Barbados

After the abolition of slavery in the Caribbean in the 19th Century, many Indians were imported as indentured labourers to fill in the gap created by the newly freed African slaves.  Slaves in Barbados opted to remain on the plantations and so these indentured labourers were brought mainly into Guyana, Trinidad and Surinam.  Among the Indians brought to Trinidad and Guyana were several Muslims from West Bengal. They did not lose contact with their relatives at home and in the early 1920s some of these relatives arrived in Barbados after learning of the better economic prospects in these islands. These early immigrants who were farmers but after arriving in Barbados became small businessmen. Another wave of Gujrati Muslims came to Barbados through French Guiana and British Guiana. These Muslims who were working on the cargo boats were employed by the Bengali Muslims to teach their children about Islam. These Muslims in turn called their relatives from British Guiana and so began the earliest settlement of Gujerati Muslims. During the 1960s we saw the arrival of another group of Muslims in Barbados. These were professionals who were either recruited by the government or those who were employed in the private sector. On a social level, two Islamic organizations were established in the 1960s: The Barbados Muslim Association and later the Barbados Muslim Welfare Association.  [Jabar thesis A CRITICAL EVALUATION OF ISLAMIC INSTITUTIONS AND DA'WAH ORGANIZATIONS IN ENGLISH SPEAKING TERRITORIES OF THE CARIBBEAN ] The Barbados Muslim Association is an umbrella organization for Islamic Organizations on the island, which also advocates on behalf of Muslims at the national level. {wiki}


    Firhaana Bulbulia is the founder of Barbados Association of Muslim Ladies. In August she launched a project called Breaking Barriers which aims to overcome cultural and social barriers some girls face in accessing education and gaining employment. The project’s campaigns include Educate Girls, which holds fundraising events to offer financial assistance to girls who want to enter a tertiary education
     
    The Queen’s Young Leader Award recognises and celebrates exceptional people aged 18-29 from across the Commonwealth, who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives. Winners of this prestigious Award will receive a unique package of training, mentoring and networking, including a one-week residential programme in the UK during which they will collect their Award from Her Majesty The Queen.


    Barbados Al-Falah Muslim School

    By: Gercine Carter

    At a time when well worn values and morality appear to be falling into a morass of degenerating standards, the Muslim community in Barbados has sought to insulate its children in an educational institution that is bearing fruit.

    Al-Falah, the school founded by concerned Muslim parents ten years ago, has been producing high achievers in the Common Entrance Examination. In an interview with the Weekend Nation, principal Ibrahim Bhana explained: “We needed a school for our community because the environment of the schools in Barbados, we were not happy with. I have six daughters and my two eldest daughters ten years ago, it was time for them to go to school. I was teaching them at home, and the ministry approached me and asked me concerning their schooling. So I had requested the ministry to give me at least six months and if we don’t have a school for the community, then I will send them to some school. So that encouraged me . . . that we needed a school for the community.”

    Overview of Barbados Muslims

    That Barbados had Muslims on its shores before the arrival of the Europeans is perhaps a reality that hasn’t been proven by physical evidence.  Nevertheless, many noted historians have argued that there was an African presence in the Caribbean long before Christopher Columbus.  Dr. Abdullah Hakim Quick, in his book Deeper Roots presents the case that Muslims from the African continent were visiting this region for centuries before Columbus.  His research has shown that African Muslims were engaged in regular contact with the Amerindian people of this region and many married and settled in the Americas.
     
    Although Barbados was uninhabited when the English arrived here in 1627, historical evidence has shown that Barbados did have a presence of Amerindians, Arawaks and Caribs.  The Portuguese who visited the island before the English called it Os Barbados – The Bearded Ones. Dr. Richard Allsopp, a Caribbean linguist argues that this Portuguese word actually refers to bearded people and not trees as previously thought.   His research indicates that the Portuguese when they visited the island probably found bearded people living here.  Amerindians are not known to carry much facial hair and so these people were probably a mix race of Amerindian and African.  Muslim, a strong possibility.

    The next possibility of a Muslim presence on the island was from the slave trade.  It is a known fact that many of the Africans taken as slaves from West Africa were Muslim.  Many tried to keep their identity but that was illegal and it became lost in the generations that followed.  There are some reports by missionaries that some of the slaves they encountered on the island spoke Arabic and practiced Islamic customs.


    On Friday, November 30, 2007, the 41st year of Independence in Barbados, I, a female Muslim, was denied the right to pray Jumu’ah in the largest masjid on the island.  I stood in front of the door on the top floor, two brothers turned up with keys and informed me that there were no facilities for women to pray there, so the sisters present were to go to his sister’s house.  I have never seen the brother and I do not know his sister.  So  we patiently waited until the khutbah (which we could not hear) was over, the salah (which we could not hear) was over, most of the brothers had left, and then the sister went downstairs and offered salah.

    The United States Embassy and the regional Islamic Community took a historic step in cementing ties of friendship when Ambassador Mary Ourisman hosted an Iftaar banquet for Muslim leaders at her official residence.

    An Iftaar (dinner) is a traditional Islamic breaking of the fast performed every evening during the holy month of Ramadan.



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