Muslim Converts Grow Steadily in Numbers

April 18, 2006

Source: The Miami Herald

On April 18, 2006 The Miami Herald reported, "A small number of Cubans have embraced Islam, gathering for prayers and attending religious events mostly sponsored by Iranian diplomats in Havana, one of the converts says. Some Havana residents place the total number of converts at 300; others, at 3,000. What's certain is that about 70 usually attend the gatherings hosted by the Iranian diplomats... There are about 16 Arab diplomatic missions in Havana, [said Alí Nicolás Cossío, a former foreign ministry official who now reports for the Voice of Islam, the official Iranian radio station], but the Iranian embassy plays the leading role in contacts with the local Muslims. The mission created a writing contest about Iranian history, hopes to set up a 'reflection group' on Islamic subjects and earlier this month hosted a reception to mark the anniversary of the birth of the prophet Mohammed... The new Muslim converts have tried to establish links to the Arab Union, according to knowledgeable Cubans in Havana. But the union considers itself a lay organization and has not provided them with space for religious services. There's an 'official' mosque -- within the Arab House -- a restaurant-meeting hall in Old Havana sponsored by the Office of the Havana Historian Eusebio Leal. But Cossío said that's only for diplomats and foreigners. So the converts are now asking for permission to build a mosque in Havana. 'Cuba is the only Latin American country without a mosque, and where there's no mosque it is very difficult to establish social exchanges,' Cossío said."