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July/August 2015



n Paramaribo and surrounding

suburbs, there are 17 mosques. In

the whole country there is an

estimated 800. The majority of

people practicing Islam are from Indonesia.

Some are facing west for prayer while

others face east. The rule is you have to

pray toward Makkah. The early contract

workers from Java continued their practice

of praying to the west. Indian Muslims

came here before the Javanese and were

already facing east. I think tradition was at

work. My father and grandfather did it this

way. Why change?

I was born in Paranam.

My mother was a teacher

and my father an agricul-

tural engineer. They went

to the Netherlands when

I was born and left me

here in Suriname with my

grandparents, who were

Muslim and lived in Para-

nam. When it was time to

join my parents, I refused

to go. I was three. So I

stayed with my grandpar-

ents. My father’s parents

were Hindu.

My father passed away

when I was 14. I went

to the mosque with my

grandfather, grandmother,

aunts and uncles. That’s

when we moved to Para-

maribo. My grandfather

was a pharmacist at a hos-

pital. He is why I studied

medicine and then went

to Belgium to study fur-

ther. I wasn’t that keen to

practice medicine and now

teach physiology.

I’m married and have

two children. My son is

young, and my daughter

is 18 and studies econom-

ics at the university. Every

discipline at the school

is full of women. In my

physiology class when I

started teaching, of the 60

students, 10 were women.

Now of the 60 students,

55 are women.

I live in a neighbor-

hood where none of my

neighbors is Muslim. We

live peacefully and cele-

brate Christmas,

‘Id al-Fitr,

etc. It is now Diwali, and

I helped with the fam-

ily lights. My two sisters

are Hindu and are married to Hindus.

We celebrate each other’s holidays, and

when food is prepared at a party, we are

sure vegetarians can eat.