By Alva Solomon
Caribbean Muslims’ veneration of their faith among diverse cultures is reason for hope in the Islamic community, especially since the 9/11 attacks and a world-renowned Muslim scholar sees benefit in the transfer of that hope to the United States.
This was among the views expressed by Professor Zahid Bukhari during a lecture entitled ‘Tolerance in a Diverse Society’ at the Anna Catherina Islamic Centre on the West Coast Demerara on Thursday. The event was organised by the US Embassy and local Muslim organisations, including the Muslim Youth League of Guyana and the Guyana United Sadr Islamic Anjuman.
According to Dr Bukhari, the Islamic society in the US, moreso parents in the society, have a difficult task in considering the future of their children; the fourth and fifth generations of Muslims. He said that this is a valid concern to the 6 million Muslims who make up 2% of the US population; a fraction of the 1.5 billion Muslims living, “at every part” of the world.
He said Muslims the world over should consider the aforementioned and keep it in perspective since they have had difficult times spreading their messages and settling in parts of the world including Europe, where some politicians would say, “go back to your country”. He noted, in this vein, that there are many Muslim children who are born in the US and he called on members of the faith to consider what their purposes are in their respective society.
Dr Bukhari noted that scholars have maintained that no one could change the Islamic faith, its values and what it stands for, until the day of judgement, noting that the manifestations of the faith are varying.
He explained that the faith is exemplified by six groups, with differences in tradition and capacity to absorb views and offerings of society leading to the creation of a new culture. These groups are the Arabs (who number some 22 million in Middle East), Sub-Saharan Africa, Turkish Muslims (where the faith is not only confined to Turkey but neighbouring states), Persia (a historical group), the Sub-continent Muslims (Pakistani/ Indians/ Bangladeshi) and the Malay group (of Thailand/the Philippines etc).
Bukhari stated that Islam is manifested by these groups with differences in mosque styles, dress and other fundamental aspects.
Against this backdrop, he noted, the US Muslims are the fruits of these six cultural zones, from second generation Islamic societies and they are all expected to be united, while interacting and impacting in a much larger society. Muslims “should understand the broader perspective,” he reiterated.
In the Caribbean – mostly Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago – Bukhari stated, there is the experience in the broader perspective of the Islamic culture manifested; one aspect of it being manifested by the Qaseeda. He stated that this is part of the “new cultural force,” works in progresses. He said Muslims here are down to the fourth and fifth generations, where members have been maintaining the faith and inviting others into the Islamic world.
“It gave me hope,” he noted and according to him, would be of benefit to transfer ,”that hope”’, to the US and other parts of the world as he reiterated “the practical answer to the question, is right here”.
Bukhari stated that the demand of a Muslim also needed to be considered, where tolerance in a diverse society is concerned, and he explained that there are two types of diversity in the faith, one being the ordinary Muslim society and the other, the American Muslim society, the latter he noted is more diverse. On this note, he said there was no need for the American President to address the ‘Muslim society’ in Cairo recently; there is one right there in the US.”
He said the issue at hand is whether tolerance is a good thing or whether there is more to it, noting that the world should accept the values and morals of any multi-cultural society and celebrate it, rather than “just accepting it”. Bukhari stated that the community is learning from the effects of the 9/11 attacks, noting that in the US, people from all schools of thought are at a mosque, they have to pray together; unlike Pakistan where groups unite individually. “So in the US, Muslims are learning how to compromise,” while celebrating the faith together.
He explained to the gathering that one of the major challenges of the Islamic community in the US is settling, noting that in the Caribbean there are at least six more generations of Muslims than in the US. He said that historically, the Muslim faith settled and dissipated twice in the US, during the First World War and in the 1950s.
He said scholars have posited the view that there are 5 stages through which a Muslim has to thrive while settling in a society:
-establishment of a place of worship
-developing methods of passing the Islamic tradition to future generations
-taking care of ‘back home’, remittances (war, natural disasters)
-taking care of present day issues such as jobs, discrimination, and advocacy
-being inclined into society in a short period of time.
The last point Bukhari said was of importance as the Muslim faith has recognized the challenge of adapting to today’s society, undertaking what has been done by other groups in some 200 years, within a half century.
Bukhari’s views were welcomed by all at the Anna Catherina complex on Thursday night, including Labour Minister Manzoor Nadir, who noted that the unity displayed by small population of Muslims here has been recognized.
Bukhari, a Pakistani–American, is the director and co-principal investigator of the project ‘Muslims in American Public Square(MAPS)’ a three- year programme funded by the Pew Charitable Trust and it is housed at the famous Georgetown University in Washington D.C. He serves as Secretary General of the Islamic Circle of North America and is one of the founders of the National Islamic Shura Council, a representative body of American Muslims. He holds a Masters in Economics from the University of Karachi and a PhD in Political Science from the University of Connecticut.
Article Courtesy: Stabroek News
By Alva Solomon