Last Friday Muslims in the Caribbean awoke to the horrific news that over 40 of their brothers and sisters were gunned down while at Jumma prayers half-way across the world in New Zealand.
As more of the sad details emerged after Fajr prayers WhatsApp messages were being shared across Caribbean communities. Muslims here like Muslims all over the world were shocked at this occurrence.
The Caribbean Muslim Network group which has over 70 members, representing the various islands and countries in the Caribbean region, used its WhatsApp group to update its members as to details of the massacre and the responses in each island. Important questions as to how such incidences impact on Muslims in the Caribbean, how should Muslims and Islamic Institutions prepare for such tragedies, and is training in place for medical emergencies, were being asked on the group.
Significantly also were the numerous offers of sympathies that were coming in across the length and breadth of the Caribbean to Muslim communities from other faith groups and Governments. Ashmead Ali in Bermuda reported that they had a visit to their mosque from the Governor of Bermuda accompanied by the Minister of National Security. They came to express condolences and solidarity with the Muslims of Bermuda. In Barbados, several offers of sympathy and prayers were expressed by Christian leaders to the Muslim community. One Pentecostal leader said “This is horrific news out of New Zealand this morning. My thoughts and prayers are with your community.” And an Anglican Priest messaged: “That is more than tragic, it is barbaric!! It is inhumane. I just saw the video and I am stunned by the viciousness. My sympathy to the community!!”
In the British Virgin Islands, the Governor, Augustus Jaspert telephoned the Muslims there advising he wanted to visit the mosque but recognized that the old masjid was destroyed by the hurricane and he wanted to let the community know that he is deeply saddened by this situation that took place in New Zealand and expressed his sincere condolences to the Muslim community here and all over the world for this shameful and senseless act of these despicable people. He expressed that an attack on one freedom of a community of people practicing their faith is an attack on all and as such wishes to let the community know that they are in his thoughts and prayers.
Similar words, thoughts, and prayers were replicated throughout the region and assured Muslims that they were safe and secured here, in the beautiful part of the world.
Jumma prayers in the Caribbean last Friday were reflective and Imams urged their congregation to remain steadfast, patient and pray for the victims of this horrible tragedy. Imam Aakil Bhula encouraged the over 300 present at Jama Masjid in Bridgetown, Barbados to pray for the victims of the tragedy and their families. He also called for patience and encouraged worshippers to pray for their own safety and the safety of Barbados. In Trinidad, an appeal was made for Muslims not to share videos of yesterday’s massacre in New Zealand. Imams delivering sermons at yesterday’s Juma congregational prayer service at mosques throughout the country condemned the attack, in which 49 people were shot dead inside two mosques, as an act of hatred against Islam.
Imam Atif Majeed, at ASJA’s Mucurapo Street, San Fernando mosque, urged that the video, made by the gunman, of himself carrying out the killings, and widely circulated on social media, should not engage the attention of any right-thinking person. Trinidad’s Local Government Minister Kazim Hosein said he wept during Juma prayers yesterday as he and the congregation said prayers for the souls of the 49 people killed
In response to the tragic event several leading Islamic Organizations in the region issued media releases. The Guyana Islamic Trust in their release stated: “Our hearts and prayers are with our brothers and sisters, the victims of unspeakable acts of terror. We share their excruciating pain and suffering and that of their families for we are like one body.” And the Islamic Council of Jamaica’s release said: “The Islamic Council of Jamaica condemns this act of hatred and vitriol and extends our deepest condolences to the families and communities affected, the people of New Zealand who have been tarnished by this evil…”
Prime Ministers in the region have also expressed their thoughts. Prime Minister of Curacao, Eugene Rhuggenaath, tweeted: “On behalf of Curacao, including our important Muslim community we are proud of, I offer my deepest condolences to the people of New Zealand…” And the Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Mottley, sent a condolence message to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern. In correspondence sent the same Friday Prime Minister Mottley said: “the Government and people of Barbados were saddened at the loss of life and injuries resulting from the senseless act.”
In Trinidad in a statement issued by the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) described the attack as an “unspeakable tragedy” which had been unleashed on the Muslim community and New Zealand.
The OPM said TT unreservedly condemns ” all words and deeds from whatsoever source, that would have the effect of initiating, encouraging or sustaining hatred in any and all its manifestations.”
The Islamic Council of Jamaica has revealed that a Jamaican married and living in New Zealand was present at one of the mosques when the gunman attacked. In an interview on Jamaican television, Adrian Wright spoke of his horror and his escape from the mosque. He also spoke of his friends that were murdered there including a four-year-old boy he knew from the time the boy was born.
While Caribbean Muslims do not expect such acts of extreme terrorism to take place in this part of the world it is still a source of concern especially since New Zealand also enjoyed the same characteristics, having never faced such a horrific act and was always known as a place of peace and safety.