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Barbados Muslims Reject ISIS, but Still Face Anti-Islam Bigotry Online

Mosque at sunset in Dow Village, Trinidad; photo by Taran Rampersad, used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license. Muslims comprise about 6% of the population in Trinidad and Tobago, with some regional territories having a higher representation and others, like Barbados, having a smaller percentage.

Mosque at sunset in Dow Village, Trinidad; photo by Taran Rampersad, used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license. Muslims comprise about 6% of the population in Trinidad and Tobago, with some regional territories having a higher representation and others, like Barbados, having a smaller percentage.

ISIS, the Al Qaeda offshoot that has grown to control large parts of Iraq and Syria using brutal and violent tactics, is allegedly recruiting fighters from the Caribbean. A recent report in the Trinidad Guardian stated that the organisation is paying as much as US $1,000 a day to new recruits.

In an interview with the newspaper, Nasser Mustapha, the president of the Trinidad Muslim League, said he was shocked by the development: “They are using our religion for their misguided aims. Scholars have written a lot about this but joining Isis is not the way to paradise. These fighters are taking things out of the proper context…”

Many prominent Islamic scholars around the world have similarly condemned ISIS, but that unfortunately hasn't stopped some from conflating the militant group with the religion of Islam. Barbados Free Press, a popular blog so named because of its desire to state its opinion without being fettered in any way, followed that mistaken line of thinking in a recent post. The blog was unapologetic about its stance, saying:

We must abandon Iraq and the Middle East. Let them slaughter each other over words and ideas… but we must take steps in the Caribbean to ensure that these violent people – fueled by their violent Koran – never gain a foothold in our countries.

The Islamist apologists and their lackeys are far more concerned with their public relations campaign for Islam than they are for the teachings from the Koran that promote ultra-violence to spread their religion.

To those who say that ISIS doesn’t represent ‘true Islam’…

Tell it to ISIS, not me.

Barbados, like most other Caribbean territories, predominantly comprises people of African descent, most of whom are descended from slaves who were brought to work the sugar cane plantations. The island's Muslim community is small — anywhere from 0.7-1.5 percent of the population.

Barbados’ first Muslim, a silk trader from West Bengal, reportedly arrived on the island's shores about a hundred years ago. Later, Muslims from villages in Gujarat (West India) arrived; others came as indentured labourers post-Emancipation. As a minority, and perhaps to create a support system for their faith and way of life, Barbadian Muslims have built mosques, schools and even a controversial housing development that critics accused of being for Muslims only. Though the developers deny this, the issue has exposed underlying social tensions on the island and created a climate for Islamophobia to thrive.

The Barbados Muslim Association has attempted to clarify such misconceptions, making the point that you can be both Muslim and Barbadian. When asked about anti-Muslim sentiment on the island in a recent interview with Antillean Media Group, the association's secretary, Suleiman Bulbulia, said:

We don’t generally experience it. Usually it will raise its ugly head when there are issues like these or some international occurrence which the media highlights.

Driving this is probably a vocal minority who by and large may not be Barbadian but persons living here and who have their own axe to grind.

I definitely think there is a need for greater public education on Islam, Muslims and specifically the faith and the followers in Barbados.

Social media has helped to bring out more persons and their opinions, positive and negative, although usually very negative.

Like Bulbulia mentioned, some commenters echoed Barbados Free Press‘ negative view of Islam, but others pushed back against the ignorance. One, who was of the opinion that hate only begets more hate, responded:

I am an apologist. I do not believe that the vast majority of Muslims think that ‘the Koran verses about slaying infidels and imposing Islam through force have (any) place in today’s world’. Nor do I believe that the Biblical injunctions to, for example ‘kill all the inhabitants of any city where you find people that worship differently than you. Deuteronomy 13:12-16′ have any place either.

Another reader, using the name MistaBlack, called out the blog for its own extremism. Quoting a paragraph from the post, he countered:

“But there is a dark side to the Internet when it comes to spreading the destructive and violent supremacist ideology of Islam. The Saudis distribute their supremacist hate via satellite and internet to private Muslim schools throughout the Caribbean – including in Barbados.”

And the same Saudis have an unbreakable alliance with both Britain and the United States and are dropping bombs on ISIS, go figure. The above is a convoluted extraction from this alarmist article.

User Harry took the argument right back to home base, discussing the violence that has been taking place on Barbadian soil:

Sometimes i think that yall crazy. We bajans killing each other everyday […] and yall out worrying about a few muslims who livin [with us] for so much years and who is our neighbours and [go to school with] us etc. Yall need to stop watchin cnn and fox. I guess we can call our own black [people] ISIS cus we killin each other out hay !!!

Violent crime has been on the increase in Barbados and there is conjecture that some of it may be linked to the drugs and arms trade now rampant throughout the region. Caribbean islands are viewed as critical trans-shipment points between South and Central America, where many powerful drug cartels operate, and the American and European markets which are heavy consumers of cocaine and other illicit substances.

In the same interview, Bulbulia addressed the situation simply by saying:

No Muslim to date has bought shame to Barbados. Judge us by these criteria, not the actions of so-called ‘Muslims’ in other parts of the world who act contrary to the teachings of their faith. Barbados has been a fair, tolerant society. We live here and practice our faith without hindrance or interference.

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