ISLAM and MUSLIMS IN PANAMA

    General Information

National name           : República de Panamá

Land area                  : 29,340 sq mi (75,991 sq km); total area: 30,193 sq mi (78,200 sq km)

Population (2007 est.) : 3,242,173

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Panama City, 1,053,500 (metro. area), 437,200 (city proper)

Other large cities      : San Miguelito, 309,500; Colón, 44,400

Monetary units          : Balboa; U.S. dollar

Languages                 : Spanish (official), English 14%, many bilingual

Ethnicity/race            : mestizo 70%, Amerindian and mixed (West Indian) 14%, white 10%, Indian 6%

Religions                    : Roman Catholic 85%, Protestant 15%

Literacy rate              : 93% (2003 est.)

Economic summary   : GDP/PPP (2007 est.): $29.14 billion; per capita $9,000. Real growth rate: 7.8%. Inflation: 5.1%.

  The southernmost of the Central American nations, Panama is south of Costa Rica and north of Colombia. The Panama Canal bisects the isthmus at its narrowest and lowest point, allowing passage from the Caribbean Sea to the Pacific Ocean. Panama is slightly smaller than South Carolina. It is marked by a chain of mountains in the west, moderate hills in the interior, and a low range on the east coast. There are extensive forests in the fertile Caribbean area.

  Explored by Columbus in 1502 and by Balboa in 1513, Panama was the principal shipping point to and from South and Central America in colonial days. In 1821, when Central America revolted against Spain, Panama joined Colombia, which had already declared its independence. For the next 82 years, Panama attempted unsuccessfully to break away from Colombia. Between 1850 and 1900 Panama had 40 administrations, 50 riots, 5 attempted secessions, and 13 U.S. interventions. After a U.S. proposal for canal rights over the narrow isthmus was rejected by Colombia, Panama proclaimed its independence with U.S. backing in 1903.

  For canal rights in perpetuity, the U.S. paid Panama $10 million and agreed to pay $250,000 each year, which was increased to $430,000 in 1933 and to $1,930,000 in 1955. In exchange, the U.S. got the Canal Zone—a 10-mile-wide strip across the isthmus—and considerable influence in Panama's affairs. On Sept. 7, 1977, Gen. Omar Torrijos Herrera and President Jimmy Carter signed treaties giving Panama gradual control of the canal, phasing out U.S. military bases, and guaranteeing the canal's neutrality.

Islamic History and Muslims

 
  Islam in Panama has a long and unique history. Official data estimates 0.3 percent of the population of Panama is Muslim.

Early history

  The first Muslims in Panama were African slaves from the Mandinka tribe, brought by the Spaniards to work the gold mines in 1552.[1] The Mandinka were Muslims, and their importation was prohibited by Spanish Laws but was violated nonetheless. A group of about 500 that arrived on the Atlantic coast of Panama in 1552, escaped from a sinking ship. They elected a man called Bayano (Vaino) as their leader in the fight against the colonizers. They formed councils, and mosques in the area now known as Darien, San Miguel, San Blas and the area along the River Bayano, named after Bayano. Bayano gained truces with Panama's colonial governor, but the well known Commander Pedro de Ursua successfully captured the guerrilla leader, who was sent to Peru and then Spain where he died. After Bayano's death, efforts were made to destroy any trace of Islam during that period in Panama. There is no history as what happened to the Muslims who remained in Panama, and the history books have largely omitted Bayano‘s Islamic heritage.

  Ballano or Vaino, was an African enslaved by Spaniards who led the biggest of the slave revolts of 16th century Panama. Captured from the Mandinka tribe in West Africa, it is alleged that he and his comrades were Muslim. Different tales tell of their revolt in 1552 beginning either on the ship en route, or after landing in Panama's Darien province along its modern-day border with Colombia. Rebel slaves, known as cimarrones, set up autonomous regions known as palenques, many of which successfully fended off Spanish control for centuries using guerrilla war and alliances with pirates, or indigenous nations who were in similar circumstances.

  King Bayano's forces numbered between four and twelve hundred Cimarrons, depending upon different sources, and set up a palenque known as Ronconcholon near modern-day Chepo River, also known as Rio Bayano. They fought their guerrilla war for over five years while building their community. The account written by Dr. Abdul Khabeer Muhammad explains that they created democratic councils and built mosques. Bayano gained truces with Panama's colonial governor, Pedro de Ursua, but Ursua subsequently captured the guerrilla leader and sent him to Peru and then to Spain, where he died. Bayano's revolt coincided with others, including those of Felipillo and Luis de Mozambique.
Bayano's name has become immortal in the Panamanian consciousness through the naming of a major river, a valley, a dam, and several companies after him.

  Modern Period

The second wave of Muslims were single-male immigrants from the Indian subcontinent and Lebanon who arrived from 1904 to 1913 and later married local women. 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. There was also another group practicing Islam in Colón led by a Jamaican named Basil Austkan, who rented a place for salat on 6th Street and Broadway. 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.

Community Development: 1970s to Present

  In the mid-1970s some native Panamanians influenced by the Nation of Islam and led by Abdul Wahab Johnson and Suleyman Johnson, began propagating Islam in Panama City and Colón. After meeting with Dr. Abdulkhabeer Muhammad they began to study orthodox Sunni Islam. In 1977 they received financing from Arab merchants in Colon to rent a place on 7th Street and Central Avenue, Colón. This group, due to lack of knowledge and assistance, eventually disintegrated. 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 Bikhu 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, given by Dr. Abdulkhaber Muhammad and in his absence Hamza Beard. In 1991 the Muslim community purchased in Arrajain, which is now used solely as a Muslim cemetery. As of March 1997, there were four masajid in the Republic of Panama.

Abdulkhabeer Muhammad

  Dr. Abdulkhabeer Muhammad (b. 1949) is a Panamanian Muslim Imam who converted to Islam in 1975 when he was 26 years old. He then became committed to Islam and dawah among the Spanish speaking people in the United States, Latin America, and the Caribbean. His family immigrated to the United States, where he obtained his Juris Doctor with specialization in international law from Syracuse University College of Law in December 1978. He traveled to Sudan to study language and Islam at Umdurman Islamic University 1979-1980. At the same time he was a professor of Comparative Law and English as a second language at Mahadiyah Secondary School in Omdurman. From 1980-1982 he attended Umm Al-Qura Language Program in Saudi Arabia.
  From 1983-1996 he has been a professor of business law and strategic management in the undergraduate program at Nova Southeastern University. When he is not there, he has been active in teaching Islam to new Muslims in Panama, presenting Islam on the local television, radio and newspapers. He has also lectured on Islam for the ISNA Conference of Latino Muslims 2000, 2001; in Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Suriname, Barbados, Trinidad, Bermuda and participated in Muslim-Christian dialogue at the Vatican. In l998 Dr. Abdulkhabeer Muhammad wrote and translated various books on Islam in Spanish for Dar-us-Salaam publishers in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and for the Center for Islamic Research and Studies in Panama. He is working on a textbook on Islamic law and banking to be used in the local university and he is planning to translate the well-known works of Ibn Kathir into Spanish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Islamic Centers and Organizations

Organization Name

Address

Phone-Fax-Email-Web

General Information

Centro Cultural Islamico
 

Centro Cultural Islamico
Avenida Melendez 3.021,Colon, Panama , Panama

507-447-2929                                       507-441-7012                           www.islampanama.org

 

Fundacion Islamica De Panama
 

Fundacion Islamica De Panama
Ave.Mexýco,Calle 29,Panamacýty,
Panama City, Panama , Panama

00507-2256449
00507-2256449
islampanama@yahoo.com

Arabic class and Islamic Dawaah

Asosiacion Islamica De Changuinola
 

Asosiacion Islamica De Changuinola
Switche 4, Changuinola, Bocas Del Toro 010300082, Panama

507-7589783                                     507-7588573                          dragonoch@hotmail.com

 

Madina Masjid Panama
 

Madina Masjid Panama
Calle Ricardo Miro, Panama,  Panama

 

 

Islamic Center Santiago
 

Islamic Center Santiago
Via Ýnter Americana Al Lado Fuerza Publica., Santiago, Veraguas , Panama

yasar_98_98@hotmail.com

 

Organisacion Ýslamica De Changuinola Mesquita Al Nur
 

Organisacion Ýslamica De Changuinola Mesquita Al Nur
Switche 4, Changuinola, Bocas Del Toro 01030089, Panama 

507-7589783
507-7588573
dragonoch@hotmail.com

 

Centro Ýslamico De Penonome
 

Centro Ýslamico De Penonome
Despues Del Machetazo Mano Ýzquierda, Penonome, Cocle , Panama

 

 

Centro De Estudios E Investigaciones Islámicas
 

Centro De Estudios E Investigaciones Islámicas
Apartado 6-4401El Dorado, Panamá

(507) 774 9489 - 775 9293

 

Asociación Islámica Chiriquí
 

Asociación Islámica Chiriquí
Via Boquete (Despues Del P.T.J.), Las Perlas Santa Cruz (Ruta R0014) David Chiriquí - Panamá


507-4332120--4450
507-4700943

 

Centro Islamico De Azuero
 

Centro Islamico De Azuero
Frente Hotel Los Guayacanes, Chitre, Azuero , Panama

507-9701823
507-9701823

 

Dar As- Salaam 
 

Dar As- Salaam 
Calle Manuel Espýnosa Batýsta, Panama City, Apdo.0819-04041 Pana, Panama

507-399-7858
507-399-788
darsalaampanama@yahoo.com

 

Academia Bilingue Arabe Panamena
 

Academia Bilingue Arabe Panamena
Margarita,Colon, Panama

507-4332120--4450
507-4700943

 

Orient Travel Agency
 

Orient Travel Agency
Justo Arosemena Ave., 42nd Street, Unicentro Bella Vista, Local No.3, Panama, Panama 87-1630, Panama

(507)2251066/2092655
(507)225-9962
orienttravel@cableonda.net

Travel agency

Milano Internacional S.A.
 

Milano Internacional S.A.
3010 Zona Libre De Colon,
Colon Free Zone, Colon , Panama

507-441-4555/4474540
507-441-6284/441-4256

 

 Centro De Blanqueamiento Dental
 

 Centro De Blanqueamiento Dental
17, Calle 74 Este, Panama City , Panama

507-3220408
         -
oceanmidwood@yahoo.com

Dental clinic

Family dollar store
 

Family dollar store
calle 4ta david,
David, Chiriqui 2048, PANAMA

507-7745538
507-7745539
family_dollar@hotmail.com

Dollar Store

References
Islam in Panama (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Panama
,  June, 2008).
Muhammad, A. A Brief History of the Muslims in Panama, The Message Canada Islamic magazine, August 1997 .
(http://web.archive.org/web/20031204000733/http://latinmuslims.com/history/panama.html
, June, 2008).
Info please (http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0107870.html
, June, 2008).
World Religions Statistics ( http://www.adherents.com/adhloc/Wh_267.html#594
, June, 2008).
Islam Finder (http://www.islamicfinder.org/cityPrayerNew.php?country=panama
,  June, 2008).
Anonymous, Documents from Representatives of Islamic Organizations in Panama, June 2008.