Trinidad and Tobago: An inquiry on how a peaceful and multi-religious country became one of the largest basins for Daesh recruitment in the Western Hemisphere

By Emanuel Pietrobon

Trinidad and Tobago is an insular state of Caribbean America, a nation that, along with Suriname and Guyana, possesses a historical tradition of religious pluralism that includes a substantial Islamic community. A 2011 census of the population describes a multi-faith panorama composed of Catholics (21.6%), Hindus (18.2%), Pentecostals (12.0%), Anglicans (5.7%), Baptists (5.7), Muslims (5%), and a number of other faith groups.

Although Islam is the smallest among the majoritarian beliefs, it has played and plays an important role in society. Several celebrities, public figures, politicians, and thinkers are known to be practicing Muslims; among them are the philosopher Imran Hosein and the former president Noor Hassanali, the “first Muslim head of state in the Americas.”

Trinidad and Tobago is the only country in the continent with a history of political and militant Islam. The country also represents a unique paradigm in Latin America, as it has become the largest Daesh recruitment basin in the region, presenting “one of the highest per capita rates of foreign fighters in the world” of the Western Hemisphere: 36 foreign fighters per capita and 616 foreign fighters per capita of Muslims joined Daesh.

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President Donald Trump: Catalyst for ​The Clash of Civilizations?

By Aidan Sanchez

The current political climate in the United States in 2018 is volatile. Among the many contentious topics is Islam’s place in modern Western society. Much of the kindling for growing islamophobic sentiments in the West has come from President Donald Trump. During his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump regularly established that Islam, and by extension Muslims, are public enemy number one. During a campaign rally in December of 2015, Trump infamously called for “​’a total and complete shutdown’ of Muslims entering the United States ‘until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on.’” In the same speech, Trump conceded that “we have no choice,” and must prevent Muslims from entering the United States. Establishing such a travel ban was, according to supporters, imperative in the interest of preserving national security.​ In his 1993 article ​The Clash of Civilizations?​, Samuel Huntington predicted that cultural differences between the East and West would be the fundamental source for international conflicts in the post-Cold War Era. Using Huntington’s hypothesis, it is possible to identify the historical framework that has led us to where we are now.

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union took the place as the U.S. collective ‘other,’ unifying two distinct conservative political sects: civilizational and ideological, against a common enemy. The civilizational conservatives opposed communism due to ideological reasons. The Soviet Union was an atheist state; its lack of faith ran contrary to Anglo-Saxon Christian traditions. Ideological conservatives stood against communism in the interest of preserving liberty and preventing the global domination of a totalitarian regime. This ‘us versus them’ paradigm is useful in analyzing this time period. Politicians and media outlets alike utilized this worldview to frame international politics because it was easy to identify the ‘good guys’ and ‘bad guys.’ From this perspective, the United States was the good guy, and the Soviet Union was the godless enemy. In a December 1992 memo to his staff, ​New York Times​ foreign editor Bernard Gwertzman wrote, “​In the old days, when certain countries were pawns in the Cold War, their political orientation alone was reason enough for covering them.” However, when the threat of nuclear annihilation subsided, the United States emerged as the clear global hegemon.

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