By Ray Chickrie
Caribbean News Now contributor
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Leaders in Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago greeted Muslims at the onset of Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting from sunrise to sunset, which began on Sunday in the Caribbean.
Ramadan coverage in Muslim strongholds in the Caribbean -- Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago -- was very noticeable in the media. Especially in Suriname the coverage in media throughout the month is pretty robust.
The prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, in extending Ramadan felicitations to Trinidadian Muslims, said that her county is a “model of peaceful diversity.”
She said: “We hold strongly to our appreciation for our fellow Muslim brothers and sisters who have made a significant contribution to our country. Such appreciation has allowed us to be seen as a model of peaceful diversity in the world through mutual respect, tolerance and acceptance of the spirit of family togetherness by putting Almighty God in front and walking behind.”
Persad-Bissessar also pointed out Ramadan represents sacrifice, and challenging of oneself to deepen spiritual appreciation for life and service to others.
The president of the Suriname Indonesian party, Pertjah Luhur, Paul Salam Somohardjo, appealed to non-Muslims to support their Muslim brothers and sisters who are fasting. Muslims in Suriname make up about 20% of the population, many of whom came from the Indonesian Island of Java.
He said, “It is important that people we remember each other and consider each other so that we develop love and compassion for each other and see each other as equal. It (Ramadan) teaches us respect towards the others and the Creator.”
The First Lady of Guyana, Deolatchmee Ramotar, extended Ramadan greetings to Guyanese Muslims.
“I extend greetings and best wishes to the Muslim community in Guyana as it commences the Holy Month of Ramadan. This is considered the ninth month of the Islamic calendar and has special significance because it was during this month, fourteen centuries ago, that Allah began to reveal the Quran to the Prophet Muhammad,” she said.
Guyana’s only Muslim minister in the cabinet of the current government, Mohammed Irfaan Ali, also extended Ramadan greetings to his brethren.
Ali, who is minister of housing and water, said that Ramadan allows for the cleansing of the mind and connecting the soul closer to God.
“It is the cleansing of one’s mind and soul in bringing you closer to the commandments as prescribed in the Holy Book, so it is my sincere wish that Guyana is blessed in a very special way this month and that all the Muslims observing this auspicious occasion are given the strength, mercies, patience and all that is required to make their fasting successful,” said Ali.
Muslims are significant minorities in Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, and Eid-Ul-Fitr, the end of Ramadan, is an official national holiday in these countries. Islam has been institutionalized at local and national level since African slaves and Indentured immigrants from India and Indonesia brought Islam to this region. More recently, the voice of local Muslims have been taken to international forums, especially since some of these countries are members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the Islamic Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO).