In a documentary done by Al Jazeera Media Network and released internationally earlier this week, the Imam at a mosque in Rio Claro said 13 of his relatives, including one of his daughters, travelled to Syria to fight Jihad.
Imam Nazim Mohammed of the Boos Settlement Jamaat in Ecclesville expressed his shock over the decision made by his daughter to leave for Syria, saying that he did not know why she would do such a thing.
He was one of several Muslim leaders interviewed for the documentary titled “Caribbean to Caliphate-people and power”, and presented by Juliana Ruhfus who visited Trinidad in March to find out why so many people were being recruited to fight in Syria.
The documentary noted that Trinidad and Tobago was famed for his Carnival, cricket and Calypso, but had recently gotten a disturbing reputation of being a nation with the highest recruitment rates of ISIS fighters in the Western Hemisphere.
The documentary considered why so why have so many Trinidadians were travelling thousands of kilometres to participate in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria.
And it featured an ISIS video that celebrated Trinidadian fighters Shane Crawford and Fareed Mustapha who are both believed to have died fighting in Syria.
The documentary notes that Imam Mohammed's Rio Claro masjid has been on radar of several international policing agencies as well as local police forces since Fareed Mustapha was identified as a member of the mosque.
Mohammed said: “I am not a campaigner for ISIS. I am on truth and what I am concerned about are American policies and these so-called superpower policies. The world would be better off without these people. My daughter went there. I never knew that. Until a week after she rang and she told me she was in so and so place. You may not believe that. I never knew that. ”
Mohammed said he asked Mustapha to leave the masjid after he displayed “disobedient” behaviour unbecoming of someone in the Muslim community.
Ruhfus also spoke with Jamaat al Muslimeen leader Imam Yasin Abu Bakr, his son and political leader of the New National Vision party Fuad Abu Bakr, leader of an Enterprise gang known as Unruly ISIS, Avinash Persad aka “Krysys”, Umar Abdullah a former member of Abu Bakr's Jamaat, Ashmead Mohammed the man who was arrested by police for the conspiracy to kill then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and members of her cabinet and former National Security Minister Gary Griffith.
Abu Bakr and Abdullah spoke of ISIS recruiters exploiting the rifts in gang communities and that the young people were being targeted with the idea of finding something better in the Middle East.
Abdullah said: “Fareed had developed a type of eagerness to fight for justice, truth and justice. To seek out ways and means of how he can defend his brothers and sisters.”
During the interview, Abu Bakr told Ruhfus that one of the main reason for recruitment remains poverty.
He said: “The Africans are going to go in a pool of unemployment, nothing. They just sit in the ghetto and do nothing. And then the drugs come in and it's a haven for the drugs and now the guns are in so the murder rates is just spiraling out of control. It's because of the marginalisation and the difficulty of them to succeed because they are African Muslims.”
Ashmead Mohammed said he spoke of someone attempting to recruit him to join the Islamic State, to which he said he refused.
Mohammed said: “He (the recruiter) said go courageously into Jihad and die with some bullets in your chest or in your head in the cause of Allah. If you die in that position it's the most honourable death you can get,” was what he was told.
He said that people are rushing and not investigating who are these groups and what are their purpose.
More than a hundred citizens, including women and children, are known to have travelled to Syria to fight a “holy war”. The documentary claims that the figure could be as many as 400.