Since Fidel Castro banned religion when he took control of Cuba in 1959, the majority of the population on the island is Catholic. By the time Pope John Paul II visited Cuba in 1998, there was a small percentage of Cubans who figured that the government was becoming more tolerant of other religions. Could they be more accepting of Islam?
Muslim students who came from countries like Nigeria, Pakistan, and Rwanda introduced the religion to Cuba in the 1970’s and 80’s. Islam has slowly been growing within the communist country. Out of the 11 million people, there are around 9,000 Muslims. Seeing that there is not a long lineage of the religion in Cuba, many members are converts who discovered the faith after speaking with students and diplomats who come from predominantly Muslim countries.
Although being part of the fastest-growing religious group in the world, a Pew Research Report estimates the world’s Muslim population will increase by 73 percent by the year 2050. Back in the early 1990’s Muslim citizens in Cuba dealt with persecution for practicing their faith and wound up worshipping secretly on their own.
Back in the summer of 2015, a mosque opened in the capital city of Havana. The mosque gives out traditional Muslim dress for men and women as well as donating lamb to members during Ramadan.
The adaptation to Islam is a great change for Cubans since many have grown up eating pork and drinking alcohol. Many Cuban Muslims have been able to adapt little by little. With a lack of elder Muslims to guide the younger congregates, some old traditions still are present even as converts create new ways of living as Muslim.
It is hard to say if the death of Fidel Castro will create a religious resurgence on the island. One thing is clear. The objective of Muslims in Cuba is for people not to look at Islam or its members as what current news stories portray the religion as radical and bread for terrorism, but as a religion who believes in the principles of peace and love.