Muslims in Seychelles


Seychelles Founding President Sir James R. Mancham has agreed to write a foreword to a book which will be published before the end of the year in Seychelles by iMedia (Seychelles) Ltd under the title Muslims in Seychelles–A historical appraisal of their legacy, by Abul Fadl Mohsin Ebrahim.

Muslims in Seychelles is a fascinating account of Seychelles history taking the reader back in time when the Arabs and pirates used to frequent the islands, the French settlement, the British annexation of these islands, the road to independence, independence, the coup d’état, introduction of one-party state and re-introduction of multi-party democracy.

A succinct portrayal of the underlying motives for exiling Muslim leaders from their different countries to Seychelles during the British colonial era have also been addressed. Although the Seychellois Muslims have been apolitical, a few of them were detained post the coup d’état and their harrowing stories had to be recorded for posterity. The consolidation of Islam in that part of the world was not an easy task, but today Islam is vibrant and the Muslims live in harmony within the country which is predominantly Christian.

Abul Fadl Mohsin Ebrahim hails from Seychelles. After completing his studies in Islam at the Aleemiyah Institute of Islamic Studies (1975) in Karachi, Pakistan, he went on to complete a Bachelor of Theology (B.Th.) degree at the Al-Azhar University (1977) in Cairo, Egypt. He then obtained M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Temple University (1983 & 1986), Philadelphia, USA. He is currently Professor Emeritusin the School of Religion, Philosophy and Classics at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa; a Senior Professor and Researcher at the REGENT Business School, Durban, South Africa; a member of the Editorial Board of FIMA (Federation of Islamic Medical Association) YEAR BOOK and the Academic Research Director under the auspices of the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT), Herndon, Virginia, USA.

In his foreword Sir James wrote: “Whilst nostalgia may not be what it used to be,going through the pages of this new book by Abul Fadl Mohsin Ebrahim, I cannot but be reminded about some of the fascinating aspects of Seychelles intriguing and vibrant history with some of the anecdotes having a sad dimension, whilst others fascinating.”

Sir James recalled that as a child growing up in Seychelles in the 40s some of his closest friends with whom he played marbles. Hockey, cricket and often went swimming and fishing were the children of the highly respected Suleman Adam who was in fact a close business friend of his late father Richard Mancham and the grandfather of the author of the book Abul Fadl Mohsin Ebrahim. Suleman Adam was the Chief Executive Officer of Adam Moosa and Co. (Pty) Ltd. He was considered to be a member of Seychelles Intelligentsia to the effect that he was nominated by Governor Lord Oxford and Asquith, who was himself the son of a former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, to become a nominated member of our Executive and Legislative Council.

“When I returned to Seychelles after being called to the Bar in UK in 1961, I was elected a member of the colony’s Legislative Council, I was also nominated on the Executive Council. This is when I personally befriended Suleman Adam and discovered that he was a man of enlightened judgment and broadmindedness. He was the only person in Seychelles who privately-owned a speedboat which could take you to Praslin in less than one hour. Although I was myself a practicing Roman Catholic, religious belief was no barrier in terms of our social and friendly association,” Sir James remarked.

Throughout its history, Seychelles received several prominent Muslim leaders who arrived here for a life in exile – the Sultan of Perak and his family from Malaysia, the Sultan of Zanzibar, the former Prime Minister of Egypt Sa`d Zaghulas well as Abdullah Afif Didi and his family from the Maldives, and others.

With respect to Seychelles current association with the Muslim world,Sir James emphasized that this revolvesaround Seychelles close and friendly association with the Gulf States generally and the United Arabs Emirates in particular. He acknowledged that the UAE leader Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan together with his brother the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, have generously provided significant financial grants for socially orientated projects in the country like low cost housing, medical equipment for the hospital and varied support in the Educational field. They have also supported the building of two impressive mosques one in Victoria and one at Beaufond Lane – and the ‘breaking news’ at the moment is that the Abu Dhabi Airports Company and the Seychelles Government have signed an agreement to redevelop the International Airport on Mahé Island. It is to be noted that the oil-rich United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Indian Ocean island already have transport ties; most notably, Etihad Airways which owns a 40 per cent stake in Air Seychelles.

“Today, we obviously have much more Muslims in our community who are fully integrated within our society, and this give a lie to the suggestion that the Muslim world is made up of fanatics and anti-Christian activists.

We are glad that fanaticism and extremism are not what we see as characteristics of Muslim behaviour in the world. The author of this book, Abul Fadl Mohsin Ebrahim is certainly a religious person.

I congratulate him who has enriched our history and by touching upon certain stories which have not been revealed before. He is certainly a moderate man of religion, dedicated to reconciliation and peace, not only in Seychelles and the Muslim world but also globally. I wish him well,” Sir James concluded.