Members of the local religious community are deeply concerned by the persistent gun violence affecting the island, particularly in inner-city communities where many of their members live.
So says Dr Abdul Mohammed, President of the Barbados Muslim Association amid continuous reports of violence and gunplay particularly in the neighbouring New Orleans and Chapman Lane communities.
But while some residents called for heavier police and military presence in the area, the religious leader has pledged the support of local Muslims in the fight to take the communities through more constructive approaches.
Last year, a number of people were shot and killed in and around the community while several others have been injured.
On January 14th, the community of New Orleans, St. Michael was flooded with heavily-armed officers from the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF) as a popular liming spot was sprayed with bullets during a midday drive-by shooting. While in the community, residents revealed that it was not the first time for the year such an incident had occurred as many, including bystanders, were forced to take cover in their homes as a gun battle raged on the streets outside.
Days ago, on January 20th, Jerome Stuart, 23, of 8th Avenue, New Orleans and Triston Akeem Alexander of #13 Groves Cottage, St George, were injured during a shooting at the nearby community of Greenfield.
“It is a concerning, because quite often when we hear [the gunplay], it is right around the corner from us and we sometimes hear the commotion and the gunshots. We do recognise that it is most likely not widespread or random but more within certain groups, organised crime etcetera,” said Dr. Mohammed.
He however added: “But at the end of the day, you never know who the innocent bystanders will be as happens quite often. So we as a Muslim community can’t really isolate ourselves and say that it’s not affecting us, because if it happens in our community, we are vulnerable.”
In response to one of the most recent incidents of gun violence, residents in New Orleans told Barbados TODAY they were waiting desperately on the Attorney General, Dale Marshall to keep a promise to tackle the issues made almost a year ago and called on authorities to send in the army.
However, Dr. Mohammed said while law enforcement officials performed their duties, Muslim leaders would focus on community interventions to keep youth out of trouble while attempting to provide alternatives to those living a life of crime.
“We tackle these problems with two approaches. On one hand, in our schools and our sessions in the mosque and on the other, by keeping the youth engaged, because it is okay to talk and say what they should and should not do, but they need to be educated on the do’s and don’ts as well as the pitfalls of society,” explained the association’s president.
He added: “We have been integrated into the community for decades and with a playing field just around the corner from the mosque here at Kensington New Road, we host a lot of football tournaments that Muslims and non-muslims play in together.
“Specifically, in our community, some of our Imans hosts all-day vacation events and competitions including cricket, football, road tennis and stuff to keep the young people engaged, because naturally speaking, the youth will find something to do. It’s either you find something for them to do or they will find something to do, so we push a lot of structured programmes to keep them occupied and engaged.”