‘Islamophobia must not be elevated’- Pres. Ali tells historic Muslim symposium


Noting that the history of Islam in the Caribbean is not isolated, President Dr Irfaan Ali on Monday said Islamophobia must not be elevated, more so in a multicultural and multiethnic environment like that of the Caribbean region.

“….Islam has to survive and stay alive in this multiculturalism…I believe Islamophobia is on the increase…Islamophobia must not be elevated.

“Islamophobia is no country, no system or no location against the other…There is no place for extremism in any form just as there is no place for Islamophobia in any modern, democratic society,” President Ali said.

He was at the time delivering the feature address at the opening of the first International Symposium on the ‘history and legacy of Muslims in the Caribbean’ which runs from September 4-6 at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre.

The symposium will shed light on the rich and diverse history of Muslims in the Caribbean, exploring their contributions, struggles and their legacy in the region.

President Dr Irfaan Ali addressing the opening of the opening ceremony of the first International Symposium on the ‘history and legacy of Muslims in the Caribbean’ at the ACCC. (Photo:DPI/September 4, 2023)

It will bring together scholars, researchers, and educators from across the globe fostering intellectual dialogue and collaboration on various topics including the arrival of Muslims in the Caribbean, their religious practices and institutions, the impact of their presence on the regional society, and their contributions to the development of the Caribbean nations.

In his address, President Ali urged the participants to not only focus on the history of Muslims but to also craft dialogue and conversation for the future of the religion.

“…This region is multicultural and multiethnic in nature. So our deliberations must take into consideration the makeup of the region…I prefer the view the Caribbean more as a part of cultural tapestry with each strand of the fabric signifying the various peoples of the cultural groups that constitute the rich multiculturism of the Caribbean,” Dr Ali said.

According to President Ali, there is a need to develop a paper on Islam and multiculturalism in the Caribbean since there is a “mistaking” view that somehow Islam and the practice of Islam cannot survive or are different from a multicultural environment.

“…Islam actually promotes existence in multicultural environment…And it also identified clearly how you must treat each other as humankind in a multicultural environment. So the basis is clearly defined,” he said.

Scholars, researchers and educators from across the globe are participating in the conference which runs from September 4-6.(Photo: DPI/September 4, 2023)

Meanwhile, in his remarks, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hugh Todd said the conference marks an important milestone in recognition of the significant contributions made by Muslims in shaping the Caribbean region.

“It is imperative that we acknowledge the diversity of our common heritage….Muslims in the Caribbean region have a long and vivid history…This conference serves as a forum to promote Caribbean Muslim culture and contributions. It also highlights our promotion of inclusivity, equality, and respect for diversity,” Todd said.

According to the Director General of the Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), Dr Mahmud Erol Kilic, the event is a landmark, which has many significant features.

“The symposium represents a leading multilateral initiative that carries information about the cultural heritage of Muslims in the Caribbean from local context to global knowledge…All of the 57 member states of OIC (Organisation of Islamic Cooperation) and IRCICA are developing countries with very diverse profiles and similar developmental concerns and all are confirmed in the common challenges faced in the global community,” Dr Kilic said.

The symposium is being hosted by the Government of Guyana in collaboration with the Research Centre for Islamic, History, Art and Culture (IRCICA) and the General Secretariat of the Organisation of Islamic Corporation (OIC).

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