Monday, February 19, 2018

Welcome, Malala; Eid Mubarak to all

 Separate and consequential events, coincidentally marking the national calendar, together underscore today’s observance of Eid-ul-Fitr. This year’s celebratory annual finale of Islam’s month of Ramadan, a T&T public holiday, will also go down as the occasion on which this country welcomed Malala Yousafzai. She is the Pakistani teenager who became a universal celebrity upon survival of an assassination attempt by the Taliban. 

Well before their gunmen had shot Malala in the head, the Taliban had gained world notoriety as the fearsome proponents of a version of Islam that justifies promotion of their faith literally by any means necessary. Malala had stood in the path of such fundamentalist advancement, by performing as a role model for education, in Islamic-dominated societies, of girls and women. 

 According to the Taliban and related religious and political forces, Malala had to die. Defying such fate, and remaining an undefeated symbol of progress, Malala has retained a high-profile recognition as defender of the rights of women and children.

Her arrival coincides with the 24th anniversary of the coup attempted by home-grown Islamic Jamaat al Muslimeen. The coup attempt was beaten back, on the ground, by the security forces, and also by public opinion, including mainstream Islamic opinion. 

The 2014 Eid-ul-Fitr celebration coincides not only with the visit by Malala but also with the headline emergence of a Muslimeen spin-off in Carapo. Police investigation into the activities of this Carapo group, leading to the temporary detention of associates, provoked threatening outbursts by Yasin Abu Bakr, leading figure in the July 27, 1990 day of infamy.

At this moment, too, a group of radical T&T Muslims remain in detention in Venezuela. Authorities in the neighbouring republic apparently pursue questions about the bona fides as tourists of those T&T Muslims, and speculation about their status as birds of passage.  

As T&T formally embraces Islam in the name of Eid-ul-Fitr, stirrings of movements and forces in Africa and in the Middle East remind the world of concerns about the variety of activities and causes claiming Islamic inspiration. In Nigeria, Boko Haram, violently espousing its own reading of the Qur’an, to condemn “Western” education of girls, has kidnapped from school, and kept sequestered, hundreds of would-be Malalas. 

 In Syria and Iraq, fighters declaring for a new Muslim “caliphate”, are apparently in the process of imposing extreme Sharia law over its conquered territories.

Mixed feelings over resurgent Islam in T&T and the world should not, however, diminish well-meaning reverence toward, support and respect for Eid-ul-Fitr. Applying an international standard, it is Malala Yousafzai, among us in T&T for the occasion, who exemplifies the expression of the religion that peoples of this country endorse and uphold.  

Welcome, Malala. Eid Mubarak to all.