The Jihad of July 27, 1990 and Militant Sunni Islam in Trinidad and Tobago

July 27, 2017 was the 27th anniversary of the Jihad of July 27, 1990 carried out by 114 male members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen against the then NAR government of T&T at the Parliament of T&T in Port of Spain Trinidad from 27th July 1990 to 1st August 1990.

Sunni militant Islam in T&T in the decade of the 1960s had attained the traction within the Ummah of T&T to launch a challenge to the hegemonic Sunni Islamic discourse of the day. Militant Islam was noted for its programmes to spread the message of Islam (da’wa) amongst the African Trinbagonian population of T&T. In the aftermath of the Black Power revolution militant Islam in T&T was well placed and favoured to welcome the African return to Islam in a quest to end the alienation in a post-colonial social order. Militant Islam offered the African embrace of Islam space in which to establish Jamaats dominated by Africans as the Indian dominated Muslim organisations were not welcoming to the extent expected by the African “converts” to Islam. Race relations became a grave issue where the maintenance of a genetic lineage trumped Islamic solidarity. The most prominent organisation dominated by Africans to emerge in this flow was formed by the amalgamation of Jamaats and individuals with two prominent Imams joining forces to create the Jamaat al Muslimeen. From before its creation the persons who decided to coalesce were rooted in militant Sunni Islamic discourse and with the amalgamation the Jamaat al Muslimeen retained the militant Islamic discourse and worldview. At this time this was the discourse that hinged on the discourse of Qutb and Maududi. In the run to 1990 the Jamaat al Muslimeen became the premier Sunni Muslim Jamaat/organisation adhering to the worldview of militant Sunni Islam in T&T. In the aftermath of the jihad of 1990 the Muslimeen fractured indicating that the Muslimeen pre 1990 no longer existed. The salient post 1990 issue was personal survival on a daily basis and there were different approaches and strategies adopted by members of the Muslimeen to deal with this pressing salient issue. Strategies ranged from survival by any means necessary including means that were haraam under the moral code of Islam to serving the interests of politicians in exchange for the opportunity to feed at the trough of the state. Whilst the majority of members simply made do with what was possible and permitted under their Din and available through their actions.

In the post 1990 terrain the Muslimeen lost its position as the premier Sunni Muslim organisation extoling the discourse and worldview of militant Islam. But the discourse had evolved as the terrain of militant Islam was now being contested by South Asian Deobandi Islam and Salafi Jihadi Islam of the Saudi variety. Militant Islam was now passé as the challenging and eventually hegemonic discourses were now extolling discourses of Islamic extremism. The period of discursive contestation of the 1990s would blossom into hegemony as the post 9/11 resurgence of the discourse of jihad redefined by Al Qaeda resonated through the Ummah of T&T. The era of the discourse of social change through militant Islam and of addressing social problems and solving them through Islam was over. The emphasis was now a personal devotion to Jihad against the kaffirun to the point of death. The Muslim was now the sole, individual agent of change that was relevant situated in a milieu devoid of mass action and the concept of the social order and its dynamic. It was then neo liberalism applied to the discourse of Jihad and Islam and it’s no surprise it resonates among the digital generation. This new evolutionary phase left the Muslimeen out in the cold because the discourse and worldview that drove the jihad of 1990 was in stark contradiction to the evolutionary stage epitomised by the discourse of Al Qaeda. Those who were part of 1990 and dominated the leadership and the Shura of the Muslimeen would literally have to denounce their action in 1990 and all that it meant to their self-respect in surrendering to the discourse of Al Qaeda. Those who visited looking for the Al Qaeda agenda and those who were members expecting the embrace simply left.

The conquest of territory in Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State coupled with its call to hijrah followed by Jihad and death would prove to have the most potent impact of Sunni Islamic extremism upon the Ummah of T&T. The response of Muslims of T&T to the call of IS potently illustrates the resonance of the discourse of Islamic extremism among Muslims of T&T. The focus of the message is as that of Al Qaeda but the salient difference is the apocalyptic discourse of the Khilafah of the Islamic State which reflects the effectiveness of the wave of propagation of apocalyptic discourse that was unleashed in T&T in the post 9/11 period. An appeal to the individual divorced from considerations and consciousness of a social milieu and a social order inhabiting a state of rapture fostered by the discourse of the Islamic apocalypse. Where victory is a given, a privilege, an entitlement and personal bliss and gratification are assured in other words a cult illustrated potently by the actions of the Islamic State that deny the moral code of Islam. The Islamic State chose to pronounce the fatwa of Takfir on the Jamaat al Muslimeen indicating that their model of Jihad of 1990 is not an Islamic model of Jihad as it can only result in failure on the field of Jihad and apostasy of those waging the Jihad demanding death to these apostates. The vanguard of the apocalypse who by their Jihad will provoke the end times chose to dismiss the 1990 model of Jihad that was launched in a state where Islam and Muslims are minorities living under the rule of a kufr state. Thereby insisting that the only applicable model is that of Marawi, Philippines. The Islamic State with this fatwa of Takfir sent a message to those from T&T in its ranks and desirous of undertaking hijrah to join its ranks to never expect the Islamic state to pattern its strategies by the model of Jihad of 1990 for you are expected to die in the service of IS not to wage Jihad then walk free with your life intact. In spite of the IS fatwa of Takfir on the Muslimeen and the number of Muslims who left T&T for service to IS an inferiority complex persists among those who were not part of the Jihad of 1990, who have never since 1990 replicated the model of Jihad to engage with the kufr state with its kaffirun animators and amongst those who chose to undertake hijrah to IS rather than replicating the model of 1990 in the land of their birth. The collapse of the Khilafah ratchets up the pressure on those still surviving the debacle of the Islamic State. What do they do now to retrieve, salvage and rebuild some semblance of their taqwa?

The security terrain is now apparent with its threat horizon. The prime lesson of that fateful afternoon of Friday July 27th, 1990 was the abysmal and disastrous failure of the state security apparatus and the elected and non-elected politicians that animated it to pre-empt an attack by the Muslimeen. An attack that was repeatedly spoken of in public by the Imam of the Muslimeen in keeping with the rules of engagement of Jihad. The security apparatus was deaf, blind and dumb to this threat stated and posed as they dwelt in the land of denial. In this present epoch to continue to dwell in the land of denial /Nod will have disastrous consequences for T&T, the Caribbean and the North Atlantic and the signs are not reassuring.

For those interested in an analysis of the Islamic context of July 27th, 1990 there is my book: “Jihad in Trinidad and Tobago July 27 1990”

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