- Title: BRAZIL: Lebanese community in Sao Paulo react to the political crisis back home
- Date: 28th January 2011
- Summary: SAO PAULO, BRAZIL (JANUARY 27, 2011) (REUTERS) GENERAL VIEW OF SAO PAULO, WHERE BRAZIL'S LARGEST LEBANESE COMMUNITY LIVES VARIOUS OF EXTERIORS OF A SUNNI MOSQUE (2 SHOTS) VIEW OF SUN SHINING THROUGH WINDOW ON CARPET VARIOUS OF SHEIKH JIHAD HASSAN HAMMADEH, HEAD OF BRAZIL'S NATIONAL UNION OF ISLAMIC ENTITIES CLOSE OF THE KORAN CLOSE OF HAMMADEH READING KORAN CLOSE OF KORAN HAMMADEH READING KORAN (SOUNDBITE) (Portuguese) SHEIKH JIHAD HASSAN HAMMADEH, HEAD OF BRAZIL'S NATIONAL UNION OF ISLAMIC ENTITIES, SAYING: "Here in Brazil there are people who are followers of Hariri, others are Shiite who support the Hezbollah, so this creates this dynamic and divides people here as well, but it is not as strong as in Lebanon because here we don't have the direct encounter (of these groups)." VIEW OF MUSLIM WOMAN AND HAMMADEH IN BACKGROUND VIEW OF MUSLIMS IN MOSQUE CLOSE OF HAMMADEH VARIOUS OF EXTERIORS OF SHIITE MOSQUE LOCATED IN A TRADITIONALLY LEBANESE NEIGHBORHOOD IN SAO PAULO CALLED BRAS
- Embargoed: 12th February 2011 12:00
- Location: Brazil, Brazil
- Country: Brazil
- Topics: International Relations,Lifestyle
- Reuters ID: LVA5UDORPSR0B05J5FRND1G5SM7W
- Story Text: With Lebanon largely divided between Hezbollah followers and supporters of toppled prime minister Saad al-Hariri, Brazil's Lebanese community seems to remain united.
Protests have erupted throughout the small Middle Eastern country over the past two weeks when Hariri was brought down by resignations of Hezbollah ministers and their allies, who put Najib Mikati in his place.
But the political tensions did not reach Brazil, which is home to an estimated 7 million people of Lebanese descent.
A U.N.-backed tribunal investigating the 2005 killing of Hariri's father, Sunni Muslim statesman Rafik al-Hariri, is the major point of contention between the ousted premier and Hezbollah, which says the court will accuse some of its members in the 2005 killing.
Brazil's Lebanese, who outnumber those living in their birth country, have managed to iron out most of their political and religious differences according to Sheikh Jihad Hassan Hammadeh, head of the national union of Islamic groups.
Hammadeh, a Sunni sheikh at a mosque in Sao Paulo, said the country's Lebanese community is more united by their traditions than divided by political opinions.
"Here in Brazil there are people who are followers of Hariri, others are Shiite who support the Hezbollah, so this creates this dynamic and divides people here as well, but it is not as strong as in Lebanon because here we don't have the direct encounter (of these groups)," he said.
Many Lebanese-Brazilians work in Sao Paulo's Bras neighborhood, where many of the hundreds of popular shops in the "Oriente" street are run by Lebanese immigrants.
Today, most run businesses in the garment sector and have embraced several aspects of the "liberal" culture which prevails in the South American country.
Kamal Sourd, a Shiite Muslim who owns a clothing store and a grocery shop, said he was happy to be far from his country's political and religious issues.
He said most Arabs in Brazil were in favor of Mikati and against the U.S. influence in the region.
"The Arab community in Brazil today -- I'm not going to say it is completely in favor, but around 70 or 80 percent are in favor of the new prime minister and the ministry that will be formed by Najib Mikati. We are against the U.S. policy. The U.S. policy in the Middle East only benefits Israel; it has been against us in these past 62 years, since the creation of the state of Israel up to now, it has only worked against the Arabs," he said.
Like Sourd, many Lebanese in Brazil believe the U.N.-backed investigation into Hariri's assassination is part of an Israel plan to weaken their country.
But unlike Sourd, most immigrants were afraid of speaking on camera about the issue.
Suheil Yamut, a Lebanese businessmen who runs the Hariri family's affairs in Brazil, said most immigrants left their religious and political differences at home.
Despite working with the Hariri family, Yamut said he would be happy just to see his country at peace, no matter who stays in power.
"We, the Lebanese here (in Brazil), have our differences, but we are united here; we leave our differences behind in Lebanon, we don't let them reach us here. Here, everyone cooperates and even though everyone has their own point-of-view, it doesn't get to the point where there is conflict. Here we are all united and working together to help Lebanon," he said.
Mikati, a friend of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, said he will seek to form a cabinet of what he called technocrats if defeated rival Saad al-Hariri's supporters reject his call for them to join his government.
Most Lebanese immigrants living in Brazil are Christians, but a huge number of Muslims poured into the country during the 1970s.
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