It’s secular educated men and women who do the diplomatic bidding for President Jammeh; it’s us who are employed in all arms of government; it’s us who choreograph the visitations of the Imams and Priest to State House; it’s us who work at the media houses disseminating the news of Jammeh’s activities; it’s us who manage and smuggle out Jammeh’s wealth; it’s us who hold him where he is. It’s us who incarcerate, defend him in court, run all his errands for him. So where should the key blame lie?
At the doorsteps of Gambian secularist, not religious leaders. During the First Republic, there was a council of religious leaders. Under that democratic dispensation, we hardly hear or see religious figures dabbling or making political statements. Hence, under a tyranny and dictatorship, the dictator will entrap all and sundry and use people for his propaganda. We are as trapped as the religious leaders, and that is where the problem lies. Stop blaming religion or where people get their religious education from. Learning is a key command of all scriptures and no amount of howling or uproar will stop that. America has religious nuts but they cannot force their beliefs on anyone, likewise Britain, Senegal, Mali etc.
The problem for us is the lack of democratic dispensation, lack of rule of law and lack of plurality of opinion. Let’s coin our messages around ‘No 5th term for Jammeh’.
It’s attractive and plausible for desperate Gambians to support statement against clerics in our current plight. The mere fact that some clerics occasionally support Yahya Jammeh is sufficient grounds for an all out assault on the personalities of our religious scholars.
The undeniable fact remains: Yahya Jammeh is a product of secular Gambia. He emanates from an institution whose members bluff more than any other of their extreme secular nature. The security apparatus of The Gambia is seen by many as the least place for committed Muslims. The culture of boozing, womanising and regular engagement in voodoo fetish spiritualism is common currency among the men of the security services. The army, police and customs lay no red carpet for puritans.
Yahya Jammeh came upon us through the army, a place where anyone educated only through the Islamic tradition is disqualified from admittance. The army is just one sector where religious educated or Arabic educated graduates have little or no opportunity whatsoever. Yet today, few occasional comments by one or two Imams irritate secular Gambia so much that every single religious scholar is qualified as insincere, a hypocrite, and what have you. Yet who stands to gain in a Gambia where a dictator like Yahya reigns?
It’s the secular educated Gambians who are enjoying with our dictator of Kanilia. It is us who do all the jobs for him which he uses to blindfold others in the name of development. It’s us who do all his PR propaganda for him; it’s us who act as his diplomats, validating him across the globe. Yet we feel that religious scholars are the ones who gain crumbs in all of our mess should be blamed because they are men of God and should stay away from politics.
The real reason some religious scholars make statements favourable to Yahya is simply in defence of the one thing that they can rely on to salvage comfort and satisfaction. Their religious principles and the environment in which they can promote what is also important. Yahya Jammeh plays Christians against Muslims, by privately and publicly making favourable comments toward the minority Christian community and attacking the Muslims scholarly base.
The strategy of divide and manipulate is deliberate and a ploy to force the Islamic scholars to favour him, if not he will make the environment in which Islam operates pollutant and difficult for the advocate of Islamic values. I know some people find the whole religious
discourse a waste of time and unnecessary, but to others it’s more important than any other activity. Therefore, the Islamic scholars thread the actions of Yahya with utmost care. They use the scriptures to highlight the effects of dictatorship in a general context. They cannot name Yahya as the President and attack his actions. They have little to gain by confronting Yahya head on, especially when they are seeing their colleagues being bulldosed while their congregation does nothing. For them that is tantamount to putting your hand in the lion’s mouth.
To make matters much clearer, how many educated Gambians live in the diaspora? How many of the educated Gambians are willing to criticise Yahya’s administrative styles and question his crimes against Gambians in the open? Now we have to bear in mind that, some conservative estimates put the amount of Gambians in America to be 25,000 and in the United Kingdom15,000. Many more are living in other parts of the world. Despite these Gambians living over 6,000 miles away from the claws of Yahya and his security agents only a negligible amount confronts the injustices of the APRC government and its bully boys.
Comparing the inaction of secular educated Gambians who can go home, take good jobs with pensions and all sorts of benefits with or without Yahya’s government. Gambians who can’t compete with us in the civil service, private sector or for international jobs, we want those people to act in open defiance of a dictator who can kill or lock them on no grounds for what?
Yes, the argument may also be, if you will not condemn a dictator then don’t openly support some of his actions. A valid point, but as I alluded to earlier, if massaging the ego of a dictator means he will leave people alone to practice their faith and go about preaching religion freely, then the scholars (few) of them for that matter, make comments favourable to Yahya. Whilst any open attack on his government will be taken as a case of hostility and open defiance. Which in turn means jail or be ready for martyrdom. The problem now is more complicated since Jammeh has completely hijacked Islam to justify his inept backwardness.
Dictatorship is the worst form of government anywhere in the world. But do Gambians want religious personalities to fight secular political battles for them? In our current position, many will say, anything that can unseat Yahya is welcome, but post Yahya, how do we reconcile seeing clerics talking politics?
It is vital that we divorce the spiritual from the normal everyday activity. Our Islamic scholars are well-meaning and dedicated people. These men and women are educated to highest level. They know the implications of causing harm to people. They also understand the current political situation in the country. The means of involving them in resolving the political dilemma in our country should be well thought out. They have families, responsibilities and with little means from the state or private sector.
Most of the scholars gain their livelihood from NGO’s from other Muslims states. They teach, operate charities and so on, and get paid from charitable sources. Although many of the Arabic educated Gambians specialise in different field of studies, ranging from language, geography, engineering, electrical mechanics, education, theology, history etc, they don’t have the facilities once in the Gambia to learn Basic English language in converting their skills. Although this is changing slowly.
Currently, whilst Jammeh talks about his Islamic Republic thing, three religious figures are detained, which means the Imams are as in danger just like all of us. Let’s apportion blame on our political problems, discuss and compromise where necessary so we can end the dictatorship. Whether we like it or not religion will remain a personal matter in The Gambia as soon as the sunshine over us.
Let’s speak to these religious men privately and advise them to keep their distance away from the dictator whose yokes remain hanging on our necks. All we need is the fall of a brutal dictator so it can be live and let others live, a Gambia for all of us. That’s all we should be striving for.


Disclaimer: Views expressed in this section are the author's own and do not represent the editorial policy of Kairo News. Kairo News will trash any comment that inflames tribal, racial or religious hatred.

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