Bolsonaro Divides Islamic Community In São Paulo

However, they are all against transferring the Brazilian embassy in Israel to Jerusalem

Géssica Brandino
São Paulo

The Muslim community in São Paulo received news of Bolsonaro's election for president with mixed feelings. While some feel uneasy about his statements against minorities, on the other, others support his positions in favor of traditional family settings, economic growth and changes in public security.

"The Islamic community became divided, just like everybody else," says Sheik Mohamad Bukai, who is also director of UNI, an association of 17 Islamic organizations and mosques in São Paulo. Born in Syria and has been living in Brazil for 11 years.

Sheikh Mohamed Bukai - Folhapress

According to Bukai, over half of UNI's members declared support for Bolsonaro.

The last Brazilian Census showed that there are 35,000 Muslims in Brazil, 42% in the state of São Paulo. Bukai says that there are no more recent numbers, but he estimates the current amount in around 100,000 in São Paulo state alone.

Mosque leaders say they didn't nudge their members to vote to anyone in particular. They limited themselves to encourage followers to think about things like the defense of Islam values and human rights.

But there was plenty of debate outside the mosques. During the runoffs, sheik Bukai published a video on social media in which he asks for more tolerance, surrounded by Brazilian flags and photos of candidates Bolsonaro and Haddad, while the Brazilian anthem is heard on the background.

A follower's comment criticized Bukai for not taking a stronger stance on Islam values, and the thread got heated. The video's public shares show followers who attack PT and others who criticize violent acts committed by Bolsonaro's supporters.

However, there seems to be no division when it comes to Bolsonaro's controversial decision to transfer the Brazilian embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem: they are unanimously against it.

Translated by NATASHA MADOV

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