Internet Serves Da`wah in Brazil
By Hany Salah
May. 27, 2009
CAIRO In a vast country like Brazil, the internet is emerging as the most effective tool to spread the message of Islam, says a leading Muslim scholar in the South American nation.
“The internet is one of the most successful contemporary da`wah tools,” Al-Sadiq Al-Othmani, head of the Islamic Affairs Department at the Center of Islamic Da`wah in Latin America, told IslamOnline.net over the phone.
“That’s why I encourage scholars to spread the word to broader masses through the web, especially in such a vast country.”
Othmani, a Moroccan who has lived in Brazil for the past seven years, believes the internet can be particularly helpful for Muslim preachers in Brazil.
“Muslim preachers, many of them volunteers, usually take two to three hours to reach a mosque within their own city to deliver a sermon.
“If the mosque is in a different city, they may take up to 12 hours just to reach the place,” he explained.
Othmani, a renowned imam in Sao Paulo, cites his own personal experience.
“In 2007, I delivered a sermon themed “Ã‹Å“Islam and slaves freeing’ in a Sao Paulo mosque, and it was appealing to the few attending worshippers,” he recalled.
“After I finished, some of the attendants asked me to translate the sermon and post it on the internet, and I did.”
The sermon was posted on the website of a young Muslim who established a website to introduce Islam to Brazilians.
“To our surprise, the sermon got 800,000 hit in just one week,” said Othmani.
“We also received a flood of letters and e-mail from many people asking for more information about Islam, and many of them later converted to Islam.”
Othmani later embraced the idea of online da`wah and established an online magazine that introduces Islam to Latin Americans.
“So far the magazine gets some 5,000 visitors a week.”
Othmani believes that spreading the message of Islam in a country as tolerant as Brazil can be very effective.
“Brazil is the land of ethnic, cultural and religious diversity,” he maintains.
“The atmosphere of religious tolerance has even helped that diversity to thrive.”
The Muslim scholar notes that Muslims are enjoying an atmosphere of tolerance in Brazil.
“They have all the freedom to pray and to build mosques,” he asserted.
“There are nearly 120 mosques across Brazil, in addition to Islamic centers, charities and organizations.”
There are ten mosques in the city of Sao Paulo, including the first mosque built in Latin America whose construction began in 1929.
There are mosques in all the capitals of the major states and some cities in the interior.
According to the 2001 census, there are 27,239 Muslims in Brazil.
However, the Islamic Brazilian Federation puts the number at around one and a half million.
The majority of Muslims are descendants of Syrian, Palestinians and Lebanese immigrants who settled in Brazil in the nineteenth century during the World War I and in the 1970s.
Many Iraqis have arrived in the country after the 2003 US-led invasion.
Most Muslims live in the states of Parana, Goias, Riod de Janiero and Sao Paulo, but there are also significant communities in Mato Grosso do Sul and Rio Grande do Sul.