Please tell us where and what year were you born. What was
it like as a child, growing up in your home town? How has the
town/district changed since your youth?
Muhammad is a radio commentator on Belize's radio station
Love FM and the director of the organization 'Youth for
Nuri Muhammad: I was born on August 1, 1948 here in Belize
City. Of course tremendous changes have taken place, since that
time. Both physically and to a great extent the culture has also
changed since that time. My early memories of Belize are how close
we all were to each other, we seem almost to know everybody. And
we seem to be very connected to each other although we were not
necessarily of the same family. I see that as one of the major
differences today to what existed when I was growing up. I think
Belize has also changed in the sense that we had a greater interfusion
of cultural influences from outside, which we seem to have adapted,
which has to a large extend made those early memories of me of
closeness and sharing, sort of collective responsibility that
we had, a lot of that to me seems to have disappeared.
I had an opportunity in my early life to leave this country and
to live in the United States and to go to school in the US and
in many ways that has also influences as to how I look at Belize.
Because having lived in the United States, I got a jump over many
of our people to see the culture in the United States that would
eventually be coming to Belize. So by the time I had come back
to Belize to warn the people "you don't want to get into
that culture", people were sort of looking at me and saying
"it's because you have already been there, that's why you
are talking in this critical way. But we like it, we want it".
So I had to observe upon my return many Belizeans adapting some
of the American styles not realizing what will be the outcome
of that adaptation until years later now that we are seeing the
results of that adaptation. I, having lived in both worlds, I
was very much prepared to deal with what Belize has become now.
Belize has become simply a little bit more of that culture that
I experienced when I lived in the United States.
did not live in the US for a long time, I think it was about 10
years but it was during a very critical period during the 60s.
The 60s was a time of great ferment, the Vietnam war, the assassination
of John F Kennedy, the assassination of Malcolm X, the assassination
of Martin Luther King, the rise of the student movement. I was
a student at the university and was able to experience black students
fighting for concerns that were affecting them in America as well
as in the university environment. To great extend I think that
influenced me also. When I returned to Belize I did not swallow
the culture of America sort of line, hook and sink, but I was
think, though I grew up in that innocent period in Belize and
then having left and gone to the United States and coming back
to Belize, having lived in both worlds, made me better prepared
for some of the trends that I see going on in our country today.
BELIZEmagazine.com: You are a well known
radio commentator on Belize's number One radio station 'Love FM'.
How did you start your radio career?
Nuri Muhammad: I was a commentator on social
events in Belize long before. In fact my commentary on the radio
is really just an extension of what I had been doing prior as
a social activist. All my adult life I have been a community activist.
I have been involved in social work, human development work, and
so the radio was merely another form for doing that. I was never
trained in broadcasting and never had a job as a broadcaster.
I am not employed as a broadcaster. I do that show in the morning
and I was invited by owner of the station to come on not because
of my broadcasting skills, but because I was know in the community
as a community activist.
What does working for 'Love FM' mean to you? Can you tell
us a highlight of your work at 'Love FM'?
Nuri Muhammad: I look at my work at
love FM as a privilege. I don't step in the studio in the morning
thinking that I have a right to be there. I recognize that it
is an opportunity and that it is by the decision of the owner
of the station that he is permitting me to be on his radio station.
course he also benefits by us having such a popular show in the
morning. But I don't look at it through any kind of arrogant spectacle
that makes me feel "Oh I am popular and people like the show
and because of the popularity that is why I am here". I did
not go there for that purpose. The things I say on the radio are
the things that I have been saying in the various capacities as
a community worker for many years.
highlight of having worked at this particular station and I have
had an opportunity to be a part of a very popular radio magazine
that was produced in Los Angeles about ten years ago - that show
was likewise very popular throughout the southern California area
of Los Angeles, San Diego etc. - and in many ways I looked at
that show very much as I look at this show, the forum of discussion
issues, for hopefully influencing people's opinions on issues.
The highlight of what I do is the feedback that I get from so
many people when I travel the country, be it Punta Gorda or Corozal,
wherever I go and people recognize me, they match the voice with
the face and they tell me "Are you Nuri? I really enjoy the
show, it is really informative" I guess that feedback of
appreciation is the highlight. And I appreciate when people say
that they sense my effort to be fair and non-partisan and my interest
in young people.
Your commentary might influence the opinion of many Belizeans
on any given subject. How do you deal with this responsibility?
in a very sacred way. I recognize the power of the word, and I
recognize that thoughts that are not well thought out can influence
people in a wrong way. I have a sense of responsibility that I
make sure what I say is factually based. I try to make it a habit
that when I put out information that is not correct that it is
corrected. I am interested in making sure that what I say I can
stand on and that I don't put out half baked ideas, or opinions
that cannot be substantiated. In that sense I take it as a sacred
trust and I go up to this work in the morning with that idea in
mind. In other words I am not a disc jockey, I am very sober,
conscious and aware, very engaged during those three hours that
I am on the show. Likewise the show that I do Wednesday nights,
I take it as a trust. I don't look at myself as a broadcaster,
it look at myself very involved in the development of Belize from
the forum of the radio.
You are also the Director of the organization 'Youth of the Future'.
How did this involvement come about? What are your goals? What
are the rewards of a work related to the youth of Belize.
came about when the prime minister who I know and who knows of
the work I have been doing for years with young people, invited
me to a series of discussions out of which came this concept of
how he wanted to implement a set of objectives that he had. He
has expressed as a prime minister for some time the interest to
move the youth agenda to the front burner of development, as opposed
to a back burner issue which it has been in Belize and throughout
the Caribbean. As Prime Minister he wanted to advance the effort
of the youth and he also wanted new and innovative ways to approach
the issue of youth and it is out if this that this initiative
'Youth for the Future' came about approximately 2 years ago.
terms of what we are striving for: Youths are the majority population
in the Caribbean, certainly within Belize they are the most significant
number. They are in fact, as all our people our most important
resource and while many of our children and young people are doing
fairly well, we have over 81000 children in schools, many of them
have access to opportunities for education, health care and many
of the other things that when compared to other countries we see
young people not having, it yet remains that we have some challenges
for young people in this country that, if not addressed, and not
paid serious attention to, could make Belize a very uncomfortable
place to live in years to come.
areas are youths governance which is one of the areas of focus
of 'Youth for the Future'. By youth governance we simply mean
the need for young people to be a part of the process involved
in the decision making. Having opinions of issues affecting the
country. We don't only mean them being prepared to go into government
or politics but rather wherever they are, that they are engaged
in the discussion of what is happening in Belize. This is our
broad definition of this concept of youth governance.
one of our major areas of focus is youth involved in enterprise
development. We feel that even if we were to provide all the jobs
available in Belize for young people, we would still have a significant
number of young people without work. And so it is necessary that
we cultivate as much as possible an entrepreneurial culture so
that young people can see their possibilities in engaging in business,
and seeing that if they are working a job, they don't work is
as if they will be there for forty years, but to work the job
to gain experience so that they can improve. So an aim of 'Youth
for the Future' is to cultivate in our young people this attitude
of working for themselves and working the economy in a realistic
way, that will give them benefits and spill off benefits to the
one of the areas of 'Youth for the Future' and one of our goals
is attacking this issue of youth crime and violence which is a
very dangerous trend. Not only youth involving in actual crime,
which is perhaps a small sector of the society, but nonetheless
a troubling sector, because many of our young people get caught
up in the cycle of criminal behaviour, end up many times going
into prison loosing rehabilitative opportunities and coming back
out into society and becoming even greater problems not only for
themselves and the society but in general making Belize a place
that our visitors will not want come here, if we do not arrest
this problem as quickly as we can. So one of the issues we work
on, we have developed a rapport with youth at the street level,
the so called gangsters, who have been marginalized by their criminal
activity. This is the only such program inside this country. 'Youth
for the Future', through our violence reduction unit, works along
with these young people at the street level, within the prisons
and other areas to bring them back in some sense of their responsibility
but also to engage them in opportunities for turning back their
experience and trying to stop youngsters who are coming up trying
to be like them from going in this direction. We also try to attach
them to these possibilities of enterprise and development, so
they have a way to turn their skills they were using in criminal
ways to positive ways of making good money, legal money. We also
try our best to engage them in sort of keeping and maintaining
a level of peace within the community.
next thing that we do also in this violence reduction unit is
we work towards trying to get the information to not only the
young people in the city, but we recognize that outside, out in
the districts, that many of the patterns that we see in the urban
areas of Belize are also manifesting themselves. We are involved
in trying to expand this effort and initiative into the villages
and the districts so that we can cut it off in its early stages
rather than allow it to grow and becoming as dangerous as it has
become in certain parts of the city.
We have also embarked on an aggressive effort to bring the information
about HIV/Aids to young people. We have realized that again, because
we have this rapport with the marginalized that while other partners
in this struggle against HIV/Aids in Belize works with the more
standard young people, those in schools who we call attached,
that we have focused on the unattached and we are very much involved
in taking this information out and engaging these young people
as peer educators. In other words, having the same street youth
that were involved in violence and crime, who are to reform their
live, we have given them purpose to go out and work with other
marginalized youth bringing the information about HIV/Aids.
BELIZEmagazine.com: Can you tell us a highlight
to date of your life in your position as Director of 'Youth of
Nuri Muhammad: That is almost a daily. We have
been involved in this kind of work for many years and I think
perhaps every time we can influence this these young people to
come from a negative pattern of behaviour to something that is
positive, and we don't judge that in any uniform way, because
as human beings, positives are very subjective and personal, but
we have a way of detecting when a young person is no longer in
the negative that they were in. Every time I see that, it is a
kind of booster shot. Makes us feel that what we do is worth it.
Can you tell us a highlight of your personal life?
Nuri Muhammad: I am a father of six children and I am
the grandfather of five and I look at them as my highlight. I
love my children and I love my grand children, maybe that's why
I work with youths because I have this love for young people and
I have this experience of my children all of whom I am so proud
of. None of them have disappointed me, they are all are an improvement
of myself and even my grandchildren, I see them even as a better
improvement. My highlight is my children.
BELIZEmagazine.com: Having two occupations
is obviously demanding, both mentally and physical. What do you
do to keep in shape? What is your favourite past-time occupation?
Nuri Muhammad: I run three miles a day and that
helps me to deal with the demands on my body. I am conscious of
what I eat and I am a very spiritually focused person. I do not
mean overly religious, but I mean that know my purpose and am
reinforced daily of what I am about. I don't take myself overly
serious in the sense that I can't look at my mistakes and laugh
at my mistakes. I also have people around me that are not afraid
to tell me when I am making an error. So in that sense I do not
have the fears that I used to have maybe 25 years ago when I used
to be very caught up in thinking that I can't make mistakes, I
don't want to be criticised. I think my maturity has brought me
to the point where I am able to laugh at myself.
favourite past time - listening to music. I like music, I like
jazz, avant-garde jazz, jazz all the way through, and classic
music. I know all symphonies by Beethoven by heart, I have been
listening to them so long, still learning from them because they
are so deep. And I like Reggae. I listen to music regularly. I
also enjoy reading. Music is always in the background as I am
BELIZEmagazine.com: What is the greatest
outdoor adventure you ever experienced in Belize?
Nuri Muhammad: I guess the most beautiful outdoor experience
that I had in Belize is around the Cayes of Belize, sailing a
boat, stopping by the reef, jumping in the water. The waters of
Belize, almost any part, I also love the river and enjoy swimming
in the river, riding up the river.
What is your most favourite Belizean food dish? What is your
most favourite locally grown fruit, what is the most favourite
Nuri Muhammad: My favourite dish is probably Cere,
probably because I love Cere. I love food if it well cooked, specially
if it is uniquely done. I love fish, so I love all kinds of fish
dinners. Of course the standard rice and beans is what we all
get used to in Belize. I always like food if it is prepared at
home in a unique way, a new way of tasting food, I love that.
My favourite fruit would be papaya, mango, watermelon, craboo.
I love the fruits that are very Belizean. Fruit that I eat every
day and look forward to eating is papaya.
favourite vegetable would be a mixture. I like it cooked this
way: spinach, callalou, and okra.
Have you ever had the luck to see any of Belize's exotic wildlife
such as a jaguar, tapir or the like? Have you ever been bitten
by a snake or spider or stung by a scorpion?
Nuri Muhammad: I never really experiences those exotic
animals, only in the Zoo. I have never really gone out and adventure
in the jungle, but I hope one of these days to get that experience.
I have never been bitten by a snake or a spider, but I have been
stung by a scorpion. Which lit me up like an electric bulb. I
will never forget that experience. It was in the dark, in Placencia.
I had gone down into this bath house to take my night bath and
the soap was on this edge, and in the dark I was feeling around
for this soap and I tell you, I danced bajanga for quite some
time. At first it felt like electricity, but I knew there was
no electricity out there, then I realized that what got me was
Which of the Maya archaeological sites in Belize have you
visited? Which site was the most fascinating for you?
Nuri Muhammad: I have been to Altun Ha and Xunantunich
I have not had a chance to go to the others like Caracol. I think
I am always fascinated by the historical relevance of any of the
Maya sites and the one that has effected me the most was climbing
up Xunantunich and looking across and realizing that so long time
ago here was this concept of elevating a building way off the
ground to such a high peak so that one can look over the entire
area, the terrain. I was always fascinated with that in terms
of what constitutes eternity, if we think we are so modern, as
to having achieved all this things in this day, when in fact many
things have been achieved a long time ago. I have also great interest
in the Pyramids of Egypt, so Xunantunich fascinated me to know
that we had that kind of building structure right here in Belize.
What would you consider to be the greatest asset of Belize?
Nuri Muhammad: That is its people. I say this because
not only are we an intelligent people when exposed to knowledge
and information but I think I that Belizean people, when we are
our best, I have not met a people that is as unique, resilient,
creative, outstanding in their compassion and concern for the
underdog. There are so many unique aspects of Belizeans and I
am not talking about just one of our ethnic groups. Since I had
the opportunity to travel the country and to interact with every
ethnic group in Belize, I find that there is a commonality that
runs through the culture and as I say that communality has a lot
to do with our unique flavour. We need in Belize to emphasize
that communality, that shared experience. We need to share those
things that bind us, because we could be effected by the ethnicity
drawing us each into an attitude of difference. Emphasising our
differences in the long run would not serve Belize well.
recognize at the same time, and I coin this in a phrase "Belizeans
are people who don't clap and who don't tip". By that I mean
simply that we are not a people that easily acknowledges and recognizes
each other. And for that reason we do not acknowledge who we are,
until somebody comes from outside and acknowledges and then we
join the acknowledgment. For that reason, there have been a lot
of unsung heroes in Belize who have passed away without being
recognized for their contributions.
don't tip, means we don't reward you for your little good that
you do. In other cultures a tip can be a handshake, a 'thank you',
a pat on the back. We tend to reserve ourselves from that and
in my opinion that effects our culture, particularly young people
who need affirmation, who need a sense of being and purpose. I
have not yet discovered the reason why we don't easily clap or
tip, but I do know, if there is a culture negative this is an
aspect that I have seen north, east, south, west, that describes
What are the top three books we should all read in our lifetime?
Nuri Muhammad: I cannot come up with three, but I can
tell you the one book that I think everybody should read because
of the effect it had on my life 35 years ago, and continues to
have on my life. That is the Koran. I will say only one thing
about that: what I came to recognize in that book is that god
is one with many prophets. If we understand that humanity has
a common ground in that concept.
BELIZEmagazine.com: Who would be on your
list of favourite Belizean artists, writers and musicians? Who
would be on your list of favourite non-Belizean artists, writers
and musicians? What kind of music do you like to listen to?
Nuri Muhammad: On the Belizean side, I have so
many people that I appreciate in different forms of music. The
person, that I have always recognized for his great contributions
in music in Belize has been Frankie Reneau, he is versatile, and
I have followed his career from the time when he was a student
to now where he is a maestro. In that sense I would put Frankie
Reneau on the top of my list of artist. I also think that we have
a number of other artist that are popular musicians and I would
probably put them all under the same umbrella of being diverse
and popular and I like them all. I nurture the fact that they
are expressing the different forms of music but it don't think
any of them have gone as deep into their music as Frankie Reneau
far writers, I think that there are many good writers, but my
favourite writer is my wife who is a poet but who also writes
many other good things that have not been published yet. I love
her profound simplicity and her communication skills. In terms
of writers, she is not yet discovered for the great qualities
that she has. Her name is Sakinah Muhammad. Of course I don't
let a week go by without reading Evan X Hyde at the level that
he writes. I think that he can do much more with his writing than
what he has been doing, but no one can take away the fact that
Evan X Hyde is a very skilful writer. He has only been writing
public commentaries, but I look forward to one of these days reading
more in-depth of him. Of course Zee Edgell has, to my mind, a
very deep core set of values that reflect particularly the Creole
culture of Belize and I think she has kept that alive for us.
Of course there are many others.
terms of international artists, there are so many. There are some
that stick out, such as the late John Coltrane, who I grew up
on appreciating his music and who's repertoire is so broad, He
played great music when he was more into fast jazz and before
he died he involved into a kind of spiritual music, which I also
felt very important.
like the experience of Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, especially their
words and their ideas are also profound. I like many of the symphonies
that have been done, and there are many artist that have lead
philharmonic orchestras, that I enjoyd. But I am not sure, I probably
choose the classical music based upon the performer as much as
I choose the particular piece of work that is being played.
How would you answer the question "What is Belizean Culture?"
Nuri Muhammad: I think culture in Belize has to be seen
as something very dynamic. I am not of the school of thought of
rice and beans and dress and dance. That's not my definition of
culture. To me culture is a dynamic and I see what I am doing,
my involvement with young people, as being a reflection of the
Belizean culture. I think culture is a dynamic that propellers
the people of their norms and customs and idiosyncrasies, in the
struggle of their development. I see that we do that through various
forms or attitude towards work, our thinking towards business,
the way which we deal with our government, the way which we deal
with sufferation, which exists in certain pockets of our culture.
The way in which we deal with the whole issue of globalisation,
our attitudes, our beliefs, our reflection, are Belizean culture.
I know people like to highlight the Punta of the Garifuna or the
Brock down of the Creole, or the various kinds of dances and dresses
such things, I am not of that school of thought. Those are very
circumstantial, but if you look at a culture as dynamic, always
existing, always reflecting, always growing, advancing or sometimes
receding, that is a better picture of a culture of a people
Belize is so ecologically diverse with natural beauty abundant.
What do you consider the most beautiful spot in all of Belize?
Nuri Muhammad: An easy answer would be for me again the
Cayes, traveling along, observing the barrier reef. I spent some
time in Placencia, I was living there for a couple of years when
I was the manager of the fishing corporative down there, and I
always thought that Placencia was so beautiful. But then I started
to travel down to other areas, I went to Toledo and thought "This
must be the most beautiful", and I went up to Corozal and
thought it the most beautiful. So I kind of concluded that the
entire coastline of Belize reflects its beauty. I also have spent
time in the bush and have come to realize there is a tranquillity
out there likewise.
What is your favourite vacation spot outside of Belize?
Nuri Muhammad: My family for many years, our favourite
spot is Merida. We went to Merida as a family year after year
after year such that my children have grown to know Merida, and
then my grandchildren came alone and they have grown to know Merida.
So Merida has become for my family the yearly retreat, I am talking
about over a 27 year period, we have gone to Merida yearly except
for a period when we had gone back to the states for a while.
When our annual holidays come along, you can be almost sure to
see the Muhammads in Merida.
What do you consider the biggest challenge for Belize and
Belizeans in the 21st century?
Nuri Muhammad: There are many challenges but if I am
to choose one it would be an issue of attitude change. We simply
have to work towards getting our people to think differently and
by that I mean that we have truly been effected by what is know
as dependency. I believe this is one the most important challenges
of our future development.
need to recognize that if we don't shift the way we think and
the behaviours we have, that keep us in a state of waiting for
someone else to come in and help us, or waiting for someone to
give us a helping hand or waiting for someone to pull us up. If
we don't change that mindset, a good sector of our population
will be adversely effected by the present trends that we see and
the trends that are sure to increase in the near and distant future.
Our colonial past can best be described as a period of dependency,
a time of waiting for one who we perceived as being better to
intervene in our affairs and to give us that direction or to help
us up. And to a great extend that has become a kind of a national
problem. In many ways people continue to wait for the government
to provide for them, not only to enabling sort of an environment
for their own production but to actually be dependent of the government
to provide them with what they need. And that dependency thinking
is a retardation of the kind of spirit that we need to make progress.
I see particularly among young people, and it is one of the major
efforts that 'Youth for the Future' has been making, that if our
youth is prepared for the future, they must be prepared by changing
the way that they think to accept challenges not as problems but
to accept them as opportunities. If they forge through those challenges,
that they see ways to open up for them. So I guess our greatest
challenge is changing our attitude and making our people thing
productively and make them think that your worth is in what you
are producing as opposed to what you are consuming.
What would you most want someone reading this article to remember
about what Nuri Muhammad has to say?
Nuri Muhammad: I think that I would want to be remembered
as a person who met a situation and made a difference after he
was gone. A person who saw many opportunities and while some of
those opportunities might have slipped him by, he took advantage
of most of the opportunities that came his way. That he was a
person who loved god, respected people and gave his life to ensure
that human beings, not only human beings in Belize, but everywhere,
would be in a better frame, better thinking than before they had
met him. I would want to be remembered as a person who was involved
in one major field of endeavour, which was the development of
my people for a consistent period of time, over 35 years, and
never changed though he tried to approach those goals though different
vehicles, he never changed direction and he never stopped and
he was always seen as moving in those same directions, when he
was in his late years as he was in his early years.