Guyana’s political woes did little to hamper a large turnout for the opening session of an international peace conference that was recently held in the country’s capital city, Georgetown.
The conference was the initiative of the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana (CIOG) which has served the Muslim community of that country for the last 40 years.
The two-day conference (March 22-24) was held at the spacious and breezy premises of the Muslim Youth Organization (MYO) of Guyana and attracted participants from the host country, the Caribbean and South America. It was titled “Path to Peace: In the Footsteps of The Beloved.”
Shaykh Ahmad Saad Al-Azhari (r) Abdul-Rehman Malik (l)
The main speakers at the conference were Shaykh Ahmad Saad Al-Azhari from Birmingham, U.K. and Shaykha Ieasha Prime from the U.S.A.
Ustadh Nazim Baksh, a distinguished investigative journalist from Canada, Abdul-Rehman Malik, a postgraduate associate at Yale University Council on Middle East Studies and Ms. Nadine Ramsarran, a renowned mental health practitioner currently residing in Guyana, conducted workshops on a range of topic related to their areas of expertise.
Coming on the heels of the massacre of 50 Muslim worshippers in Christchurch, New Zealand, Shaykh Moenul Hack, CIOG’s director of da’wah and education, called on the Muslims of Guyana and the Caribbean to be steadfast in their commitment to the example of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, who favored peace over war and violence and who only fought his enemies after exhausting all peaceful options.
Speaking before an audience of 1300 people from across Guyana and the Caribbean including the ambassadors of the U.S.A. and the U.K. and a representative from the office of the Canadian High Commissioner of Guyana, Shaykha Ieasha Prime pointed out that peace is not a passive virtue, but rather “peace takes a great deal of courage.”
In her speech at the inaugural session, Shaykh Ieasha, drawing inspiration from Al-Hajj Malik Al-Shabazz (Malcolm X), said that “it takes courage to stand in front of your enemies and say I love you more than you hate me; matter of fact, its takes a great deal of courage to say I love you more than you hate yourself.”
Shaykh Ahmad Saad, a graduate of Al-Azhar university in Cairo, spoke on the long lost tradition of non-violence in Islam at the inaugural session.
“We have inherited a Prophetic tradition of concern for humanity and only when we are able to realize that this concern is our own, will we be able to appreciate it, defend it and spread it to all of humanity,” said Shaykh Ahmad Saad.
“It is with this Prophetic concern for humanity that we will be able to challenge violence and to make it clear to everyone that violence is a stranger to the Prophetic tradition.”
Firhaana Bulbulia receiving her Bachelor of Arts Degree (First Class Honors)- file photo
Firhaana Bulbulia, founder of Barbados Association of Muslim Ladies and the recipient of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award for her campaign to educate young women in Barbados through a project aimed at breaking down barriers, shared her gut-wrenching experiences dealing with young Muslim women in Barbados.
“What hinders our path to peace may not always be as blatant as a bruise on her face, but rather our quiet acceptance of norms, standards and status quos which move us away from what our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, taught and practiced,” said Firhaana.
“I believe peace is possible if we stay firm on the footsteps of our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, and if all of us make the intention to act on that.”
Shaykh Moen reminded attendees that “our Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, informed us that those who spread peace on earth will earn the favor of God in the life to come. In times of conflict and war, believers in God and His Messenger must set their compasses on a path to peace with wisdom and determination,” he said.
In a written message read by Shaykh Moen, Shahabudeen Ahmad, CIOG’s president, called on Muslims of Guyana and the Caribbean to be ambassadors of peace and he reminded them that from the Prophetic mercy of God’s Messenger, came peace and security.
March 21, 2019: Maulana Mushtaq Ahmed Sulaimani the resident Imam at San Fernando ASJA mosque passed away in his home country Pakistan where his funeral rites and burial took place today. It has been reported that Maulana Sulaimani was diagnosed with leukemia recently.
He died while undergoing treatment in Pakistan early Thursday morning. His funeral was conducted in his hometown of Mansehra.
Nephew Atif Sulaimani said his uncle had discovered just a month ago that he had cancer and sought treatment at a hospital overseas.
Atif Sulaimani said while receiving chemotherapy, there were some side effects and Imam Moulana had to be placed in Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where he remained for two days until his passing.
Maulana was born on February 12, 1952, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, the second of five children of Muhammad Yusuf Sulaimani and Chanan Jan. He wrote his ‘O’ Levels in Sherwan, Peshawar, and then ‘A’ Levels and B.A. at the Islamia College, Karachi, then an M.A. in Islamic Studies at Karachi University.
He also studied Al Ijaza Al Aliya in Islamic Studies at the Aleemiyah Institute in Karachi, Pakistan, the institution founded in honour of His Eminence Maulana Abdul Aleem Siddiqui and headed by Maulana Dr. Fazlur Rahman Ansari. After graduating, he was invited to Zimbabwe in 1977 to take up a post of Imam and Islamic Missionary; he served there for six years. He got married at age 29 in North West Frontier Province, Pakistan, to Shakeela Rahaman.
After Zimbabwe. Maulana accepted a position in Seychelles as an Imam. Missionary and Advisor to the Islamic Society of Seychelles. a post he held for four years.
In 1988 he was offered a posting by ASJA in Trinidad and Tobago as Imam and Islamic Missionary for the Jama Masjid, Port Of Spain. He spent one year in that position and in 1990, he was asked to be the Imam and Islamic Missionary at the San Fernando Jama Masjid, a post he continued to hold up to the time of his passing.
In addition to his duties as Imam, Maulana Sahib hosted both radio and television programmes, Sadaa-e-Islam on a weekly basis and produced the Iqra News Bulletin — a yearly publication distributed on the eve of the month of Ramadhan.
TT Prime Minister Rowley and Maulana Sulaimani (ra)
He is the loving father of a son, Jamil.
Trinidad’s Minister of Local Government Kazim Hosein offered condolences and paid tribute to the deceased Imam. Minister Hosein said in his statement “With a heavy heart, I express my deepest condolences for the passing of my close spiritual guide, friend and brother in Islam, Maulana Mushtaq Ahmad Sulaimani.
He will be remembered for his wisdom and guidance in all matters. He time and again gave me counsel in my lowest points and throughout my life on how best to serve the Almighty. He lived his life in worship to Almighty Allah (swt) serving joyfully and unreservedly. I value every lesson that he has imparted to me and my heart is light in thinking that his suffering has ended and he has entered into Jannah.
Maulana Sulaimani was a mentor and role model to Muslim Brothers and Sisters across Trinidad and Tobago. Hailing originally from Pakistan, he came to Trinidad and made it his home with a seamless adaptation to our diverse culture and people. He taught the word of Islam in every corner of the country, and his wisdom was felt by all with whom he communicated.
My beloved Imam and friend, I pray that Almighty Allah (swt) grants you forgiveness and a place in the Highest Heaven, Jannatul Firdaus. May you have this honour of a place among the most righteous, just as you shone righteously on this Earth.
You shall be remembered on the lips of many a Muslim Brother and Sister as we recite our Duas and we shall keep your family in our minds and hearts. May Almighty Allah grant them strength and comfort just as he has granted you final rest. Ameen”
President of the San Fernando Jama Masjid Waheed Majid extended his condolences to the family of Sulaimani.
Majid said Sulaimani was the Imam at the San Fernando masjid and has come to be a figure greatly respected and well-known.
“He was a very jovial and friendly person. Many people came to him and he was well-known and widely accepted by all in Trinidad and Tobago. At some government functions, he was one the of religious leaders who would say a prayer which was an honour.
He was very approachable and for us here his death is a great loss and we want to express our condolences to his family,” said Majid.
San Fernando ASJA congregation will be holding nightly Quran readings at the mosque for Imam Sulaimani.
Last Friday Muslims in the Caribbean awoke to the horrific news that over 40 of their brothers and sisters were gunned down while at Jumma prayers half-way across the world in New Zealand.
As more of the sad details emerged after Fajr prayers WhatsApp messages were being shared across Caribbean communities. Muslims here like Muslims all over the world were shocked at this occurrence.
The Caribbean Muslim Network group which has over 70 members, representing the various islands and countries in the Caribbean region, used its WhatsApp group to update its members as to details of the massacre and the responses in each island. Important questions as to how such incidences impact on Muslims in the Caribbean, how should Muslims and Islamic Institutions prepare for such tragedies, and is training in place for medical emergencies, were being asked on the group.
Governor of Bermuda (l), Ashmead Ali (c), with Bermuda’s Minister of National Security (r)
Significantly also were the numerous offers of sympathies that were coming in across the length and breadth of the Caribbean to Muslim communities from other faith groups and Governments. Ashmead Ali in Bermuda reported that they had a visit to their mosque from the Governor of Bermuda accompanied by the Minister of National Security. They came to express condolences and solidarity with the Muslims of Bermuda. In Barbados, several offers of sympathy and prayers were expressed by Christian leaders to the Muslim community. One Pentecostal leader said “This is horrific news out of New Zealand this morning. My thoughts and prayers are with your community.” And an Anglican Priest messaged: “That is more than tragic, it is barbaric!! It is inhumane. I just saw the video and I am stunned by the viciousness. My sympathy to the community!!”
In the British Virgin Islands, the Governor, Augustus Jaspert telephoned the Muslims there advising he wanted to visit the mosque but recognized that the old masjid was destroyed by the hurricane and he wanted to let the community know that he is deeply saddened by this situation that took place in New Zealand and expressed his sincere condolences to the Muslim community here and all over the world for this shameful and senseless act of these despicable people. He expressed that an attack on one freedom of a community of people practicing their faith is an attack on all and as such wishes to let the community know that they are in his thoughts and prayers.
Similar words, thoughts, and prayers were replicated throughout the region and assured Muslims that they were safe and secured here, in the beautiful part of the world.
Jumma prayers in the Caribbean last Friday were reflective and Imams urged their congregation to remain steadfast, patient and pray for the victims of this horrible tragedy. Imam Aakil Bhula encouraged the over 300 present at Jama Masjid in Bridgetown, Barbados to pray for the victims of the tragedy and their families. He also called for patience and encouraged worshippers to pray for their own safety and the safety of Barbados. In Trinidad, an appeal was made for Muslims not to share videos of yesterday’s massacre in New Zealand. Imams delivering sermons at yesterday’s Juma congregational prayer service at mosques throughout the country condemned the attack, in which 49 people were shot dead inside two mosques, as an act of hatred against Islam.
Imam Atif Majeed, at ASJA’s Mucurapo Street, San Fernando mosque, urged that the video, made by the gunman, of himself carrying out the killings, and widely circulated on social media, should not engage the attention of any right-thinking person. Trinidad’s Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein said he wept during Juma prayers yesterday as he and the congregation said prayers for the souls of the 49 people killed
In response to the tragic event several leading Islamic Organizations in the region issued media releases. The Guyana Islamic Trust in their release stated: “Our hearts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters, the victims of unspeakable acts of terror. We share their excruciating pain and suffering and that of their families for we are like one body.” And the Islamic Council of Jamaica’s release said: “The Islamic Council of Jamaica condemns this act of hatred and vitriol and extends our deepest condolences to the families and communities affected, the people of New Zealand who have been tarnished by this evil…”
Prime Ministers in the region have also expressed their thoughts. Prime Minister of Curacao, Eugene Rhuggenaath, tweeted: “On behalf of Curacao, including our important Muslim community we are proud of, I offer my deepest condolences to the people of New Zealand…” And the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, sent a condolence message to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. In correspondence sent the same Friday Prime Minister Mottley said: “the Government and people of Barbados were saddened at the loss of life and injuries resulting from the senseless act.”
In Trinidad in a statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) described the attack as an “unspeakable tragedy” which had been unleashed on the Muslim community and New Zealand.
The OPM said TT unreservedly condemns ” all words and deeds from whatsoever source, that would have the effect of initiating, encouraging or sustaining hatred in any and all its manifestations.”
The Islamic Council of Jamaica has revealed that a Jamaican married and living in New Zealand was present at one of the mosques when the gunman attacked. In an interview on Jamaican television, Adrian Wright spoke of his horror and his escape from the mosque. He also spoke of his friends that were murdered there including a four-year-old boy he knew from the time the boy was born.
While Caribbean Muslims do not expect such acts of extreme terrorism to take place in this part of the world it is still a source of concern especially since New Zealand also enjoyed the same characteristics, having never faced such a horrific act and was always known as a place of peace and safety.
San Fernando, Trinidad March 9th 2019: Madinah House is a temporary shelter for women and victims of abuse has been caring for clients from many parts of Trinidad regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.
Lydia Choate, the President, thanked everyone for assisting the organization saying it faced financial constraints and decreasing government subventions.
She said: “You supported us by purchasing tickets for our takeaway meals and giving your donations to keep the ship floating in the absence of government subventions which cannot be used for capital expenditure, like repairs. Many essential repairs were effected to the property that is leased from an anonymous donor. Help the women and children who have been victims of the scourge of domestic violence. Let us stop domestic violence now,”
Assistant resident representative of the UNDP (TT) Sharifa Ali-Abdullah in her keynote speech recalled the formative years of Madinah House and reflected on equality of the genders in the teachings of Islam.
Ali- Abdullah said “As we celebrate International Women’s Day 2019 with its theme: Think Equal, Build Smart, Innovate for Change I want us to focus on the first call to action – think equal!
Do Muslims think that men and women are equal?
In pondering over what message I wanted to share with you – the issue of equality and domestic violence keep haunting me. From the research identified earlier, men in Trinidad and Tobago are influenced by what their religion and media tell them about how to treat women. So let us bring it home – do Muslims think that men and women are equal? Is the false notion that a man is superior to a woman which gives him the excuse to abuse her? How does this play out in male-female dynamics? Interestingly, in cultures where women are treated as inferior to men, violence against women is higher – but also in countries where there is gender equity, perhaps of greater reporting and empowerment. There are also no shelters in Muslim majority countries – maybe because there is no domestic violence there!
in thinking equal let us be reminded by what Allah tells us:
‘Never will I allow to be lost the work of
any of you, male or female’ 3:195
[16:97] Anyone who works righteousness, male or female, while believing, we will surely grant them a happy life in this world, and we will surely pay them their full recompense (on the Day of Judgment) for their righteous works.
[49:13] O people, we created you from the same male and female and rendered you distinct peoples and tribes, that you may know one another. The best among you in the sight of GOD is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him. GOD is all Knowing, all-Aware.
It is clear from these ayats (verses) that Allah has ordained that men and women are equal, that they complement each other but equality does not mean sameness.
thinking equal and formulating a strategy to create a better society for all we
should be guided by Surah 9 Ayah 71 where Allah tells us
believers men and women
awliya of one another
enjoin the good
forbid the wrong
observe the prayers and give zakah
obey Allah and his Prophet
For me, this ayah represents the true spirit of Islam – men and women striving to establish a just society, enjoining the right and forbidding the wrong, being allies, awliya not competitors nor enemies of each other.”
Negative impact of media messaging
Ali-Abdullah continued “Remember the study said the media was also to be blamed for the messaging. While we would not venture into the lyrics of the music that we listen to – particularly our children that denigrates and disrespects women and promotes the culture of violence – I want to state my total disgust for the manner in which some people use social media to attack marriage and family and promote disrespect for these institutions which nibbles away and eventually leads to weakening of these fundamental structures for peaceful existence – sakinah.
In the past, it was jokes at weddings that did the trick, but now with social media, especially with easy messaging – it is disgusting that people including Muslims circulate ugly and sometimes nasty jokes about marriage and family – about men and women. While this may appear to be innocent and a bit of good trini humour – I am reminded that Shaytan has said that he will attack us with the small things – and I want to make an appeal to all of us here to delete all such messages at the least and not be part of Shaytan’s plan to promote fitnah, discord and as the research has shown domestic violence. The psychologists can explain how these messages take root and influence our behaviours. ”
Ali-Abdullah said in 1993, the UN declared violence against women a pandemic and now 26 years later, one in three women still experience physical or sexual violence at the hands of their partner, according to the results of a women’s health survey in 2017. It means that about 130,000 people in TT have experienced from physical or sexual violence. The study also found that the respondents’ cultural beliefs, including religious, fuelled this violent attitude toward women and children.
“Other notions about how we treat each other are shaped and reinforced by the media,” she said.
In concluding Ali-Abdullah paid tribute to the men who assisted in founding Madinah House “yes, we need to recognise the good men amongst us – Zabar Baksh, Saeed Mhammed , Imam Nazim , Kalamazard Mohammed, Asim Abdullah and Dr. Firdaus and their contribution to women. The memory of Gayaz Rajab beaming with love and pride at his Rose, Wardah who was a few centimetres in length and a few grammes then when we visited after she was born is one that is indelibly written in my mind. May Allah bless him and their families with His choicest blessings.” Ameen
Mrs. Shalimar Ali-Hack LLB (Hons) (U.W.I). Attorney-at-Law. Director of Public Prosecutions was featured by Guyana’s Department of Public Information on International Women’s Day commemoration on March 8th 2019.
The major activities of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions include:
Prefers indictments in the high court criminal sessions in Demerara, Berbice and Essequibo. During these criminal sessions, one or more state counsel is assigned to prosecute the cases listed to be heard by the Trial Judges
Appear in the appellate court and the full court in appeals in summary matters and from all indictable charges in the high court
Appear in the magistrate’s court for a technical high profile matter and in extreme instances, where police prosecutors request assistance
Appear in the high court in applications for bail, habeas corpus, or application to leave the jurisdiction and for extension of time to keep persons in custody pending police investigations
Provide the Guyana police force and law enforcement agencies with legal advice in the prosecution of criminal cases
Ensure no citizen is charged unjustly
Ensure that persons who break the law are charged and prosecuted according to the laws of Guyana
NPR has provided extended background information on the successful rescue of two boys taken to ISIS territory by their father. NPR reported that:
Felicia Perkins-Ferreira cried while recounting how her two young sons were taken by their father from home in Trinidad to live under the Islamic State in the Middle East.
She had a blanket stitched out of their school uniforms and other clothes for comfort. She became plagued by panic attacks and exhaustion. “Every time I fell asleep, I’d dream that my children were there beside me,” she said. But they were gone. It was too much to bear. “So I just preferred not to sleep.”
Now that agony is over. After four years of surviving life under ISIS, through war and in a detention camp in northeastern Syria, Mahmud and Ayyub — ages 11 and 7 — finally returned home to Trinidad this week, following an extraordinary intervention by their mother, a renowned human rights lawyer and an international rock star.
Roger Waters, a founding member of the band Pink Floyd, brought his celebrity power to help overcome many of the obstacles involved in securing the release of an ISIS fighter’s children and flying them back to their Caribbean homeland.
“A mother and a couple of kids separated. It’s simple; you have to put them back together,” Waters told NPR, which, alongside The Guardian newspaper, was given exclusive access to the rescue mission.
Waters said he decided to help these children after hearing about their situation from Clive Stafford Smith, a longtime friend who heads the nonprofit human rights group Reprieve. The organization is known for its efforts to help people wrongly detained and to close the Guantánamo Bay prison.
The rock star chartered a private jet in Switzerland, which flew Perkins-Ferreira on the final leg of her long journey from the Caribbean to Iraq. And then Stafford Smith and Waters hatched a plan to get the children out of neighboring Syria.
“I still won’t believe this, I still won’t be able to relax until my children are with me, home,” Perkins-Ferreira said, looking out the jet window at snowcapped mountains below. The trip out of Trinidad was her first time flying.
The boys’ Trinidadian father took them to Syria in 2014, when the younger son Ayyub had just turned 3. Perkins-Ferreira said she and the father were still married but separated. He came to her house, in a suburb of Trinidad’s capital Port of Spain, supposedly to take the children for a day out.
“He told Mahmud and Ayyub to tell me they loved me,” she recalled. Then, the boys and their dad disappeared. Her estranged husband would not answer calls or messages. She says she didn’t hear from him for several months until she got a call from Syria.
For four years, the only contacts Ferreira-Perkins had with her sons were sporadic phone conversations and grainy video calls. “If I tried to ask where they were in Syria or tell him to bring my children back, he’d cut the line and I wouldn’t get to speak to my children for weeks,” she said.
The boys lived in the Syrian city of Raqqa, which served as the capital of ISIS territory, until U.S.-led coalition forces launched a heavy assault on the city and took control in October 2017.
Their father then gave the children to a Belgian woman whom he had married in Syria, asking that she take them with her as she tried to flee toward Turkey.
What happened next is unclear, but in 2017, Kurdish militiamen eventually found the boys abandoned on a road and took them to a camp that holds foreign women and children of ISIS. The Roj camp is one of three shelters in northeastern Syria that hold more than 550 foreign women and over 1,200 foreign children, who face an uncertain future, with many of their governments unwilling to take them back.
An American detainee at the Roj camp, Samantha Marie Elhassani, also known as Samantha Sally, looked after the boys.
Last summer, after the Syrian Democratic Forces transferred Elhassani to U.S. custody, she was charged with terrorism crimes.
The boys were so traumatized and so young after being taken from Trinidad that they didn’t remember their mother’s name. But in a meeting with Stafford Smith, Elhassani passed him a photograph of Perkins-Ferreira that she had found among their possessions.
Stafford Smith enlisted the help of a Guardian journalist, who eventually tracked down Perkins-Ferreira in Trinidad.
After securing the children’s emergency passports from the government of Trinidad and Tobago, Stafford Smith needed to persuade the authorities of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan government in northern Iraq to let the boys cross the border.
Kurdistan officials said privately that they feared angering allies in the U.S.-led coalition against ISIS, which have so far largely refused to engage with their citizens held in Syrian camps and have in some cases responded by stripping their nationals of citizenship.
There were also concerns that allowing the two young children to crossthe border from Syria could set a precedent of northern Iraq becoming a route out of Syria for the hundreds of detained ISIS families.
“I chose to help these children because when I met them in the camp, they were weeping and said what they wanted for Christmas was to hug Mummy,” said Stafford Smith.
He is campaigning for the governments of other foreign detainees in Syria to allow their citizens to return. “If governments want to prosecute their national[s] when they go home, then be my guest, do that, absolutely. But what you can’t do is forget history and say that we can just find everyone guilty and leave them in the camp,” he said. “That’s the mistake … with Guantánamo.” He said U.S. detentions without trial have led to more extremism.
Touching down in Iraq, Stafford Smith used Waters’ fame to secure high-level meetings with officials from the Kurdish regional government to talk about Mahmud and Ayyub’s plight. Waters praised the “humanity” of the region’s officials to Falah Mustafa Bakir, the head of the foreign relations department, as the two men conversed, sitting in ornate, gold-painted chairs beside large Kurdish and Iraqi flags. The glad-handing mission then included a tour of the old citadel in the Kurdish city of Irbil.
With the requisite permissions approved, Stafford Smith and Perkins-Ferreira made the journey into Syria on Monday. They traveled to Qamishli, where they would meet the boys in an administrative building for the Syrian Democratic Council, the Kurdish authorities there.
Perkins-Ferreira was hoping for a quiet reunion, to hug her children in private after the long separation, but the Kurdish authorities in Syria wanted to promote their decision to release the children to their mother.
The reunion turned into a media frenzy. Seeing Mahmud and Ayyub for the first time in four years, Perkins-Ferreira and the boys cried and she hugged them close to her. She seemed intimidated as dozens of journalists crowded the family with cameras and microphones.
Wearing new coats that Perkins-Ferreira had brought for them, the family traveled back to the Iraqi border. On the car ride, they slept deeply, Mahmud and Ayyub nestling their heads on their mom’s lap.
But the challenges were not over yet. After the group crossed the Tigris River between the countries, Iraqi border officials held the family for two hours and then escorted them to a security office in the northern Iraqi town of Dohuk.
There, under the bright fluorescent strip lights of the police office, they waited for several more hours, as security officials asked them questions and waited for the final clearance from Irbil that they could pass through Iraq.
“Do you know what your father did in ISIS?” a police officer asked 7-year-old Ayyub. “Do you speak Arabic now?” he asked 11-year-old Mahmud.
The boys do speak Arabic. But afraid and exhausted, they ignored the questions, keeping their heads down and playing a game on their mother’s phone.
In the police station, as the hours ticked by, Mahmud began to sob, suffering from a pounding headache. Perkins-Ferreira held him close. Ayyub drew a picture of a house on a piece of paper. “This is my house in Trinidad,” he told his mom. “It’s where I want to go.”
Back in a hotel in Irbil, Waters grew anxious and frustrated. “What’s going on? Why are they doing this? They’re traveling with their mother! With birth certificates, with passports!” he fumed to Kurdish officials.
The officials tried to appease him, making calls to resolve the delay. Late in the evening, the authorization finally came through. After kind apologies and dinner, we continued on to Irbil, arriving after 1 a.m.
Waters greeted the boys in Irbil with large hugs. “Get these children to bed!” he said. The children and Perkins-Ferreira went to a suite in the hotel he had booked for them.
Perkins-Ferreira said that before the trip, she had not heard any songs by Waters or Pink Floyd. “I am going to check [your music] out myself,” she told him in a conversation during the rescue effort. “I’m going to be in the shower, shaking,” she said, using a slang expression for dancing.
Guyanese citizens will head to the polls in a general election within the next three months after Friday’s controversial vote in which an MP in the Moses Nagamootoo-led regime sided with the Opposition in a no-confidence motion against the government, causing it to collapse. President David Granger assured that his administration will abide by the Constitution which stipulates that general elections must be held within 90 days of a successful no-confidence motion.
A mixture of shock and bedlam enveloped the 65-seat National Assembly seconds after an Alliance For Change (AFC) MP Charandass Persaud voted with the opposition People’s Progress Party (PPP), led by former president Bharrat Jagdeo, despite desperate efforts from colleagues for him to reconsider his vote in favour of the government.
Persaud’s vote gave the opposition 33 seats in the assembly as opposed to the coalition government’s 32 seats.
The AFC is a member of the Partnership for National Unity (APNU) which also consists of the Guyana Action Party, Guyana Association of Local Authorities, Guyana National Congress, Guyana People’s Partnership, Guyana Youth Congress, Justice for All Party, National Democratic Front, National Front Alliance, People’s National Congress (PNC) and Working People’s Alliance.
The Alliance for Change (AFC) said that it has expelled Charrandas Persaud over his vote in favour of the no-confidence motion against the government.
MP Charandass Persaud
The embattled MP, who reportedly flew out of Guyana on Saturday morning shortly after voting “yes” in favour of the no-confidence motion, told a pool of reporters that he was disgusted by the voiceless posture of the AFC in the coalition government.
“We are sitting in Parliament like yes men to APNU, and we are AFC, and we have not blended with APNU; the other parties have, we have not. The government is APNU+AFC, we have not blended, so why are we doing everything they want to do like passing former Prime Minister Hamilton Green’s Pension Bill,” Persaud told reporters.
“We are not opposing anything, we are not saying no to anything and that is what my problem is. I can’t stand that. As Jessica Levy, in the House of Commons in Great Britain, said there are times when you have to vote according to your conscience and not because of party affiliation. This is a conscience vote,” he said.
He also expressed disappointment that Leader of the AFC, Raphael Trotman, defended the Public Health Minister and Chairman of the People’s National Congress/Reform (PNC/R) Volda Lawrence when she found herself in hot water over statements that suggested that she engage in the hiring of PNC/R supporters.
MP Persaud also cited the government’s decision to downsize the sugar industry, noting that the lives of thousands of sugar workers were placed on the breadline. “You destroyed the lives of sugar workers in a village and a district that I live in, and I can’t live with that. So if I die now, people may not be happy with what I have done, I will die a happy person and have a clear conscience,” he said.
Amid speculations that he was coerced or even paid by the PPP/C to vote against his Government, Persaud maintained that it was a conscience vote.
“I am not a PPP member. I am not affiliated to the PPP. This is not because of the PPP; this is because my conscience is now clear. My life may go but you know what I will die a happy person with a clear God damn conscience,” MP Persaud said. Persaud said he will be resigning from the National Assembly.
Muslims Call For Respect Of Democratic Process
Shahabudeen Ahmad, President of Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG), in a press release called for respect of democratic process. “Following the recent political developments in our country, where a no-confidence motion was passed by parliament, the Central Islamic Organization in Guyana calls on citizens to respect our maturing democracy.
Guyana belongs to all Guyanese, regardless of race, creed, or religion. Our country is on the cusp of a massive transformational economic and social trajectory that can only be undermined by a divided Guyana.
CIOG calls on all Guyanese to reject separatism and ethnic fear mongering for these would damage our country, harm our people, and benefit only economic mercenaries.
As we progress through a turbulent political climate, CIOG categorically states that our politicians, citizens, and civic organizations have a moral and ethical responsibility to work together to safeguard our birthright, protect our democracy, and ensure the well-being of each and every Guyanese.”
The continuous onslaught on the sugar workers in Guyana on finding meaningful employment after the cruel closure of the sugar estates has forced many to abandon their places of residence in pursuit of a livelihood. Others are still awaiting their complete severance pays whilst some have taken their lives unfortunately as a way out of this sudden abject poverty. Out of this crisis, a small band of volunteers has responded to the call to prepare lunches for school children who were forced to be absent from school. They call themselves Service to Humanity and have registered their entity to serve the underprivileged children in Skeldon Guyana. Their motto, therefore, is today’s children tomorrow’s future!
I was invited to support their cause since February 2018 and have raised awareness and funds for the scholarships as well as a daily feeding program for some two hundred and fifty students. During a recent visit with the volunteers and students, I was impressed with their level of dedication as well as the support they have received including the American Embassy humanitarian body and that of the Guyana Islamic Trust and the National Committee for Sisters’ Affairs (NACOSA).
Canadians have responded kindly during Ramadan and during Qurbani to continue serving these children regardless of race or religion. It is heartening to receive beautiful cards from kindergarten students as well as from high school students saying thank you. The meals are prepared by volunteers and the main founder and coordinator has given her painstaking time and care towards these children. She is Shanta Youngkam and the light in the lives of the many beneficiaries. The Service to Humanity group is hoping that the Guyana Government would return the workers to meaningful jobs and end the apparent discrimination against East Indians- the main workers and beneficiaries of the sugar cane industry- started by the British Imperialist in the West Indies.
The number of meals has passed the five thousand mark since February and a few scholarships have been awarded. Among some other humanitarian efforts, the group has helped with includes medical outreach in collaboration with Humanitarian Assistance Program of US Embassy in Guyana (HAPS) and the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana (CIOG) as well as outreach to the Albion Orphanage in Berbice and that in Enmore – East Coast Demerara (ECD). Even the East Canje seniors have benefited from the Qurbani program.
However, there has been one incident that the newly formed volunteer humanitarians have stepped up to and that is the families of the fishermen attack. Earlier this year some twenty-five fishermen were victims of a gruesome attack at sea and many lost their lives. Many of the families have been struggling with young families without a livelihood and more so they are traumatized. The group has consistently assisted with hampers etc. with such individual cases.
The highlight of the services rendered by Service to Humanity is to ensure students regardless of background get ample support to continue their education for with education anything is possible. It was sweet sugar cane sweat that fed the echelons of Guyanese society with scholars and professionals and of course Presidents and Prime Ministers. Let us not give up on them, not yet.
Malcolm X was the greatest American and in the walls of prison he gained an unparalleled level of education that made him received an honorary doctorate- he said Education is the passport to success!
I was walking down Water Street near vendors Arcade in Georgetown in 1992. I had just returned from India, with a Masters in Islamic Theology but working in Advertising. A young man in his kufi shouted out Salam Alaikum greetings only to share with me the astonishing fact that where he lives in Golden Grove, East Coast Demerara is a mosque that was defunct and a pig sty and party house!
That began my odyssey with the rebuilding of the Godden Grove mosque in Guyana.
This was Abdur-Raheem Douglas, still a practicing Muslim and current leader of the Muslim community of the predominantly Afro Guyanese village of Golden.
Presently rebuilt by the concerted efforts of many generous Muslims locally and abroad. That started last year 2017 and miraculously, given the lesser known fact of its existence, has completed and now the opening is on Sunday, Dec 2nd, 2018. Thanks to Imam Zahir Hussain of London for his extreme kindness.
However, it was the late contractor Khalid Khan from the Georgetown who took up the initiative to rebuild the mosque in 1992 using materials and manpower from Queenstown mosque. The discovery of the mosque sitting idle in the midst of the seawall side in North Golden Grove on the market goes to former Police Commander Omar Glasgow, who had his officers remove cows and animals from the premises then. He was looking for a place to pray Fajr and couldn’t bear the shameful discovery!
We named the mosque Masjid Khalid after he passed away in an accident on his way to build Lethem mosque in 2013.
But how did this place of worship for over fifteen percent of Guyanese ended up in such rut, unnoticed and unsolicited?
The late Imam Hyderali from Logwood mosque relates that this beautiful House of God was built in 1962 and habituated by Muslims in Golden Grove, Cove and John, and Clonbrook East Coast Demerara. However, during the 1964 racial riots, before Independence, the East Indians were forced to leave behind their properties and seek safety in places like Enmore, Annandale, Mackenzie, etc. Note that while the majority of Africans came as Muslims during slavery, the roots of Islam were lost and the indentured Muslims of India that followed were allowed to keep their faith, hence the term Fullaman!
The mosque was firebombed during the riots and remained roofless during all these years! It was every man’s island!
When Abdur-Raheem and myself, I lived in nearby Enmore, first visited the august edifice on a Sunday afternoon, we had to fetch water from the nearby trench, with the help of the ever kind neighbour next door, and wash the Azan stand and a spot inside to pray Maghrib. The rest of the following nine months was between continuously washing a spot to pray, inviting the people to the awareness of Islam and soliciting assistance from far and wide in the reconstruction of the Mosque. A beautiful community was born!
It was such an awe-inspiring moment when I returned this year during Eid ul Adha to see familiar faces who either took shahada on my hands or whose nikah was conducted by me in the most austere circumstances.
Today the mosque has been rebuilt with equally decent quarters for the sisters, a huge outdoor tent, an Imam’s home, and a beautiful architecture that suits the environment and the friendliness of the community.
Thanks to the newly arrived scholar Imam Luqman Musa, the son of the Mansa Musa, a formidable pioneer in the early Dawah, the generosity and knowledge of the community has grown exponentially. Special thanks to our founder AbdurRaheem Douglas and his family Karen who have kept the Faith among the sisters and families alive, despite the remarkable challenges. This family was specially taught by Imam Hyderali before he migrated to Canada.
As the late Haji Hyderali would say during handing over the trusteeship to the late Shafi Foreman that this legacy is meant for Golden Grove and will always be Golden because love and faith were the seeds this mosque was founded on in 1962, watered with blood, sweat and tears!
Salam Alaikum! An example of peacebuilding in the Jonestown famous and election frenzy country in South America called Guyana!
To keep in touch with the Golden Grove Community via their Facebook profile click here.
After the historic flooding experience in parts of the island of Trinidad, its Muslim Community distributed relief supplies to their affected compatriots. Tawakkul Society of Trinidad donated TT$100,000 for flood relief. Here are some pictures capturing the relief supplies.