By Avellon Williams – Port of Spain, TRINIDAD
Imam Yasin Abu Bakr has died.
The Imam, who turned 80 on Tuesday 19TH October of this week is reported to have died at a hospital after collapsing at his home.
A former member of the Trinidad and Tobago Police Service’s Mounted Branch, Abu Bakr, who was known as Lennox Philip, before his conversion to Islam, will best be remembered for orchestrating the July 27th, 1990 attempted coup in Trinidad and Tobago.
This infamous event, saw then Prime Minister, ANR Robinson being shot and wounded and several persons, including Member of Parliament, Leo Desvignes killed.
Abu Bakr and 114 members of the Jamaat al Muslimeen had stormed the Parliament and this country’s only television station at the time, with Abu Bakr appearing on the television to announce that the government was overthrown.
Days of chaos followed, with loosing and burning of stores and groceries in the capital city, Port of Spain.
The standoff between the Muslimeen and the local armed forces ended only after Anglican Cleric, Cannon Knolly Clarke was able to broker an amnesty for Abu Bakr and his insurgents.
Always one to speak his mind, only recently there were calls for the police to examine a videotaped presentation that he made, in which Abu Bakr warned the Government against measures that oppressed poor people.
Abu Bakr was also charged in 2005 for sedition and inciting violence for statements he made during his Eid message to his followers that same year. However, those charges were later dismissed by the Court.
Abu Bakr was one of the first locals to be converted to Islam in 1969 following the visit to this country of an Egyptian Imam. He then journeyed to Libya as a guest of then-leader Muammar Gaddafi where he learned more of the basic tenets of Islam. When he returned home to Trinidad, he founded the Jamaat -al- Muslimeen, or Party of Muslims.
While a small number of Islamic scholars joined his group, Abu Bakr, gained most of his followers from the local underprivilege community.
He was able to recruit a large number of dispossessed black youth from off the streets and taught them discipline through the Islamic faith.
Where local law enforcement officers fared not to go, Abu Bakr went. He was able to broker peace treaties between rival gangs in East Port of Spain, because of the respect he commanded among the youths.
A lot more can be written about this colorful character, Yasin Abu Bakr. Perhaps history will be unkind to him, remembering only his role as leader of the 1990 attempted coup. But the Imam was much more than that.
He was seen by many as the champion of the poor and oppressed. He gave a voice to the voiceless. He established both a Secondary and Primary school on his compound at # 1 Mucurapo Road to provide quality for poor black youths.
Rising out of these schools are several medical and legal professionals and many civil servants. These schools received no funding from the Government, until January this year, when they began receiving a minuscule amount of money. Abu Bakr was courted by local politicians in their quest for office, only to be discarded when they got into power.
Amidst all of this, Abu Bakr, this tall and stately gentleman, remained steadfast to his faith.
In the words of the Holy Quran, “Inna Lilahi wa inna ilayhi raji un” meaning “To Allah we belong and unto Allah we shall return.” So, as the voice of Imam Yasin Abu Bakr has now gone silent, may Almighty Allah grant him Jannah, as a good and faithful servant that he was.