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Making an Impact for peace
Tomorrow is the United Nations International Day of Peace. It is observed around the world annually on September 21. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.
In our nation of T&T, one group in particular is going the extra mile to make sure that peace remains a central focus in our collective consciousness.
The Independent Muslim Professionals Acting Together (Impact) is a group of law graduates, teachers, business people, young people working in senior positions in the public service and university students who aim to rally young Muslims from all communities to use their skills and experiences for the improvement of society.
“We feel that our work is important because we are not aligned or affiliated with any particular religious organisation,” said founding member, Quaiser Abdullah.
“Additionally, we are young professionals who are seeking ways to bridge the inter-religious and intra-religious gaps. Also, at this point, with what is going on internationally, there is a lot of negative press and stereotypes about Muslims dominating the national discourse.”
Impact attempts to move outside the enclaves of the Muslim community, and serve the general public, according to the basic tenets of Islam, allowing Muslims to focus on an essential element of Islam, namely service to others.
Last year, the organisation held a march in honour of the International Day of Peace.
“The Peace March 2013 through East POS was our most significant achievement,” Abdullah said. However, they have chosen not to repeat it this year due to the current local and global political and social stigma surrounding Muslims.
“We have also held a number of film screenings about Islam and general culture in T&T that have resulted in opening up discussions about Islam and its practice in the country,” he continued.
“We have also begun the process of cementing intra-religious bonds between different Muslim identities, particularly the Shia and Sunni, since we are working together so closely toward the same goals.”
In terms of tangible strategies that the organisation implements throughout the year to achieve their goals of peace and societal cohesion; they hold a bi-monthly feeding of the poor, during the month of Ramadhan they feature daily reminders of good virtue; reach out to different news outlet for coverage of events and also plan for an upcoming Appreciation Dinner geared toward honouring stalwart Muslims who have led the way and pioneered in the Muslim community in Trinidad.
Members of the organisation have been personally affected by crime. In 2003, Abdullah’s uncle was killed in a targeted drive-by shooting. He was in La Horquetta, liming on the corner, when he was killed, because of what is believed to be a prior disagreement.
Abdullah was not in Trinidad at that time. In 1996, another uncle was shot in a drive-by shooting in the same location. He did not die.
“He has had ongoing medical complications as a result of the bullet that was lodged in his back for some time,” Abdullah said.
“I grew up with both my uncles. We were very close.”
Impact founder and director Nimah Muwakil-Zakuri has also been affected by local crime.
“My uncle was brutally murdered in Belmont a little over a year ago,” she said.
“To date there have been no arrests in this matter and it has affected my family tremendously.”
According to Abdullah, within the past year, there have been a number of incidents involving members of the Muslim community, who were victims of crime. These individuals were long-standing members, whose families had deep-rooted ties to the community.
“These particular incidents reverberated through the entire community and in some cases, are the things that prompted us to take a more active role in marching for peace,” he said.
While Impact has had varied responses from the public, they maintain their focus and are determined to keep peace on the agenda.
“As an organisation, peace means that we value justice, welcome open dialogue, push for changes that benefit the population and create a society in which people feel safe and secure,” Abdullah maintained.
“For us, peace is not just about stopping violence. Peace is about the enrichment of the whole individual. It is about enable individuals to be change agents in the society and to become contributing members of society. It is about empowerment.
“We are hoping to have a bigger Peace Walk/Rally next year,” he continued.
“We would like to have a number of locations where the rallies take place. We would like the residents of the most troubled areas to feel empowered to come out and take a stance with their countrymen who would like to see an end to the violence that is destroying the communities.”
Furthering this agenda, Impact is currently in talks with local filmmakers towards the production of documentary films that deal with important topics relating to Islam and Muslims.
“We recognise the power of media in spreading messages, both negative and positive,” Muwakil-Zakuri said.
“We feel that in addition to screening foreign films, producing our own will highlight issues that are relevant and current to our society and will be able to open up much needed dialogue.”
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