President David Granger: I’m aware of the danger of giving long speeches at 2:20pm on a warm Sunday afternoon, so I will be brief. Thank you Brother Nasrul, of course, I met Brother Nasrul a little over thirty years ago. I was at a station as a young cadet and I’ve never seen someone unwrap the Holy Quran with such delicate care, take the oath and wrap it again and we all stood there in wonder at this young cadet and the reverence with which he handled the Holy Quran; I remember that incident very well.
Honourable Prime Minister, Moses Nagamootoo; Honourable Minister of Social Protection, Amna Ally and other Ministers of Government; esteemed and learned Sheikhs; Maulana; respected Imams; elders, executives of the Central Islamic Organisation of Guyana; The Guyana Islamic Trust; The Muslim Youth Organisation; Masjid Mohammed and other Islamic organisations represented here today; elders; my brothers and sisters in Islam.
I would like to thank you very much for accepting the invitation to be here this afternoon and I would like to welcome to State House and this Benab. This may be your first invitation but as long as I am resident here it is not going to be your last invitation. I often wondered about the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr; about forty years ago I was studying in Nigeria and I recognised that even though I was aware of the celebrations of Eid-al-Adha and Youman Nabi in Guyana the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr in northern Nigeria which is about ninety-eight percent Islamic was something much more widespread than I imagined and I think that opened my eyes to the significance of this holy festival and of course of Ramadan.
Islam in Guyana is not a parochial religion; it is not even a regional religion it is national and, of course it is international and I sincerely hope that you will be here again next year and as you know this is not my private property; it is the property of the state and I would like to give you an advance invitation. Of course, Islam- Eid-ul-Fitr is a moving feast so whenever it occurs please feel free to remind me that it is time to come to the Benab at State House once again.
Islam, as you have heard, encourages friendship. It encourages friendship. It encourages charity and in Guyana we have seen how the practice of Islam has been able to erase fear, erase suspicion and prevent conflict from erupting. Sometimes it seems that we are an oasis of tranquillity in a world of turmoil and I feel that the three religions; the three main religions, working together, have been active, not passive; they have been active contributors to this mood and this atmosphere of tranquillity.
And through our Ministry of Social Cohesion, I am convinced that this will continue not only from this year or next year but throughout Guyana’s history. We have been, I think, singular in terms of breeding and encouraging religious tolerance and I believe that this event today is a symbol, not only to the Islamic community, but the entire national community that the way forward is to live and work and eat together, so I’m grateful for your presence.
My brothers and sisters I’m very heartened by the hearty response to my invitation. I would like to thank you for coming. I know some of you might have set aside other appointments or other engagements to be here and I expect that in the spirit of Eid as we eat together as we share our friendship and charity we will be able to extend the same feeling to the rest of the Guyanese community. Let the world know that we are not only at peace with the world but we are at peace with each other.
Thank you for coming and may God bless you all.