Publisher — 08 November 2007 — by Evan X Hyde
The role Nuri Muhammad is playing in the PUP general election campaign is an interesting and important one. The Prime Minister/PUP Leader, Hon. Said Musa, lost a lot of what black credibility he had when he lost the support of Kremandala at the end of 2004. Muhammad, the former Imam of the Muslim Mission of Belize, was the highest profile “black leader” available who could provide audible and visible endorsement of the government’s policies and programs.
The substantive position for which Mr. Muhammad was recruited, near the end of 2006 if I remember correctly, is head of the government press office. But Nuri has been personally accompanying Mr. Musa since he began touring the country in July, and he regularly appears on the video footage of the tour in a prominent role in the Musa entourage, so much so that Channel 7’s Jules Vasquez referred to Muhammad last week as the Prime Minister’s “personal bouncer.”
Previous holders of the post Nuri now holds, were more low profile and desk-committed. In other words, Nuri really doesn’t have to be as “hands on” as he has been, but the Musa campaign is in dire need of black credibility, so there you go.
Mr. Muhammad is a man of impeccable manners. He has an outstanding ability to remain under control no matter what the situation, and he knows how to operate in social settings. In his own way, he is an excellent politician. He is generally careful not to make enemies.
But he did come to the attention of the UDP newspaper, GUARDIAN, even while he was just a morning talk show host on LOVE FM, the only radio station with a national signal, and therefore a station to which the party politicians pay a lot of attention. The GUARDIAN attacked Mr. Muhammad as a PUP stooge more than once, and exposed the fact that he has acquired multiple land holdings in Lord’s Bank, which is inside the Ralph Fonseca constituency.
Two weeks ago THE GUARDIAN ran a rough cartoon mocking the servile role Mr. Muhammad is presently playing in the Said Musa election campaign. The UDP leadership, then, have analyzed Nuri’s role as a partisan political one, as opposed to a professional public service one, and have taken steps to attack his credibility.
In the present circumstances, I think there is a need for us to discuss Mr. Muhammad’s history. There are sources inside the PUP who consider him a Ralphista. If that is so, then it would seem to me that Nuri’s religion and his politics may be in philosophical conflict.
When Nuri Muhammad returned to Belize in 1972 as the Imam of the Belize branch of the Nation of Islam, claiming to be personally appointed by the Hon. Messenger Elijah Muhammad, one of his very first moves was to insist that Ismail Omar Shabazz resign from the executive of the UBAD Party. According to Shabazz, Nuri Muhammad told him that the Messenger Elijah wanted Shabazz, a member of the Nation, out of politics.
What you need to know is that in that year of 1972, the UBAD Party was at the absolute height of its power, having united the young people of Belize City across political and religious lines. Shabazz’s forced departure meant that UBAD lost the internal glue which his mature personality represented, and a process of disintegration soon began within the organization.
After UBAD was dissolved in late 1974, the Belize branch of the Nation of Islam surged in popularity and power under Nuri. But just a few years later, things had become so disorganized in the masjid that Imam Nuri took on the full time job of general secretary of the Belize Chamber of Commerce.
Since then, Nuri Muhammad has been various places. During the 1993-1998 UDP term of office, for instance, he was prominent in Dean Barrow’s CYDP program which sought to reduce gang conflict and violence in the old capital through various initiatives, such as organized employment opportunities.
I don’t consider this an attack on Nuri. In late 1993, I did make an attack on Nuri, because of a specific black summit project I had conceptualized in connection with the 25th anniversary of UBAD. Through the good graces of Virginia Echols, there was a formal meeting held in which I apologized to both himself and Bert Tucker. So this here is not an attack.
What I would like from Nuri is for him to clarify exactly what he is doing. He can say that this press office post is purely a professional assignment, but it appears to many people that it has spilled over into party politics. And this is happening during a bitter election campaign which will only become more intense in the next few weeks and months. Belize will be needing counsel from our religious leaders which is free of any kind of political partiality. Is Nuri a religious leader or a political employee? Inquiring minds, as they say …..