Not every salaam speaks for Islam: A Muslim’s response to Kevin Baldeosingh

Alana Abdool takes a closer, sympathetic look at Kelvin Baldeosingh’s controversial Trinidad Guardian column in our Letters to the Editor page:

Dear brothers and sisters in Islam,

I have a confession to make. And a warning to sound.

Truth be told, Kevin Baldeosingh said atheists and white people are offended by the Adhaan for Fajr on loudspeakers. I am too; maybe others are. But I am not offended just for Fajr. I worry about the loudspeaker that has replaced the muezzin on top of the minaret.

Photo: Muslim worshippers say prayers at Eid ul Fitr.
Photo: Muslim worshippers say prayers at Eid ul Fitr.

Is this okay? If a brother lives a few kilometres away from the masjid and he is obligated to walk to it for Fajr because the call has reached his ears, will he make it?

What if we had to take off the loudspeakers? Would fewer brothers come?

Truth be told, Kevin Baldeosingh said it’s dangerous to be gay, to drink alcohol and for men to shave since they might be offending Islamists and, worse yet, they might get killed! Who are these “Islamists”, my brothers and sisters, that Kevin Baldeosingh is referring to? Who are they who have made such intolerance and bigotry the order of the day?

Undoubtedly, their righteous anger has made them forget the core tenets of this great Deen. Again and again, Islamist anger is unleashed with clear disregard for its targets, Muslim and non-Muslim. Blind “virtue”. Singular allegiance to one “Imam”.

Not all Muslims are like that. I know the truth; they know the truth. But the empirical data are clear and they tell us that the Islamist mentality is growing at a frightening rate. What is worse is that the violence inherent in the response of Islamists takes the form not only of verbal abuse but also, more tellingly, of outright physical confrontation.

Photo: A tribute to the victims of the Orlando mass shooting. (Copyright
Photo: A tribute to the victims of the Orlando mass shooting.

How did we, my brothers and sisters, allow these Islamists to hijack our religion?

We, the right thinking, law-abiding Muslims, need to be introspective and critical at the same time as we engage Kevin Baldeosingh and others of his ilk in dialogue with a view to making them understand that, in matters concerning the social and political aspects of our religion, we, the pure, authentic Muslims, are capable of intellectual autonomy.

Truth be told, Kevin Baldeosingh has equated the actions of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen to some Muslim imperialist agenda to own the planet. That’s outrageous!

Surely the Islamist numbers aren’t so large that our efforts to have justice accorded to us for freedom of worship and practice should be mistakenly aligned with political or even criminal agendas?

Perhaps some Muslims may have been indoctrinated or driven to adopt Islamist agendas as a result of persecution, alienation or feeling disenfranchised. No doubt, the alarming spread of the Islamist doctrines has convinced Kevin Baldeosingh that the Muslims of this country have subconsciously assimilated so much of Islamism that we can no longer differentiate between it and Islam.

Photo: Trinidad Guardian satirist Kevin Baldeosingh. (Copyright Trinidad Guardian)
Photo: Trinidad Guardian satirist Kevin Baldeosingh.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

Instead, we become overly defensive, sometimes even degenerating into a crass mass of mind-numbing name-calling and attempts at antipathetic exploitation.

Truth be told, there is a long list of Islamist doctrines and practices that Kevin Baldeosingh has focused on that conveys a very frightening impression of Islam as barbaric, caught perhaps in a medieval time warp. And in his and the Guardian Editor’s all-consuming desire to ensure that his message would reach the Islamists who are his real target—reckless of insensitivity and eschewing subtlety—a decision was taken to publish this piece on the Eid holiday.

So as much as we, the right-thinking, law-abiding Muslims, wanted to quietly do our religious duty and enjoy our Eid holiday, we were unable to ignore this stinging affront..

But I prefer to believe that it was done in the interest of getting the attention of the Islamists who, we know, also celebrate Eid. The problem, brothers and sisters, may be much bigger than we think.

Our beautiful Deen is being torn apart in this war of words over what is Islam and what isn’t. Still, we should never hold against non-Muslims like Kevin Baldeosingh the expression of personal opinions based on their observation of what Islamists do or of reactions to what Islamists do or what they say to them.

Photo: ISIS soldiers prepare to execute a hostage. (Copyright UK Mirror)
Photo: ISIS soldiers prepare to execute a hostage.
(Copyright UK Mirror)

How can it ever be logical to hold a non-Muslim responsible for inaccurately portraying Islam if that portrait is based on honest observation?

If we, the right-thinking, law-abiding Muslims, cannot through our behaviour, through our scholarship and through our relations with non-Muslims express what Islam really is, then the Islamists will define it for us.

We, the right-thinking, law-abiding Muslims, must accept responsibility for the creation of Islamists because we are failing to empower the already existing right-thinking, law-abiding Muslims or to spawn more.

Until that changes, when non-Muslims nod knowingly and smile at us at Eid ceremonies, we are all doomed to grit our teeth and deliver speech-in-a-box greetings.

But how many Islamists are out there? How big is our task?

Truth be told, if the number I think I’m seeing is the accurate number, the enormity of the challenge is daunting indeed.

Photo: A Muslim observes prayer time.
Photo: A Muslim observes prayer time.

Editor’s Note: Click HERE to read Mr Live Wire’s satirical take on the immediate response from other quarters to Kevin Baldeosingh’s controversial column.

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  1. As a person who supposedly wrote a history book Baldeosingh was being dishonest ad to be frank he showed his lack of class, intellect and showed himself as an academic fraud. And he is against Islam on the whole, one just has to look at his facebook page.

  2. And you see, Darryn Boodan wrote an article the following Friday saying how to avoid atheists from “trolling” the religious folks, in short.
    Guess what? The author of this letter did not read Mr. Boodan’s commentary and did the number one thing you don’t do: respond to an atheist’s satirical commentary. That’s just feeding bullets to a gun and expecting not to be shot…repeatedly.
    Now, I am an agnostic atheist myself, but responding to that religious person is not even worth the typing. Instead, I’ll do what the entire Muslim community should have done: ignore it and move on.

  3. Excellent debate here……good points on both sides….

  4. this is being blown out of proportion. baldoeosingh is probably enjoying this.

  5. I have sat and watched certain imams say nothing about the extremism within their community , I will cut through the chase . Indo Trinidadian muslim’s don’t like to associate with Afro Trinidadian muslims because they believe that those who were converted and not born into islam are the ones giving trouble in this country ..

    • Sweeping generalisations are almost always wrong though. And I can’t think of an example of when it wasn’t.

      • That is true but many times when used appropriately with an educated audience they make sense. There are many smokers that went to their grave with no ill effects from smoking but we say smoking is bad and don’t criticize the sweeping generalization. Same for the statement that men are faster than women. Ahye upsets that generalization but we can still accept the statement. Sweeping generalizations only become an issue when race and religion are in the mix. I make no pronouncement on the truth of Jimi’s statement because I don’t have any info on it.

        • Lasana Liburd

          Fair enough. But then we are talking science against suspicion there.

        • Lasana Liburd

          I certainly meant my reply to be specific to racial stereotypes.

          • Racial stereotypes are a sensitive topic but it does not prevent a person observing a group and gathering unbiased data. e.g. reports of violent crime, (TTPS), education levels (MOE, etc) suicide rates (TTPS), involvement in sport and which sports etc….enough data will allow you to say group X have particular tendencies. Then stick in some history for context. Then look at data from other countires for good measure. Look at stadium attendance for a major football game vs. National track and field meet. The crowds at both events are radically different which allows for conclusions to be made.

  6. The Muslims were the first prey to the bullying and victimisation by Islamists. The people that they are killing are Muslim and the people who are fighting back are Muslim.

    Mr. Baldeosingh took a complex, complicated, multi-perspective issue and filtered it down into the most simplistic compilation in which he interlaces the ideology of Muslims and the ideology of Islamists. Unfortunately for us this is the nature of the media.

    For instance, like many other critics, he rightly quoted from the (Quran 2:216) but ignored the historical context and commentary of the revelation. (This verse was revealed when muslims were being severely persecuted and it finally gave them the right to defend themselves). Hence, scholars and Muslims have always understood this verse as a legal right to defend themselves only out of arduous necessity. This is just one way he has misrepresented Islam.

    Furthermore, if Mr. Baldeosingh wants to confront islamism and violent islamists (although i don’t that he really cares)then he should at least recognize that T&T needs the thousands of Muslims, who DO NOT share those ideologies to be at the very frontline pushing back, instead of alienating and dismissing them on Eid day!

    • Well said Huda! Mr. Baldeosingh’s article is what I deem irresponsible journalism! You do not heal or help a situation in this manner. He should have added the historical context to each situation and assisted the plight of right thinking Muslims who are faced by the simplistic dissemination of their faith. The discrimination is real and I do not know how Baldeosingh could feel happy or proud about festering these wrongs.

  7. Good article. Islam like Judaism appears to abjures introspection and self criticism and in so doing confuses legitimate criticism of practitioners of both faiths as originating from racist, anti Muslim and anti semitic points of view.

  8. Could the response to the Guardian article be that it is scary to see how non-muslims see extreme Islamists?

  9. I don’t get it. Wasn’t his piece supposed to be a satirical piece???

  10. Kevin’s part two might be, “how not to be killed by atheists.”

  11. Peace Folks, apart from not having a singular hierarchy, we were also not prepared to be the worlds “new enemy”! The “West” has always had/engineered a “Foe” to fight, we just didn’t see the spotlight panning around to us!

  12. “We, the right-thinking, law-abiding Muslims, must accept responsibility for the creation of Islamists because we are failing to empower the already existing right-thinking, law-abiding Muslims or to spawn more.”

    See I starting to feel like Ms. Abdool trying to tell me, without actually saying it that an Islamist and a Muslim is one and the same. This doesn’t tally with what Mr. Baldeosingh said as recorded in the Guardian’s apology.

    And while we are at it, can Ms. Abdool please offer some guidance on what she means by the above quoted statement. What is it that I do or don’t as a law abiding Muslim that has causes me to contribute to the genesis of Islamists.

    I look forward to your or her response.

    • No I am not saying Islamists and Muslims are the same. But I am implying that only Muslims can make the distinction between who is an Islamist and a Muslim. As the Islamists have a specific ideology that originates from the Islam. The response of the Muslim can be:

    • They are convinced by the ideology of Islamists as being the definition of Islam and so aim to portray this ideology. They try to rectify the misconception that is the Islamist ideology. They form part of the silent majority.

    • I am not compelling any Muslim not to be silent. And I was not saying that because you are silent you are fully to blame. But consider:

    • There is a village of people. A distant tribe moves into the village because their village was ravaged. The tribe speaks another language. So while the native villagers understand the tribe’s need for food and resources through primitive communication they don’t know much else. One day, two of the tribesmen have an argument. A crowd gathers. The argument becomes increasingly heated. The natives are confused but they look to the other tribe members who look on silently. The natives don’t understand anything as the language is foreign to them. At this time is it clear to the natives who’s side the silent tribesmen are on? The argument escalates until one of the tribesmen takes out a knife and kills the other one. The rest of the tribesmen continue to look on silently. At this point is it clear to the natives whose side the silent tribesmen are on? The tribesman who has just murdered his clan member walks away. The rest of the tribesmen remain silent and walk away. The natives stand and stare at the dead body. At this point is it clear to the natives who’s side the silent tribesmen are on? Is it clear to the murderer who’s side his fellow tribesmen are on? In the following days another murderer from among the tribesmen appears. They kill another of their own and one of the natives. The rest of the tribesmen witness this yet again and stay silent and disperse. Is it clear at this point to the natives whose side the silent ones are on? I am not compelling you to do something. But be careful you do nothing and you end up either a murderer or murdered.

  13. Every time I read a Trinidad newspaper I am offended……mostly by their piss poor standards of what they consider to be journalism, and that goes double for the Guardian.

  14. I’ve always felt that dating back to 9/11, Muslims have done a poor PR job in differentiating their religion from radical Islam.
    The mere fact that it is called anything Islam… ??
    But I guess that PR job would have been easier to do and more successful, if Islam was a white religion.

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