours.
See the Video Report: Islam in Latin America
(Images, Video editing and Text by the Sun Maker. Background Music: Natacha Atlas Gafsa)
It is a Thursday 29th of April 2010. The clock says it is 11:55 hs am. Numerous visitors and Muslims gather, waiting patiently, outside the main gate. They gather and await to enter the Cultural Islamic Centre King Fahd and Custodian of the Two Sacred Mosques, of Buenos Aires. The Islamic Centre is located in busy Avenue Bullrich (Number 55) and Cerviño. It is the beginning of Autumn, the sun is in its highest point, it is crossing the zenith sky, and shines down on us. There are no clouds. Outside the biggest Mosque in Latin-American the mood of the people is calm, but invigorating. The structure of the Mosque takes up most of the attention, and visitors talk about it. As the young Muslim women cover their hair before entering, near by a teacher, who is taking his students on a guided tour to the Mosque, talks to his pupils and explains them about the respect they should have and how to behave once inside the Mosque. The people form a line, and we all wait for the doors to be opened. We all wait for someone to let us in. Many thoughts cross the mind, but soon the sound of the city is left behind and a more balanced environment is revealed. After a few minutes, the gathering is let in. Formed in a straight line and following a pathway set on the floor, the Muslims and visitors stretch in a slow motion, as we all go through the first door.
Inside the first open space a blue water fountain contrasts with the yellow-sand colour and the white walls. On the walls white framings cover the Arab style windows, which are neither square nor rectangular, but usually end their top in an enclosing circle. Simple, yet filled with beauty, the first open space is the place the gathering has to walk through to enter pass through the second door. The wall of this door is immense, and the colours of the Mosque are an unity that is constant throughout the entire Mosque. The line of people going inside breaks to left to go through the second door. We go by a series of non adorned columns that emerge to our right. The columns cover a shed corridor filled with other rooms, we never see. Some doors are white others are black and curved in shapes of circles, lines and star. As the gathering moves to the left, and the door comes closer, it becomes evident that there are many people in Buenos Aires, who are interested in Islam.
This passing through the door becomes a symbol for that gives a more accurate sense of Latin-Americans entering the Muslim World. The gathering of Muslims, visitors, -and maybe some New Muslims, go through the second door. The walk of the group conveys an effort and intention of respect, and silently talks about the difference and similarities of cultures, of the people. The conversations turn silent. A representative of the Mosque humanely and respectfully asks a young woman to correct her clothings as she agrees the numerous visitors keep walking.
A wall appears from within the Mosque. It is a doored wall. The size of the wall when compared with the door creates the mirage of the people going through a very small door. However the door is not small, it is in fact a big white double door. It is the wall which is very high. This wall is about 3 stories high (maybe more), and it surrounds the first space from which we came from. It is not a wall in itself but part of the rooms and structure of the Cultural Islamic Centre of the King Fahd, the biggest Mosque in Latin America.
The Cultural Islamic Centre King Fahd with its two minarets has a capacity for more than 1500 Muslims to pray. A spacious second room where 500 woman can pray can be found on the second floor. Water fountains and spacious rooms for ablutions. The gardens are vast. The entrance to the Mosque is marked with a great water fountain. It has two departments for housing, and one for Residence. The library which is constantly growing with books of Interest for Islam has a capacity of more than 10.000 books and references. The Cultural Islamic Centre King Fahd also has conference room designed for 500 people, and space for cultural exhibits and religious activities, administration offices and Secretariat, as well as an two Educational compound for primary and secondary school, for girls and boys, primary education and high schools or secondary education, 16 studio classrooms, fully equipped science labs for the students and an impeccable restaurant for the students. The Cultural Centre is also equipped with an underground parking space for an approximate capacity of 100 vehicles.
Among the Cultural Activities of The Cultural Islamic Centre King Fahd, there is; Calligraphy, Arab language, and calligraphy, Arab culture, religion, sports and lunches, prayers in the salut of the Mosque, Islamic Science seminaries taken on by Erudite Scholars in Aquidah, Biography of the Prophet Muhammad and Fiqh (Law), Course for Lecture and Memorization of the Holly Qur’an , and contests on Memorization of the Holly Qur’an.
Talking to one of the people who guided the group through the visit, I ask him about Arabic Language and about cultural activities of the Islamic Centre.
“Can anyone learn to speak Arabic here in the Cultural Islamic Centre? Or does one have to be Muslim?”
“Anyone can come to learn, if they are interested.” He responded. We now stood near the doorway, as the group was leaving, and so was I.
“So, would you say it is difficult to learn, to speak and write Arabic?” I asked him at that doorway.
“No, not difficult." He paused and seemed to look for the right word, while his eye kept an eye on the people he had been guiding through the Mosque. "It takes time, and work.” He answered.
How can someone start to learn to speak Arabic in Buenos Aires, in these, the so called years 2010? I thought to myself.
“You have to send an email, to our website”. The patient guide added the missing information. And taking the time to kindly explain the reason why he could not continue the conversation he said; “We are very busy in these days, due to the Book Fair (he refered to the International Book Fair of Buenos Aires, the biggest in South America, this year celebrating the Bicentenary of the Argentina, 200 years of Independence) We (The Cultural Islamic Centre King Fahd and Custodian of the Two Sacred Mosques) have a Islamic Culture display there. You should go see it,” he said. And that was what he had said to the group which he guided through the Mosque. He had invited everyone to see the Islamic Culture Book Fair display. Then the person who guided the gathering moved along, seeing through that his duties.
Images: Cultural Islamic Centre King Fahd and Custodian of the Two Sacred Mosques, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Image: The Sun Maker Copyright ©
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