Muslims do not make up a significant percent of Dominica’s primarily Christian population. We are, however, a vibrant and growing community. The nation’s first and only mosque is in the north of the island – in Portsmouth, at the heart of the ROSS Medical School Muslim population.
A handful of Dominican Muslims have gone to neighboring countries with larger Muslim populations (like Trinidad and Guyana) to learn more about Islam and about how to minister to the local community. More Dominicans are converting to Islam and being born to Muslim parents than ever before.
The first Muslims in Dominica came on European slave ships. A large portion of the Atlantic Slave trade, beginning in the 1500s, came from Muslim West African areas that today include Senegal, Mali, Guinea, and the Ivory Coast.
Slavery was disastrous to these transported African cultures and traditions. Slaves of different cultures, language, and religions were intermixed and were not allowed freedom of worship or association. As a result, Islam did not survive during the ensuing generations of Africans in the New World.
During the 1960s, Malcolm X’s Nation of Islam coupled with the Black Power Movement began to spread their Islamic influence into the Afro-Caribbean population. This created a popular image of Islam as a religion for black people. During this time, a number of Dominicans studying in North America and at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad began to associate themselves with The Nation of Islam. Others converted to Islam and later become prominent elders in the Muslim Community of Dominica. The majority, however, migrated out of Dominica in the 1970s.
Dominica was not a welcoming place for Muslims in the early 1980s. Many people thought Muslims were like Rastafarians and treated them inhumanely. Under Prime Minister, Eugene Charles’ administration, it was reported that some Muslims who arrived by plane to Dominica were not allowed entrance to the country based on their religion and were forced to leave on the next flight out.
The Muslim Community of Dominica became an officially registered organization in 1995 and remains the only registered Muslim association in the country. There are about 300 Muslims in Dominica. Muslims today can be found at all levels of Dominican society, including teachers, doctors, lawyers, and laborers.