His Excellency Brigadier David Granger: Thank you. Please be seated. Thank you Chairman, Brother Ahmad Baksh; Chargé d’ Affaires, Mr. Bryan Hunt; Shaikh Moen ul-Hack, Imam; Faid Muhammad; Brother Riesa Ali; Brother Makhdum; all members of the executive of the CIOG and MYO; special invitees; members of the Islamic community; ladies and gentlemen; members of the media.

I am happy to be here to bring greetings on behalf of the Government of Guyana to all Muslims on this sacred festival of the observance of the birth anniversary of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace.

Being the last to speak means I don’t have to be long because I think Mr. Bryan Hunt and Sheikh Moen have already called attention to the fortuitous proximity between Christmas day, tomorrow, and Youman Nabi today; and also the fact that our three major religions’ Judaism, Islam and Christianity all came to us through that great patriarch Abraham, and we are all religions of the book. So, there is one God and we believe in that one God, although we approach our worship through different routes.

I’m very thankful for this opportunity and also for the fact that a few weeks ago I was able to visit Saudi Arabia and I was in the presence of Brother Khadim Khan, who is with us today, and I was able to have an interview or a meeting with the King of Saudi Arabia, also the custodian of The Two Holy Mosques; and I was very honoured to be in his presence and also brother Khadim Khan, always alert, was able to bring his deep knowledge of Islam and Islamic practices to bare and we were able to bring back several litres of Zamzam, that is holy water. I don’t know if we breached any aviation regulations in so doing but I had the opportunity, a few weeks ago, to make presentations to the three major Islamic organizations in Guyana and, again, I’m grateful for that opportunity to be able to do so. As I said, most of what needed to be said on an occasion has already been said by both Mr. Hunt and Sheikh Moen; I would just like to assure the Islamic community of our support for everything that has been going on this year, 2015, and in particular over the decades, over the years.

We have all been impressed by the work of the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana. I am aware… I have been advised by Sheikh Moen that presently there are three educational initiatives by the CIOG – the Alcazar Islamic Academy at Meten-Meer-Zorg, in Berbice, the Islamic School, and the Islamic Academy at Anna Regina in Essequibo.

We are in a situation in Guyana today, in which I have vowed that as long as I am able and capable, every single Guyanese child must find a place in school. Yesterday, I was in Akawini and I came out to the Pomeroon and to Charity and there I received my fifth boat, since the 15th July, to take children to school and I expect that, at least from the front row here, there should be another boat or two coming along in weeks to come.

I put a lot of emphasis on education and making sure that every child is given the opportunity to go to school. If that child has no transportation to go to school, we must provide transportation for that child. If that child has no footwear, we must provide shoes for that child. If that child has nothing to eat, we must provide meals. I am deeply impressed by the work that CIOG has been doing and, this morning, I would like to pledge a million dollars to the CIOG for the work of its three educational institutes. (Don’t clap. You all can’t clap; you have to say something. Don’t clap. Please you are not allowed to clap.)

It is a start and as I said before, and I said elsewhere, I am prepared to help anybody who is prepared to help themselves and what is happening here is that the CIOG has been helping Guyanese to help themselves to have a proper education and I will continue to help any organization; and this morning I am honoured to help the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana so that is done before the 31st December, please, Brother Ibrahim.

Next year, my brothers, we celebrate our 50th Anniversary of Independence and I would like to refer to the remarks made particularly by Mr. Bryan Hunt, as we move towards that 50th Anniversary of Independence, a mere five months from now. We must reflect on the disturbed circumstances under which Guyana became independent; we were in a state of emergency and we were born a broken nation, a divided nation.

For me, 26th May, 2016 must be more than a birthday party; it must be a day, it must be an event, it must be a celebration of our National Unity; of our coming together; and one of the greatest tragedies of our modern times has been the perversion that we have observed in some other countries. Again, last month I was in the presence of President Mohammed Buhari, and he told us that in Nigeria alone Boko Haram had killed over 10,000 persons in the last six years.

There is nothing Godly about that; there is nothing religious about that; there is nothing humane about that and we all have to work together to make sure that that form of extremism, which is a perversion of the faiths that we hold dear, whether that faith is Hinduism, Islam or Christianity or Judaism ; there is no place for that type of extremism in Guyana and I would like to feel that as we move together towards our 50th Anniversary of Independence that the entire Islamic community, together with the Hindu community and the Christian community, could work for greater National Unity and also greater vigilance to ensure that that kind of extremism does not find a place among Guyanese.

We have never had that sort of religious violence in Guyana that you see in other countries and as far as I am concerned, and I’m sure as far as the CIOG and Islamic community are concerned, these perverse doctrines will not find a place in our country, but we must work, we must not take things for granted because nowadays there are so many diverse and devious means of transmitting hostile propaganda.

There are over 650,000 cell phones in Guyana and sometimes we are not aware of the messages which are being transmitted by those social media; sometimes there are messages of hate and messages of violence. So on this Holy day, I call on all Guyanese, Christians, Muslims and Hindus, to work towards National Unity and to work towards a greater understanding of all our people.

Again, I greet you on this Holy day, I ask that you observe carefully the teachings of the Holy Prophet and to put those teachings into practice to make sure that Guyana is a better place and that our children could inherit a nation of peace; a nation of unity.

May God bless you all. Thank you.

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