Muslims of the Caribbean
Find out about Muslims who live in the Caribbean and the history
The terms Caribbean and South American refer to aggregations of countries, not to specific areas within legally defined boundaries. Thirty-one countries form the Caribbean, which is divided into English, French, Spanish, and Dutch linguistic regions. The total Muslim population by country varies from 4 to 15 percent.
The largest Muslim populations are in English-speaking countries such as Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago. There are small communities made up of Muslims of African descent, but the greatest number of Muslims are descendants of immigrants from India and Indonesia who came as indentured servants.
In French-speaking countries, such as Guadeloupe, Guyana Françoise, Haiti, and Martinique, the Muslim community is mainly composed of African Muslim immigrants from West Africa. Martinique is also home to a small immigrant Palestinian Muslim community.
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Among the English-speaking countries, Jamaica has the largest population in the Caribbean where more than 2,450,000 people live, among whom 5,000 are Muslims. They constitute 3.75 percent of the total population of the English-speaking countries of the Caribbean, but this varies from 5 to 15 percent.
The largest Muslim populations of those speaking English is in Guyana andTrinidad, where they constitute 13% and 10% of the total population respectively. They are mostly of East Indian descent.
Muslims from India and Indonesia came here first as indentured servants and farm labourers respectively. They have preserved their Islamic Identify and culture but have developed not many community institutions such as schools or Awqaaf.
Christian missionary activity has, on the whole, failed to convert Muslims to Christianity. But some youths have been neutralized: low commitment to Islam while remaining nominally Muslims. Over the past 30 years, Afro-Caribbeans have been converting to Islam. Many Islamic organization have been formed since the 1970s, which are active in various endeavours.
The most well-organised Muslim communities are in the Caribbean. The Indian community is well-established and has been here for over 150 years. There are many mosques and Islamic schools. The Afro-Caribbean community of new converts is still very small and weak.
Trinidad is the most important island in the Caribbean, politically, economically and in terms of propagation of Islam. Local Islamic work is well developed, and local organizations are handing it well. International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations (IIFSO) whose coordination is in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad earmarked some resources for Trinidad. Its work consists mainly of supporting education, managing revolving credit fund for new Muslims, and providing support to an Islamic book and video center.
In the French-speaking Islands, such as Guadeloupe, GuyanaFrancaise, Haiti and Martinique, the Muslims community is mainly made up of African Muslims immigrants from West Africa, Senegaland Mali. The total population of these five countries is 7,178,572 out of which 2,600 are Muslims. The Muslim figures for Guyana Francaise and Haiti are not known.
In Martinique, there is a wealthy immigrant Palestinian community with an Islamic center and full time Imam. Native converts are struggling to preserve their Islamic identify. IIFSO has been helping with material that propagates Islam.
In the Spanish-speaking island, such as Cuba, Dominican Republicand Puerto Rico, a fact finding mission was sent and contact was established with Muslim community. Total population of these countries are 20,573,000 out of which 3,500 are Muslims. The Muslims figure for Dominican Republic is not known though the total population of the country is around 7,000,000. It is expected that the Cuban intellectuals would listen to Islam sympathetically. The Communist era has weakened the Catholic Church.
In Dominican Republic, Pakistani Muslims have well established efforts for the propagation of Islam. There is a 2,000-strong Palestinian community in Puerto Rico with two mosques. They are economically strong and are thus able to pay for a full time Imaam. Islamic books were sent and visited these islands. With the expected fall of Communist regime IIFSO expects to do a lot of work in propagation of Islam.
In the Dutch-speaking countries include Curacao, St. Martin, Surinam and the Netherlands Antilles. There are small communities in Curacao and St Martin. The Muslim population in Surinam and the Netherlands are as follows:
There are Arab and Indo-Pakistani immigrant communities. Arabs have a mosque and a full time Imaam and are better organized.
They can self-finance many of their projects. In Surinam, there is a large number of Muslims where they constitute 28.23 percent of the total population of 425,000 of the country. Three distinct Muslim communities are living in Surirnam. The Javanese from the Indonesian Archipelago have been living in the island for more than 50 years; Indo-Pakistanis came as indentured labour for more than 100 years ago. Besides, there is a growing Afro-Surinamese community here.