ISLAM and MUSLIMS IN ECUADOR
National name : República del Ecuador
Land area : 106,888 sq mi (276,840 sq km); total area: 109, 483 sq mi (283,560 sq km)
Population (2007 est.) : 13,755,680 (growth rate: 1.6%); birth rate: 21.9/1000; infant mortality rate: 22.1/1000; life expectancy: 76.6; density per sq mi: 129
Capital (2003 est.) : Quito 1,780,700 (metro. area), 1,443,900 (city proper)
Largest cities : Guayaquil, 2,597,600 (metro. area), 2,013,500 (city proper); Cuenca, 285,700
Monetary unit : U.S. dollar
Languages : Spanish (official), Quechua, other Amerindian languages
Ethnicity/race : mestizo (mixed Amerindian and white) 65%, Amerindian 25%, Spanish and others 7%, black 3%
Religion : Roman Catholic 95%
Literacy rate : 93% (2003 est.)
Economic summary : GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $98.28 billion; per capita $7,100. Real growth rate: 2.6%. Inflation: 3.3%.
Ecuador, about equal in area to Nevada, is in the northwest part of South America fronting on the Pacific. To the north is Colombia and to the east and south is Peru. Two high and parallel ranges of the Andes, traversing the country from north to south, are topped by tall volcanic peaks. The highest is Chimborazo at 20,577 ft (6,272 m). The Galápagos Islands (or Colón Archipelago: 3,029 sq mi; 7,845 sq km), in the Pacific Ocean about 600 mi (966 km) west of the South American mainland, became part of Ecuador in 1832.
The tribes in the northern highlands of Ecuador formed the Kingdom of Quito around 1000. It was absorbed, by conquest and marriage, into the Inca Empire. Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro conquered the land in 1532, and through the 17th century a Spanish colony thrived by exploitation of the Indians. The first revolt against Spain occurred in 1809. In 1819, Ecuador joined Venezuela, Colombia, and Panama in a confederacy known as Greater Colombia.
When Greater Colombia collapsed in 1830, Ecuador became independent. Revolts and dictatorships followed; it had 48 presidents during the first 131 years of the republic. Conservatives ruled until the revolution of 1895 ushered in nearly a half century of Radical Liberal rule, during which the church was disestablished and freedom of worship, speech, and press was introduced. Although it was under military rule in the 1970s, the country did not experience the violence and repression characteristic of other Latin American military regimes. Its last 30 years of democracy, however, have been largely ineffectual because of a weak executive branch and a strong, fractious Congress.
Peru invaded Ecuador in 1941 and seized a large tract of Ecuadoran territory in the disputed Amazon region. In 1981 and 1995 war broke out again. In May 1999, Ecuador and Peru signed a treaty ending the nearly 60-year border dispute.
Islamic History and Muslims
By the end of XIX century, the first Muslims settlers known to Ecuadorian history were primarily from Lebanon, Palestine, Syria (Bilad Sham) and Egypt. Muslim migration took place also during the XX century. Immigrants were searching for new life, between World War I and World War II. They entered to these lands under Turk passports as remainders of the Ottoman Empire; therefore, these first Muslims were known as “Turks”.
The settlements were basically in Quito, Guayaquil, Manabi, Los Rios, Esmeraldas provinces. Ecuador’s peace environment attracted them very much. Family oriented societies and shame based cultures found in Latin American Continent perhaps reminded them home Arab societies.The big majority of these first Muslims were traders. Ecuadorian economy at the beginning of the century was most likely based on interchanging products.
The first two to three decades were very rough for these first settlers. Many of them walk on their feet following the post office service done on mules to try to reach the nearest village or town to buy merchandise to make business. These first Muslims settlers experienced different type of customs, fashion and food. They had to exchange their “Tamar” (dates), “maiy zahar” (rose water), “falafel” (mashed fried peas), “basbusa and baklawa” (laborious sweets) for: banana, panela (dark sugar cane), agua aromática (herb water), and pinol (wheat flour).
Due to these Muslims came seeking the “dunia”- worldy life - Their religious background was very poor, the Muslim identity melted very easily with the strong predominant Roman Christian Catholic religion. Many brought heir own spouses from their motherlands. Coincidentally many of them did not have children. Among these Muslims settlers are the very well known and respected Dassum family, Soloh family, Shayyeb, A’riz, Becdach, Jairala, Saadi, Mahuad, Nebot, Juez and Elmer families. Unfortunately some Muslim descendants reverted to Christianity except perhaps few branches. We pray to Allah for the people who sacrificed themselves sending their children overseas to get Arabic and Islamic education. Inshallah their effort will be pay off, by having “Light of Paradise” in their graveyards.
By the late forties, Arab Christians and Muslims were grouping on the same ethnical background bases. “Lecla” was their first group name. Nothing about religion was touch dawn. Another social organization came by the mid eighties. They are “The Arab club”. Migrating trends were going on in Ecuador by mid eighties. Around twenty men from Egypt were trying to reach United States ports at any price. Their travel agents were using Ecuador as pass by point to aim their goal in the States. Lather on, all of them left Ecuador except a few of them who decided to search for the life living in Ecuador.
A minor Indian Pakistani migration took place by the beginning of the nineties and during years 2002 and 2003. Perhaps many of them have already reached their goals in America or Canadian ports. Allah knows better, but as far as religious matters, they left almost no tracks to imitate. Also, during late nineties there was an African migration, mainly from Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana (west African countries), whose internal political disruptions led them to search a place to live. Almost the same thing as the formers, no Islamic educational track to follow. All of them already left the Ecuadorian territory.
By the mid eighties there were basically two pioneers men who embraced Islam overseas. Both of them never heard the word Islam in their own Ecuador. They were highly influenced by pious Muslims while doing University studies in Italy as well as United States respectively. They realized that all the teaching of Islam are harmoniously working bringing peace and logic they never found in Catholic teachings. They were highly enthusiastic propagators who decided to organize the first native Ecuadorian Muslim community. All trends has its price and the religious matter is not the exception. Perhaps only fifteen generations ago, native Ecuadorian Muslims ancestors were sun worshippers. Today some of these pioneers reconverted Muslim’s parents and family members have already become Muslims. The Muslim population in Ecuador, remain less than 1% of the total inhabitants. Same figures as most of Latin American countries.
The first masjid attempting was done from a handful of Muslims who decided to rent an apartment used as a “Mussala” for “Salat Aljumuah”. Lather on the Egyptian Embassy facilitated an apartment for the same purpose, but later on the Embassy sold the apartment. The second attempting was done on October 1988. A social organization was founded with the purpose of being a masjid, named: Association Cultural Khaled bin Al Walid, but the approval was under the Ministry of Social affairs.
New Muslims were facing many difficulties and “fasad” in western lands. Low contact to Islamic world institutions. Little Islamic literature led some Ecuadorian Muslims to translate Islamic literature as well as to produce audio literature. A pioneer and outstanding translating effort was conducted by a pious Muslimah, of Arabic origin. She started translating “Din Al-Islam,” books to filled out the need of the community literacy.
This is the first Muslim religious organization credited as such by the Ministry of Interior. The Centro Islámico del Ecuador is a non-profit organization that gathers the Muslims from Ecuador in Latin America. The Center was founded by the Grace and Mercy of ALLAH SWT on October 15, 1994 and legally recognized by the Ecuadorian Government on 1998. The religious activities, as well as social, cultural and educational are conducted in the Muslim Sunni Traditions. Allah SWT. gave means to a “Multazima” Muslimah, who donated “Fi Sabililah” a suitable first floor from her house to be converted as the Islamic Center of Ecuador. This Center is economically self sufficient.
By middle nineties there were dozens of re-converted Ecuadorians. By the year 2004 no less than a hundred native Ecuadorians, have come to Islam. By the end of the year 2005 the statistic predicts around five hundred Muslims living in Quito and probably same amount in Guayaquil.
Native Ecuadorian Muslimas are a little bit over fifty percent of the entire Muslim population. Ninety percent of the women population are Ecuadorian. Latin American Muslim women in general are an example of a well organize group that choose Islam as their way of life. Many of them fled from their original catholic background as they feel “more respected and secure” in Islam. Their understanding to Islam is reflected on the attachment to the Islamic dress code. Ninety seven percent of them are using hijab and long dresses on daily life.
The Ecuadforian Muslima´s committee holds their own religious classes every Friday after Junmmah prayer, where religious guidance are being given. In addition, Arabic classes are taught every Saturday.
In the aftermath of September 11, and the cartoons defamation case in Denmark, the Islamic Center developed a strategic plan to address properly these subjects to the general public as well as the local and international media. However, since there is no Muslim local Tv. Radio, newspapers to constantly address the Latino mentality, there is a big gap of disinformation about what Islam and Muslims are in the world.
Official inter religious participation started on 09 Shawwal 1420H./ January 16, 2000 CE. The Imam and Dawah Director of the Islamic Center met for the first time for inter- religious dialogue with the Catholic Bishop and the Jew Rabi in Quito. This work has continued for the next following years.
Ecuador holds religious freedom in its Constitution even though, Catholicism is the official religion.However, there is no religious persecution, or Islamophobia. It has seriously to be taken in account that Latin America in general was the most tolerant continent in the western Hemisphere after the 9/11 incident and the cartoons offensive case in Denmark. Therefore, there is no reason to develop a real Dawah working plan of action with the local “Duat” to address the local Latino mentality.
Islamic Values in Latin American Culture
By Shaikh Yahya Suquillo
Islamic Values Already Present in Latin American Culture
Measuring Latin American culture in terms of the development of Islamic cultural values is difficult except for a few aspects. One reason for the unawareness of Islamic cultural values present in Latin American culture is an educational system that does not mention that Islamic values influenced Latin American culture during centuries of Islam's existence within the Spanish culture.
Consider the great Islamic architecture within some cities in South America. In Brazil, for instance, some old churches are decorated with Arabic calligraphy art carved by Muslim slaves that were brought to America. Major and minor vestiges of Arabic art are found in some Central American countries. Within Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, the popular Andalusian Spanish architecture style can be found, which was copied from Islamic art that Spaniard architects learned from Muslims. Typical mosque domes and arches were applied to churches throughout South America.
Quito's historic downtown area is jam-packed with Andalusian Islamic architecture. Interior gardens that allowed uncovered women to enjoy the outside atmosphere without having to go outdoors can also be found. What is ironic is little presence is given to lavatories and personal hygiene locations at the Spaniard architect colony houses. While on the contrary, the relevance given to these places in the Muslim world are widely known - to help Muslims fulfill cleanliness needed for religious duties.
The influence of Muslims in the past was mainly based on major and minor concentrations of Muslim immigrants that took place in different areas of this vast continent. Examples of major Muslim immigration in a short span of a century can be seen in countries such as Argentina and Panama, which are Spanish-speaking. Major Muslim migration also took place in Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, which are English-speaking communities in Latin America. Brazil, which has a Portuguese-speaking community, holds the largest Muslim community in South America.
Hard working principles in industry, examples of honest trading and fine manners, architectural art, and typical Arabic food are no doubt part of the genuine contribution that our honorable Muslim ancestors helped in the development of Latin American culture. May Allah SWT reward them Inshallah accordingly. In this analysis, we are far from bringing justice to all the contributions of our Muslim ancestors. We must now decide what we can do for a better future!
A Remarkable Islamic Educational Event in Ecuador
Sister Shahzady is a 12-year-old Muslim girl who wears the Islamic veil. She is one student among five hundred children attending "Martim Cerere School" in Quito, Ecuador. Her Social Science and English teachers had endorsed her to be the coordinator of the first Islamic booth to be presented for parents and teachers on Monday, May 30th.
"Chabela," her Science teacher said, "We could not wait this year to let the children know more about Shahzady's background." She continued, "Why does a native Ecuadorian girl wear a veil daily? Why does she fast one month a year? So, we decided to encourage her and her classmates to educate others about the Islamic culture."
Preparation for the booth took the children a few weeks and focused on Islamic history, belief, housing, dress code, and food. Shahzady's group, which consisted of two boys and three girls, visited Masjid Assalaam to get information about Islam. The group of children also finalized the details for the booth with help from their parents.
At the end of the presentation, the teacher announced to the children that they got honor points because they had the best booth! Congratulations to all of them! Definitely, events like this one about educating others about Islamic culture is one of the many activities that are shaping the image of Islam among the people of Latin America.
The Centro Islamico del Ecuador
The Islamic Center is a Muslim Quito-base not for profit organization and advocacy initiative founded -by the Grace and Mercy of Allah SWT- on October 1.994 that foster a genuine Muslim Ecuadorian identity compromised to develop a sustainable community inspired and guided by the values of classic Islamic civilization.
The Islamic Centre of Ecuador
BREAKING NEWS FIRST QUARTER 2008…
Alhamdulilah. Indeed, all glory and praise is due to Allah. We glorify and praise Him. We ask Him for help and forgiveness. In Allah we seek refuge from the evils of ourselves and from our wrong doings. He whom Allah guides shall not be misguided, and he whom He misguides shall never be guided.
I bear witness that there is no (true) god except Allah Subhana waTaala alone, without any partners, and I bear witness that Muhammad (Peace be upon Him) is His Servant and Messenger.
1) INTERELIGIOUS DIALOGUE
AND CLASS ABOUT ISLAM
GIVEN BY: DAIYAH ISLAMIYAH LAYLA DASSUM-UMM SALIM
2) Awards and Diplomas for Tilawa of Qur'an.
4) Military Ceremony to Decorate
Ecuadorian National personalities. January 2008
All of them shared the military Academy for eight consecutive years. From 1.971 up to 1.979 when all graduated as Army officers. Sh. Yahya left the Ecuadorian Army due to He lost his left arm in a 1.981 war against Peru. He found solace and peace in Islam. He reverted during the mid-eighties to become the first Ecuadorian entering to Islam.
Islamic Centers and Organizations
Ecuador Islamic Center (www.centroislamico.org.ec,