By Janko Camara
Our common mistake as Gambians is to expect the entire world to be interested in a tiny and resources-starved Gambia.
Suntou, your article was very clear and well argued. I don’t think anyone else could have said it any better. I am, however, tempted to react to some of the comments posted.
Our common mistake as Gambians is to expect the entire world to be interested in tiny and resources-starved Gambia. As a result we expect them to be au fait with the Gambian situation. Therefore, non-conformity with this strait-jacket and backward thinking is (and should be) subject to condemnation. This is an expectation too far-fetched and it typifies an extremist tendency.
The Gambia may be important to us Gambians but not to everybody else that walks on surface of this globe. As a matter of fact, why should they be interested if we Gambians have not shown enough interest in our own plight? I was very much taken aback by Nyancho’s flawed reasoning and his resultant reaction when he wrote: “This doctor should not honour an invitation by our people’s killer” and went on the rampage against the revered preacher. I want to ask Nyancho: Did you, at any time, take to the world podium to bring to the fore the Gambian situation? Or to be specific, did you or your emissaries ever approach Dr. Naik to educate him and his followers on the happenings in The Gambia before they embarked on their journey? Let us stop being too sentimental about people or things that have nothing to do with our plight.
The truth is, what is happening in The Gambia is the handiwork of Gambians (you and I) who have remained hypocrites either out of sheer cowardice or out of our own selfishness. We need to be honest with ourselves. Yahya Jammeh may be linked to all the political killings in The Gambia, but did see him pointing a pistol at anyone’s head to kill? Did you see him personally torturing anybody in the dark dungeons of the NIA? Yet the very Gambians doing these dirty jobs for him are the ones who will reveal all these only when they fall out with him. Or they reveal the dirt whilst doing it so when tomorrow comes, switching sides can become much easier. How sincere are we? If we only cared about ourselves instead of the collective polity, why should we condemn a simple preacher coming to Gambia on an invitation of a bonafide Gambian?
I was a student at St. Augustine’s High School in the early 90s when the late Pope John Paul II visited the Gambia. The afternoon he visited St. Augustine’s High School, I was there as a Muslim welcoming the head of the Christian world. Again, as a Muslim, I did not make any meals out of it, so were all other Muslims in The Gambia. In fact, at the Banjul International Airport, our venerable Imams were there to welcome the Pope to The Gambia. This is the Gambia we have known and inherited – a Gambia where Muslims and Christians intermingle freely without any hesitation. I have my Christian friends who, until I left the shore of The Gambia, have made it a duty to provide me my share of the Naan Mbuuru every Easter. I have also made it my duty to give them their share (note the emphasis) of my Tobaski ram every year and I was happy doing it. It only cemented our relationship over time.
The truth is: a good Christian and a good Muslim will never have any problems sharing and caring for each other. This is because our various scriptures preach this same message every day. Let us stop the hypocrisy (by fanning trouble where it does not exist) and focus on the real issues confronting us.
Reacting to Patrick Mendy’s comments especially about Saudi Arabia, I would like to say this: We should always be sure of what we write before putting pen to paper. This is because the ramifications of what we write (when it is false) are just too great to imagine. By writing on subject matters we have very little knowledge about, we risk exposing our ignorance. I have been to Saudi Arabia four (4) times (once for Hajj and the remaining 3 for business). The truth is: I am a regular visitor to the Gulf by virtue of the work I do. I will state the Saudi reality in this simple lines:
Saudi Arabia is an Islamic state, meaning governance is not only supposed to be in accordance with Islam, but also the laws are based on Sharia, the Islamic Jurisprudence. In such a country, you do not expect to see churches, temples and other religious paraphernalia other than the state-recognized one. Therefore, the argument that Saudi would (or does) not allow churches is hollow and redundant and should never have formed part of your argument. Your comparison of Saudi Arabia to the EU and the US is also like comparing apples to oranges. Whilst the former has openly professed to be an Islamic state, the latter have professed to be “Secular” although heavily skewed towards anything but Islam. If I wanted to build a Masjid in any secular state (so long as the action does not infringe on the rights of others) and the state refused, I have the right to legal action because the state has openly professed to be secular.
Patrick, you have conveniently decided to ignore the open persecution of Muslims in Burma (Myanmar nowadays) by not only killing them and burning their houses, but also declaring them stateless by a Buddhist Burma? Why is the whole world silent about this? God created us all in various communities and localities and then one man just gets drunk one morning and declared me stateless; that I should leave my community and locality? What nonsense. You see the world is treating it as a non-event presumably because Muslims are the victims in this instance and not the perpetrators. But is this enough justification for me to condemn Buddhism as a religion? Come on Patrick! Be open-minded.
When I first visited Saudi on a business trip in 2003, I was able to interact with a selected few mainly in Riyadh, the administrative capital. The very first lesson I learnt was that Islam is not the same thing as Saudi Arabia, meaning that Islam is meant for us all whilst Saudi Arabia is a country with people, culture(s), establishments, etc. The mistreatment of Philippinos you have sighted is by individuals like you and I who claim to be Muslims and Christians yet our comportment is anything but Islam or Christianity. In fact, the mistreatment is not only limited to this group of people but also to all other Asians and even Blacks, except you carry a passport from a so-called First World country. Therefore, these individual traits cannot be used to vilify a whole religion.
In conclusion, I would like us to revert to The Gambia where both Muslims and Christians have preached and practiced their religion yet we lived cordially amongst ourselves. This is the kind of Gambia at least I knew as a young man growing up in the Greater Banjul area. Let us stop fanning trouble where none exists and stop the hypocrisy. Yahya Jammeh has remained in power mainly due to the Gambian hypocrisy. When shall be change? Have our people not suffered enough?