Here’s to the next 50, Barbados!

Celebrations have ended for Barbados’ 50th anniversary of Independence and we return to business as usual.

My reflections on the celebrations are part of the pride and gratitude I feel in having been around to witness and be part of several of the activities undertaken to commemorate Barbados at 50.

My congratulations, first and foremost, go to the team at the 50th Anniversary of Independence Celebrations Secretariat headed by a former primary schoolmate, Permanent Secretary, Gabrielle Springer. 

I know the team at the Secretariat worked hard and long hours in carrying out their mandate in sometimes difficult circumstances with a limited budget. They must be applauded for their sterling efforts in ensuring the events over the last year were carried out as best as they possibly could.

Secondly, I am pleased at the outpouring of nationalist pride, evident in the flags and other paraphernalia that adorned buildings, homes, fences, vehicles and persons.

While mainly cosmetic, it showed a love for and a desire to connect with things Barbadian. This I witnessed was carried out by most segments and groups in our society, spanning all the religious and ethnic identities.

The linking of hands and hugging Barbados, while not entirely subscribed to, was nonetheless a success in my mind as it did bring out a cross-section of the Barbadian society including, as I observed, many tourists, visitors and Barbadians living overseas who were here for the celebrations.

I viewed some very moving photographs of school children holding hands drawn from the different races and religious faiths on the island. For the thousands of school students who participated, I am sure it will be a memory that they will cherish in the years to come, similar to the memories I fondly recall of the first attempt in 1979.

I proudly went out this time around as well and held hands on the south coast. While I agree it could have been better organized, the experience was good.  I was taken aback by reports of a driver passing by and, in obscene language, characterizing those who stood proudly holding hands as “idiots”.

But such is life and we must accept there will be those who will think and express themselves negatively. The presence of Members of Parliament from both sides of the House coming out to hold hands in Bridgetown was also a wonderful expression that differences can be put aside to celebrate.

Thirdly, as a Barbadian who can be characterized as being from a minority ethnic and religious community on the island, I can safely and proudly boast that there was no feeling of exclusion in the participation of my faith community in the celebrations.

We were accorded equal opportunities to be involved.  This signals a maturity and an acceptance that all Barbadians must be part of the national endeavour to celebrate and grow Barbados. 

I was honoured to be invited to present a sacred reading from the Holy Quran at the National Service of Thanksgiving at the Kensington Oval. The participation of the Al Falah School students at the linking of hands around Barbados and the reciting of the pledge by one of its primary students simultaneously with a student of St. Lawrence Primary at the Independence parade was also a momentous occasion.

So too were the two Imams who were asked to be part of the procession of religious persons at the Revealing Ceremony of the 50th Anniversary of Independence National Monument at the Garrison.

My overwhelming joy and gratitude are also captured by the honour and privilege given to my daughter, Firhaana, who was invited, as a young Barbadian, to join another young and outstanding Barbadian, Master Ricardo Reid, to place the time capsule along with Barbados’ National Hero, Sir Garfield Sobers, in the Monument. 

This time capsule which contains various items is expected to be opened in 50 years.  My good friend, Sabir Nakhudas’ book, Bengal to Barbados, is also in the capsule. I truly hope, God willing, that these two young persons will be there to witness the reopening in 2066.

Over the years, I have been challenged on several occasions to respond to various characterizations of how the faith and ethnic community that I come from live and interact with the wider society.  Much of what is levelled is generally the person’s perception based on something they have read or heard. Most times, it is conditioned by what takes places in other countries and not in Barbados.

In some cases, it would have been an unpleasant experience that has shaped this type of thinking. I make a point of this at this time because, on the one hand, I am heartened by the warmth and compliments from friends, acquaintances and even strangers at the participation of persons of my faith community in the celebrations.

On the other hand, I am saddened that at this time of our development, we still have the type of thinking that questions and derides participation of the so-called minority groups on the island in national events. This type of warped thinking is gaining some momentum in western countries as seen by recent events in the USA and the UK. 

Many countries across the world are facing similar sentiments being expressed by groups of persons with destructive agendas.  I accept that in democratic societies, freedom is given to express oneself. That freedom, however, must come with responsibility and if such liberties are taken to an extreme, then the results can be devastating.

Barbados is far from that point but we must be ever careful not to allow such thinking to take root. Our task, collectively, is to ensure that every Barbadian, regardless of race, faith, social standing, class or gender, is given equal opportunity to develop Barbados and to be part of any national exercise to bring good to this country. 

Our political leaders on both sides of the divide fought hard for this legacy to be maintained.  While I am characterized as being of a minority group, I can truly say that my thinking and philosophy are far from being that of a minority anything. I live in Barbados as a Barbadian, proud of my faith and ethnic make-up which, by the way, comprises several different strands of racial identity.

I joined hands on November 28, 2016 with a complete stranger to my right and my son on my left to show we love Barbados.  And such is what I encourage every Barbadian to do as we enter into the next 50 years.

(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace. Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: suleimanbulbulia@hotmail.com)

4 Responses to Here’s to the next 50, Barbados!

  1. Sabir Nakhuda December 7, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    I wish to congratulate Suleiman for this beautiful article.It is time that we,as Barbadians,irrespective of our race or religion work together to make Barbados a better place for all of us.
    Along with the material aspect of our life,let us also make a special effort to look at the moral & spritual aspect of our life.
    Let us take some time out of our busy schedule to bond with our children.let us be role models for our children,guiding them to know the Lord,whoever you perceive Him to be.
    May God bless Barbados & it’s people.
    Peace be with you.

    Reply
  2. Hal Austin December 8, 2016 at 4:36 am

    Nonsense, Sabir. This rubbing of noses will not convince anyone that you are loyal Barbadians at heart. Barbadians of convenience, yes. Having a passport does not make you a loyal citizen.
    If you are, plse spell out the Barbadian social and cultural values that you are fully paid up to. In popular culture, where does Rihanna stand in your pantheon of Barbadian icons? What about black pudding and souse? What about the rule of secular law?
    Nonsense about how nice Barbados is simply playing to the gallery. Only gullible Barbadians will take this seriously.
    What we really want to know from your Iman and you is if there is a parallel Sharia court system operating in Barbados? Are there so-called honour killings? Are all Muslim marriages and divorces regulated through the civil system?
    Is there an alternative banking system in operation in Barbados to your knowledge? If so, have you reported it to the authorities?
    Do you know of anyone, male or female, who has left Barbados to take part in Isis activities? If you do, have to reported them to the authorities?
    Thank you for wishing our little nation all the best for the future, but you can make positive contribution to social peace as an Iman and follower by coming clean on pressing issues.

    Reply
  3. Sabir Nakhuda December 8, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    It is very unfortunate that Mr.Hal Austin has short memories. I responded with clarity to many of the same questions he continued to ask.I find mr.Austin very rude to question my patriotism & sincerity as it relate to my love for my country Barbados.Next March 2017,I would be living in Barbados for 59 years,having witnessed the raising of Trident on 30th November 1966 &know given the opportunity to sit on the committee to help plan our 50th Anniversary of Independence.I am not only ‘talking the talk,but walking the walk’.Can the same be said of you?
    It is time to put those insignificant questions which has no place in our society &put “all hands on deck” to make Barbados a better place for all of us.

    Reply
  4. Hal Austin December 10, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Answer the questions and stop prevaricating. You’re bluffing and you know it.
    Since sharia law sis central to Islam, then once can assume that there is a system, formal or informal, of sharia law. Equally, since Islam prohibits profit-making and there are no sharia-complaint financial vehicles in Barbados, then the community must be finding a way round this. Straight answers please – either you or the silent Iman.
    I am also impressed that you ave been in Barbados for 59 years and no doubt find it satisfying. But, I know, from my experience in the UK, that length of stay does not translate in to loyalty.
    I have been in Britain almost as long as you have been in Barbados and can say that the 1960s, vast tracts of Britain have been transformed beyond recognition by immigrant communities.
    In some areas even the shop signs are in Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Polish or some foreign language. I would hate this to happen in Barbados.
    I also know that I would never describe myself as English, nor would the English describe me as English. Why do you think black Britons call themselves British?
    B|lack Caribbean people born in Britain are described as second, third and fourth generation immigrants. That tells you something about liberal Britain. Children entering British schools and colleges are now taught about British values, if they object they are reported to the authorities.
    Finally, loyalty is fluid: if England plays Australia at cricket I support England, if they play West Indies I support West Indies.
    Who do you support when West Indies plays India or Pakistan?
    Then there are the matters of social values and culture. What do you treasure about Barbadian culture and values?
    I can tell you one thing, among many, that I like about British culture: queuing. Foreigners are now destroying this tradition. They should be compelled to stand in line or be arrested. Tell me what there is about Barbados that you like?

    Reply

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