Destination Curitiba, capital of the state of Paraná.
Since 1972, the Al Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib Mosque is found in downtown Curitiba.
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Facade of the mosque
On the first Sunday of May, it was quite crowded in downtown Curitiba. Thousands of stands of the large Feira Artesanato, market for hand-made art and utilities, occupied almost every space available in the historical center. I had some trouble to move through the sometimes dense crowd, when I was on the way to Museu Paranaense. This museum hosts a very interesting collection about the history of the state of Paraná: the Indians, the discovery and exploration of the region by the Europeans, the foundation of the settlements, the arrival of the first migrants from Portugal, other European countries, Middle East, and Asia. Not far from this museum, I observed two towering green minarets of a mosque.
The mosque with one of the minarets
The mosque was founded in 1972, and bears the name “(Al) Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib”, named after an important personage in the Islamic culture. This imam was the nephew and son-in-law of Prophet Mohammed. He served as a Councillor for the first three caliphs, who reigned after the Prophet’s death. He then became the fourth caliph. According to the Islamic culture, the building is directed towards northeast, the floor is covered with original Persian carpets. The mosque does not only attract worshipers from the city, but from far beyond, and even from abroad. There is free entrance for visitors, who have to take off the shoes at the entrance. The women are offered a headscarf, which they should wear inside the mosque.
Founded in 1972
I already had visited the mosque in 2005, when I was traveling to Foz do Iguaçu. I then entered the mosque, together with a good friend of mine. Three years later, I entered the mosque again, I tasted the same serenity there. The dark red, soft carpets were in sharp contrast with the light green walls and large arcs. The central area was empty. A large large chandelier hung above us. One of the walls was decorated with a large drawing, which appeared to symbolize a scene in Mecca. Other decorations on the walls were written Arabic texts. Small windows with the typical arc shape permitted daylight to illuminate the mosque. The small natural openings dimmed the light intensity. There was silence inside. The people flustered or spoke softly when they explained something to other tourists. Tourists were encouraged to ask questions. I listened, and took pictures, which was allowed here.
Islam in Brazil
When considering the population and size of the country, Brazil is the largest catholic nation. Since a few decades, the percentage of Catholics is gradually decreasing. However, it does not say that Brazilians no longer are believers. Many convert themselves to Baptism, which now is an increasing religion in Brazil. Islam was introduced in Brazil with the arrival of slaves from Africa. These slaves did not only worship nature religions, there were also slaves who came from Muslim-dominated African regions. These slaves were well-trained and experienced warriors, before they were transported to Brazil. These slaves also commanded rebellions against their masters. The best known rebellion was the Malês rebellion in 1835. There Islamic slaves tried to ignite some kind of war against their masters. They fought hard and bitterly, but they lost. Historians consider this rebellion as a turning point in the history of slavery in Brazil. Late 19th century, migration of Lebanese and Syrians to Brazil was started. Initially they settled themselves mainly in Amazonas, in Manaus, where they worked in rubber plantations. At a later time, more migrants settled themselves in the south and southeast of Brazil. These migrants quickly adapted themselves to Brazil, their descendants consider themselves as Brazilians. Most Islamic migrants are to be found in São Paulo, Curitiba, and Foz do Iguaçu. Their number is estimated to be about 27 thousand (2000) to almost 200 thousand (2009). Brazil boasts that, for example in São Paulo, Jews and Arabs live together in peace with each other, and that they visit each other to have coffee or tea.
Tourists with headscarves, on stockinged.
By Adriano Antoine Robbesom © 2008