NATIONAL DAY OF CUBA - 20 MAY

Founder Editor Tazeen Akhtar..

Dr. Sajid Khakwani

drsajidkhakwani@gmail.com

Country of the West Indies, the largest single island of the archipelago. Cuba was claimed by Christopher Columbus in 1492. It is situated just south of the Tropic of Cancer at the intersection of the Atlantic Ocean in the north and east, the Gulf of Mexico  in the west, and the Caribbean Sea in the south. Haiti, the nearest neighboring country, is 48 miles  to the east, across the Windward Passage; Jamaica is 87 miles  to the south; The Bahamas archipelago extends to within 50 miles of the northern coast; and the United States is about 90 miles  to the north across the Straits of Florida. The country comprises an archipelago of about 1,600 islands, islets, and cays. The island of Cuba itself is by far the largest in the chain and constitutes one of the four islands of the Greater Antilles. Groups of mountains and hills cover about one-fourth of the island of Cuba. The plains covering about two-thirds of the main island have been used extensively for sugarcane and tobacco cultivation and livestock raising. Cuban rivers are generally short, of the nearly 600 rivers and streams, two-fifths discharge to the north, the remainder to the south.

 Life in contemporary Cuba is thus challenging, given the limited access to food, transportation, electrical power, and other necessities. Even so, many Cubans show a fierce pride in their society. Cuba is a largely urban nation, although it has only one major city: Havana, the capital and commercial hub of the country, on the northwestern coast, scenic waterfront and is surrounded by fine beaches, an attraction for increasing numbers of visitors from abroad. Cuba's other cities—including Santiago, Camagüey, Holguín, and, especially, Trinidad—offer a rich legacy of colonial Spanish architecture to complement contemporary buildings.

The annual mean temperature is 79 °F (26 °C), with little variation between January, the coolest month, at 73 °F (23 °C) and August, the warmest month, at 82 °F (28 °C). The November–April dry season abruptly changes to the May–October rainy season. Annual precipitation averages 54 inches (1,380 mm). From June to November the country is often exposed to hurricanes, whose strong winds and heavy rains can cause widespread damage and suffering.

The Guanahatabey and Ciboney peoples were among the original hunter-gatherer societies to inhabit Cuba by about 4000 BC, The Taino arrived later, probably about AD 500, and spread throughout Cuba, the rest of the Greater Antilles, and the Bahamas. They developed rudimentary agriculture and pottery and established villages. By the time of the Spanish conquest, the Taino constituted nine-tenths of Cuba's inhabitants. More than half of Cubans are mulattoes (of mixed European and African lineage), and nearly two-fifths are descendants of white Europeans, mainly from Spain. Cubans of Asian descent now account for only a tiny fraction of the population and are largely concentrated in Havana's small Chinatown district. Spanish is the principal language of Cuba. Although there are no local dialects, the island's diverse ethnic groups have influenced speech patterns.About two-fifths of Cubans are Roman Catholics, at least nominally; although only a limited number actively practice the religion. An unspecified number of Cubans are nonreligious. The total number of adherents to Santería—Cuba's main religious movement—is also unknown but may include between half and two-thirds of the population. The Santería religion includes many traditions of West African (mainly Yoruba) origin, notably praying to orishas (divine emissaries), many of which have been formally identified with Roman Catholic saints. The Cuban government is not known to have placed extraordinary restrictions on Santería, perhaps because of the religion's apolitical focus and its organization in small groups rather than large congregations. The constitution was amended in 1992 to remove references to scientific materialism, to ban many forms of religious discrimination.

Cuba has a centrally planned economy with limited opportunities for self-employed workers and foreign investment. The Cuban government rigidly controls wages and prices and enforces quota systems. The main economic institutions are the Central Planning Board, headed by the economics minister; the ministries and national organizations that control the economic sectors and basic activities. Cuba received substantial economic aid from the Soviet Union prior to the latter's breakup in 1991, an event that had disastrous effects on the island's economy. The Cuban economy has depended heavily on the sugarcane crop since the 18th century. Sugar accounted for more than three-fourths of export earnings—and the largest source of the government's currency reserves—until the 1990s, when tourism began to grow in importance. Forests cover about one-fourth of the surface area. Arable land covers nearly one-third of Cuba. The soil is highly fertile, allowing up to two crops a year. Apart from sugarcane, the chief crops are rice,  it is also the main source of calories in the traditional diet. Other crops are citrus fruits, potatoes, plantains, bananas, cassava, tomatoes, and corn. Fruit trees include such citrus varieties as lemon, orange, and grapefruit; some species of the genus Annona, including the guanábana (soursop) and anón (sweetsop); and avocados and papayas. Tobacco, traditionally the country's second most important export crop, Cattle, pigs, and chickens are the main livestock. Domestic petroleum and natural gas deposits supply a growing portion of the nation's needs, but the majority is met by imports from Mexico and Venezuela.

Cuba is a unitary socialist republic. The government is totalitarian, exercising direct control or influence over most facets of Cuban life. President Fidel Castro was the chief of state, head of the government, the first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, and commander in chief of the armed forces. The country is governed under the constitution of 1976, which superseded revolutionary legislation that was enacted after the constitution of 1940 had been suspended. The 1976 constitution was slightly amended in 1992.

Under the constitution, legislative authority rests with the National Assembly of People's Power, whose more than 600 members serve five-year terms. The number of seats in the assembly has grown steadily, corresponding to the population of the provinces and municipalities. The National Assembly in its brief, twice-yearly sessions appoints a 31-member Council of State, which is headed by President Castro. The Council of State remains in session throughout the year and issues laws in the form of decrees. The president also appoints and presides over a Council of Ministers (cabinet), which carries on the daily administration of the country.

Cuba is divided into 14 provinces, and, within the 14 provinces, about 170 municipalities are there. Delegates to municipal assemblies are elected to terms of two and one-half years by universal suffrage. They, in turn, select representatives to the provincial assemblies, who also serve for two and one-half years. The national government and the Communist Party heavily influence municipal and provincial affairs. The justice system is subordinate to the legislative and executive branches of government. It is headed by the People's Supreme Court, which includes a president, vice president, and other judges elected to terms of two and one-half years by the National Assembly.

          Muslims in Cuba perform their prayers at home, because even in Havana there is no mosque in which they could congregate for prayers, adding that the only prayers that are performed in public are the Friday Prayers that are conducted in a place known as The Arab House, into which Cubans are prevented from entering. Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL), has expressed the hope that the government of Cuba would respond positively to a request for the establishment of an Islamic organization that would take care of the affairs of Cuba’s Muslim community. delegation from the MWL recently visited Cuba and discussed the proposal with some senior officials here, and added that such a move would strengthen the relations between Cuba and the Muslims peoples in the world and would also consolidate the cultural relations between Cuba and Islamic countries. However, Cuba’s Muslims say their prayers in their homes, since the state does not allow the construction of mosques, and there is no Muslim organization to protect the interests of Cuban Muslims. recently a Cuban woman who had embraced Islam donated her house for the performance of prayers by the Muslims, adding that there is no animosity against Muslims in Cuba and therefore it is fertile ground for Da’awa activity. As of July 2015 the Turkish Religious Affairs Foundation had opened the first prayer room for Cuban Muslims and the first mosque in Cuba was under construction with Turkish funding.

Among the international Islamic organizations that are carrying out charitable work among Cuba’s Muslims is the Qatari Charitable Society.

MWL is, now, prepared to help the Muslims of Cuba learn more about their religion, by sending Da’awa workers and Islamic literature, and the like.