By Baba G. Jallow
The ongoing trial of Darsilami Sangajor Caliph Sheikh Sheriff Muhideen Hydara represents one of the most nauseating inflictions of unnecessary and totally unjust harassment of innocent persons by the Yahya Jammeh’s Bully State. Over the past several months, the elderly man of God is being forced to attend a series of court proceedings to answer charges of disobeying Yahya Jammeh’s order that all Muslims perform the annual Eid-Ul Fitr prayers on a day he designated for the purpose. Historically, Muslim communities performed the prayers on the day they felt comfortable that they had seen the new moon. This often means fasting an extra day or cutting the fast a day early. Either way, it has always been a matter of choice and Muslim communities followed their Imams and Sheikhs on the issue.
That Yahya Jammeh arrogated to himself the power to determine when Muslims should perform the prayers demonstrates his insufferable hubris and his total disregard for the dignity of the Gambian people. That he should proceed to prosecute an elderly man in such ill health that he is unable to stand during court sessions demonstrates both his total disregard for African and Gambian norms of civility and respect for the elderly and his extreme feelings of emptiness and insecurity he tries so much to hide behind the façade of large boubous, holding strange objects and persistent swearing, swaggering and uttering bullish threats. Yahya Jammeh feels that by praying on a day of his choosing, the elderly Sheikh is challenging his personal authority and in effect, placing God above him. And while the Sheikh is not necessarily challenging Jammeh’s authority, he has repeatedly said in court that as a follower of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad, he prays only to Allah, an unambiguous message that he is beholden to a power greater than Yahya Jammeh’s.
There is no shortage of evidence to show that Yahya Jammeh’s government is a classical archetype of the Bully State, which is always headed by a bully who, by the very nature of the bully, is always an unconscionable coward. Bullies pick on those weaker than themselves because they are in perpetual need of convincing themselves of their power. Yahya Jammeh habitually picks upon and inflicts punishment on people simply because he can do so. Seeing people reel under his sadistic blows gives him a fleeting, momentary sense of security that evaporates as soon as it happens, causing him to sink back into his feelings of insecurity and emptiness. Thus the bully is always looking around for a head to knock, for a weaker being to beat up as a form of self-affirmation. Journalists and political leaders, ordinary persons, women, children and now the most revered elders of Gambian society have been victims of Jammeh’s shameless bullying. Two other Imams he has bullied in the recent past are Imam Baba Leigh and Imam Ba Kawsu Fofana, both currently in exile from The Gambia.
But the case of Sheikh Muhideen Hydara has brought Jammeh to the lowest depths of shamelessness and lack of any shred of conscience or dignity. That he could continue riding his luxury cars, sleeping on his luxury beds, enjoying all the luxuries of his office as president of The Gambia and still authorize and watch quietly as his agents harass an elderly and respected religious leader of Sheikh Muhideen’s status speaks to the uncomfortable truth that Jammeh is both not human and mentally ill. For only the inhuman and mentally ill can engage in such a despicable act. Sheikh Muhideen has not broken any law of The Gambia. The word of the president can never assume the status of law. The elderly Sheikh has no interest in politics or in challenging the authority of Yahya Jammeh. And he worships no God but Allah. Being in the twilight of his life, Sheikh Muhideen’s only preoccupation is pleasing his lord and passing on to the afterlife as a beloved of God. Why then should Yahya Jammeh keep harassing this elderly man if not for the fact that he (Jammeh) is of the devil’s party? Does Yahya Jammeh imagine that God will be pleased with his bullying of this poor, elderly man of God? Clearly, his bullying of this elderly man of God suggests that Yahya Jammeh does not care what God thinks of him. The bullying of Sheikh Muhideen violates all the tenets of Islamic piety and Gambian culture. The imam’s age alone is reason enough to spare him the brutal power of an entire state. The Sheikh has better things to do than to be dragged to court every now and then and asked silly questions over disobeying the word of the president on a matter that the president has no business meddling in. One hopes that those prosecuting the Sheikh on behalf of the Bully Head of State will follow their own consciences and quickly bring this nauseating circus of a trial by dismissing the bogus charges brought against the elderly Sheikh and allowing him to return home and spend the rest of his days in peace. It is certain that both the prosecutors and presiding magistrates know that Jammeh is the guilty party in this case. Only fear prevents them from doing the right thing and dismissing this bogus case for lack of any merit whatsoever. Please stop bullying Sheikh Muhideen Hydara. May God remain by his side and punish those who would bully him for no reason.