SHAFAQNA – Since 1958, the island of Puerto Rico has been blessed with the crescent moon along with an initial Palestinian community as a result of the declaration of the occupying regime of Israel, which are now growing side to side with Puerto Ricans and other communities like Pakistanis, Egyptians and others.
Islam can be dated back to the time when the Spaniards took over the country in 1493, making it a colony to which African and Arab slaves were brought. These African and Arab slaves had to work in the cacao, coffee, and sugar industries as well as household care. This created a melting pot of races on the island.
Later, after the Spanish-American War, the invasion of Puerto Rico took place on July 25, 1898 when the US Navy, led by General Nelson A. Miles, landed on Guanica.
The last Puerto Rican Muslim census dates back to 2007, estimating a total of 5,000 Muslims on the island including reverts, making it a 0.10% of the population itself growing yearly in the Spanish-speaking community of Puerto Rico and other islands i.e. the Dominican Republic (3,000 since 2015) and Cuba (10,000 since 2010).
The Islamic population in Puerto Rico is expected to reach 5,300 or 0.14% in 2020; 6,200 or 0.17% by 2050; and 6,700 or 0.22% by 2100. These statistics were provided in the year 2012. The current census is unknown.
Currently, Puerto Rico holds nine mosques in general. Masjid Montehiedrah and Masjid Vega Alta are the most active amongst them. In 1981, the first mosque was established in Puerto Rico in the city of Rio Piedras with a capacity of 200 men and 40 women. This mosque is located near the University of Puerto Rico, which was founded in the 1920s. The second mosque is open to the public and was built in 1992. The latter is currently the largest mosque on the entire island and has a capacity of 1,200 men and 120 women at most with an imam.
The building can be appreciated from the island’s longest highway and gives the impression of a beautiful palace. The third establishment is at the center of the island where agriculture is at its finest. In the region called Jayuya, there is a small room being rented and changed into a mosque with the capacity of 25. This happened one year later, in 1993.
Most of the mosques have full-time imams. On the north eastern coast where tourism is well known, a mosque with a gold and blue dome was built in the city of Fajardo in 1995. This dome house has the capacity of 50 men and 15 women and operates during Ramadan. The fifth mosque on the island is in Ponce and was built in 1997, with a 20% maximum capacity in Jummah (Friday) Prayer and a capacity of 200 men and 30 women. The sixth mosque was opened on the west of the island in Aguadilla in 2002 and has the capacity of 50 people. It is generally used for Friday prayers.
The eighth and one of the most active mosques on the island was built in Montehiedra in 2007. It is located in the southern suburbs of San Juan, having the capacity of 400 men and 50 women. It has a school called Al-Noor that teaches children Islam and Arabic during the weekend and organizes activities like monthly BBQs, Muslim sleepovers, and daily food during Ramadan. This mosque holds the largest population of Muslim converts in Puerto Rico. At the moment, women form the largest part of the group, having accepted the Islamic religion and obtaining higher education through Islamic and Arabic weekend classes.
The ninth mosque was established in 2011 in Loiza, an eastern suburb of San Juan, which is also a hub for tourism and leisure. It was adopted by local Muslims with a capacity of 20 people but it is not as well known as the other mosques.
Islam is not very well known in the Caribbean. It currently lingers in an awakening process that began in the 1950s. Although Puerto Rico currently holds a Palestinian, Pakistani, and Egyptian community, a new Latin-Caribbean community is growing and is in the spotlight. This Latin-Caribbean community provides Da’wah to their own people from all over the island. Thanks to social media, Islam has already been accepted by so many Latinos. Gradually, the natives are becoming more informed and educated about Islam through social media, and tackling Islamophobia caused by the media and a lack of education.