Winner Brazilian Muslims
By Afif Sarhan, IOL Correspondent
"Today I have a prosperous business while I’m still young and can afford a good life for my parents," Jomma tells IOL.
[This is part of a series of special features prepared by our correspondent during a visit to Brazil]
SAO PAULO — Issan Jomaa, 29, moved with his family from Lebanon nine years ago in search of a more peaceful, prosperous life. He spent his first two years in Brazil learning Portuguese.
During the same period he studied marketing in a local university in Sao Paulo, hoping to soon be able to help his family making a good living.
Studying at night and working eight hours a day, Jomaa was able to end his college and cover all his expenses.
During his last year in college, he invested his natural marketing talent and a sum of money he had to open his own business, a success that was a surprise to many colleagues.
Jomaa's More Marketing is now one of the most famous marketing offices in Sao Paulo.
He recently won a local propaganda competition with a total prize of $100,000. "I had to put aside my personal life but don’t regret it for one second," Jomaa tells IslamOnline.net.
"Today I have a prosperous business while I’m still young and can afford a good life for my parents who, during their life in Lebanon, weren’t able to open even a single shop," he adds.
"Brazil was the best choice. People don’t discriminate against you and sometimes even give more credibility to Arab people because they know that we are in their country to work and not to corrupt the system."
According to the last census of 2001, there are 27,239 Muslims in Brazil. However, the Islamic Brazilian Federation puts the number at around one million and a half.
The majority of Muslims are descendants of Syrian, Palestinians and Lebanese immigrants.
According to a local Muslim Association in the capital Brasilia, at least 60 percent of Muslim in the country have their own business, most of them successful.
"They come to Brazil to win, keeping their traditions and religious beliefs that help them get what they want," says Rayan Rassi, media officer for the Brazilian Muslim Association.
"Brazil gives chance to those who want to open their own business through a variety of credit lines and they don’t lose this opportunity."
"They come to Brazil to win, keeping their traditions and religious beliefs that help them get what they want," Rassi told IOL.
Jomaa spends most of his time working at his computer, making projects and designs, although he has around 15 fixed employees.
"I’m able to stay at home and let all the hard work to my employees but I didn’t reach here to get the risk to lose everything and prefer to be the one who decides and makes the starting of any project."
Jomaa is engaged to his Lebanese cousin who lives in Beirut.
"I should travel after three months for our marriage ceremony in Beirut. I met many girls in Brazil but I found out that the best is to marry my cousin who will raise my children under a Islamic way as my parents did with me."
Omar Fayad, 45, is another Muslim winner in Brazil.
He moved in from his homeland Syria in 1981, carrying with him just one bag filled with Arabic stuffs and some traditional clothes to sell.
"I was so young but had hopes for a better life than the one I was having in Syria," says Fayad.
"Without any knowledge of Portuguese, I had hard times," he remembers.
"But God helped me to work hard and win."
Travelling to different small cities, carrying a bag with Arabic clothes and home stuffs, he started to raise money and learn Portuguese.
Alone and without a family, Fayad had the chance to keep more money and invest in his own small business.
"I remember days that I ate just one sandwich or a piece of cake to be able to keep more money. God gave me strength each time I had less food and in the other day I was blessed with more clients and income."
Fayad decided to invest all his money in a small shop selling Arab food.
The two-door shop soon gained popularity thanks to his good cooking, enabling him to expand into selling goods.
"The two shops became famous in the city and my clients doubled within weeks. I was able to contract other people to work with me," he recalls.
"In 1994, when I was just 31, I had an offer from another Syrian colleague to open a small supermarket chain that started with two shops."
Fayad, married to a Brazilian convert and a father of five children, is now the owner of a big supermarket chain with 15 branches in the southeastern area of Brazil.
"There isn’t a country in the world that better accepts foreigners than Brazil."