Tue | May 3, 2016

Muslim claims not credible

Published:Friday | February 8, 2013 | 12:00 AM


I wish to congratulate Rev Dr Devon Dick for his carefully argued commentary in The Gleaner of Thursday, February 7, 2013. He has systematically rebutted the spurious claims of Dr Sultana Afroz regarding the religious affiliation of Sam Sharpe and the other enslaved protesters in the 1831-32 rebellion in western Jamaica.

Afroz makes assertions and sweeping statements which are not supported by hard evidence, or which concern places other than Jamaica, or which mangle the data of other scholars.

As Dr Dick and I have found by consulting documents written at the time of this rebellion and referencing statements made by the protesters themselves, there is no evidence of a connection between the enslaved protesters and Islam.

Rather, their religious references relate to Christian belief and biblical writings. On the other hand, as Dr Dick meticulously points out, overwhelming evidence exists that the participants in the 1835 rebellion in Bahia, northern Brazil, were Muslim. See Joao José Reis, Slave Rebellion in Brazil.

Valerie Dixon's assertion that her DNA reveals her Hausa ancestry is a fascinating and credible detail, as there is historical and missionary evidence that Hausas and other Muslim Africans were brought to Jamaica, as well as other Caribbean territories. Indeed, I have interviewed in Trinidad descendants of such persons and have gleaned from them names, words, prayers, songs, and other elements of Hausa and Muslim culture.

But to jump from the fact of Hausa presence in Jamaica to the assertion that enslaved protesters in western Jamaica in the early 1800s were Muslim repeats the sort of illogicality which characterises Afroz's work.