Islam On US Virgin Islands
Despite some of their struggles in trying to understand one another, they still work to try to come together so that they and their children can have a sense of hope in practicing Islam on such a small predominately Christian island.
It was only about 30 years ago that a Muslim community began to grow on
the Virgin Islands with the building on St. Thomas of Masjid Muhammad
Later it became Masjid Al-Nur located in Charlotte Amalie, the capital
of the US Virgin Islands. With a population of about 300 Muslims the
Islamic Community in St. Thomas is unique in that it is made of up of
indigenous Virgin Islanders, Palestinians, and residents that moved
there from the United States mainland.
Much like their US stateside Muslim community counterparts, there is a
struggle to maintain a sense of community amongst the indigenous
African-Caribbean Muslims along with the other ethnic groups.
Despite some of their struggles in trying to understand one another,
they still work to try to come together so that they and their children
can have a sense of hope in practicing Islam on such a small
predominately Christian island.
At a recent Friday Khutbah Imam Dawood Aygun spoke with a visitor about patience.
â€œHaving faith helps you to increase your inner faith with yourself and
with each other,â€? he says. â€œAllah related to Prophet Musa that having
patience will balance out your good deeds, and your good deeds will
weigh heavier then your bad deeds.â€?
Imam Dawood emphasizes the importance of having a family life in
maintaining faith. â€œIf you have no family life it is very difficult for
you to protect your Islam.â€? Family life is a very important aspect in
the Caribbean culture and it has a huge impact on how Virgin Islanders
practice their Islam. Many fear that when their children leave the
Island and go to the United States they may get caught up in the fast
life style and forget the basics of their religion from home.
With this in mind, the community established an Islamic daycare on the
premises of the Masjid. â€œIt is important to instill a foundation in the
children while they are young,â€? says Sister Inshirah Abiff, one of the
long term members of the community.
Despite the lack of diverse activities like in the US, the community
finds a unique sense of close-knit comfort on a small island.
Sister Sarah Husein was born in Palestine; her parents are from
Venezuela. â€œHowever I always try to make sure the children have a sense
of pride being Muslim since they have to go to public school,â€? she
says. Sister Sarah is one of the main facilitators of the daycare that
the Masjid helps to run.
Sister Aminah Aygum the wife of the Imam Dawood moved to St. Thomas
after living in both Chicago and New York; she loves the slower pace of
the island. It allows her to get deeper into her practice of Islam. â€œWe
just have a challenge of trying to educate people on the island about
Islam as well as our children,â€? she notes.
Sister Pamela Hoheb was born on St. Thomas but spent 30 years in the
states, returning recently after she got married. â€œI do not get as many
stares here being Muslim like I did when I was in NY after 911,â€? she
However she misses the variety in lectures from different Islamic
scholars like she had access to living in Brooklyn. â€œIt would be a
dream come true if our small community here was able to sponsor Imam
Siraj Wahaj to come here to give a lecture to us,â€? she says, of a famed
Sister Ishirah Abiff feels there could be more unity amongst the
indigenous Muslims and the Palestinian Muslims who make up a majority
of the Arab population on the island. â€œThe ones that first came here in
the seventies and eighties were more sociable with the
African-Caribbean Muslims,â€? she says. â€œNow that they have established
many businesses on the Island they feel that they do not have to
interact with us as much as they used to.â€?Â
She also feels that educating people on the island that you do not have
to be Arab to be Muslim is also a challenge. â€œMany people see them and
since they are the majority in the Muslim population here they think
all Muslims are Arabsâ€”However when you tell them there are Arabs that
are as dark as me they look at you like your are crazy.â€?
The Masjid Al-Nur in St. Thomas welcomes visitors and can be contacted at (340) 776-3097 or (708) 906-4248.
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