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Jan 12, 2023

Ten Years of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at in Belize

Tonight’s Belize On Reel feature looks at ten years of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at in Belize and the impact of the Muslim faith on our society.  Here’s News Five’s Isani Cayetano with that story.


Ata’ul Haq

Ata’ul Haq, Missionary, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Belize

“Before I became a Muslim, I was basically the same as any Belizean, you know, grew up just as a local.  What I did before was, I liked music, so I created music.  I was even on ‘Be the Next Superstar’ with my brother, Brian Gabb who is still doing music and comedy.  And I also did, I was a published author of ‘We Gat Sonting Fu Seh’, that book, as well part of Youth Voices.”


Ata’ul Haq’s spiritual journey to Islam is a story of finding one’s self.  Prior to his conversion, many knew him as Stephen Gabb, a young, Belizean poet who stood out among his peers by using rhetoric to observe social, cultural, political and economic issues.


“I refrain from making assumptions.  I always do my best I love myself.”


Ashton Matute

“We’re gonna bring creativity, personality and strong love.”


Stephen Gabb

“Yeah, but da true, you know, we have the big C, creativity, you know.  I have not been that physical, soh if da wahn physical challenge ah noh know how ah wahn do.  I’ve been tripping out on that.”


Despite his growing fan base and popularity, Gabb stayed away from religion.  He was someone who believed that it is impossible to know whether or not a supreme being exists.


Ata’ul Haq

“What made me become a Muslim was the fact that I was actually going to Cayo for a performance. We were opening for Alkaline.  At the point in time, he was very big.  However, some situations occurred that we were not able to perform that night. On that night, me and my friends were jumped, we were jumped, and, as you know, all of us Belizeans, we take our pride very seriously and so that hurt my pride and I wanted to go and get revenge.”


It just so happened that the individual who Gabb turned to for help in exacting vengeance would instead introduce him to God in a most unusual manner.


Ata’ul Haq

“Before I got to the mosque, I was thinking, you know, it’s going to be like every other person.  They are going to say [that] faith is better, you should give your life to God or whatever.  I did not expect any evidence.  And so, my biggest thing, I love science and so I always said that if the word of God does not coincide with the works of God then how can it be true?”


When Imam Naveed Mangla arrived nine years ago, his singular assignment was to establish an Ahmadiyya Muslim community in Belize.  The task was daunting, but the devout follower of Islam held firmly to his faith.


Imam Naveed Mangla

Imam Naveed Mangla, Outgoing President, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Belize

“I came here and the one advise that the missionary that was staying here on a temporary basis gave me was that make sure you don’t stay at home.  Every day you should be out there on the streets.  So I wrote to the head of the community in Canada that time, because we were under them at that time, that I need a vehicle.  They said that your community is too small and you can’t have these kinds of things.  I told them I can’t fit in the bus because I’m too tall and they said that the most we can do is give you a bike and that’s where you have to start your mission from.”


..and that’s where the campaign of religious work began.


Imam Naveed Mangla

“I was just astonished that, you know, the reputation that the country has is quite opposite of personally when you meet these people.  But at the same time, there was stigma against Muslims because whenever I would wear my hat and would be crossing the streets, people would call me, “Ey, Taliban.  Ey, terrorist”.  But I would just laugh it off because I knew that the kind of image that Islam had in the minds of Belizeans was because of the main source media.”


Changing public perception of Islam proved to be equally challenging.  Since then, the community has grown in numbers and the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Belize has established itself among the many faith-based organizations in the country.  Aside from various outreach initiatives, ABL is its most popular program.


Isani Cayetano

“How did you find ABL and what has this been like for you?”


Everald Tablada

Everald Tablada, Ahmadiyya Basketball League

“Well I feel like da me find dehn because well the day I meet dehn dehn mi di got wahn three-pan-three dih help out Gateway [Youth Center].  Soh I seh, well yoh know, I gwein play because da free money too, da like fifty dollars yoh di win fi just wahn three-pan-three game.  So I just gaan deh, I just gaan play ball me and my friends dehn.”


Everald Tablada is among a handful of young athletes engaged in the Ahmadiyya Basketball League.  Rodvern Lino is the ABL commissioner.  As the sports coordinator at Stella Maris School, he met Brother Naveed casually.  Before they knew it, they were onto something major.


Rodvern Lino

Rodvern Lino, Commissioner, ABL

“Brother Naveed used to visit our school because there was a member of the church, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at, who used to work with me.  So he would come and he would just look around and eventually he began playing basketball with us, right there at Stella Maris School.  So we played basketball and then we decided to do something for the community.”


Realizing that sports is a way of capturing the attention of young people and keeping them off the streets, the Jama’at has been active in spreading the word through basketball.


Everald Tablada

“Ahmadiyya da just wahn nice, da just wahn nice thing fi deh round, yoh know.  Dehn show yoh love, respect, everything.”


Isani Cayetano

“It has also, perhaps, kept you away from trouble.”


Everald Tablada

“Definitely.  Definitely.  [Ih] keep me way outta it cause I noh even go pan di street like that.  If da noh ball, I noh di come out.”


The crowning achievement of Imam Naveed Mangla, during his tenure as president of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Belize, was the construction of Masjid Noor.  The Mosque of Light stands as a symbol of love, respect and unity.


Naveed Mangla

Naveed Mangla

“I am blessed that I got to see the achievement of the Jama’at.  As you know, as I mentioned that when I came, I was just solo on the bicycle, I used to ride around, and now, you know, we have this headquarters and we have two more missions and we have around over two hundred members at our Jama’t here in Belize.  I am grateful to God Almighty, but obviously my goal was that one day I would to see this mosque to be filled.”


But, he may not realize that dream.  Imam Naveed’s mission in Belize has come to an end.  Succeeding him is a younger, equally vigorous and purposeful president.


Arslan Warraich

Arslan Warraich, President, Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at Belize

“The idea is that we to increase and continue to grow.  That’s there. We have the same goal and we have the same vision. The idea is that we want to serve humanity in the best possible manner.”


Isani Cayetano for News Five.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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