Islamic Population Grows In Cuba

Islamic Population Expands In Cuba

The Caribbean Nation of Cuba is home to a diverse range of cultural influences, some of which have been dormant since the 1959 revolution led by Fidel Castro that overthrew the previous government of Fulgencio Batista. But not unlike the swarm of vintage American automobiles that traverse the country’s streets. Cubans have found ways to nurture traditions and to cultivate fairly newer ones. To that end, the percentage of the Cuban population that call themselves Muslim has gained some attention as they gain a greater foothold in the country.

Under the recent administration led by Raul Castro, Cuba has begun to be more flexible in terms of both diplomatic relations and commercial enterprise exchanges. But recently, the Muslims of Cuba have come under notice, particularly by foreign countries such as Turkey for instance. Islam on a whole became part of the Cuban culture thanks in part to exchanges where students from the Middle East and Pakistan would attend the medical colleges there dating back to the 1960’s and 1970’s in addition to foreign travelers. Despite that influence, Muslims don’t have a full-fledged infrastructure within Cuba. There are no mosques in existence – in fact, state laws have prevented construction of those religious facilities. The only structure that Muslims have outside of their homes or public parks to conduct their prayers is a museum constructed in the 1940’s. The Casa De Los Arabes, or ‘Arab House’, was built by an emigrant and is part museum and part restaurant. The government took it over, and it has seen renovations thanks to donations by Qatar. But it is only open for prayer to non-Cuban Muslim tourists and dignitaries on Friday evenings.

Recent changes, most notably the renewal of ties between the United States and Cuba, may soon bring forth changes for Cuban Muslims. Turkey’s President Erdogan, on a visit to the island this past February, made a proposal to the government to begin construction on a mosque complex within Havana’s historic district. This was the next stage in talks that dated back to last year that saw Cuba give positive affirmation to such a project taking place. In addition, the Cuban government has also committed to building a mosque with Saudi Arabia in separate discussions. Erdogan has expressed hopes that these projects will not only help Muslims in Cuba, but promote greater tourism opportunities between Turkey and Cuba in the near future.