|Islam in Panama|
There are 24,000 Muslims in Panama or 0.7% of the population. The first Muslims came to Panama as slaves from Africa brought by the Spaniards, to work the gold mines in 1552. |
A group of Muslim Mandinka slaves numbering 500 escaped from a sinking ship and maintained their independence. They elected Bayano as leader and he led them in their fight against the colonialists. They were steadfast on Islam and built mosques. Bayano made covenants with the Governor of Panama to live in peace but the Spaniards eventually crushed them. Bayano was captured. The river Bayano is named after this Muslim leader.
The second wave of Muslims came from 1904. Muslims from Lebanon and India came and married local women. The formed an organization and built a place of worship in Panama City. Muslims of West Indian descent from Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados also settled in Panama. In 1963 a Muslim cemetery was bought.
The first official mosque was inaugurated in 1982. There are 10 mosques in the country presently. Islam enjoys a prominent place in Panama society. The vast majority of Muslims are of Lebanese, Palestinian and Indian descent. In Colon, Muslims and Jews form the majority of the traders. There are several Muslim or- ganizations in Panama.
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