A MUSLIM rally against oppression and terrorism at the Mannie Ramjohn Stadium in Marabella on Sunday, escalated into a confrontation between police and groups of Muslims who accused police of provocation when one of their security guards and vehicles entering the event were searched. The confrontation unfolded one hour and a half into the rally at about 4.15 pm.
But as the group of Muslims, led by Imtiaz Mohammed – PRO of Muslims of TT, approached the police for answers, they were interrupted by Waajihatul Islamiyyah (The Islamic Front) leader Umar Abdullah who stood alongside the team of police and accused the organisers of antagonising the police.
"I told you to stay out of this," Mohammed said to Abdullah.
Another member shouted, "We had enough of you Umar! Leave us alone. I am speaking on behalf all Muslims, Allah would deal with you." Other members came forward and led Mohammed back into the stadium where the rally continued.
Mohammed told reporters that he had a previous conversation with Abdullah and warned him to keep a low profile because of controversy surrounding his name. "He did not listen to me and instead is now accusing us of antagonising the police. How can we be antagonising the police when the police came to our rally and just began to search Muslims vehicles and then took one of our security guards to a room and searched him? It is unfair and we are fed up. We are peaceful people. Why do we have to be treated this way?" Mohammed asked.
"This was just a rally against oppression and terrorism and look what has happened, the police is here. This is the same oppression we are speaking about." Many patrons seated indoors were oblivious to what had happened outside the stadium. Uniformed police patrolled indoors and outdoors.
Chief executive officer of the Islamic Broadcasting Network (IBN) Inshan Ishmael relayed the events to patrons. "While you were seated here, outside one of our security guards was taken into a booth and searched. While you were seated here, several police vehicles came onto the compound, our vehicles were stopped at the gate, some were directed to the left and searched while we were seated here," Ishmael said.
"I want to reiterate to the Police Service that we are your doctors, lawyers, your school teachers, your garbage men and we are even your police too. While you are here, people are being raped, murdered and robbed so perhaps a priority should be set."
Former deputy political leader of the PNM, Nafeesa Mohammed said it was time for good sense to prevail because of the crime situation in the country, and Muslims should not be seen as terrorists. "We all need to take stock and, as members of the Muslim community, we want to help. The recent events that took place during the Carnival weekend have showed us the weakness that is existing in law enforcement agencies."
She said as it relates to the Anti-Terrorism Bill, they have concerns about increasing the powers of law enforcement. Afzal Abdool, principal of Rio Claro ASJA Primary School and chairman of the Haji Rukhnudeen, spoke on the topic The Importance of Unity in Islam. He asked, "Are there any terrorists living in Trinidad and Tobago?" The crowd shouted "No!" He asked, "Why then should we allow a bill to deal with Muslims as terrorists?" When Newsday later spoke to senior police officers outside the stadium, they said the police did nothing wrong and they had authority to search any vehicle or person at any given time.