By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now Contributor
GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- The secretary general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), Dr Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, and his delegation, which includes Mrs Fusun Ihsanoglu, arrived in Georgetown, the capital city of Guyana, on Tuesday afternoon from Suriname and was received at the airport by Guyana’s minister of foreign affairs, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett.
In Guyana, Ihsanoglu will hold meetings with Prime Minister Sam Hinds, Rodrigues-Birkett, and the Guyana-based Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat. The OIC secretary general will also meet with the Interfaith Community of Guyana, the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana (CIOG) and visit one of the oldest mosques in Guyana, the Queenstown Jama Masjid that was built by the Afghan community of Guyana in 1895.
On Tuesday evening, Ihsanoglu visited the CIOG Secretariat for a working dinner hosted by Guyana’s Muslim community to discuss various projects of cooperation between the CIOG and the OIC, such as the CIOG’s proposed women's hospital.
“We need equipment and doctors,” said Al Haj Fazeel Ferouz, head of the CIOG.
The CIOG also discussed and sought the help of the OIC in establishing an institute of Islamic and scientific studies and an Islamic Bank in Guyana, as well seeking scholarships for studies in all the professions for Guyanese.
Fazeel Ferouz, in response to Ihsanoglu’s historic visit, said, “This is one of the most important visits of a high ranking official of the Muslim world to Guyana and Suriname and our governments should try their best to capitalize on this for the benefit of the respective countries.”
And especially to the Muslim community of Guyana, the visit is of historic proportions, corresponding to the visits of various Maulanas from India and Pakistan in the 1930s and 1960s.
The OIC is the second largest multi-lateral organisation of 57 countries from mainly Africa and Asia. The OIC includes many rich states such as Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Brunei Darussalam, Gabon, Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia. The Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) is an organ of the OIC, of which Suriname is also a member.
Guyana’s ambassador to the OIC, Dr Odeen Ishmael, said, “The visit of the secretary general of the OIC to Guyana and Suriname is of great significance since it will place both countries in the spotlight in all the member states of the organisation.”
Ishmael added that the secretary general’s visit will receive wide coverage in OIC countries, particularly the Arab region, and that both Guyana and Suriname “can make use of this visit by promoting their economic development strategies and needs, while at the same time show that they are open to investment from the rich OIC member states.”
Both Guyana and Suriname have considerable Muslim communities who arrived from West Africa during the period of slavery, from the Indian sub-continent and from the largest Islamic country, Indonesia, who make up about 15% of Suriname’s population. Guyana’s famous freedom fighter Kofi (Cuffy) had many Muslim lieutenants in his militia.
In a related development, a recent US report claims that CARICOM countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Haiti and The Bahamas, are engaged in discriminatory practices against Muslims, Rastafarians and voodoo practitioners.