Guyana can be a case study for world on religious tolerance – Pres Ali

…points to diversity, religious integration throughout all strata of society

Pointing to the peaceful coexistence of Islam among other religions in Guyana, and the multi-cultural diversity from the Government straight down to the Private Sector, President Dr Irfaan Ali believes Guyana can be a case study for the world on religious tolerance.
Guyana is currently hosting a two-day symposium on the cultural and historical legacy of Islam in the Caribbean. During the opening day, on Monday, President Dr. Irfaan Ali gave the feature address, wherein he noted the multi-culturalism of the region and particularly Guyana.
According to Ali, a defining feature of Islam in Guyana has been its peaceful coexistence with other religions. He further urged the creation of a paper that would explore the history of Muslims in the Caribbean. In fact, the President noted that Guyana can be a case study for religious integration and multiculturalism.
“In Guyana, where the symposium is being held, we have the greatest example in the way we live, the way we collaborate and cooperate, the way we respect each other when it comes to religious tolerance, and also religious integration. And Guyana can be that case study for the rest of the world,” he said.
“Where persons of different faiths make up the cabinet, the Parliament, the bureaucracy, the Private Sector, and the seamless integration through which each supports the other, is one which not only warrants attention, but a case study,” he said.
In the President’s opinion, one factor that has contributed to this integration is the common challenges these groups have faced. He also noted that Muslims, despite the challenges they’ve faced, have managed to hold on to their cultural identity.
“Despite facing daunting challenges, Muslims managed to preserve their faith, culture and traditions, while simultaneously becoming an integral part of Caribbean societies. Within the historical narrative of Islam’s presence in this region, there exists valuable lessons of resistance and resilience that warrant attention,” he said.

President Dr Irfaan Ali (third from left in foreground) on Day One of the symposium. He is flanked by Head of the CIOG, Sheikh Moen ul-Hack (immediate left) and Opposition MP Natasha Singh-Lewis (immediate right)

Looking at the region, President Ali urged the symposium to recognize the multiculturalism of the Caribbean region. He further noted that Islam has had a presence in the Caribbean for centuries, due to both slavery and indentureship.
“I first want us to recognize that this region is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural in nature. So, our deliberations must take into consideration the makeup of this region. This diversity, as you know, is a legacy of our colonial history. The Spanish, the Dutch, the English and French battled for control of the islands and lands of the region.
These colonizing powers have shaped the region’s diversity, but none more so than the introduction of African enslavement and Indian indentureship. It was under both of these systems that Muslims were introduced to the Caribbean,” the President said.
The symposium is being held from September 4-6 at the Arthur Chung Conference Center, and will delve into 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.
The symposium will also feature a multidisciplinary programme consisting of keynote speeches, panel discussions, and paper presentations encouraging participants to engage in thoughtful discourse and exchange of ideas.
Guyana has been increasing its bilateral and economic ties with Islamic countries. Earlier this year, Guyana inaugurated its embassy in Qatar in a move that President Ali had said would help both countries embark on a journey of enhanced bilateral relations.
In February this year, it was also announced that Guyana would be receiving help with the oil and gas sector from Qatar. Specifically, Qatar would be helping Guyana create a gas utilization and monetization plan which will be applicable when the gas-to-energy project is commissioned.
And in October of last year, after several months of waiting, a US$120 million loan that the Government had sought for resurfacing the Soesdyke-Linden Highway was approved by the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB).
Prior to that approval, a team from the ISDB had visited Guyana on an appraisal mission for the loan request. The IsDB team was led by Atiq Ahmad, Lead Global Transport Specialist – Economic and Social Infrastructure Department, General Directorate for Global Practices & Partnerships of the IsDB. (G3)