ISLAM and MUSLIMS IN U.S. VIRGIN
United States Virgin Islands
: 135 sq mi (349 sq km); total area: 136 sq mi (352 sq km)
Population (2006 est.) : 108,605
Capital (2000 est.)
: Charlotte Amalie (on St. Thomas), 11,004
: English (official), but Spanish and French are also spoken
: West Indian 74% (45% born in the Virgin Islands and 29% born elsewhere in
the West Indies), U.S. mainland 13%, Puerto Rican 5%, other 8%, black 80%, white
15%, other 5%, 14% of Hispanic origin
: Baptist 42%, Roman Catholic 34%, Episcopalian 17%, other 7%
: U.S. dollar
Economic summary : GDP/PPP
(2002 est.): $2.5 billion; per capita $17,200. Real growth rate: 2%.
Inflation: 2.2% (2003).
The Virgin Islands, consisting of nine main islands and some 75 islets, were
explored by Columbus in 1493. They were originally inhabited by the Carib
Indians. Since 1666, England has held six of the main islands; the remaining
three (St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John), as well as about 50 of the islets,
were eventually acquired by Denmark, which named them the Danish West Indies. In
1917, these islands were purchased by the U.S. from Denmark for $25 million.
Congress granted U.S. citizenship to Virgin Islanders in 1927. Universal
suffrage was given in 1936 to all persons who could read and write English. The
governor was elected by popular vote for the first time in 1970; previously he
had been appointed by the U.S. president. A unicameral 15-person legislature
serves the Virgin Islands, and congressional legislation gave the islands a
nonvoting representative in Congress. Residents of the islands substantially
enjoy the same rights as those enjoyed by mainlanders, but they may not vote in
Tourism is the primary economic activity, accounting for most of the GDP and
70% of employment. All goods made in the Virgin Islands qualify for duty-free
entry into the United States.
Islamic History and Muslims
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 in 1978.
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
“Having faith helps you to increase your inner faith with yourself and with each
other, he says. “Allah related to Prophet Musa that having patience will
balance out your good deeds, and your good deeds will weigh heavier then your
Imam Dawood emphasizes the importance of having a family life in maintaining
faith. “If you have no family life it is very difficult for you to protect your
Islam. 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
With this in mind, the community established an Islamic daycare on the premises
of the Masjid. “It is important to instill a foundation in the children while
they are young, says Sister Inshirah Abiff, one of the long term members of
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.
“However I always try to make sure the children have a sense of pride being
Muslim since they have to go to public school, 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. “We just have a challenge of
trying to educate people on the island about Islam as well as our children,
Sister Pamela Hoheb was born on St. Thomas but spent 30 years in the states,
returning recently after she got married. “I do not get as many stares here
being Muslim like I did when I was in NY after 911, she says.
However she misses the variety in lectures from different Islamic scholars like
she had access to living in Brooklyn. “It 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, she says, of a famed speaker.
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. “The ones that first came here in the seventies and
eighties were more sociable with the African-Caribbean Muslims, she says. “Now
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.
She also feels that educating people on the island that you do not have to be
Arab to be Muslim is also a challenge. “Many people see them and since they are
the majority in the Muslim population here they think all Muslims are
Arabs—However when you tell them there are Arabs that are as dark as me they
look at you like your are crazy.
By Tahira Muhammad (June 13th, 2007)
Islamic Centers and Organizations
The Masjid Al-Nur
St. Thomas VIRGIN ISLANDS
Muslim Owned Business
Islam On US Virgin Islands ( http://www.blackstarnews.com/?c=122&a=3420
, June, 2008).
Info please (
http://www.infoplease.com/ipa/A0113951.html , June, 2008).