Counter-Terrorism: Timid Terrorists in Trinidad & Tobago


December 28, 2005: The island republic of Trinidad and Tobago has about a million inhabitants. About six percent of them are Moslems, including a few Islamic radicals. The country's principal Moslem organization, the Anjuman Sunnat-ul-Jamaat Association (ASJA), is very much in the tradition of tolerance that prevails among the "Trini." When asked about "cultural conflict," given the country's rich mix of several brands of Christians, Hindus, Moslems, and others, ASJA leader Yacoob Ali, replied "We have to coexist. To each his own," and then added that according to the Koran, "Moslems believe there must be no antagonism, no anti-religious sentiment towards another person's faith and belief."

Speaking last year, when the Hindu festival of Divali coincided with the Moslem Eid and the Christian Christmas, Noble Khan, himself a Moslem and President of the Inter-Religious Organisation, observed that "The three festivals are closely linked with happiness," adding "It's a confluence of spiritual forces coming together. If your whole community is totally taken up with positive activities, then it is going to reduce the amount of negative activity."

There are some more extreme views. Inshan Ishmael, head of the "Islamic Relief Centre," has taken a harder line, frequently protesting "harassment of Moslem." For example, he attributed delays in establishing a Moslem-oriented cable television channel to an "anti-Islamic sentiment," though several other applicants for channels experienced similar delays, which the cable provider attributed to technical problems. Ishmael has also brought suit in the country's supreme court against the fact that it's highest decoration is the "Trinity Cross" (He has not, apparently, protested the name of the country itself, "Trinity" in Spanish, or not yet, anyway). But Ishmael, who now has his cable channel, is a relative moderate when compared with local radical cleric Yasin Abu Bakr of the Jamaat Al Muslimeen. In July of 1990, Bakr led an abortive coup against the government, in an attempt to establish an Islamic regime. The coup resulted in 24 deaths. Freed in a general amnesty, Bakr and his organization are believed to be active in organized crime, drug dealing, kidnapping, and gang-related killings.

On November 4th, on the conclusion of the festival of Eid-ul-Fitr, Bakr delivered a sermon in which, along with demands for the overthrow of the United States, he warned "rich Moslems" to provide alms the poor, as required by the Koran. In the process, Bakr not only named his own organization as the only legitimate receiver of such alms, but also several prominent Trini Moslems and Moslem-owned businesses from which the tithes would be demanded, threatening "bloodshed and war"" if the money was not forthcoming. Bakr's sermon prompted a major "summit" of the leading Moslem organizations in the country. Of the sermon, Ishmael said, "Bakr is totally out of place and should know where to get off. He has crossed the line," adding that it was an open threat to Muslims, and "a warning that the Muslim community should not take lightly."

Meanwhile, on November 7th, Bakr was arrested on charges relating to several criminal investigations. And on the 22nd he was charged with "terrorism" and promoting "the commission of a terrorist act likely to cause the loss of life or serious bodily harm,"


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