Guyana’s Muslims Are Aghast At WPA’s Rep Islamophobia

Rhonda Layne

The Guyana Islamic Trust (GIT) and the Central Islamic Organization of Guyana (CIOG) put out a joint statement protesting the Islamophobia statements made by Ms. Rhonda Layne. The statement reads:

Crass Islamophobia

“We deem the comments of Ms. Rhonda Layne, an executive member of the Working People’s Alliance (WPA) from Den Amstel, to be an example of crass Islamophobia, i.e., hate speech that targets Islam and Muslims and that has unfortunately resulted in heinous acts of violence around the world. We, the undersigned, call on Ms. Layne to issue a full retraction and an unconditional apology.

During the Cuffy 250 Committee Forum, Ms. Layne said that “in a Muslim’s life, a woman is only there to be a home-maker, a child-bearer and everything that is against the women.”  This is a well-established trope that hate-mongers have deployed to smear and ridicule Muslim women. Saying that Muslim women are only good for two things – the kitchen and the bedroom – is insulting to all women and more specifically Muslim women who have and continue to play a vital role in the development and prosperity of our country. Muslim women in Guyana own businesses, serve as educators, doctors, lawyers, engineers, and even in uniform to help keep our nation safe and secure.

Invitation To Attend More Muslim Events

Ms. Layne further stated, “If you go to a Muslim affair, all the men sit in the front and the women are at the back. One time, I went to something, we were all at the back. So, when I got up (to speak) I said, suppose now when you all were sitting in front somebody come and take away all the women from this gathering what would you have said? They said, no, no, that’s how it is.”  We are happy that Ms. Layne took time to attend a Muslim gathering and we invite her to overcome her irrational phobia of mythical “body-snatchers” and attend more. If Ms. Layne happens to visit a mosque during one of the five daily prayers, indeed women will worship behind the men, a practice that Muslims, including those who attend any of approximately 300,000 mosques in Africa, have followed for 1400 years as taught to us by Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of God be upon him. However, no Muslim has ever said that simply because men occupy the front row that it gives them more access to God’s mercy, love and forgiveness. 

Misleading Generalisation

Ms. Layne made a sweeping generalisation that all “Muslim affairs” are the same. This is patently false, malicious and misleading.  In the sacred city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, both women and men circumambulate the Ka’ba, referred to as “God’s House” in the Qur’an, in unison. In other words, they worship God without any gender barriers or separation. 

President Irfaan Ali attended a wedding celebration at the Leonora Masjid compound (WCD) on August 19 where imams and Muslim community leaders were present. Women sat with their families at nicely decorated tables without any separation. There is no rule that determines where a woman might sit at a Muslim gathering in Guyana. Where a woman sits is determined not by religion but rather by factors having to do with numbers, accommodation and personal preferences. 

We call on the leaders of the WPA and APNU to refrain from disparaging Guyana’s established faith traditions in order to advance a political agenda. Inciting hatred by targeting members of our country’s faith communities is a dangerous and perilous road to travel and all law-abiding citizens of Guyana should stand on guard against it.”