Islam and Muslims in Beautiful Caribbean
Two Islands, One Nation
Small, lush, tropical, tranquil, prosperous, free, laid back, vibrant and active Trinidad & Tobago is unlike most other places in the world. It is a set of two islands, one smaller than the other, that together constitute a country and a member nation of the United Nations.
Geographically, culturally, historically, economically and politically, Trinidad & Tobago is an integral part of the West and yet it is located at a respectable physical distance from both Europe and the United States with large green chunks of the mighty Atlantic separating one from the other.
Blessed with Allah’s bounties in the form of enormous wealth from oil and natural gas, Trinidad & Tobago is perhaps the most affluent nation of the Caribbean and the West Indies, but it is also a nation, like many other nations of the so-called Developing World, that is widely interspersed with pockets of grinding poverty.
It has a surfeit of cars on its roads but is plagued with a rate of air pollution and traffic accidents and fatalities that are alarming. Many of its beautiful beaches are washed over with oil slicks.
Alcohol flows through the veins of Trinidad & Tobago like water, and crime stalks the nation like a chronic nightmare.
Midway between the East and the West
The people of Trinidad & Tobago are a sensitive, proud, hard working, decent, accomplished and highly educated lot. Literacy is over 90 percent and education is free right through the university level.
The spirit of entrepreneurship and personal initiative and enterprise is as common as the national fever for partying, music, fete, frolic, “liming” – hanging out and having a good time – and the annual Christian-secular festival of Carnival that embodies many of these questionable practices.
In many ways perhaps Trinidad & Tobago is a midway point between the more fully developed nations of the West and what many people refer to as the “Third World.” It is a nation the origin of most of whose people is the “East” – mostly Asia and Africa – but whose present location, culture and orientation is mostly of the “West.”
And in more ways than one, Trinidad & Tobago is a checkered microcosm of the world and its multifarious peoples, cultures and traditions. It is in closest proximity to South America and yet in many marked ways it is not a Latin American nation.
Overall, Trinidad & Tobago is a society whose people, leaders and culture are uniquely and amazingly open and sensitive to more than one point of view, whether it is in politics, religion or something else.
Racial and Religious Harmony
Trinidad & Tobago is a land in which white, black and brown people of all faiths and philosophies commingle and coexist in peace and harmony with one another.
Today, religion is being used by narrow-minded bigots and self-serving zealots and charlatans everywhere to exploit society, divide people and the world into hostile camps and visit all kinds of the most unspeakable atrocities on fellow human beings. At a time like this, Trinidad & Tobago has every reason to proudly celebrate its spirit of broad-minded tolerance, peaceful coexistence and racial and religious harmony.
It is a land in which Christians, Hindus, Muslims and others live, work and go about their daily business practicing their “religion” with a spirit of mutual respect and accommodation that is reflective of the basic teachings of Islam in this regard. Historically, it is reminiscent of the racial and religious harmony that prevailed for centuries in Muslim Spain before the Inquisition.
With the two large African and Indian racial and ethnic groups having a comparable share and a complimentary role in the composition of the society, and with a small white and still smaller Chinese and native Caribbean presence playing the role of salt and yeast in the leavening of this wonderful mix, Trinidad & Tobago is the true melting pot of the world in modern times, even though other societies of the world may have from time to time laid claim to that title and delivered only marginally and meagerly on that claim.
In earlier times, it was Islam that taught the world how people of different religious and racial backgrounds must coexist and live in peace and harmony with each other. Islam created the first true racial, religious and cultural melting pot of the world.
In more ways than much of the world realizes, and without actually pressing that expression into service or making too much fuss about it, Trinidad & Tobago embodies what some parts of the world recently have come to call diversity – an oblique reference to mutual tolerance, accommodation, negotiation and respect between and amongst diverse population segments representing diverse racial and ethnic categories, cultural groupings and religious viewpoints.
An Enlightened Democracy
Trinidad & Tobago is also a resource-rich society with a great and vibrant present and an even greater and more vibrant future that is full of promise, potential and excitement. It has a higher literacy rate than most societies of the world and an economic base and infrastructure that are geared to propel it in the ranks of the developed societies of the world by the year 2020.
Above all, Trinidad & Tobago is a free, proud, self-respecting and enlightened democracy, where freedom strains and rings from every beach, valley and mountaintop. And where independence of spirit reigns in the heart of every individual no matter how high or low his or her education or economic or social status.
American Civil Rights leaders Martin Luther King, first prime minister of Trinidad & Tobago Eric Williams and others who so valiantly struggled for freedom, opportunity and dignity for their people, would have been happy to see their vision of freedom, equality and opportunity for the Western Hemisphere coming true on this island of a little over a million souls, a mere dot on the map, but a true giant among nations when it comes to commitment and respect for and adherence to the lofty notions of human rights, civil liberties, freedom, democracy and equality for its people.