A jamaat in Trinidad and Tobago has demanded a supermarket to remove murtis of Hindu deities displayed in their store. However the supermarket run by a Muslim, the vice-president of the jamaat has refused to do so and demanded an apology from the person who wrote the letter.
Real Street Jamaat, a branch of Anjuman Sunnatul Jamaat Association (ASJA) in Trinidad and Tobago had written a letter raising their objections to the display of “Hindu murtis and other Hindu items” in the supermarket. In the letter dated December 3, 2021, Haji Imtiaz Ali, Chairman of the jamaat wrote that he had come to know through a student of Haji Ruknudeen Institute of Islamic Studies that the shop had put up Hindu murtis for sale.
He wrote that the student and her husband “to their surprise found Hindu murtis and other Hindu items on sale” when they went to shop in Price Club Supermarket, the concerned entity. The mullah went on to demand the supermarket to remove the “items” from his business and issued a veiled threat with the phrase “May Allah Azzawajall save us from the wrath”.
The supermarket has been reportedly functioning for 27 years and would not bow down to bullying despite being run by the vice-president of the jamaat. In a statement issued on Facebook, the supermarket has revealed that it would have none of it and refused to comply with Ali’s demand. Stating that as a commercial entity the business has no affiliation to any religious organization, the statement says that they will “not entertain the utterances of any individual who devises to create disharmony and disunity of this cosmopolitan, harmonious rainbow nation”.
It also drew attention to the background of Ali who wrote the letter, one of the members on the board of the Inter Religious Organisation and the Muslim Prison Chaplin of many prisons in Trinidad and Tobago and lamented that such a divisive personality is put incharge of creating harmony and peace of the country. It also wondered why other supermarkets that carry the same items were not asked to remove them.
It noted that Ali seems to have a personal vendetta against one of its directors and is targeting the business intentionally. “We stand resolute in our service and support of all communities in our blessed nation as we have done for the past 27 years”, the statement concluded. AZP News, a local media reported Shamshard Ali, the owner of the supermarket as saying that he’ll not be distracted by small issues like this when the country is facing much bigger issues like Covid-19.
Imtiaz Ali told the media that as Muslims, owners of shops are not allowed to sell things that are declared haram like pork, alcohol, cigarettes and “artifacts of other religions”. Admitting that as the owner it is his choice to sell or not sell such items, he said that he didn’t mean to offend anyone but “be their brother’s keeper”. He had told the Trinidad Express that as the owner is the vice-president of ASJA, selling Hindu murtis in his shop violates its religious laws.
When asked about why Price Club was targeted, Ali reportedly said “I have an issue with everybody, but you have to deal with your own first”, in reference to the fact that the shop’s owner is the vice-president of the jamaat. He also assured that he was not targeting the Hindu community and rather wanted the Muslim community to follow the rules. However it appears that the supermarket sells Christian artifacts as well, as Christmas is approaching.
Regular customers of the supermarket said that Hindu murtis and other religious things have been sold there from the time when it was started. It raises the question why Ali and the jamaat are okay with Christian religious items but not the Hindu ones. Dinesh Rambally of Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha (SDMS) spoke to AZP news and said that the organisation does not see the need to get involved in the issue as it is between certain members of the Muslim community.
He believed that the issue will be resolved amicably as Trinidadians practice religious tolerance and give the utmost respect to each other’s religious persuasions. A Facebook post by Trinidad Hindus had called upon Hindus of the country to “take Hindu money to other organizations” if the supermarket heeded the call of the jamaat. However as the supermarket refused to bow down to the demand, Hindus commended its stand.