Islam in Suriname

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According to the official data, the Muslim population of Suriname represents about 13.9 percent of the country's total population as of 2012, which is the highest percentages of Muslims on the South American continent. Though the majority belong to the Sunni interpretation of Islam and some syncretic sects such as Sufism and Javanese Kejawèn.

Some speculate that Muslims first came to Suriname as slaves from West Africa and then were converted to Christianity over time, even though there is little proof for these speculations. The ancestors of the actual Muslim population came to the country as indentured laborers from South Asia and Indonesia, from whom today most Muslims in Suriname are descended.

Because Islam came to Suriname with immigrants from Indonesia (Java) and South Asia (today India, Pakistan and Bangladesh), who brought their local form of Islam to Suriname, it is strongly influenced by these regions. Apart from descent, most Surinamese Muslims also share the same culture and speak the same languages. Suriname has a small number of Afghan Muslims and their native-born children.[1]


There are 75,053 Muslims in Suriname, according to the 2012 census.[2] This number is up from 66,307 Muslims in 2004. However, the share of Muslims declined from 19.6% to 13.9% in the last half-century. The main reason for the declining share of Muslims in Suriname is the mass conversion of Ahmadi Muslims of Javanese descent to Christianity in the last years.[3] Between 1971 and 2012 the share of Christianity among ethnic Javanese people grew from 9% to 21% (+12%), while that of Javanese Muslims decreased from 85% to 67% (-18%). The share of Muslims of Indo-Surinamese descent decreased from 17% to 13% in the same period (-4%), mainly because of emigration to the Netherlands and declining fertility rates. The share of Muslims among Maroon people doubled from 0.1% to 0.2%.

Year [4] Suriname (population) Muslim population Share (%)
1964 324,893 63,809 19.6%
1971 379,607 74,170 19.5%
1980 355,240 69,713 19.6%
2004 492,829 66,307 13.5%
2012 541,638 75,053 13.9%

Most Muslims in Suriname are non-denominational Muslims (53%), followed by Sunnis (28%) and Ahmadiyya (19%).

Ethnic groups[edit]

Islam is the main religion among Javanese Surinamese people (67%) and the second largest religion among Indo-Surinamese people (13%) and multiracial people (8%).

Islam by ethnic group as of 2012
Ethnic group Population Muslims %
Javanese Surinamese 73,975 49,533 67.0%
Indo-Surinamese 148,443 18,734 12.6%
Multiracial people 72,340 5,471 7.6%
All Afro-Surinamese 206,423 621 0.3%
Amerindians 20,344 138 0.7%
Chinese Surinamese 7,885 112 1.4%
White Surinamese 1,665 32 1.9%
Others and indefinable 10,561 412 3.9%

Geographical distribution[edit]

Mosque in Paramaribo

Commewijne District has the highest share of Muslims (mostly Javanese Surinamese), followed by Nickerie District and Wanica District (mostly Indo-Surinamese).

Share of Muslims by district according to 2004 Census
District Percent of Muslims
Commewijne District 40.4%
Nickerie 22.5%
Wanica 21.7%
Saramacca 18.8%
Para 11.3%
Coronie 11.0%
Paramaribo 9.4%
Marowijne 6.8%
Brokopondo 0.2%
Sipaliwini 0.1%
Suriname 13.5%


Suriname (since 1996) and Guyana (since 1998) are the only countries in the Americas which are member states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.[5]

Notable Muslims[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Afghan muslims of Guyana and Suriname
  2. ^ [1]
  4. ^ Muslim Population in the Americas: 1950 – 2020 [3] page 7
  5. ^ Member States of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Archived 2013-12-09 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading[edit]

  • Bal, Ellen; Kathinka Sinha-Kerkhoff (August 2005). "Muslims in Surinam and the Netherlands, and the divided homeland". Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs. 25 (2): 193–217. doi:10.1080/13602000500350637. hdl:1871/33761.