Allahu Akbar : coming to a Cuban near you!

Will the time come when we see the ISIS flag parading down El Malecon?

Recent television reports are noting the increasing popularity of Islam in the predominantly Catholic island nation, Cuba. The exact number of Muslims in Cuba is hard to gauge because the Castro regime has not allowed free worship of any kind since the 1959 revolution. In recent years and in part to the intervention of notable figures like Pope Francis, the Cuban government has eased its official position of religious expression. The new-found religious freedoms have allowed the Catholic majority, 85 percent according to a 2009 Pew survey, to freely worship. Along with Catholicism, Islam has also taken advantage of the window of opportunity to spread throughout the island population. Muslims account for only .01 percent of the 11 million Cubans on the island, but the religion is spreading among disillusioned Catholics, atheist, and even former practitioners of Santeria, the Afro-Caribbean religion loosely related to Voodoo.

The rise of Cubans to Islam might pose a threat to the United States as the changes in diplomatic relations form a perfect storm for radicalization. According to Mohammed Hafez, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, the process to embrace Islamic extremist ideologies involves “grievances, networks, ideologies, and enabling environments and support structures.” These four pieces to the “Radicalization Puzzle” as he calls it could be the key to gauging the possibility to an emerging threat in Cuba.

The Radicalization Puzzle as described by Dr. Hafez

Looking at each piece of the puzzle we can see that Grievances likely exist as the Castro regime has vilified the U.S. government for the better part of half a century as it blames them for all the ills that have befallen on the island nation. Networks are perhaps the biggest piece of the Cuban puzzle as Breitbart News reported in February 2016 that a U.S. State Department email in the Clinton case revealed that “During the week of September 5, 2011 extremely sensitive sources reported in confidence that the Israeli Intelligence and Security Service (Mossad) has informed the leadership of the Israeli Government that Hezbollah is establishing an operational base in Cuba, designed to support terrorist attacks throughout Latin America.”

In addition, the rapid-fire changes brought by the new diplomatic relation with the United States could “promote an ideology to encourage individuals to question the precepts of the prevailing order.” In my humble opinion, enabling environments and support structures are the one piece of the puzzle that is not prevalent in present day Cuba. Access to radicalization videos and social media support groups are not widely available in Cuba due to the limited access to the internet. But one of the priorities of the Obama Administration is to improve the telecommunications infrastructure in Cuba that will likely allow widespread access to extremist websites. This new access to the internet and social media could allow the opening Islamic radicals have been waiting for.

Map depicts potential routes into he US by jihadist.

The immigration status of Cubans based on the 1996 amendment of the Cuban Adjustment Act by the Clinton Administration, allows them automatic refugee status once they reach US soil. This makes Cuba the perfect launching base to springboard jihadist into the US with little or no scrutiny from immigration officials. Knowing that Cuba is just 90 miles from the Florida coast and that Cubans receive automatic refugee status upon touching U.S. soil, regardless of how they get here, You See freedom of religion, We See a potential jihadist paradise and its war cry “Allahu Akbar” coming to a Cuban near you.

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