As the first of its kind ‘International Symposium on the History and Legacy of Muslims in the Caribbean’ opened Monday, President Dr Irfaan Ali urged participants to not only focus on Muslims’ history but to craft a strategy for religion’s future.
The event is organised by the Government of Guyana in collaboration with the Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA) and the General Secretariat of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).
It presents an opportunity to unravel the stories of Muslims and highlight their contributions to Caribbean history and culture by fostering a deeper understanding of shared heritage through promoting unity, tolerance and appreciation for religious diversity.
“Let us not only contemplate our effort on the history; it’s important because the context through which the conversation must develop is important, the context and that is why the intellectual power is designed behind the forum because the intellectual power is to bring the history and context and then to build off that history and context and position us in the present day and then looking at challenges of the present day and the future and then to speak about the strategy forward,” said President Ali.
In his presentation, the Head of State also outlined contributions that deliberations could centre on during the three-day symposium with scholars, researchers and educators from across the globe.
These include the role of Islam in the Caribbean’s multicultural tapestry – which dates centuries back to the colonial days.
“We have to design a paper on Islam and multiculturism in the Caribbean because there is a mistaken view that somehow, Islam and the practice of Islam cannot survive or is different from a multicultural environment, that Islam actually promotes existence in a multicultural environment,” the Head of state asserted.
Additionally, Dr Ali said it should highlight the experience of Muslims in the Caribbean, which is a story of resilience, resistance, and religious pluralism.
The President, speaking on Islamophobia, stated, “We have to be very careful when you examine Islamophobia not to elevate it to a national or global system. The same way we are asking the rest of the world to not elevate extremism from Islam as a system or a global way of presenting Islam.”
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Hugh Todd noted that this event is significant as it recognises the contributions made by Muslims in the Caribbean. Director General of IRCICA, Dr Mahmud Erol Kilic, and Special Envoy of IRCICA, Dr Abdullah Hakim Quick, also delivered remarks. At the same time, the Director of Cultural Affairs, Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), presented virtually.
The symposium, which is being held from September 4 to 6 at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre (ACCC), brings together scholars, researchers and educators from across the globe, fostering intellectual dialogue and collaboration.
During the symposium’s opening session, several presentations were made to the President, including IRCICA, the Surinamese and Barbadian delegations.
[Extracted and modified from the Department of Public Information]