“Assalamu alaykum,” says Yusef Sánchez in greeting as he walks through the doors of the Muslim Cultural Center in Guadalupe, a suburb just northeast of San José. Sánchez is one of few Costa Rican converts to the Islamic faith. Active in their religion, he, his wife and baby son journey from their home in the central Pacific town of Jacó every Friday, the Islamic holy day, to attend meetings at the only mosque in Costa Rica.
Sánchez estimates that he is one of maybe 20 Ticos who make up a small portion of the country’s total Muslim population, a tiny minority in a country that is 90 percent Christian.
Attending a typical Friday worship service are immigrants from Germany, Lebanon, Egypt, Pakistan, France and Palestine, among others. Sánchez’s wife is from the U.S. city of Chicago.
Either on Thursday or Friday, depending on the moon, Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, will end in a celebration Eid ul-Fitr. Ramadan is a period of increased piety in which Muslims abstain from food, drink and sexual relations and other activities from sunrise to sunset. In addition to fasting they actively look for opportunities to give to the poor. Muslims participate in these activities to teach themselves humility, spirituality and tolerance.
Dr. Abdulfatah Sasa Mahmoud, secretary of the Muslim Cultural Center and a Palestinian refugee who has been living in Costa Rica since 1973, said Muslims should always be generous, but especially during the month of Ramadan.
Every Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m., the center holds a free class on Muslim culture, and gives tours of the Muslim Cultural Center, which is located in Guadalupe, 700 meters north and 500 meters west of the tribunals, one block west of the Santa Mónica elementary school. Everyone is welcome.
For more on this story, see the Sept. 10 print or digital edition of The Tico Times.