Attacks against Muslims have increased in Rio de Janeiro since a group of people was arrested on suspicion of planning to carry out terrorist acts during the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. The fact was reported today (Aug. 8) to Justice Minister Alexandre de Moraes by the National Union of Islamic Associations (UNI) vice-President Ali Hussein Taha at the Federal Police Superintendency in Rio de Janeiro, where leaders of the Brazilian Muslim community convened to address cases of discrimination and intimidation facing Muslim people in Brazil.
“We're actually Brazilian nationals. There are nearly 1.5 million of Brazilian Muslims in the national territory, from different generations. Above that, we're Brazilians, and religion should be no grounds for treating people better or worse, and this is the issue we've come to talk about with the minister. We have brought forward a collaboration plan and we'll wait and see how it unfolds,” said the head of the UNI.
Taha mentioned a case in which a Muslim woman was physically attacked in Copacabana, south Rio de Janeiro, two days ago (6). “Of course, this is what happens every time the media publishes a story linking terrorism and Islam,” he argued.
The justice minister said that confusing a religion with terrorism is unacceptable. “Islam is a religion; it has the largest number of followers individually, who profess the same ideals as Catholicism, as Christianity, and we must not take them for criminals who commit acts of terrorism,” he said. Moraes went on to say that the ministry as well as the federal authorities will exchange information with Muslim associations in order to fight prejudice against this portion of the population.
The Muslim community in Brazil used the Rio 2016 Games to make their faith more widely known and redress prejudices. Since August 2, a group has traveled through a number of cities talking to both Brazilians and tourists on the street and conveying a message of peace. They hold informative signs about Islam and explain their faith to passersby in a bid to dissociate it from terrorism.
Two thousand Muslims are estimated to live in Rio de Janeiro.
Translated by Fabrício Ferreira