Islam in Argentina: The Indigenous Peoples will become Muslims like Mapuche, Teheulche, Yaghan, Guarani, Quechua and Aymara Inca, and Selknam
Argentina has 35 indigenous groups or Argentine Amerindians or Native Argentines, according to the Complementary Survey of the Indigenous Peoples of 2004, in the first attempt by the government in more than 100 years to recognize and classify the population according to ethnicity. In the survey, based on self-identification or self-ascription, around 600,000 Argentines declared to be Amerindian or first-generation descendants of Amerindians, that is, 1.49% of the population. The most populous of these were the Aonikenk, Kolla, Qom, Wichí, Diaguita, Mocoví, Huarpe peoples, Mapuche and Guarani In the 2010 census [INDEC], 955,032 Argentines declared to be Amerindian or first-generation descendants of Amerindians, that is, 2.38% of the population. Many Argentines also claim at least one indigenous ancestor: in a recent genetic study conducted by the University of Buenos Aires, more than 56% of the 320 Argentines sampled were shown to have at least one indigenous ancestor in one parental lineage and about 11% had indigenous ancestors in both parental lineages.
Jujuy Province, in the Argentine Northwest, is home to the highest percentage of households (15%) with at least one indigenous person or a direct descendant of an indigenous people; Chubut and Neuquén Provinces, in Patagonia, have upwards of 12%.
The indigenous population of Argentina have a complex history, from being the majority in what is now the Argentine territory to being outnumbered by a Black majority in the Argentine colonial era and the first decades after the Independence of Argentina, to participating in the great Immigration to Argentina (1850-1955), to almost being completely overwhelmed in proportion to the Argentine total population. Argentina received 6.6 million immigrants, second only to the United States with 27 million, and ahead of countries such as Canada, Brazil and Australia.
Indigenous communities today
Argentina has a total population of 40 million. The Additional Survey on Indigenous Populations, published by the National Institute for Statistics and Census, gives a total of 600,329 people who see themselves as descending from or belonging to indigenous people.
For a number of reasons the different indigenous organisations do not believe this to be a credible survey: First, the methodology used in the survey was considered inadequate, as a large number of indigenous people live in urban areas where the survey was not fully conducted. Second, many indigenous people in the country hide their identity for fear of discrimination. Moreover, when the survey was designed in 2001, it was based on the existence of 18 known peoples in the country, today there exist more than 31 groups. This increase reflects a growing awareness amongst indigenous people in terms of their ethnic belonging.
As many Argentinians either believe that the majority of the indigenous have died out or are on the verge of doing, or ‘their descendants’ assimilated into Western civilisation many years ago, they wrongly hold the idea that there are no indigenous people in their country. The use of pejorative terms likening the indigenous to lazy, idle, dirty, ignorant and savage are part of the everyday language in Argentina. Due to these incorrect stereotypes many indigenous have over the years been forced to hide their identity in order to avoid being subjected to racial discrimination.
As of 2011 many natives were still being denied land and human rights. Many of the Qom native community had been struggling to protect the land they claim as ancestral territory and even the lives of its members. A leader of the Aboriginal Community Félix Díaz claimed that his people were being denied medical assistance, did not have much access to drinking water and traders keep raising food prices. He also claimed judges would not even hear the native’s complaints.
Indigenous groups by population
According to the 2010 census there are the following indigenous groups:
|Indigenous group||Total population||Males||Females|
Indigenous groups by region
Islam in Argentina is represented by one of Latin America’s largest Muslim minorities. Although accurate statistics on religion are not available (because the national census does not solicit religious data) the actual size of Argentina‘s Muslim community is estimated around 1% of the total population (400,000 to 500,000 members) according to the International Religious Freedom Report 2010. The Pew Research Centre estimates about 1,000,000 Muslims in Argentina in the year 2010. The Association of Religion Data Archives however approximates that 1.9% of the population profess Islam as their faith.
Islamic institutions in Argentina
The first two mosques in the country were built in Buenos Aires in the 80s: At-Tauhid Mosque was opened in 1983 by the shia community of Buenos Aires and with the support of the Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran to Argentina, while Al Ahmad Mosque was opened in 1985 for the sunni muslims and is the first building with Islamic architecture in the country. There are also several mosques in other cities and regions throughout the country, including two in Córdoba, two in Mar del Plata and the southermost Sufi mosque in the world, in El Bolsón.
The King Fahd Islamic Cultural Centre, the largest mosque in South America, was completed in 1996 with the help of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, the then King of Saudi Arabia, Fahd, on a piece of land measuring 20,000 m². The total land area granted by the Argentine government measures 34,000 m², and was offered by President Carlos Menem following his visit to Saudi Arabia in 1992. The project cost around US$30 million, and includes a mosque, library, two schools, a park, is located in the middle-class district of Palermo, Buenos Aires.
The Islamic Organization of Latin America (IOLA), headquartered in Argentina, is considered the most active organization in Latin America in promoting Islamic affiliated endeavors. The IOLA holds events to promote the unification of Muslims living in Latin America, as well as the propagation of Islam.