Muslims arrived in Belize in 1857?

Islamic Centre in Belize

Courtesy “James Rambally”

Editor Amandala
Dear Sir,
I write in response to “Mr. Clinton Uh Luna”, in reference to his request made in the Amandala Sunday issue 2111, dated January 7th, 2007.

I write to inform and educate Mr. Luna and the Belizean public who are still ignorant of the facts, history and culture of the East Indians. It seems that now we East Indians, being a mere three percent of the Belizean population, have been ignored and neglected as an ethnic group. Many times when the ethnic groups of Belize are mentioned, East Indians are usually the last to be mentioned or not mentioned at all, until recently with the birth of the East Indian Council and with the support of the East Indian community, we have been able to openly and courageously promote the culture of the East Indians. Although compared to the other cultures of Belize, we have no language, but our culture is preserved in our food – Cohune Cabbage, Tacari, Yellow Ginger, Jelabi, Carili, and the surnames and physical appearance of the present descendants.

East Indians came to the Caribbean from India, not Africa, in the 18th century as Indentured Servants and not slaves. They worked as sugar cane farmers. Between 1838 and 1917 it was recorded that 543,434 Indians (or “Coolies”as they were referred to – now a derogatory term, did not mean indentured servant, it meant “unskilled laborer”) had been indentured in the Caribbean. The majority of them resided in Guyana and Trinidad. In 1857, three thousand East Indians migrated from Jamaica to Belize, 382 of which were originally born in India. However, they came here as free East Indians, due to the expiration of their contracts in Jamaica. Therefore, all the East Indians in Belize came from Jamaica.

Another point I wish to make is that all East Indians were not necessarily Hindu: some were Muslims. Therefore East Indians cannot be categorized as Hindu descendants, but rather descendants of the people of the Indus Valley Civilization and a mixture of Aryans (Indo-Europeans) . Being a Hindu does not necessarily make you an Indian, and being Indian does not make you Hindu.

said Mr. Gabriel Pate, President of the East Indian Council, in his foreword in the book “Tales from a forgotten place” by Bismark Ranguy, Sr.

This colossal confusion may be the result of hundreds of years of distortion, when Columbus made a mistake landing in the Bahamas and thought it was East India. However, the Caribbean was home to the Caribbeans, and was later referred to as the West Indies, and not East India. This was the name given to it so as not to be confused between the two “Indias.” During their early arrival these Indians were not allowed to intermarry with other ethnic groups, and there was friction between the East Indians and the Africans, so a mixture would not have been likely.

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