Author: Emanuel Pietrobon – 27/07/2020
THE ARRIVAL OF JIHADISM IN LATIN AMERICA – PART II
THE CURIOUS CASE OF TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO’S BLACK MUSLIMS AND OF ITS CONVERSION IN THE LARGEST JIHADIST HOTBED OF WESTERN HEMISPHERE
A research by Emanuel Pietrobon for the Higher School of Economics in Saint Petersburg
Trinidad and Tobago is a small dual-island state of the Caribbean that differs from the rest of Latin America because of its historically sedimented tradition of religious and cultural pluralism related to the heterogeneous ethnic composition. In fact, while most Latin American countries have been historically Catholic-majority, Trinidad and Tobago is characterized for having a multi-religious society since the 18 Century.
Christians, Muslims, and Hindus have lived and worked together for the building and shaping of the syncretic Trinbagonian national identity, and this very peculiar multicultural model granted the country a peaceful coexistence until the late 1960s.
During the 1960s and 1970s, Latin America was overwhelmed by students and workers’ protests demanding deep changes in society and politics as well as in the United States and in Western Europe. While in the rest of the continent the protests were addressed against American imperialism and the brutality of the US-backed military dictatorships, in Trinidad and Tobago only Blacks took part in the protests against the then-dominant cultural, social and political order.
Soon the protests showed their anti-democratic and subversive aims and the civil unrest was renamed the Black Power Revolution. Black protesters wanted to subvert the “White-centric cultural order” that according to them ruled over the country since the previous century to the detriment of the Black community.
The protests eventually ended due to the repression policy followed by the government but since then cultural and racial diversity has ceased to be a union factor and gradually has turned into a split factor.
After the civil unrest, order and peace were restored but only superficially, because Black leaders continued their culture war by spreading the teachings of US black nationalist revolutionary movements such as the Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam. If they could not change the system, they would self-segregate themselves by creating Blacks-only ethnic enclaves.
Racial hatred and subversive ambitions started spreading once again, on the background of a stagnant economy and growing social inequalities, and on July 27, 1990, the country was shocked by a coup attempt by 250 armed men belonging to an unknown terrorist organization, Jamaat al Muslimeen (JaM).
It was the first time in the Western Hemisphere that an Islamist and Black separatist terrorist group tried to overthrow a legitimately elected government. The coup plotters assaulted parliament and took hostages. The crisis ceased four days later with a death toll of 24.
Since then, ethnic tensions within the country have furtherly worsened highlighting the evident failure of the Trinbagonian multicultural model. Later with the emergence of Islamist terrorism, the country quickly but silently became the main recruiting ground in the Americas for notorious groups like Al Qaeda and the Islamist State.
The research question of this work is the following: How could a country historically built upon a multicultural identity turn into the largest Jihadist hotbed of Western Hemisphere where Black Muslims self-segregated themselves in closed communities?
Accordingly, the purpose is to show that the reasons behind the appearance of inter-ethnic hatred and Islamist terrorism date back to the 1960s and are closely connected to the then-wide spreading of Black nationalist and separatist movements which represented the first step towards the implosion of Trinbagonian nationalism.
A further goal is to provide a solution able to de-escalate ethnic tension and rebuild the historical multi-ethnic and multicultural national identity that has characterized the country for two centuries.
Continue reading, please download the Analytical Dossier AD_17_2020 ISSN 2704-6419
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