Monday 14 September 2020

Islam in Costa Rica

In a country of almost 5 million, Muslims form a very tiny fraction of the Costa Rico's total population. Various estimates indicate presence of around 1500-4000 Muslims in the country, or there are only 0.01% Muslims! Not even near the 1% scale. These Muslims are mostly immigrants from Algeria, India, Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt , Somalia, Pakistan, Palestine and Syria. This estimate also include about 100 locals who have embraced the Islamic faith through conversion  The majority of Muslims are from Sunni faction of Islam with few Shias as well.

There are three mosques in Costa Rica. The Omar Mosque (Sunni) located in the Montelimar district in the Goicoechea Canton is the main center for Muslim congregations. This was the first in the country and was founded in 2002. It is officiated by the Egyptian-born Sheikh Omar Abdel Aziz and affiliated with the Islamic Organization for Culture, Education and Sciences based in Rabat, Morocco. 
Omar Mosque, San Jose, Costa Rica [Photo]

The second mosque is the Light and Faith Mosque, also Sunni, is located in downtown San José. The third is a Shiite mosque, located also in San José. Before the foundation of the Shia mosque, the Shiites congregated to pray in a private house or attended the Sunni mosque without problems.

Life for Muslims in Costa Rica? Well I could not get much on it from the internet. However, I was amazed to find an account of a born Christian. She says, "I grew up in a Catholic community and had this religion set on me for so long, till I came upon Islam. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what country you’re in or what circumstance you are in, but there is never an excuse for God (saw). It’s never too late for Allah, and he is the Most Merciful, the most understanding of all."

She continues:
Despite my religious differences, I slowly started to understand the message of Islam. Don’t think I became Muslim in the blink of an eye, nor do I consider myself to be a well enough Muslim or better than anyone else. The one thing that Islam teaches us that makes it so different from the rest and that you can’t truly find in any other religions (given my experience) is that it shows you how to be humble. It   washes away your ego. When was I ever like this as a Catholic? Yes, I was humble and had very little ego towards myself, but I consider this to be more because of my upbringing than of the religion. Yes, I was pious to God, but only when I truly needed a favor from Him or when I felt guilty enough of my negligence to Him that I would pray. I was more conscious of my needs than of what Allah wanted from me as his creation.

She plainly observes that here in Latin America, Islam is viewed with the wrong perception. Thanks to what the US media has to publish on about what they consider to be true “Muslims”, we’ve agreed to their ideologies on what Muslims are in our perspective and I need not to name a few of those wrong ideas.

For those that are reading this and living in countries where Islam is not the main religion and where your family is probably Christian or not Muslim, I can relate to how difficult it can be to openly say to everyone that you are Muslim or considering the faith of Islam. But fear your Lord! Strengthen your taqwaa (fear of God, piety, God-conscious) to Him (saw), as HE should be the only one that you truly submit down to. 

Friday Congregation, Omar Mosque, San Jose, Costa Rica [Photo]

Since Costa Rica is a Christian dominated country, one can expect total rejection to Islam. Here is one comment from a blog: "Most Costa Ricans despise Islam, just like all other sensible nation citizens do. Islam will never rise in Costa Rica. People here have seen what Islam is about in the murdering, rioting, raping and terrorism that goes on all over the world wherever there is a Muslim."

But Muslims continue to make a space for themselves. One Naji Waheed observes: "Costa Rica is the perfect setting for the development and growth of Islam throughout the rest of Latin America. I am a resident now in Costa Rica (from Miami, Florida) and I am trying to network with other Muslims here in Costa Rica to initiate the development of an Islamic community here in Costa Rica for the purpose of reaching out to the rest of Latin America."

Since Muslims are a very tiny fraction of the predominant Christian country, most of the the populations do not understand Islam in its positive way and whatever perception the media plays, they are carried away with it. I came across a couple's experience of visiting Costa Rica and his wife's hijab (the head scarf) was something that was new to them and naturally drew lot of inquisitive stares for Costa Rica is generally an all year round summer country and wearing headscarf in the rather unusual temperature does not make sense to them.
On two occasions people came up to my wife and asked if she had been there before as they saw a hijabi (girl who wears a head covering) last year - which meant to us that the people there don't see many head covered Muslims at all.
Halal food is hard to find, specially for the Muslims tourists travelling to Costa Rica. Thus seafood and vegetables are the only alternatives. There are some Kosher shops (operated by Jews) which Muslims can buy meat from with caution.

Please watch a video below Costa Rica for Muslims and Travelers:
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 |
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