Friday 10 April 2020

Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries: Panama

Panama is a transcontinental country in Central America and South America. Muslims constitute less than one percent of Panama’s approximately four million people, yet they enjoy peace and acceptance in one of the world’s most tolerant countries. A group of about 500 is said to have arrived on the Atlantic coast of Panama in 1552, escaped from a sinking ship. And this small group multiplied, build mosques in the areas now known as Darién Province, Bay of San Miguel, San Blas Islands and the area along the Bayano River, named after Bayano. But this group perished in history and no more is known about them.

The present day Muslims are Muslim immigrants from Indian sub continent that came in the early 20th century. In 1929 another group came from Bombay, India who went on to form the Sunni Indo-Pakistani Muslim Society. From 1929-1948 this organization (renamed Panama Muslim Mission) initiated construction on a mosque in Panama City. The location was half completed and was used for Eid prayers and classes for new Muslims, who numbered about twenty-five blacks of West Indian descent. 

In 1932 there was a group of Muslim in San Miguel, Calidonia in Panama City who resided in Short Street where they held meetings and prayers. The Muslims in Panama City of Indo-Pakistan origins had no family structure until 1951 when the first families arrived. In 1963, they purchased a plot in the local cemetery called Jardin de Paz; in 1991, property was purchased in an area called Arraijan, which is now used solely as a Muslim cemetery.

The Indo-Pakistani Muslims began teaching their children at home in 1965 until 1973, when a small teaching program began in a room above Bazar Hindustan on Central Avenue, Panama City. In 1978, they began to use a place in the area of Perejil, Panama City, where prayers and meetings took place until the completion of the El Centro Cultural Islámico de Colón on January 15, 1982. This masjid was built jointly by the Islamic Call Society (based in Libya) and Salomon Bhikhu a local merchant from India. Since its inauguration, classes have been held in the evenings and Sundays for new Muslims and people interested in Islam. As of March 1997, there were four mosques Panama.
El Centro Cultural Islamico de Colón [Photo: Wikimedia Commons | Author: Sir192 (talk) (Uploads)]

Today, The diverse Muslim community in Panama comprises Muslims from different origins and cultures. The thriving community started recently to draw native followers besides the Muslim immigrants who are mainly from Lebanon, Palestine, India and Pakistan. Most Muslims in Panama live in the major cities of Panama City and Colón, with smaller numbers in other provincial cities. The number of Muslim reverts in the Central American republic of Panama has been growing rapidly over the past years.
The Jama Masjid (above) is Panama's first mosque. It was founded in 1981 and that makes it, as far as we are aware, the first mosque in Central America. The masjid was built by in Avenida Balboa by Imam Bhattay’s grandfather with the help of the Libyan Embassy covering half of the expenses.

Al Haqq mosque, is yet another hallmark mosque built by two Panamanian Muslims, Josefina Bell-Munajj and Khadijah Jackson. Today, more than 500 Muslims attend the Friday prayer at Jama Mosque, besides two or three new converts attending the mosque every week. The Number of Panamanians joining Islam is rapidly growing, according to Ahmad Bhattay, a leader at Panama City’s Jama Mosque. 

The Panamanian Muslims have two distinct dialects: Urdu and Arabic, for most of the Muslims either belong to Indo-Pakistan subcontinent or the Lebanon and Palestine. However, all communities join hands together to form a comprehensively strong Muslim community and auger well with the life of Panama.

Watch a video below about Ramadan in Panama:
Disclaimer: The data for this post has been collected from the references as given below. If any one differs with the material contained in this post, one may consult the references and their authors.  If someone has more material about the subject, he/she is most welcome to share in the comments box to make the post all encompassing.

To know more about life of Muslims in other non Muslim countries, please visit our page: Islam and Life of Muslims in Non Muslim Countries

You may also refer to our Reference Pages for knowing more about Islam and Quran.
Photo | References: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 |
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