By Suntou Touray (Kairo News Political & Culture Editor)
“Are we talking to ourselves in the Diaspora or are we truly working towards winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of Gambian people?”
President Jammeh has of late pitched Gambian secular educated minority against the majority of ordinary everyday Muslims. As the saying goes, ‘ordinary people have power and numbers, but they delegate it to the learned educated elites to run their affairs.’
The Dr Naik palaver, the Islamic State pronouncement and lately the head cover memo have all sent purported secular western educated Gambian Muslims in a frenzy mood.
It is like Yahya Jammeh has mastered the art of winding us up. The clever scheme at play is distraction and diversion. In essence, we all want to be seen as more secular than the average French Libertarian. We all commence uttering words against ‘Islam’ that the most Ultra-Right Wing Zionist will dare say in the open.
Is the dictator this clever in exposing the reluctant ‘Muslim within the Gambian elites’?
Islam is a religion of knowledge and not mere passion and pronouncements. If you don’t know, ask, and if you cannot ask, be silent on matters of religion. However, this principle is thrown out of the window in the current electronic real-time sharing of opinion.
Everyone is now an expert.
What is the propaganda in all of what President Jammeh is doing?
Jammeh knows an invasion to end his rule is very slim because that will require the agreement of Senegal which is highly unlikely.
Jammeh also knows the easiest way to kick him out is through mass popular uprising. This can be led by joint forces of opposition parties and the few civil society groups on the ground. Yet this will require proper planning and ideological encounter.
However, for the activist in the opposition and civil society to succeed in winning the hearts of the people, they must be trusted as ‘one of them’.
The secular western educated average activist or commentator has always failed this very vital test. We tend to merely state what we see as best for us, not best or acceptable to the majority of Gambians.
Gambians in their everyday life take religion seriously and it is one aspect of their lives that Unite the various ethnic groups. You get the religious equation right, you get the people.
Yet, how many experienced activists are these days writing ‘overtly anti-Islam’ materials on Facebook, online media and radios and yet assume that the common average Gambian will accept such sentiments.
The key question we should ask ourselves becomes thus: are we talking to ourselves in Diaspora or are we truly working towards winning the ‘hearts and minds’ of the people?
The biggest mistake Gambian online media are doing is using the dictatorship’s propaganda messages to expose their true position on Islam itself, which obviously has the potential to boomerang.
What every sound activist and opposition member knows is that, President Yahya Jammeh openly venerates Idols and dark magic which are all against the central teaching of Islam.
Dictator Jammeh openly attends female wrestling contests in Kanilai as well as organises musical jamboree and beauty pageant competitions. He unlawfully arrests and remands Gambians for months without access to due process.
In essence, Mr. Jammeh has not and will not be a symbol of Islam; he is neither a scholar on Islam nor propagator of religion. Dictators are like prostitudes who will do anything that will make them acceptable to the people. But deep inside they are full of hatred, vice and hypocrisy. Dictator Jammeh is not an exception here either.
How then can our brothers and sisters be using the dictator’s propaganda as a basis to attack the ‘Sharia, the Sunnah, the central teachings of Islam or peddle anti-Islamic propaganda messages in the media?
Our struggle is to win the hearts and minds of Gambians so they reject the tyrant and his cabals. We cannot win the hearts of Gambians if we are heard, read making mockery of Islam and the symbols of Islam.
If Jammeh is a Munafiq (hypocrite) it seems he has succeeded is revealing many more Munafiqs (hypocrites) Muslims who will call themselves Muslims but will reject and question Quranic teachings. The clever Chief Munafiq deliberately opens the door of dilemma so people jump in unknowingly.
Let’s be mindful of the dictator’s powerful propaganda machine and mind our words. We will be pleasing a tiny minority of Gambians with our anti-Islamic caricature in response to Jammeh’s pronouncements at the expense of the majority. That’s not a winning strategy. A dictator can do and say whatever he wants. Hence, our task should be to learn how to undermine his system and distance our people away from him, not to drive them into his pretentious propaganda.
Western powers will not come in and solve our problems, Eastern Powers will not solve our problems either. This struggle is a Gambian struggle. We must temper our views and be careful of audience sensibilities. Yes, many may click like on what you say on Facebook or Twitter, but in reality, they are silently horrified by what you wrote or say.
Don’t fall for Jammeh’s propaganda. Jammeh is not a champion of Islam because he is only working on his votes, not on promoting Islam. We need to comprehend the dictator’s intent of hiding behind the cloak of Islam to champion his agenda. If that is not clearly understood, we are certainly setting ouselves for doom.