Omar S. McDoom
The following is the introduction to a privately-published book entitled, 'A Short History and Genealogy of an Indian Indentured Labourer in Guyana: Haji McDoom and his Descendants, 1884-2008'. The book was inspired by the passing of Haji McDoom's great grand-son, Shahabudin Mohamed McDoom. The book tells the story of the arrival of a young Muslim Indian in Guyana in 1884 and records his nearly 1000 descendants over six generations. It contains interesting information about one of Guyana's early Muslim communities. A copy of the book was entrusted to each family line to ensure the history and heritage it records is not lost. Its author, Omar Shahabudin McDoom, kindly agreed for us to publish its introduction.
Shahabudin Mohamed McDoom passed away in London on March 8th 2008 at the age of 62. Since 2006 he had been battling myelofibrosis, a rare disorder of the bone marrow. Shahabudin was a man of strong convictions that he used in his service to Guyana and to his faith. He had served on the country's Ethnic Relations Commission and its Constitutional Reform Commission as the Muslim community representative. He was passionate about his country, his religion, and his family.
The youngest of five children, Shahabudin, a graduate of Queens College, left Guyana in 1969 to seek opportunity overseas. He chose London, where he showed an aptitude for law and graduated in the top five in the Law Society Finals for his year. It is there that he also married Leila Rookmin Kishna, one of his former students from Indians Education Trust College. He was active within the Guyanese Muslim community in London and helped to establish one of the community's first mosques. After working as a Crown Court Prosecutor in the government's legal service he took early retirement. He chose then to re-direct his energy to the country of his birth.
In Guyana Shahabudin quickly became active in public service again. He applied his legal training as an advocate to tackle one of Guyana's thornier issues: race relations. He also became active in the Muslim community once again, serving on the Central Executive Council of the Central Islamic Organization (CIOG) and as its representative on the Inter-Religious Organization. Shahabudin had an appetite for public debate and was not afraid to engage difficult ethical and political issues. He was a skilled orator and often spoke on public and religious occasions. He made frequent appearances on the weekly television programme, Islam and You. He was also a prolific writer and engaged in lively exchanges of opinion through the newspapers. Shahabudin loved and promoted his country. He was well-known for engaging Guyanese and non-Guyanese alike in lengthy discussions over the country's politics and future trajectory. And after 9/11, at a time when the climate became tinged with fear of Islamic extremism, he remained proud of his Muslim identity.
Shahabudin also believed deeply in the importance of preserving cultural heritage. He strove to maintain Guyana's first stone mosque in McDoom, East Bank Demarara, as well as the McDoom family's first house. Both had been built by his grandfather, the Honourable Caramat Ali McDoom (1890-1950).