The Anjuman Sunnat ul Jamaat Association (ASJA) acting president has apologised for an imam's request for a Chaguanas supermarket to remove all Hindu murtis and other Hindu items from its shelves.
On Tuesday, ASJA acting president Haji Zainool Sarafat wrote to the Sanatna Dharma Maha Sabha SDMS general secretary Vijay Maharaj, He said, "ASJA makes it abundantly clear that it does not endorse the statements in the document. ASJA would like to completely distance itself from this action and dispel any perception that this matter is perpetrated or a creature of ASJA. Far from it."
He said over the years ASJA has had a harmonious relationship with the SDMS in which there has been mutual respect for each other's religion and culture.
ASJA said it wished to apologise to the Hindu community, "which seems to be targeted by this unfortunate document."
It said ASJA has respected every creed and race in Trinidad and Tobago and has demonstrated this through its involvement with the IRO.
On Sunday, a copy of the letter bearing the signature of Inter Religious Organisation (IRO) PRO Imam Imtiaz Ali of the Real Street Jamaat and addressed to chairman Kazim Ali began circulating on Facebook. It asked for the Price Club Supermarket to remove the items.
In the letter, Ali said a student had told him Hindu items were being sold there.
Ali asked for ASJA to take action by informing ASJA’s second vice president, Shamshad Ali – one of the directors of Price Club – to remove these items from his business.
When Newsday contacted Imam Ali, he said he had orally raised this issue several times before but was told it needed to be in writing.
“The chairman asked me to do a letter, so I did the letter,” he said. “It is not about Hindu or Muslim. It is an internal matter. It was a confidential letter that someone leaked out on social media.” he said. “I did not raise the matter publicly, but we will deal with the matter at our (ASJA) executive meeting on Sunday.”
Ali said the matter has been ongoing for a long time and he only became involved six weeks ago. As a spiritual leader, he said, he has an obligation to inform his followers of the challenges faced by religious communities.
On Monday, the Price Club Supermarket issued a statement on its Facebook page responding to Ali and saying there was a personal issue between him and one of its directors "who serves voluntarily in his private capacity on the boards of several bodies including that of a religious organisation.”
It said the items offered for sale on its shelves are based on the demand and needs of its customers, and the supermarket is a commercial entity that has no affiliations to any religious organisation.
“The Price Club shall not entertain the utterances of any individual who devises to create disharmony and disunity of this cosmopolitan, harmonious rainbow nation that we all call home,” it said.
In the statement, it asked for a public apology from Ali.
Asked whether he was going to apologise to the supermarket management, he said he has first to consult with religious leaders, since the owner of the supermarket is a member of the ASJA executive board.
When Newsday contacted the Price Club via e-mail on Monday, a spokesman said it had no further comment and considered the matter closed.
IRO president Pandit Lloyd Murkram Sirjoo described the matter as an internal situation in the Islamic community.
“I believe the Islamic community themselves could resolve the situation without the IRO having to make any particular input,” he said.