RIO DE JANEIRO – Carrying their signs and flyers, four Brazilian Muslims stood at the entrance of Copacabana beach arena, taking advantage of the movement generated by the Olympics to distribute pamphlets, answer questions and make an action against religious intolerance.
“Islam does not have a lot of disclosure in Brazil. So we formed a group to demystify prejudices and distorted view that was created by the media,” Leila Santurian told Band.com.br, one of the biggest TV channels in Brazil, on Monday, August 15.
“People only know what is happening on television. For this reason, we are here to show that Islam is a religion that promotes peace and tolerance,” she added.
Santurian is one of a team of four Brazilian Muslims who stood at the entrance of the beach volleyball arena to spread information about true Islam
The team, which came from Sao Paulo to Rio, included Beatriz Loureiro, Akram Alkhateb and Fayad Abdullah.
They represent one of several teams which spread across Rio de Janeiro to spread true information about Islam and correct misconceptions surrounding it.
Beatriz said that prejudice exists, although Brazil is a more welcoming country than many other nations.
“I think … media has increased prejudice. I am Muslim and I know that religion in Brazil is booming. But I hear a lot in terms streets as ‘back to your country.’ But where I go back if I’m Brazilian?,” he said.
“People do not realize me here. This creates the need and the importance of creating a dialogue.”
Countering pre-Olympics discourse linking Islam to terrorism, Leila said she prefers to think positively and believe in breaking down prejudices.
“It’s what we’re doing here in Rio. Every downside has its positive side. This bad media coverage creates curiosity in people. We are here to address these questions and talk,” she added.
The Street Dawah Brazil group operates throughout the country and usually chooses tourist or great movement points to convey information about Islam.
The 2016 Summer Olympics kicked off on Friday, August 5, in Rio de Janeiro and runs until August 21.