Sunday, May 20, 2007

from cross to crescent

From Cross to Crescent: Why Latinos are increasingly converting to Islam by Anthony Chiorazzi is another typical human-interest story on Latinos and Islam. This article stands out because it offers a glimpse of Islam in Cuba:
Islamic prayers mingled with the bustling sounds of traffic as he prostrated himself in prayer in a little mosque in Havana, Cuba, recalls Diego Santos, a Cuban-American who traveled to the communist state not long ago to visit his family.

A recent convert to Islam and a writer who prefers not to use his real name, Santos says that Islam in Cuba—like in America—is becoming more visible and that during his stay he found no attempt to repress it. In fact, after jum’a, Friday prayers, Santos talked openly in Spanish about Islam with fellow Muslims while strolling down the crowded streets of old Havana, even passing the government offices of the Cuban Community for the Defense of the Revolution, which has a notorious reputation for being the snitch center for Cuban rule breakers. "Nobody was hiding their Islam in Havana," says Santos.

Back in Los Angeles, Santos attends meetings of the Los Angeles Latino Muslim Association (LALMA), an organization working to help inform the Latino community about Islam. Santos says as a Cuban-American that he has been well embraced by the Muslim community in America because his conversion confirms Islam as a universal religion. Santos hopes that more people will understand that Islam is for everyone whether they live in Europe, America or even Cuba.


Anonymous said...

When I went to Cuba the first time, there were two men--I'm not sure if they were Cuban, but they sounded Cuban--who visited my Sociedad y Religion class to talk about Islam and show us a video about Palestine. There was one guy I met on the Malecon who said that he was Muslim.

One interesting thing about Cuba is that because there is sometimes a lack of information about certain topics, religion is what you understand it to be based on the resources that you have. So for example, there are a lot of Rastas (and i am talking about the sincere ones) who know nothing about Haile Selassie I, but they consider themselves to be Rastafarian nonetheless.

I also thought that it was interesting that some folk who practiced Palo Monte wore kufis and said "Asalaamualaykum."

Personally, I didn't see a whole lot of Muslims in Havana, Cuba. I was told that the Casa de los Arabes was where the Muslims prayed from time to time. When I asked if there were any Cuban Muslims, they told me that most of the Muslims in Cuba were diplomats. I received my first Qur'an from the Egyptian Embassy in Cuba, just because I felt like asking for one.

I became Muslim the next year in the DR, where Muslims were a little more visible.

One thing I wonder about Cuba in particular, is how one reconciles the culture with Islam. I asked this question at the Hispanic Muslim Day last week in Virginia. To me Cuba is a fascinating place, but the culture is full of things that could be considered haraam. Furthermore I feel like the people are more sensual than perhaps proper adab would permit. I am thinking of dance: la salsa, la rumba, or even African traditions embedded in Regla de Ocha y Regla de Ifa (Santeria).

Aside from the retention of food (minus the pork) and language, what does Islam in Cuba look like?

Abdul-Halim V. said...

Salaams, thank you very much for your comments. I think you are providing a lot to think about. I'm intrigued and surprised by your Rastafarian example. It makes me think of the early days of the Nation and Moorish Science when in a similar way, people identified as "Muslim" without necessarily being very orthodox or being in line with more mainstream understandings of Islam.

I also think you make a good point about culture, especially with the examples you gave. I think you are right about how it is sometimes tricky to negotiate with ones "old culture" and the new religious requirements, and often that process might be uneven.

But on the other hand, there might be examples of how immigrant Muslims are mistaking their own particular cultural values for Islam, and then imposing it on new Muslims from different backgrounds.

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