The movement to purge Islam of Indo-Iranian traditions continues unabated in Guyana today. Friction between the younger and the older generations, or the Arab camp and the Indo-Iranian camp, continue to stifle the full potential of this minority community that has done well for itself in Guyana in the past. Yet another challenge that Guyanese Muslims face in this diverse land is to provide the bridge and reduce polarization of Indians and Blacks. At the same time a rational understanding and appreciation of Indo-Iranian traditions and reconciliation with that of the Arabic-speaking world needs to be reached. The situation is complicated by the fact that a majority of Guyanese Muslims today cannot speak or write either Arabic or Urdu.

Thus, the push to make radical changes stems from the lack of balanced education and informed opinion. If Arab-ness legitimizes everything, as the orthodox movement in Guyana claims, then without knowing, they subscribe to the superiority of the Arab world. Hence, the movement to eradicate reminiscences of the Indo-Iranian traditions is rooted more in the intelligentsia’s sense of inferiority rather than their appreciation of orthodoxy. It is ironic that the intelligentsia who went to Arabia after the 1960s and returned to Guyana created more friction and disharmony in the community. It turned into a competition of the hegemonic ambitions of a handful of religious zealots. The opponents of the Indo-Iranian heritage would do well to assert Islamic spirituality and put aside hegemonic ambitions.

Guyanese Muslims who are returning from educational institutions in the Arab world are also encouraging the younger generation to study in the Arabic-speaking countries instead of in Pakistan, India or Malaysia. Many Islamic organizations in Guyana today have their preferences of where they wish to send young people to study. Some of these organizations have forged strong ties with Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq, Kuwait and Egypt. However, Muslims still have the opportunities to study in Malaysia, Pakistan or India. But the latter countries are not the top choices of the newer generation of Muslims. The once vibrant relationship with Pakistan and India has now withered. The intelligentsia now looks to the Arabic-speaking world for leadership and religious guidance. However, it is Ironic that to this day Saudi Arabia and Guyana have not established diplomatic relations. This has to happen before the two countries exchange ambassadors and forge diplomatic and cultural ties. This is despite the fact that Guyana and Suriname are today members of the OIC, whose headquarters are based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.



(n1.) Dale Bisnauth, History of Religion in the Caribbean, Kingston: Kingston Publications, 1993, pp. 155-164, and Centennial Magazine, brochure, Queenstown Jama Masjid, Georgetown: Guyana, 1995, p. 23.

(n2.) Centennial Magazine, ibid., p. 23.

(n3.) Mircea Eliade, Encyclopedia of Religion, Vol. 7, New York: McMillan Press, 1987, p. 426

(n4.) Centennial Magazine, op. cit., p. 9

(n5.) Ibid., p. 31.

(n6.) Ibid., p. 23.

(n7.) Peter Van der veer, Nation and Migration, Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Press, 1998, p. 104.

(n8.) Ibid., p. 104.

(n9.) S. M. Ikram, Muslim Civilization in India, New York: Columbia University Press, 1965, p. 211.

(n10.) Centennial, op. cit., p. 15.

(n11.) Ibid., p. 25.

(n12.) Ibid., p. 7.

(n13.) Van der Veer, op. cit., p. 114.

(n14.) The Chistiyah Habibi Soofie Islamic Order, `Meelad’, p. 2.

(n15.) Ibid., p. 3.

(n16.) Ibid., p. 9.

(n17.) Ibid., p. 9.

(n18.) Centennial, op. cit., p. 27.

(n19.) M.W. Ismail, `Should We Celebrate Meelad-un-Nabi’

(n20.) Ibid.

(n21.) Ibid., p. 4.

(n22.) Ibid., p. 5.

(n23.) Ibid., p. 1.

(n24.) Ibid., p. 2.

(n25.) Ibid., p. 1.

(n26.) Van der Veer, Nation and Migration, op. cit., p. 14.

(n27.) Centennial, op. cit., p. 14.

(n28.) Basdeo Mangru, Indenture and Abolition, Toronto: Tsar Publications, 1993, p. 28.

(n29.) Centennial, op. cit., p. 25.

(n30.) Ibid., p. 27.

(n31.) Ibid., p. 32.

(n32.) Ibid., p. 3.

(n33.) Al-Bayan, CIOG’s Newsletter, May/June 1994, Georgetown: Guyana, p. 3.

(n34.) Ibid.

(n35.) Centennial, op. cit., p. 27.

(n36.) Brinsley Samaroo, India in the Caribbean, London: University of Warwick Hansib Press, 1987, p. 49.

(n37.) Ibid., p. 51.

(n38.) Ibid., p. 51.

(n39.) AL-Bayan, May/June 1994, p. 6.

(n40.) AL-Bayan, February/March 1995, p. 4.

Fig. 2. Ethnic composition.
Amerindian 3%
Mixed 9%
African 35%
South Asian 51%
Chinese 1%

Fig. 3. Religious representation.
Muslims 10%
Hindus 40%
Christians 50%

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Source: Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs, Oct99, Vol. 19 Issue 2, p181, 15p, 2 graphs, 1 map. Item Number: 2517000

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