Mr. Ilyas Marzougui, the Founding President of Imam El Kurtubi Institute in Bogota, the capital of Colombia, was born and raised in France in a Muslim family of Tunisian origin.
In 2003, he went to Syria for 5 years to study Islamic sciences and met his Colombian wife there. She later became a Muslim.
After marriage, instead of returning to Europe to convey Islam, he moved to Colombia and founded the “Imam al-Qurtubi Institute” which is also used as a mosque for Islamic education.
He studied philosophy besides Islamic sciences.
In addition to his activities in Imam El Kurtubi Institute, he gave lectures on Islamic history at Rosario University in Bogota.
Mr. Marzougui made evaluations on the general situation of the Muslim community in Bogota and about last Ramadan which has passed with the new type of coronavirus (Covid-19) measures.
Marzougui stated that “Bogota does not have a large Muslim community. There is a Lebanese-origin Muslim community in Bogota that migrated many years ago.
The Turkish community in Colombia is not large. A small number of Turks live in Bogota who are mostly engaged in trade or carrying out diplomatic missions.
In Columbia there are many people who converted to Islam. Islam is in demand among Colombian youth, 2-3 people are converting to Islam every week. Most of them are Colombian students. 70-80 percent of our Muslim congregation are those who later converted to Islam and most of them are women. They're very active in the community. They dress conforming to Islamic traditions "
Marzougui said that "According to the current data of the ‘Worldometer’ site, so far, no one has died due to corona disease among Muslims in Colombia, where there are more than 19 thousand cases and nearly 700 casualties. This may be because of the epidemic measures they did not get out of their homes during the month of Ramadan.
This year the month of Ramadan was a little dull. We could not carry out the fast-breaking meals and tarawih prayers, we could not give lessons for the new Muslims.
We carried out some activities via internet such as tarawih prayers and Quran recitation, though in limited way, during Ramadan at the Al Qurtubi Institute.”
He continued that “The majority of Muslims who come to Imam Qurtubi Mosque in Bogota are people between the ages of 15 and 40 who have converted to Islam. This generation are generally from the middle economic class and they are very interested in Islam.
In our center, we do not only worship, but also activities aimed at understanding the society and culture as well as lessons.”
There is no discrimination against Muslims
Marzougui said that “Colombians are open-minded and complaisant people who embrace differences in society.”
Then he made the following comments:
“There is no conflict between Muslims and non-Muslims in general in South America. No such a battle has occurred in the past. They know Islam from books and from what they hear. There is no large Muslim community in South America, except Brazil. Islam is very new in Colombia. You cannot often see Muslims and Islamic shops on the streets. Therefore, there are no discrimination or attacks against Muslims.
You can live your religious life in the society without any pressure and abasement in Colombia, but only people from the USA or Europe sometimes exhibit negative approach towards Islam, although very rarely.”
Marzougui continued : “I spent the Ramadan in Konya/Turkey last year. It is not worth to compare these two countries Colombia and Turkey in terms of Ramadan climate. I had a very special, fascinating and unforgettable days there. The Ramadan fast-breaking meals and tarawih prayers were performed by people all together.
I can say that Muslims in Turkey are living a religious life as experienced by Muslims in Medina period of Islam’s first years while Colombia is like Mecca period.
Turkey, regarding to its history, is an exact Islamic country in an atmosphere which is full of history and spirituality. As if the land is telling you something and you respond in return just like a crosstalk.. Mevlana Rumi, Şemseddin Tabrizi, Sadreddin Konevi, all of them…..I am a believer in spirituality, history and Islamic tradition.”
He underlined that “In Colombia, there is no university where Islamic studies are conducted. It will be very useful to found a department for Islamic studies in a university in Colombia. Thus, Islamic education will be carried out by experienced academicans. Many people want to learn Islam at academic level. Some of them come to our mosque currently to meet at least some of their needs.
An academic cooperation between Turkish and Columbian universities will be a very good support for the Muslim community here.”
Translation: Özden Atukeren