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The puzzle of Islam
Posted: Friday, December 6, 2002

Newsday Editorial

EidThe faith of Islam now baffles, and in some places terrifies, the non-Muslim world. Based on what is supposed to be common beliefs, the teaching and injunctions of the Koran, adherents of this major religion exhibit such a vast difference in attitudes, such extremities of conduct, that most outsiders are genuinely hard-pressed to understand it.

Followers of Islam fervently claim that theirs is a religion of peace and brotherhood, yet it is no secret that much of the terrorism that now bedevils the world is generated by Muslim clerics, supported by Muslim governments and executed by fanatics of the faith.

Even here in little Trinidad and Tobago, a country where Muslims have lived peacefully for generations, where they have prospered and made a distinct and impressive contribution to national development and the upliftment of social standards, a Muslim sect was responsible for the most violent, destructive and traumatic experience in the history of our young democracy.

It is a contradiction that seems to be lost on members of the Islamic faith, but it is now a phenomenon that impacts disturbingly in many societies particularly those in which lives have been lost by the many senseless acts of terrorism which have been traced to Muslim sources.

In the United States, American Muslims are now feeling the pressure of an unfortunate backlash following the September 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Centre and the loss of thousands of lives. And certain personalities on the right have launched attacks on the Islamic faith for what is seen as its advocacy and practice of violence.

As our country observes the national holiday of Eid Ul Fitr, this contradiction in the Muslim world will doubtless appear to many, but it is the view of this newspaper that whatever concerns may arise they cannot obliterate the long, peaceful and productive history of the Muslim community in Trinidad and Tobago.

Muslims have held with dignity and distinction some of the highest positions in the governing structure of our country, including our Presidency; they have enhanced our professional life with their expertise and dedication and ethical standards and, in terms of traditional practice, their religion, symbolised by the distinctive mosques that grace our landscapes, has contributed positively to the harmonious multi-religious nature of our society. They have also set examples of personal discipline and family life for the rest of our people.

It is impossible, of course, to ignore what is happening in the wider world, especially after the September 11, 2001 attack by suicide bombers against the United States and President George Bush's on-going international war against terrorism, particularly the Al-Qaeda network led by Osama Ben Laden, and his threats to remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Whether the US President will achieve these objectives, in light of considerable international opposition to his plan for invading Iraq, is left to be seen, but even as we watch these developments and wonder about them, we must recognise the record of solid achievement by members of the traditional Muslim community who have long formed an intrinsic part of our national society.

Whatever our lingering concerns may be, we must continue to embrace members of this community as our fellow citizens, worthy of an equal place among us. The fast of Ramadan is over and the national celebration of Eid Ul Fitr is now in progress; let us join our Muslim brothers and sisters on this happy occasion. Eid Mubarak to all our readers.

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