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ISLAMABAD, November 21: A photographic exhibition depicting the life of Muslims in Brazil was launched at the National University of Sciences and Technology (Nust) on Thursday.

Alfredo Leoni, the ambassador of Brazil, along with Rector Nust Mohammad Asghar inaugurated the “Islam in Brazil” photographic exhibition.

The ambassador thanked NUST for collaborating with the embassy and hoped it would be the first of several such collaborations.

He said, “While Brazil is a well known country, few people realise that Muslims form an integral part of its cultural diversity.”

He added that photographs were an excellent way to demonstrate the fusion of cultures which was the hallmark of the Brazilian society.

Rector Asghar added that the exhibition was a wonderful way for people to learn about Brazil and expose students and faculty to the country which was a growing economy.

The exhibition “Islam in Brazil” aims at showing Pakistanis a less-known side of Brazilian life and culture –its Muslim community.

There are approximately 1.5 million Muslims in Brazil coming from various origins and living all over the country.

As a result, mosques and religious centres are widely spread around the country’s landscape.

The largest part of this Muslim community is concentrated in the southeast and south regions of the country from Sao Paulo with its 18 million inhabitants and Rio de Janeiro to the borders of Paraguay and Argentina.

There is also a significant Muslim population in the central region of Brazil including the capital Brasilia and the state of Goias.

The communities of Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre are portrayed in the exhibition through pictures of mosques and prayer halls.

The photographers, Helena Jornada and Thomaz Napoleão, are both diplomats with the Embassy of Brazil in Islamabad and amateur photographers.

Helena has taken pictures of the Muslim communities of Porto Alegre and Rio de Janeiro while Thomaz has photographed the communities of Sao Paulo and Brasilia.

Helena says, “The exhibition was Thomaz’ idea. Living in Pakistan we realize that the growing Muslim presence in Brazil is a commonality with Pakistan and when we were in Brazil, we wanted to depict the lives and spaces of Muslims there to share with people here.”

Muslims initially arrived in Brazil in the beginning of the 16th century and many more came, mostly from Africa, during the Colonial Era.

In the 19th and 20th centuries, Brazil experienced new influxes of Muslims, this time Arabs from Lebanon, Syria and Palestine.

According to a census by the Brazilian Institute for Geography and Statistics, the number of Muslims living in Brazil has risen by 29.1 per cent between the years 2000 and 2010.

Maheen, a young student at Nust, said, “It was very nice to see these photographs. Prior to this exhibition, I only knew Brazil was very good at football!”

Salwa, from the Brazilian Embassy, says, “The more we do, the more people in Pakistan find out about Brazil which is wonderful and this exhibition is special because the topic is lovely.”

Munir, a communications consultant, said this was a good attempt on the part of Brazil to promote interfaith harmony and demonstrate the diversity that is possible in a tolerant society.

Dr. Ehsan Ali, Associate Professor at Nust, said, “Art is not my area of expertise but this exhibition is a great effort to share the spread of Islam in Brazil and I enjoyed it thoroughly.”