INTRODUCTIONThe Caribbean chain of islands form a 2400 km archipelago, the Antilles, stretching from Cuba in the north to Trinidad in the south. The Antilles and neighboring Bahamas comprise the West Indies.
While there are some 40 plus cays that make up the Turks & Caicos Islands, only eight of them are inhabited by people. The Turks & Caicos natives are called “Belongers” or “Turks Islanders” and are either descendant from African slaves who were originally brought over to grow cotton on the island of Providenciales or have emigrated here from the Bahamas back in the salt raking days. The total population is about 36,000, of whom approximately 22,500 live on Providenciales in the Caicos Islands.
The local population mixes harmoniously with a large expatriate community of British, American, French, Canadian, Haitians, Dominicans and Scandinavians, giving the islands an international influence and unique culture. TCI is known for tourism and as an offshore financial centre. A great number of tourists who visit the Turks and Caicos Islands are Canadian and Americans.
That Barbados had Muslims on its shores before the arrival of the Europeans is perhaps a reality that hasn’t been proven by physical evidence. Nevertheless, many noted historians have argued that there was an African presence in the Caribbean long before Christopher Columbus. Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick, in his book Deeper Roots presents the case that Muslims from the African continent were visiting this region for centuries before Columbus. His research has shown that African Muslims were engaged in regular contact with the Amerindian people of this region and many married and settled in the Americas.
Although Barbados was uninhabited when the English arrived here in 1627, historical evidence has shown that Barbados did have a presence of Amerindians, Arawaks and Caribs. The Portuguese who visited the island before the English called it Os Barbados – The Bearded Ones. Dr. Richard Allsopp, a Caribbean linguist argues that this Portuguese word actually refers to bearded people and not trees as previously thought. His research indicates that the Portuguese when they visited the island probably found bearded people living here. Amerindians are not known to carry much facial hair and so these people were probably a mix race of Amerindian and African. Muslim, a strong possibility.
The next possibility of a Muslim presence on the island was from the slave trade. It is a known fact that many of the Africans taken as slaves from West Africa were Muslim. Many tried to keep their identity but that was illegal and it became lost in the generations that followed. There are some reports by missionaries that some of the slaves they encountered on the island spoke Arabic and practiced Islamic customs.