The UMMAH T&T Muslim Federation has instructed its attorney to initiate moves to file a constitutional motion against the legislation to take out of circulation the existing $100 dollar bills within a restricted period of time.
This was revealed by Imam Rasheed Karim, chairman of the largest local group of independent Islamic organisations who criticised the move which he said infringes on the rights of the 180,000 strong Muslim community.
“As citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, Muslims cannot be forced to enlist into the local banking system as Islam forbids the involvement of usury (interest) in our financial transactions,” said the spiritual leader.
“Because of this prohibition, thousands of Muslims opt to stay out of the system and thus secure their funds in different ways, all legal though. But this law now puts them in a disadvantageous situation and compels a significant segment of the population to compromise their religious beliefs,” Imam Karim said.
The Ummah T&T Muslim Federation leader said that although the intent of the Miscellaneous Provisions (Proceeds of Crime and Central Bank Amendment) Bill was well-meaning, the framers failed to take into consideration the unique religious obligations of Muslims.
He supported United National Congress Senator Saddam Hosein, who in the debate in Parliament last weekend highlighted the dilemma faced by the Muslim population with the advent of the new legislation, which according to Imam Karim came like a thief in the night.
The Imam said he has been told by the group’s attorneys that a solid case can be presented to stay the passage of the Bill in the Senate before it reaches the desk of the President of the Republic for final assent.
“We are confident that some measure of relief can be provided by the court to ensure the right of freedom of religion as enshrined in the T&T constitution cannot be subjugated in the interest of short term goals which we believe could be achieved in other ways than trampling on the rights of citizens,” said the Ummah T&T leader.
Imam Karim reiterated Islam’s strict laws against all forms of criminal activity, including money laundering. He said any connection with the proceeds of illegal activities is also prohibited.
He warned however that laws designed to safeguard the interest of the nation should be made in consultation with the national community and not drafted in secrecy and behind closed doors which he suggested has backfired once again in the face of the Government.
Imam Karim is contending that once again Muslims “have been forced to bear the brunt of the fallout from the insensitivity of the state while also creating great anxiety and uncertainty in the banking sector.”