Monday, 15 Dhul-Hijjah 1431
The Trinidad and Tobago Government-owned Caribbean News Media Group’s Fazeer Mohammed (who is also a populat cricket commentator) was recently fired shortly after Foreign Minister Surujrattan Rambachan questioned him on his view regarding the rule of a woman.
The reckless, hurried and politically-tainted Saturday-afternoon sacking of CNMG’s talk-show host Fazeer Mohammed, within 48 hours of an ill-advised public baiting by Foreign Minister Surujrattan Rambachan, has predictably fractured the Peoples’ Partnership Alliance. The Prime Minister has only herself to blame for not promptly and firmly distancing herself and her government from what is increasingly perceived as a bogus explanation for that sacking. It may also now be too late to make amends for this political faux pas since all the Queen’s horses and all the Queen’s foxes cannot bring Fazeer to CNMG again!
Nor will diversionary tactics succeed in driving this dark cloud away since the poisonous bait which was used to bait Fazeer has given rise to implications which will reverberate negatively in Trinidad and Tobago’s Muslim community for many moons to come – negatively that is for the Peoples’ Partnership government.
Does the Partnership in our tribally diverse polity include partnership with Muslims? If it does, then is this the kind of bait to be used with a partner? Can this fracture now lead to other such fractures and to a possible future break-up of the Partnership?
Even while he was the UNC political leader, the COP’s Winston Dookeran has continuously done what no other politician in this country’s history has ever done. He has personally reached out to engage Islamic scholarship in the Muslim community in public dialogue on national issues. That dialogue has always been friendly and respectful. Even when we have disagreed with Dookeran – or he with us - on issues such as the integrity of money (at the Seminar on ‘Islam and Money’ held at UWI in 2008), or on political sovereignty and the secular State (at the First International Islamic Retreat held in Trinidad in October 2009), his profound respect for Islam and his genuine friendship for Muslims has earned for him and for the COP the friendship of the Muslim community.
Indeed Dookeran has demonstrated superior diplomatic skills than a blundering Foreign Minister who could have avoided this messy public confrontation by engaging Fazeer privately on the subject of his religious views. Instead, Rambachan carelessly opened a Pandora’s box with interesting implications already emerging for the politics of this country. The articulate and courageous Fazeer who is firm in his religious beliefs is going to be around for some time to come; and as Jack Warner has famously declared: Who vex, vex; and who vex lose!
At a time when the Anglo-American-Israeli alliance has launched its final phase of war on Islam, a phase which commenced, as planned, with the 9/11 terrorist attack on America, it is unacceptable to many in this country that the Foreign Minister, and by extension his Prime Minister, should be perceived to support the camp of the oppressors. That is the first implication of the bait that was used to bait Fazeer.
War on Islam has manifested itself with unrelenting attacks on women’s status in Islam and the manifestly false accusation that Islam oppresses women. It is quite true that many Muslims have oppressed women and still do, and I hasten to sadly admit such, but they have done so despite Islam and not because of Islam (see article on my website: ‘The Women of Islam in the House of Allah’). Much the same thing has occurred and still occurs in other religions as well, but the news media has a less than mysterious fixation with Islam.
Since Minister Rambachan has expressed concerns on a subject that properly belongs to Islamic political theory, I would be happy to meet with him for an exchange of Hindu and Muslim religious views on the subject. Muslims who differ with me, and Hindus who differ with him, can also be invited to join in such an exchange of religious views.
I did make an effort to initiate precisely such public dialogue when I invited Pundit Dr Rampersad Parasram to join with me in a Hindu-Muslim dialogue on ‘Religion and Politics in Trinidad and Tobago’ which was held in 2006 before an appreciative audience at the Jama Masjid in San Fernando.
Hindus now have their Panditas, Jews now have women Rabbis and Christians now have women priests. These are recent developments in religions that are thousands of years old. My understanding is that Islamic political theory as derived from the Qur’an and Sunnah (i.e., the way of the Prophet) has never recognized a woman’s right to rule over the Muslim polity, and will never do so. Islam has its own concept of state (Dar al-Islam) and of an international order, and a Muslim woman has never been Imam/Ameer/Khalifah of that state in the more than 1400 years that have passed since the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah Most High be upon him). It was only after that state was destroyed and Muslims were effectively blocked from reestablishing it, that a decolonized world of Islam was deceptively absorbed into and imprisoned in the modern European system of secular nation-states. Had Dar al-Islam not been destroyed, a Benazir Bhutto could never have ruled over Muslims. (There were isolated instances in medieval India when Muslim women ruled over some insignificant statelets. These aberrations had no impact on Islamic political theory.)
All Muslims believe in Prophet Muhammad’s prophecy (recorded in Sahih Bukhari) that they will one day be ruled by their own Imam/Ameer/Khalifa. He prophesied that such would occur just prior to the return of the true Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary (peace and blessings be upon them both – virgin mother and blessed son). Hence Islam’s model of state and of an international order would one day be restored. I have devoted many years to the study of this subject and written several books, all of which can be accessed from my website, and I am confident that Muslims (and this includes the long-oppressed Muslims of Kashmir) do not have long to wait for that day of deliverance from oppression.
But we all must ask, is this is a subject that should properly engage the attention of the Peoples’ Partnership government? Minister Rambachan owes us an answer.
Regardless of the bizarre conduct of some local Muslims and pro-American Muslim organizations, Islam the religion has zero tolerance for oppression. Readers must know that Muslims will forge alliances with like-minded Jews, Christians and Hindus – with Chavez, Morales, Dilma Rousseff and the nuclear-armed Putin, in order to better respond to the oppressors who now rule the world on Israel’s behalf. The Qur’an itself has warned Muslims whose hearts beat in unison with today’s oppressors that they belong to the camp of the oppressors. Among such Muslims are those who fled that beautiful African country in disgust when valiant armed African resistance to oppression brought down the Southern Rhodesian regime of Ian Smith.
Let them make no mistake as they rummage to respond to this essay. The profile of Trinidad’s Muslims – African, Indian and others, and particularly the young and educated who cannot be bought with a checkbook, was clearly revealed in their response to Israel’s barbaric attack on the oppressed Palestinian refugees of Gaza. How will Rambachan preside over this country’s foreign policy when yet another major act of (possibly nuclear) terrorism is skillfully crafted to provide cover for today’s oppressors to invade Iran and Pakistan, to break-up Pakistan and to destroy that country’s nuclear plants and nuclear weapons? Will a Peoples’ Partnership government which has loudly pledged to represent all the peoples of this plural society, keep its pledge at that time? Or will it support the oppressors? Our neighbors in Latin America are keenly interested in this subject since it seems only a matter of time before Venezuela as well, is attacked.
The perception that a leader possesses moral authority to preside over the conduct of state and government plays a crucially important role in building a bond of trust between rulers and those over whom they rule. Without that bond of trust, those who govern can end up being vilified and despised. Glamour and glitz can fade away to expose scoundrels who tell lies in order to cover-up shameful and even criminal conduct.
Dr Williams had to flee in an ambulance to escape the wrath of his own people who surrounded the Red House and showered him with curses. He was so broken in the end that he ordered no monument be dedicated to his memory. It was not long ago that another former Prime Minister publicly lamented his sorry fate of being the most vilified PM in T&T’s history. He was eventually cursed by his own people. The same sorry fate befell Mr Panday last January, again from his own people. Who is next?
Those who resort to lies to cover-up unethical conduct are a people who, despite strutting about the stage of the world, eventually lose the moral authority to govern. The cover-up of Calder Hart’s alleged nepotism, and the mystery concerning the construction of the Guanapo Heights Church eventually reduced the PNM to less than a footnote on that page of Trinidad and Tobago's political history.
There is an ominous lesson to be learnt by the present government which resorted, in the politically-tainted sacking of Fazeer Mohammed, to the same conduct that shipwrecked the PNM.
Let us in parting enter into the record our happiness in the emergence of the Peoples’ Partnership. It represents a long-awaited positive first step in the search for a new inclusive political philosophy and plural model of a state that would deliver political recognition of this country’s wondrous tribal diversity, and would attempt to politically embrace all the tribes in a manner that is just, fair and equitable (see article on my website: “Constitutional reform and a plural model of a state for tribally diverse society”). We do not for one moment wish for a sorry end to the present political dispensation.