Islam is blossoming in Haiti. Please click here to go to the website of Muslims in Haiti.
June 13, 2002 Posted: 6:47 PM EDT (2247 GMT)
PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (Reuters) — Tucked away on a corner of the Haitian capital’s dusty, congested Delmas Road, a modest white building bears a curious sign, painstakingly stenciled in green Western and Arabic script.
“Mosquee Al-Fatiha,” it reads. “Communaute Musulmane d’Haiti.”
An attendant splashing water on the ground greets a visitor who approaches the gate. “As-salaam aleikum [peace be upon you],” he says, breaking into a smile. “Welcome to the mosque.”
Haiti, the Caribbean nation closely associated with the African-derived faith of voodoo, is home to a small but growing community of Muslims. Two Islamic centers in the capital of Port-au-Prince are among nearly a dozen around the country started by those who have converted to the faith.
Officials with the major Islamic groups estimate there are between 4,000 and 5,000 Muslims in Haiti, a nation of about 8 million people.
In the lanes of the historic Carrefour-Feuilles quarter, a neighborhood that snakes up the mountains surrounding Port-au-Prince, a plangent, timeless sound echoes.
Among the market women haggling over prices while portable radios blare popular Haitian “compas” music, the muezzin’s call to prayer goes forth from a new Islamic masjeed, or prayer center.
“Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar Allahu Akbar, Allahu Akbar, La ilaha ila Allah,” — “God is greater, God is greater, there is no god but God.”
Haiti is about 80 percent Catholic and 20 percent Protestant, according to State Department figures, while some 85 percent of its people regularly practice voodoo.
Muslims noticeable in cities
But followers of Islam have recently stepped into the public eye. Muslim men distinctive in their kufi headwear and finely groomed beards, and women in traditional scarves, are now seen on the streets of several cities. [more]