Thursday, May 12, 2022

About us

ABOUT

This page seeks to voice the perspectives and experiences of the Muslim diaspora from Guyana and the Caribbean, as well as that of Muslims in Guyana and the Caribbean. While the page primarily targets the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd generations of Muslims from Guyana and the Caribbean, now living in North America and other countries, it seeks to add to the collective reality of Muslims, especially in North America.

The experiences of Muslims of Guyana and Caribbean Diaspora brings great value to the Dawah of Islam. The major strength lies in the lessons learned as a minority in a dominant Christian environment, as well as surviving the onslaught of colonization on religious beliefs and practices. The Muslims of Guyana and the Caribbean have experienced and triumphed in maintaining and spreading their faith even as they foster successful relationships with the non-Muslim communities. They have learned lessons in community building, in establishing economic and political strength and influences, and in leveraging interfaith relationships for the common good. These lessons are useful as guidelines for the evolving North American Dawah and Muslim community building.

PERSPECTIVES will serve as a conduit of these experiences and expertise to the shared objective of all Muslims in building a viable Muslim presence in North America.

BACKGROUND

The message of Islam transcends time and place. This message of full submission to the oneness of the Creator has now reached every corner of the earth, including Guyana and the Caribbean.

Some scholars have documented evidence that Muslims from West Africa traded and interacted with the inhabitants of South America and the Caribbean long before the arrival of Columbus. The next wave of Muslims to Guyana and the Caribbean came via the slave trade practiced by the Europeans in the 17th,18th, and 19th centuries. Muslims from the African tribes of Fulani, Mandingo, Yoruba and others were brought, along with others from Africa, as slaves to the sugar plantations of Guyana and the Caribbean.

The "abolition" of slavery necessitated a new labour force for the colonial powers, ushering in an era of indentureship. Muslims came as indentured servants from the Indian subcontinent to replace the freed “slaves” of African descent.

The intent of the European colonizers was to not only extract the most labor and profits from the African slaves, and subsequently from the indentured servants from the Indian subcontinent, but also to de-culturize and "Christianize" them. For the Muslims this meant an effort to replace their beliefs and practices with that of Christianity.

This official policy of “Christianizing” the Muslim population by the European colonizers resulted in the reduction of Muslim culture and Islamic understanding to the bare minimum rituals, which became the strands of linkage to their Islamic faith and culture.

Despite this, Muslim leaders were able to establish a strong network of mosques, madrassas and religious institutions, and managed to keep the Islamic identity alive in the community. However, the prevalence of some cultural practices, the lack of a comprehensive framework for Islamic knowledge, and the reduction of Islamic practice to some rituals triggered a general lacklustre approach to Islam, especially among the youth.

In the mid to late 1970s, a renaissance and rebirth of Islam and Muslim culture took place, starting in Guyana and spreading to the rest of the Caribbean. This movement of faith and cultural rebirth was led by mostly young people who organized themselves under the rallying call of “the Activities”, which later formalized as the Guyana Islamic Trust. The methodology of general classes and study circles took root in every community, reviving the dying “Masjid experience” and introducing the development of appropriate teaching materials with emphasis on character building and in-depth understanding of the Islamic ideology.

The strategy to “save the Muslim youth" from being colonized and de-culturized took prominence and urgency. It became evident that the survival of the Muslim identity lies in the proper methodology of attracting and infusing the correct characteristics and understanding into the youth population, based on the teachings and example of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).

This strategy has moulded many of us who are now presenting this important piece of work for the benefit of others.

We hope you will benefit from, and also join in the Dialogue, Debate and Discovery offered by PERSPECTIVES.