Image 1 of 10: The best indicator of the growth of Islam in Brazil is the rapid increase in the number of mosques (there are 127 mosques, four times as many as in 2000!). The Islamic Brazilian Federation attributes the steady rise in indigenous Islam to an influx of refugees from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine.
Image 1 of 10: Brazil’s largely Catholic population of 202 million includes an estimated 1.5 million Muslims; there is no official census. With tens of thousands of Muslim fans expected, Brazil’s 120+ mosques will be as crowded as the football stadiums!
Image 1 of 10: The first known Muslims to Brazil were a pair of brothers who arrived as shipmates of Portuguese explorer Pedro Alvares Cabral. Islam expanded in the 18th Century though African slaves who brought their Muslim faith to South America. Today, most Muslims (largely of Syrians and Lebanese descent) are concentrated near São Paulo and Paraná.
Image 1 of 10: Six of the 32 nations in the tournament are from countries with a significant Muslim population including Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Cameroon, Iran, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. Muslim players are also represented on French, German and Belgian teams. Football-crazed MENA will continue to hatch elite players!
Image 1 of 10: FAMBRAS is handing out 65,000 copies of their 28-page “Muslim Fan Guide” to foreign football fans. The guide is available at airports and hotels around Brazil. It can also be downloaded at http://bit.ly/RR0Cbd and from their website (fambras.org.br).
Image 1 of 10: They’ve also launched a smartphone app that includes a compass to locate Mecca and a list of halal restaurants in each host city. A 12-hour free hotline in English, Arabic, Spanish, French and Portuguese is also in play for bespoke assistance. Craving some killer mansaf? Call 0800-718-6245!
Image 1 of 10: A “Salam Bus” is cruising around the country distributing a wide range of books on Islam and Muslim culture, in several languages. The mobile library is brightly painted with slogans promoting Islam: “Conheco o Islam” (Know Islam) and “Islam é Paz” (Islam is peace), checking or sobering the party atmosphere overtaking the nation!
Image 1 of 10: The federation visited each hotel hosting the teams before players started to arrive to brief staff on the workings of Ramadan and any special requirements that may be expected of them. Muslim players will get more than just a chocolate on their pillow - dates and water for breaking the fast perhaps?!
Image 1 of 10: Muslims can be sports fanatics too! A goofy, bearded doll named Salaminho also know as “Salam Brazil Boy” is the project’s front man, helping to spread the message of Islam among the youngest World Cup visitors.
Image 1 of 10: What do you think of Official World Cup mascot, Fuleco? His name is a mash-up of "Futebol" ("Football") and "Ecologia" ("Ecology"). This endangered armadillo is meant to bring world attention to Brazil's biodiversity, but his scaly armor and claw-like paws are no match for the approachable habibi Salaminho!
This year, the start of Ramadan will likely coincide with the fiercest phase of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. On or near June 28th, a real Hunger Games will begin for Muslim players, whose behavior while at the global tournament -- and with the holy month upon us - is guided by trainers and spiritual advisers. But where do millions of football fans turn for guidance on “fair play” during the competition?
If you’re watching the games in the seductive “Home of Samba”, a bearded mascot called Salaminho is ready to lend a hand! He stars in a free guide that offers tips to visitors on how to observe Islam while in Brazil. It’s one of several initiatives produced by Brazil’s Federation of Muslim Associations (FAMBRAS) to “help dispel prejudice and ignorance of Islam”, according to FAMBRAS vice president, Ali Hussein El Zoghbi, .
Their “Salam Brazil” project caps 3 years of work under the auspices of Brazil’s Supreme Council of Imams and Islamic Affairs. FAMBRAS will hand out 65,000 copies of their Muslim Fan Guide which details prayer times, mosque locations in host cities, emergency services, and venue details.
The Muslim population is a fraction of Brazil’s estimated 202 million people, but growing from an influx of refugees from Syria, Lebanon and Palestine. Over 50,000 Muslim fans are expected to visit, mainly from Iran, Nigeria and Algeria, but also from the US, UK, Malaysia and the Gulf. FAMBRAS sees this as a fantastic chance to spread the positive word of Islam to non-Muslims. Good stuff!
But how are fans supposed to keep it halal and cope with epic Brazilian partying? Sensual dance and seductive drink? Challenging temptations anytime to be sure, but impossibly difficult during the restrictive Ramadan season.
Conservative clerics are dissuading people from watching the games altogether, pointing to Brazilian protests that spotlight underlying corruption and negative impacts to local communities (an estimated 250,000 people have been displaced from urban favelas to allow World Cup development). Haram, to be sure! But enough to incite the faithful to turn off their TVs? Will they forego Tarawih prayers to watch football? How do you deter people from doing things they should already know not to do?
Football fans are a species known to get rowdy and raucous at the best of times. When world cup fever sets in, how do you keep the Muslim fans from getting their hooligan on but keeping it halal!?
It’s a personal decision, and there's plenty about Brazil that can be enjoyed halal-style and that doesn't come with string bikinis and sex on the beach. Yet there is no handy guide to help navigate temptation. Football is big, with an estimated 3.2 billion spectators tuning in for at least a minute of play. But will Ramadan prove bigger?
Drop us a comment - and let us know how you reconcile the lure of sport with the love of faith.