In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful




[Shamim A Siddiqi, New York]


South America [SA] was discovered by Christopher Columbus, a Spaniard. He landed in Venezuela in 1498. Both Spain and Portugal subdued local Indian societies and spread Roman Catholicism and Liberian culture in their dominions. They enriched their countries with silver and gold that dazzled Europe with subsequent other discoveries- tin in Bolivia, copper in Chile and oil in Venezuela. Agricultural products were later on added to export list in 1880s. The colonial powers developed the Continent with foreign entrepreneurs subsequently. The Continent is spread over 14 countries and regions and constitutes a population of about 370 million people. Linguistically, mostly people speak Spanish. Thus, transforming South America into a homogeneous Continent with   prominent Liberian culture all around..


The Continent has remarkable land-scape with world’s greatest mountain chain, the Andes along its Western margin, a large rain forest that spreads across the Amazon basin and plateaus covering vast tract of land. Due to these natural barriers, transportation and communication is mainly by sea and air whereas highways are being developed speedily. Its past is enriched by INCA civilization and less advanced Indian groups. The Continent is mostly inhabited by immigrants from many European countries and North America with about five million slaves from Africa, embodying a great ethnic diversity. Roman Catholic missionaries were the greatest force of social, educational and medical services, converting the local Indians to their faith but traditional local beliefs are also surviving along with it.


The Continent was ruled from Lisbon and Madrid till Napoleon overruled Liberia in 1808, weakening their rule over colonies in SA and giving birth to Independent movements by the settlers. Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador were liberated in 1821. Brazil got independence from Portugal in 1822. By the 20th century most of the countries came under oligarchic rule and 1960s saw a wave of military take overs, resulting in tight political control and repression. In its wake, many countries nationalized the basic industries. South America is a fast developing continent with a total foreign debt of about 550 billion dollars. The biggest debtor countries are Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Venezuela. Broadly speaking South America is developing by all standards with rich mineral wealth, forest and agricultural products and abundance of other natural resources but with unstable governments and political instability giving temptation to opportunists leaders to try their luck. The Continent contains many countries with vast tract of land but numerically “little” population. This is a special feature of South American countries.    


However, ideologically, South America is not settled as yet. Christianity, no doubt, is the paramount religion of its people but it could not deliver any system of life to its inhabitants as happened in Europe and America. As such, the entire Continent is practicing secularism as its way of life – somewhere in the form of secular democracy, somewhere secular opportunist military dictatorship and somewhere it is embracing socialism as “panacea” for its growing evils and poverty. Capitalism as a system failed to deliver any good to the Southern societies, except  growing gaps in income and life standard of the rich and the poor. The USA could not build a  broad based cohesiveness to bring the Continent under its “protective” umbrella. People and leadership both are allergic to its dominance. The Continent as a whole is drifting from the influence of the USA and gradually landing in the fold of socialism.


The USA could not contain the influence of Cuban President Fidel Castro, a persistent critic of Washington. His growing influence is fast changing the geopolitical situation of South America: a worker Lula is the President of Brazil; Nestor Kirchner is presiding over Argentina; an Indian tribal leader Evo Morales, a vocal critic of President Bush, became the President of Bolivia on January 2006; Hugo Chavez, an “aggressive” critic of the USA and its policies is the President of Venezuela with a socialist agenda and a vast source of oil revenue to influence the region. And now on March 11, 2006, a socialist pediatrician Michelle Bachelet was sworn in as the President of Chile. She is openly agnostic and has promised a government  with equality in gender, a socialist agenda and total parity  between men and women . This emerging socialist leadership in the South is close friend of Fidel Castro of Cuba. His influence is likely to increase and the USA being governed predominantly by the corporate interests is bound to lag behind in checking other countries in the South to turn to socialism for their burning problems and getting rid of the domination of the mega-superpower of Northern Hemisphere. The socialist leadership is determined to free the Southern hemisphere from the monopolistic influence of capitalism and its catchwords – globalization and market economy which benefit only the developed countries of the world.


The growing situation in the South foretells that there is an ideological vacuum in the Continent as  a whole. Both Christianity and capitalism could not deliver any cognizable good to its people. Socialism too is just like a passing cloud as currently there is no alternative before the people and southern leadership to fall back. Apparently, they have no choice but to go again for the failed system of socialism as it could not do any good either in Russia or in China, the two stalwarts of state sponsored socialism. They are now fast drifting towards capitalistic economy as they too have no alternative to fall back. At this juncture, Islam could come to help at both the places but its followers are in deep slumber.


Here in South America, history is offering another opportunity to Muslim Ummah to come to their help. This is a unique development of events and has come to this “climax” through development of events as depicted above in short. Muslims around the world, especially that of America must grasp this opportunity lest it become too late as in the case of Russia and China. American Muslims must devote their time, talents and resources in learning Spanish language and the Liberian culture in depth and find out the traces of Islamic influence over Spanish culture as Islam dominated Spain for over 800 years. It would help them in freely mixing with the Spanish people everywhere. They should arrange,  regular Dawah sojourn to different countries of the South as per their convenient and introduce Islam as a way of life to the people of this virgin land for Islam. Muslim Institutions like ISNA, ICNA, CAIR, MPAC and others should and must divert their resources of men and material to this project as the life artery of their existence in the western hemisphere now depends on this undertaking, keeping in view that many countries in SA have vast territory but “little” population and hence they can manage intensive Dawah activities very effectively. The Continent in the South is an open challenge for Muslims and their ingenuity to make it the “next” homeland for Islam in twenty-first century as they failed to do so for in the North.


We are to bear in mind that in the USA too, the growing trend of Spanish population is bound to transform it into a majority community in  this country within next fifty years.  The estimation of Census Bureau confirms it. Hence, the investment of Muslim Institutions of the USA in “Dawah-in-Spanish” project will become a boon for them within a decade or so. In 1996 in my humble way, I invited the attention of Muslim leadership to this hard fact of our existence in America in Chapter – 4 of my book: “The Revival” under the heading: “Future Prospects” at pages 66-67. [available on my Website] The time is fast running out. Before the ideological vacuum in South America is filled by other materialistic ideologies, Muslims of America and elsewhere in the world must come forward fast and fill the gap with Islam as the future ideology of the South. The Muslim leadership must think over it positively and resolve to march ahead with the conviction that Allah will pave their way to success. The “safety” of  American Muslims now goes through this way.


Shamim Siddiqi

March 13, 2006