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Under the headline “Muslim presence in Haiti is a wake-up call for security agencies,” Dominican Republic Newspaper El Dia equates the presence of ordinary Muslims in Haiti with Haitian criminal gangs and states that it is “beginning to draw attention due to the fear of eventual threats to the security of the region.”
Furthermore, El Dia reports that “the schools of Islam are similar to those that gave rise to the Taliban that ended up controlling Afghanistan.”
El Dia’s allegations are disgustingly Islamophobic, inflammatory and false. Without a shred of evidence the editorial writer criminalizes the entire Muslim community of Haiti and labels them as potential terrorists.
Islam is no stranger to the Caribbean. Muslims have been in the Caribbean for hundreds of years. According to historians, their presence predates that of Christopher Columbus. With a cursory glance at many of the English-speaking Caribbean nations, one will find ample evidence of well-integrated citizens who contribute daily to the prosperity and peace of their societies.
In fact, the current democratically elected president of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana is an observant Muslim, the first such leader in the Western hemisphere. But don’t let facts get in the way of El Dia.
The El Dia Editorial assumes that the increasing number of Muslims in Haiti poses a security threat to an already combustible social environment. But what evidence is there that Muslims will exploit Haiti’s institutional fragility and use the promise of “gifts” to attract even more followers?
The undisputed fact is that it is not Islam and the Muslims of Haiti that caused Haiti to be put in the category of a failed state. On the contrary, our religion teaches us that by submitting ourselves to God Almighty, we are obligated to work for the peace and security of everyone, our neighbours near and far.
El Dia ought to look at the actions of Haiti’s former colonial power – France – and the role that Christian nation played in maintaining its stranglehold on Haiti’s economy and politics.
El Dia would be reflecting an iota of intelligence by critically examining how the United States’ policies in regard to Haiti’s domestic rice production led to the impoverishment and bankruptcy of Haiti’s farmers.
Instead of maligning peaceful and law-abiding Haitian Muslims, El Dia would serve Haiti by exposing the American Red Cross, which raised half a billion dollars after the 2010 earthquake and made it mysteriously vanish without a single road, bridge or home to show for it. But, of course, Islam and Muslims had nothing to do with that.
Muslims have played no role in the widespread corruption that has engulfed Haiti. So what is wrong when Muslims in countries such as Guyana and Trinidad come to their Muslim brothers and sisters’ aid to give them a simple plate of rice and beans to nourish their bodies?
We profess our belief in Allah, the singular, transcendent God who created the heavens and earth and sustains us. We believe in the Quran revealed to Prophet Muhammad 1400 years ago in the Arabian desert. God commands us to pray five times a day, and that’s why you see mosques built with the generous support of Muslims in the Caribbean and abroad. We are obligated to pay the charity (zakah), but in Haiti’s case, they are eligible to receive it. And finally, we are commanded by God to perform the pilgrimage to Mecca, provided we can afford to do so.
We follow the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad (upon whom be peace and blessings). And like 99.9 per cent of Muslims worldwide, we do not follow an extremist version of Islam.
Prophet Muhammad commanded us to be law-abiding citizens, be kind to orphans, widows and the indigent, and spread peace.
One of Haiti’s distinguished Imam, whom you, El Dia, has viciously maligned recently wrote: “We have never done anything wrong in this country; instead, we believe we are doing good by building schools and providing education for over 500 children. We have created jobs for hundreds of people. Over 50 students, every 6 months, have graduated from our legally registered training facilities with plumbing, electricity and tilling skills. Whenever there have been natural disasters, we are often the first on the ground to provide emergency aid. Our school provides free education, books, school bags and even uniforms to the students and orphans who cannot afford them. Education and training are available for all Haitians regardless of faith or no faith, and there is no effort to persuade them to become Muslim. Only 15% of the student population are Muslims.”
Imam Bilal further stated that “all Muslim organizations in Haiti are registered with the government and are subjected to regular review and audits to ensure we comply with all regulations. Haitian Muslims also sing the country’s National anthem each morning before classes begin. We teach that those benefiting from our religious activities should be loyal Haitians and help uplift all Haitians regardless of faith or no faith. We Muslims are only seeking the means for our own salvation and the improvement of the living conditions of our fellow brothers and sisters in Haiti. We are not motivated by political motives. We do not proselyte; instead, we invite ourselves first to good conduct before we call on others to do so.”
El Dia’s demonization of Islam and its Muslim followers is insulting, and we call on El Dia to retract their false allegations and apologize to the peaceful citizens of Haiti.