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12 More Than Dawud and Jalut Decriminalizing the Jamaat al Muslimeen and Madressa in Trinidad Jeanne P. Baptiste Peter E. Hopkins, Mei-Po Kwan, and Cara Carmichael Aitchison contend that “just as global migration and mobility are important to the geographies of Muslim identities, so too are local and regional experiences.1 Local experiences of negotiating Muslim identities, creating Muslim space, and managing other identities alongside this, are significant in helping to understand the experienceofbeingMusliminvariousplaces”(Hopkinsetal.2007:3).Inthis essay I explore the construction of a postcolonial Muslim identity called Muslimeenism , in a particular local space; examine the ambiguous relationship that may arise between Muslim communities and a non-Muslim nation-state as a result of the racializing, gendering, and criminalizing of Muslim identity; and seek to illuminate how Muslim communities may provide alternative forms of social justice and social relationships.2 The material I discuss surveys contemporary feminist, race, and Islamic discourses and draws upon five years of ethnographic research—specifically participant observation, structured and semi-structured interviews, and informal discussions with about sixty members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen, a mosque in northwest Trinidad. Despite the attention of international and national media to the Muslims in the Muslim world, the “life-worlds of Muslim women [and men] residing in predominantly non-Muslim countries . . . are one of the most striking unknown facets of the contemporary phenomenology of globalized modernity” (Dietz and El-Shohoumi 2005: 1). This exploration is an effort to bring into view critically—as actors rather than as spectacle—Muslim men and Muslim women in non-Muslim countries and to examine their constitutive individual as well as collective religious and social identities (that is, their contextual realities as opposed to just the ideal of Islam).· 269 · 270 · Jeanne P. Baptiste Being a Trinbagonian (a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago) but not having been in Trinidad at the time of the 1990 Muslimeen coup attempt, I have no firsthand experience of the trauma of the insurrection, nor do I harbor a subjective memory of it. Yet this lack of primary sensibility, not synonymous with absence of sensitivity, gives me the critical, emotional, and psychological distance and detachment of an outsider, which I combine with the cultural, social, political, and personal consciousness of an insider. The simultaneous outsider/insider location allows me to see the Muslimeen through a lens of Derridean multitextuality. Similarly, from the Muslimeen’s perspective, visitors can be either antithetical to their ideological and political positioning or be potential allies. I was at different times viewed both with suspicion and with camaraderie, perspectives congealing after a year or so into one of possible convert, especially as I continued to attend Sister classes after my field research officially ended. Setting and (Unsettling) Actors: A Collage of the Jamaat al Muslimeen Contested land. No deed of ownership by the occupants. A people simultaneously set apart from and a part of a greater whole, a nation. On the outside of the contested territory, west of the main structure: a large grassy field, a manual car wash. Framing the front, white walls with green trim and an open gate until darkness descends. On the inside and just beyond: a crescent moon, geometric shapes, and Arabic symbols. Remember: allegations of no deed of ownership so no permits to build on the land; therein, according to the nation-state, stand illegal structures. First, a relatively new guard booth, usually unoccupied, except for special occasions; a large paved area for parking, and for erecting tents when observing Islam’s most religious observances: Eid ul Fitr and Eid al Adha. Brother Tambu, African Trinidadian, usually the first face one meets on the compound.3 A special cemented area with an outdoor pipe, used for animal sacrifice during Eid al Adha. One is certain to see Sheikh Tariq, African, eight score plus, perform the sacrificial rituals annually. A print shop, operated by a couple—the husband Indo-Trinidadian; the wife, African Trinidadian. Schools: infant/kindergarten through secondary/ high school located toward the back of the compound. Offices upstairs for the principal; vice principal; and one of the imam’s wives, African, very well educated, who oversees the academic operations. A tiny shop, selling snacks and sandwiches, tucked away at the back of the compound but allowing easy access from the school. Operated by an African couple. Decriminalizing the Jamaat al Muslimeen and Madressa in Trinidad · 271 A large kitchen: the cook, Sister Saida, African. It took four years for Sister Saida to inform me that...


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