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​Pride in July 27th

IT WAS 28 years ago today, Abu Bakr taught the bandits to play, as the Beatles might have sung, if they’d come from Laventille and not Liverpool; and the song would not have been “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” but “Abu Bakr’s Lonely Boys Gun Banditry”.

Yes, 28 years ago today, measured both by calendar date and from Friday-to-Friday, after their midday prayers, 115 men apparently divinely-guided men left the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen compound at 1 Mucurapo Road – both literally and figuratively the opposite end of the road from today’s One Woodbrook Place – to begin their violent, six-day, bloody attempt to establish, by force of arms (if only WWII rifles), the Western hemisphere’s first Islamic state.

If it seems like a mouthful now, they certainly bit off more than they could chew, then.

Led by a man who had got off a literal high horse – he was once in the T&T police mounted branch – and mounted a figurative one (constable Lennox Phillip became Imam Yasin Abu Bakr), the Muslimeen attempt to establish a caliphate predated the I-Sissies’ by decades. The good imam became the champion of the poor, who seemed to want fridges more than sharia law, and the chief litigant in all the supreme court proceedings that flowed from his 1990 coup attempt.

Attorney General v Yasin Abu Bakr & 114 Others was one title of one case in which the group were involved, the most remarkable of which might have been the attempt by Justice Clebert Brooks to grant a stay of his own order of habeas corpus, but for the award of damages made by Justice Anthony Lucky for the damage done to the Muslimeen compound during the coup!

Trinidadians have been feeling the spirit lash ever since.

For ages afterward, no one could even say how many people died in the coup. For years, the numbers varied from half-a-dozen to near 50. Somehow, it has stabilized on the Internet at 24 and that has become the closest thing to an “official” figure – but no one knows for sure and no one can effectively denounce anyone else’s claim. In 2014, e.g., on the 24th anniversary of the coup, at least one daily reported that there had been 26 deaths!

Trinidadians, not known for the depth of their analysis of anything, especially if it is difficult or painful, have stepped over the coup as though it were a broken stair on an otherwise sound flight; but how can anyone learn anything from anything if they deny it?

Trinidadians are like a sonic boom: they make a lot of noise but they don’t actually do anything, apart from get left behind. On every anniversary of the coup, the group – it could never have been called “a crowd” – that has gathered at the eternal flame memorial to the “X amount” of fallen has shrunk from a handful to none at all. Some anniversaries have passed entirely unofficially observed.

And yet, in rumshops and in Parliament men get drunk on power or on puncheon and wax maudlin about “de coup”. In less intellectual gatherings, every year, over curried duck or lobster thermidor, everyone mutters to everyone else about watching live on their own televisions 115 Trinidadians playing a jihadi mas and walking away, not just scot-free, but with a substantial state payoff in their pockets; some say the “C” in CEPEP stands for “coup”.

And everyone moans about how terrible it is that such a thing could happen.

And yet, Abu Bakr could have been arrested any day of the week in the last three decades. In the USA, Al Capone, Prohibition’s most notorious gangster, was imprisoned, not for any of many capital crimes of which he was suspected, but for tax evasion. The state of Trinidad & Tobago, if it were serious, could have arrested the 1990 coup leader as an open polygamist (subject, I suppose, to statutes of limitation and legal arguments about the dates of commission of ongoing offences).

But Trinidadians are not serious about anything other than the next public holiday or the last bumcee to roll by. Any number of people could have died in 1990 once the Play Whe gets called twice a day.

So there is nothing to be gained by Trinidad & Tobago from contemplating the uprising of 115 men 28 years ago.

But here’s something I keep thinking: in any given group, between three and ten per cent is homosexual; it applies to footballers, politicians and, presumably, soldiers; even Christian or Islamist ones.

If we can’t be sure how many people died in the 1990 coup, we can probably safely bet that between four and 15 (or more) of the insurrectionists were gay.

Secretly, of course.

Militant Islamist insurrectionism must surely be the last closet from which homosexuals might emerge.


Unlike, perhaps, participants in tomorrow morning’s Gay Pride Parade at Nelson Mandela Park.

And here’s a thought worth weighing on the 28th anniversary of the death of a certain number of which we are uncertain.

Who will do more harm to humanity? People who only want to be left alone to love others in peace? Or people prepared to make war for their notion of God?

BC Pires would rather see a rainbow flag than a black one with the shahada on it. Read a longer version of this column and more of his writing at www.BCPires.com

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