Mr Nkofi should seek to engage Muslims in dialogue
Stabroek News
December 21, 2001

Dear Editor,

The letter by Mr Accabre Nkofi captioned "Islam is not the ancestral religion of Africans" [ please note: link provided by LOSP web site ] (2.12.2001) is flawed in the most elementary and fundamental of senses. Mr Nkofi would have us believe that the cultural landscape of Africa is a homogeneous one. On the contrary, any high school history student will tell you that it could be regarded as the most diverse and complex. For the benefit of Mr Nkofi and African Guyanese in general, we Muslims of African descent do not consider ourselves as having been converted to Islam, rather we consider ourselves to have reverted to the culture of our ancestors coming from a particular sub culture within the diverse African cultural milieu.

Mr Nkofi should add to his reading list the works of Dr Abdullah Hakim Quick, who has conducted extensive research into the history of Islam in the Caribbean. In his book Deeper Roots, Muslims in the Caribbean Before Columbus To The Present (produced for AICCLA by Mels, London, 1990), Dr. Quick traces the arrival of Muslims of African ancestry long before the coming of Columbus and that of our brothers and sisters of indentured ancestry, a fact many Guyanese are not aware of through no fault of their own. It just reflects the backwardness of our educational system which of course was established by our slave masters and its oppressors and subsequently perpetuated even today by the neo colonialists that have passed for our leaders. A typical example is the familiar reference to the Muslims of Indian ancestry as a "Fulla Man". This of course has some reference to those Muslims from the Fulani peoples who came here as slaves.

The historical facts of our arrival as validated in the research of Dr Quick and others, points to the fact that it is we Muslims of African ancestry who are faithful to our heritage, and are practicing the culture of our ancestors. Could the same be said of Mr Nkofi? What is his culture? Does he eat, sleep and dream his culture? Has he established any contacts with members of his ancestral homeland or is his embracing of his African culture restricted merely to a name change and a few changes of garments? Anyone with a modicum of intelligence would realise that in this climatic regime, the Islamic wear is much preferable to that mobile oven referred to as a suit. Indeed, one begs the question, is there any discernible difference between Islamic and traditional African and Indian garb, in terms of basic design and function.

To Muslims in general and to African Muslims in particular Islam is viewed as a liberating force. The state of today's African Guyanese is indeed pathetic. Just look around, schoolgirls engaging in sexual activities while they should be engaging in attaining an education, encouraged by depraved men who have no regard for themselves and the future of the African Guyanese. Indeed, the Quran informs us that Paradise lies at the feet of mothers. Can these girls become good mothers? Nkofi should be targeting his efforts towards addressing these issues afflicting African Guyanese society, rather than attacking a way of life that has virtually eliminated them from the Islamic society. Moreover, the overall position of African Guyanese suggests that whatever they have been exposed to has sucked them into a mental state that is at once suffocating and moreover enslaving. Islam has liberated the African and its Diaspora the world over, and indeed Muslims, from the scourges of alcoholism, prostitution, drug abuse, adultery, homosexuality, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, incest, pornography, and all the other ills that afflict our society today. No one can doubt this. The statistics speak for themselves. Does Mr Nkofi or Guyanese in general see African Muslims featuring in these sordid activities?

Instead of attacking African Muslims, he should visit the prisons as we do so as to rescue our brothers and sisters from mental enslavement and to bring to their awareness a new and better way of life.

The pontifications of Mr Nkofi reveal many illogical observations. Examine the aspect of names. We African Guyanese came with meaningful names like Abdul Rahim. We did not come here with names like John Jones, Robert Roberts and Mary Jane or ridiculously named after days of the week, month, colour, materials (i.e wood, rock, stone) at the whims or fancies of the slavemaster. If the name Nkofi comes from a particular tribe or culture so be it. But who is Nkofi to abrogate unto himself the authority to determine what names people should choose for themselves. The Africa to which Nkofi is referring is so name diverse (Christian, Jewish, Islamic Traditional) as to render his point pathetic. Further, it was the Europeans who introduced trousers, suits which a great many Africans wear, and other such apparel to Africa, so what change of dress is he talking about? Do you at all times wear your traditional ancestral dress? You chastise us for praying in Arabic, what language do you speak Mr Nkofi? Swahili, Ibo, Yoruba, or do you still pontificate in the language of your slavemaster. You should be aware that at the time of the revelation of the books of Allah (SWT), i.e. the Torah (Hebrew, Gospel (Amric) and Quran (Arabic) English did not exist as a language. What diet has changed? For your information, Mr Nkofi, we eat bake, cook up rice, dholl, roti and curry, conkee, bora, mittai, polourri just like you and what's more we invite members of our surrounding community to share our meals with us.

Quite contrary to your contention, we are not estranged from our families. Indeed, in the beautiful hadiths (sayings) of the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) of which there are close to six thousand, Muslims are encouraged to be good to their kin. My family circle is composed of Christians (Anglicans, Jehovah's Witnesses, Assemblies of God) African Spiritual, and Rastafarians, and you better believe that we love each other and support wherever possible.

The discrimination referred to by Mr. Nkofi, as with all cases of discrimination the world over, cannot be disputed. However, the barbarism to which he refers is not validated by the social and economic wasteland that is Africa today. In the Congo, potentially the richest country in Africa, somewhere between eight and ten countries are at war, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Uganda, and the list goes on. Nkofi should check where the scourge of AIDS is most evident, in Muslim Africa or the rest. The facts will speak for themselves.

Finally, Mr Editor, we Muslims seek our examples and have as our role models the revered Prophets of Allah, including Musa (Moses), Ibrahim (Abraham) Isa (Jesus) and Muhamad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon them. Their messages and examples of righteous living have survived the test of time and will live on, long after Mr. Nkofi's heroes Mr. Colin Powell, Dr. Martin Luther King and Archbishop Tutu will have departed this planet.

Mr Nkofi should seek to engage the Muslims in dialogue. This will not only lead to a better understanding of Islam but also to a pooling of ideas on how to collectively improve the lot of African Guyanese and by extension the Guyanese nation.

Yours faithfully,

Abdul Rahim Forde