THE DIFFERENT ways in which Eid al-Fitr is commemorated all over the world mirror the rich diversity among the global Muslim population. Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the UAE started Eid yesterday, whereas Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, Pakistan, Australia, and this country celebrate today.
The differences are beyond geography. Various schools, sects, movements, and ideologies within the faith add their own contributions to prayers and ritual. All, however, use the day to end fasting and to come together as a community.
Eid presents a good opportunity to reflect on how Islam has shaped and contributed to TT’s multiculturalism. By some counts, Muslims constitute five per cent of the population (or 65,705) according to published data from the 2011 Population and Housing Census, a 1.6 per cent increase from 64,648 in 2000.
There are over 100 mosques in the country generally affiliated with the “big three” Islamic organisations: Tackveeyatul Islamic Association or TIA, Anjuman Sunnat-ul-Jamaat Association or ASJA and Trinidad Muslim League or TML, and several independent mosques. There are also several Muslim primary (15) and secondary (eight) schools.
Muslims have long contributed to our political and judicial spheres with notable names like Kamaluddin Mohammed, Wahid Ali, Noor Hassanali, Nizam Mohammed, George Anthony Aslam Edoo, and Shahfeyei Shah.
But despite this, there is a need for more research on various aspects of the interplay between Islam and our history. University of the West Indies researcher and historian Halima-Sa’adia Kassim calls for the development of a research agenda, greater inter-faith dialogues and the strengthening of regional collaboration. She traces the arrival of the Muslim community in TT through East Indian indentureship, but notes more information is needed on other flows such as through the African and Syrian-Lebanese communities.
It’s clear however that the Muslim experience, like that of many other communities that came here under colonialism, has had highs and lows. Muslims and Hindus were part of the Hosay procession in 1884 in which 17 people were reportedly killed at Cross Crossing and Toll Gate in San Fernando.
Modern challenges to Islam include the rise of Islamophobia stemming from insular thinking as well as disagreement over the appropriate response to the threat of terrorism. China’s Uighur Muslims have faced a state-sponsored crackdown, while the world continues to be shocked by the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya people.
Nonetheless, Islam has contributed to the fabric of our ever-developing society. It has harked to universal values while embracing and advancing modernism. Studies, for example, have pointed to the correlation between high levels of social media use and the month of Ramadan.
Today is about community, family, and friends. It is about remembering those not as fortunate as we are through zakat. It is about the rich flavours of life and joy, things which all hold dear. Eid Mubarak.