Islam in Cuba: People seeking refuge in peaceful Islam

Americas Tamalika Basu
Today's Focus
Islam in Cuba
© Kmiragaya |

“It was the year 2009. Castro was still alive. The streets of Cuba were painted red with the ideologies and memories of the revolution. Everyone was celebrating the long-cherished victory. But I was there for something else.” Photojournalist Irum Ahmed ended her sentence with a dash of a smile on her lips.

“When I came to know about that Islamic community in Cuba, I was impressed. We have heard and read a lot of things about Cuba, mostly related to revolution, but a little is known about the Islamic influence of the country. Moreover, it was breaking the preconceived ideas about Cuban society”

Irum and I were sitting in her study, I came to visit after reading her article about Islam in Cuba. As a believer myself, I often try to find traces of my religion all over the world.

The reason Islam is gaining popularity

If you search for the images and articles about Cuba, you will see the images of classic cars or beautiful modern buildings. You will read articles about Fidel Castro and his revolution. But Irum gave us something different. Her article about Cuban Muslims focuses on the lives of the people converted to Islam.

A 2009 study by the Pew Research center stated that an estimated 90% of Cubans are Catholic and only 0.1% of them are Muslims.

According to Irum, the reasons for conversion are different. Some of the convertees view Islam as a little bit more pure religion than others. Others simply converted to Islam because they seek solace from the burdens of their professional and personal lives.

She gave the example of how Islam can be positive for the alcoholics, as Islam is a way for them to get rid of that malpractice. We all know that our Holy Qur’an forbids the consumption of intoxicants. Also, Islam is a peaceful religion. Some Cubans are really looking forward to peaceful life after the revolution and the violence related to it.

“Cuba is a spiritual and passionate city, especially in the matter of religion, I have experienced that.” Said Irum with much enthusiasm.

The spread of Islam in Cuba

It is evident that the belief had to face a number of obstacles before setting foot on this land. There was a time when there was no mosque or Islamic center for the Islamic people. But now, according to Irum, the condition is much improved.

“The Islamic communities are being organized in small groups in someone’s home every Friday for praying. Everyone is doing their little bit of learning and interpretation. They are evolving together!” she said.

According to social scientists, after the revolution, many Muslim students came to Cuba for studying. They were 1500-2000 in numbers. They are the first ones to bring Islam to Cuba.

In the year 2001, Sheikh Muhammad bin Nassir Al-Aboudy, the assistant secretary-general of the Muslim World League came to Cuba to ask for permission to establish an Islamic organization. It was granted.

Then, in July 2015, the Turkish Religious Affairs Foundation opened the first prayer room for Cuban Muslims. Then came the first mosque.

Today, Islam is gently flourishing in Cuba. The once-revolutionary country is taking refuge in peace and harmony.