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.
Thank you Suntou for redirecting our struggle to the essentials.
One of the reasons why Jammeh is making so much pronouncements on islam is because, Gambia is not selected by Saudi Arabia to be part of the 32 member states coalition to protect Mecca. The OIC upcoming meeting venue is still not decided and Jammeh is therefore making a lot of noise in a bit to capture some dinars for his elections campaign.
Gambians should learn to ignore Jammeh and concentrate in what we should do to remove him from office.
Well said brother Deyda. We shouldn’t allow him to divert our attention. As the saying goes, Gambians are getting bolder and the African sunrise will shine soon on the good people of Gambia. To delay his exit, he is jumping on the religious bandwagon. Saudi have their own issues to solve, he does not factor in their equations. People are now speaking their minds and criticising him. They want food on the table, they want medicines, good roads. I am told, many Banjul roads are in bad conditions. Not to talk about the roads in Provinces. Jammeh out!
INDEED, as the wheels of the regime falters and grinds to halt, devising of ploys to divert attention is a logical tactic. Islam or it’s endangering by other religion is not imminent in the gambia. Therefore ignore the tactics.
I think the media – Kaironews included – must now rigorously engage the opposition. Particularly the UDP, must be engaged to finally clear the air about their Flagbearer for the December election. A lot of people are waiting for a clear strategy on the issue of the person, who will be presented. Presenting such a person now will surely change the discourse and focus our attention to the real issue at hand. I.e CHANGE!
Well said. Clearly the problem is jammeh and his criminal mind games not Islam but some of our brothers talked down on islam instead.
No wonder our elders use to say western educated people turn to be come semi infidels due to our rather shameful and over bloated egos…
Going by the attitudes of the majority of us gambians in the west, we have a long way to go . Plenty of superficial and shallow minds who are mistaking maturity etc with cockiness .
May Allah bless us with a good firm and fair leader this year….
Good day to all
I agree with you my brother, we rather jump now or we sink in the boiling water
Suntou I agree. By trying to ridicule Islam and the undisputed position of our noble religion on the issue of modest dressing would indeed yield a very disastrous and counter-productive strategy notwithstanding Jammeh’s pretense. I hope all is taking note of that.
Indeed… in fact everything about this proclamation has to do with jammeh winning votes than being committed and sincere to Islam and what the religion preaches. Have you forgotten that we have religious leaders currently unaccounted for in Jammeh’s ISLAMIC Gambia because they preach the true Islam that Yaya would not like to hear?
We must not be impetuous. I sense a type of hysteria that is both uncomfortable and unwise. It does not appear reasonable to me to stop walking with one’s two feet and start limping with one foot. This uninformed hullabaloo inures to the advantage of the regime.
Sisters and brothers, it’s good to know we share these worries. There have been one or two moments when I have tried to listen to some of our own words as Muslims, especially in a world in which we are being daily castigated, and I wonder whether we are representing ourselves effectively. We need to consistently reveal the hypocrisy in the dictators panderings to Islam. From day one the dictatorship has used and abused Islam only for selfish political reasons. But when it comes to seriously protecting the interests of Gambian Muslims, they are always found wanting. We should not allow ourselves to be fooled into portraying ourselves as enemies of Islam!
We are not in any way against the head tie. What we are against is that an ignorant should not just wake up in the morning to make a ruling on head tie.
The Quran was neither revealed on a day nor did the hijab ruling.
We will start the new year with this well written piece as a guidance to achieving our GOAL..The is the best assessment of the situations on the ground.. Thank you Mr Touray.
Good observation suntou , however the blame should be put squarely on Gambian people for their failure to stand for what is morally right despite the fact that they know jammeh is using Islam to get their support . How can the same Muslims population continue to support jammeh despite the fact that jammeh continue to violate everything about Islam ? I think Gambian Muslims are either ignorance of Islam or they fail to stand for what is morally right as indicated above . In either case jammeh became the true reflection of population. I also blame the religious leaders in this case whose responsibility is to educate the population and also stand for what is morally right and in the best interest of the country . I think diaspora activists and their religious leaders are doing the right thing by exposing jammeh and his hypocrisy . Gambia is secular country where our republican constitution is the law of the land . Your indication that religion is seriously taken by Gambian population and it has unite the people across the various ethnic groups despite the plenty wrongs , political oppression , corruption , mismanagement and human rights abuses happening in the country ; does indicate to me that our people have ” obsessive Islamic and Christian syndrome ” . Our minds becomes too preoccupied with these religions without fully understanding them and our national interest . Religion is a private matter between Individual and whatever he or she believes and therefore should be taken out from politics and national discourse . Jammeh understand Gambian’s obsession with Islam early on In his presidency that is why he continue to use Islam to his advantage . The double standard is within The Gambian themselves because we allow ourselves to be used by jammeh . There are very few religious leaders who stood up and fought for what was morally right .
As a secular country , our people need to be educated about Islam . Our opposition leaders should now start to have religious leaders who truly understand Islam to be part of political campaign so that vast majority of citizens can understand politics and our national interest . We must expose those religious leaders who continue to contribute in oppression of Gambian people . I think the diaspora should be in forefront to ensure that those imams and Christian leaderships are exposed . The problem is not jammeh alone , jammeh is reflection of Gambian people including imams who continue to live on double standard , ungodly and corrupt life .
Hence everybody spots & distinguishes between hypocritical Almunafiq in masquerade from a Godly Muslim or yet a religious person…
Evil Murderous kanilai Idolatrous yaya can just linger uncontrollably, unto people’s lives, but it isn’t, & can NEVER be in total control; the Devilish Murderous kanilai Idolatrous Lunatic is running out of options faster; the ending is here sooner…
There’s Islam for the Muslim, & the Arabized cultural aspects, that are randomly confused with pillars of the noble religion; in our part of world, women have had choices of dresses & dress up, much of which are acceptable in Islam; there’re worst anti religious endeavours our Murderous kanilai Oppressive Devil indulges in, as already been cited…???
Gambians & Muslims world over, know there’re no oppression in religion, except the manipulative manoeuvres of our kanilai IBLIZ Satanic yaya Lucifer; the truth about religion & Islam in particular is, one’s accountable for own faith in God, & believe in the prophets & messengers; & practices religion as required to best of ability; & AVOID at all costs, manipulative oppressive tendencies to trouble fellow human beings as being in Gambia since July 1994…???
Our so-called SIC imams who, aid and abet our Manipulative Idolatrous kanilai DEVIL, now faces the wrath like others, & us all before; hence our Satanic kanilai Idolatrous Murderous DEVIL can threaten to “circumcise them” for daring to speak for, & indulge in female circumcision which is permitted in Islam…??
The good news is, every twisted deceitful manipulations of our Murderous kanilai Devilish Toni Dakalafataba jammeh are spotted & put-out or laid bare, for all to see together…?
Jammeh veering towards the perceived Islamic state is really not meant for what Suntou calls “the every day ordinary Gambian Muslim” or the so called “secular educated minority”. Simply put, Jammeh wants to attract attention far beyond the shores of Senegambia. He wants endorsement first and later funds from any of the major gulf or middle eastern countries.
Though the average Gambian muslim is serious about his/her islamic practice, but beyond Muslim family courts, which existed before Jammeh, the average Gambian muslim does not want Jammeh or anyone to impose their version of sharia on them.
Jammeh’s lip service call to fundamental Islam is not fooling the average Gambian muslim, as we are more affected his many anti islamic acts and practises. Jammeh has surround himself with a few opportunistic Middle Eastern trained Isalmic scholars, and these are the ones making the most noise, and Gambians regard them for what they are, money and status seeking.
Gambians in the Diaspora may not have the vote, or are not directly feeling the oppressive situation in Gambia, but the majority of Gambians in diaspora are in close engagement and contact with daily events in their country. Indeed many have argued that Jammeh is surviving of remittances from the diaspora. Many issues that concern Gambians in the diaspora are often the same issues that concern the average Gambian.
Mention is made of the Dr Zakir Nair palaver, really for the average Gambian muslim, Jammeh’s invitation of this scholar is of no significance. He is hardly known in the Gambia except with the “secular educated Gambian muslims minority”. while average Gambian muslim majority is more concerned and in tune with their AFANG KARAMOS AND SERIGN DAARAS.
Be mindful of the silent minority. My observations here are revealing a lot of internal contradictions. The dynamics of these inherent considerations will slowly but surely evolve into a full blown social and political crises. I have no ambivalence for any religious conflict; there is none in the Gambia and I do not foresee any such thing happening. The greatest danger is the unpredictability and uncertainty of the evolving realities. Everything is now left to the dictates of chance, belief in a higher power, and mere submission to the will of God. But society is governed by fundamental laws which have their basis in scientific facts that have been true in all social evolutionary processes. And the Gambia cannot be any different. We should negate all religious biases on this issue and deal with its political and social ramifications. To do anything less will unfortunately to be our peril.
The majority of people know what Yaya Jammeh is all about, after more than two decades of dealing with him…Whenever he is under pressure, as he currently is, he uses diversion to deflect attention and win sympathy, and his most favoured themes are the West and Islam..
The views that his most recent posture has got nothing to do with advancing the practice of Islam by Muslims, are absolutely true..
All Yaya Jammeh cares about is advancing his cause and personal ambitions, and all the good things that came out of his reign, are simply a necessity for this purpose, hence his insistence that we are constantly reminded about his “magnanimity”, sing his praises and show our appreciation at every given opportunity…
We shouldn’t be surprised that as we approach election day in 2016, we may see more divisionary tactics aimed first, at sowing discord and disunity amongst his opponents, and second, at winning sympathy and perhaps, even votes, from his opponents’ camps..
And how we in the diaspora react is where the danger lies..The opposition are very well aware of his games and will not fall for it, but we, as evident on social media, are the problem, and perhaps, his intended target..
Here, I want to borrow brother Suntu’s statement because I agree with it totally…”Gambians in their everyday life take religion seriously and it is one aspect of their lives that Unite the various ethnic groups.”
My observation is that any perception in the minds of this majority that we in the diaspora, are Westernised bad Muslims, influenced by Western cultures against our own, could be counterproductive for the entire struggle, due to our association with the opposition…We must therefore exercise caution and maturity, when we react to Yaya Jammeh’s gymics..
This is the aftereffects of the devilish manipulative elements, which are everywhere, NOT exclusive to religion either…
The truth is quite evidently explicit now, that Islam ISN’T entirely about how most of the so-called scholars’ preachings, & interpretations, particularly in the nominal “supreme Islamic council”; the sic leadership colluded & aid abet murder of the innocents, oppression & manipulation of Gambians pretentiously, by selective explanation of the Islamic religion, for the advancement of our Murderous kanilai Idolatrous Lunatic Syndola dakunkalaba’s selfish aggrandizement, rather than be Godly, unto the TRUTH, as dictated by the Qur’an…???
Certainly our Islamic scholars in the diaspora got parts to play to counter the hypocrisy of such kanilai DEVIL advocates in our Idolatrous DEVIL’s services…
In an ideal world, the unschooled or unlearned in religious matters, should rely on the scholars for matters of religious understanding and practice, but we don’t live in an ideal world..
And for the Muslims, the current state of the umma, vis-a`-vis, the contradictions within and the resultant violence emanating thereof, that is affecting almost the entire globe, which (in my view) all stem from the interpretations and understanding of Scripture by various scholars, does leave many wary of scholars and their religious pronouncements…
Nevertheless, for the many who can’t read the scriptures, can neither speak, nor understand the language of the scripture, the need to rely on the scholars for advice is a must, but so too is the duty to use one’s reasons to reflect on what one has been given before practising it…
This is personal responsibility and Islam holds individuals responsible for their actions, for which they will be held to account on the Day of Resurrection…The scholar will not be held responsible for anyone’s deviation from the Divine Teachings because the duty to find out rests with each one…
The debate regarding the covering of the body or body parts, has raged in Islam for a long, long time and is unlikely to end anytime soon…The Gambia is not the only country facing this problem in the Muslim world…
There is no doubt that an injunction for covering and guarding modesty has been given in Qur’an for both men and women…Several verses made mention of this fact, so there is no disagreement on that…The disagreements, regarding the covering for women, from my own limited reading of the two main camps, is centered mainly on two questions :
(1)…What form should this covering take.?
(2)…Is it mandatory or optional..?
Every Muslim, who is committed to performing his/her duties, particularly those of us who are not versed in the Qur’an in its original Arabic, should try and acquaint ourselves with the arguments of both sides in this particular debate…
This will help anyone make an informed decision, if taken within the context of the Qur’anic Message and Teachings..
Regarding the debate itself, some scholars have argued that women are required to cover all parts of their bodies, except the face, hands from the wrists and feet from the ankles, and that it is mandatory (compulsory )..
They argue their case well, with Qur’an, Hadith and Sunnah.. The more extreme elements in this camp, even include the face as a part that should be covered, as with the Burka, but their case is very weak, in my view.
Whilst scholars from the opposite camp, maintain that, not only is the Qur’anic injunction optional, it does not require the covering of the hair, nor is the length of the appropriate dress specified in any verse.. And they too, argue their case well, but only from Qur’an…
They don’t use Hadith or Sunnah, maintaining that both the Sunnah and Hadith of the Prophet are contained in the Qur’an, which claims to be a perfect and complete Book of Guidance for Mankind, from the time its Revelation was completed, to the end of times…
According to this group, any reference material for guidance outside of the Qur’an (Scripture) is innovation, which previous umma (prophetic communities) were said to be guilty of…
Muslims in Gambia are watching Jammeh to see if he will drop his cutlass, revert back to his Tuareg attire and head tie and drop his stick before his rantings can have any meaning for them. We are all waiting to see if Jammeh will take any steps to try to legalize his unconstitutional pronouncement. This is not a major issue in Gambia since many do not understand what he means by making the country an Islamic state. They are unhappy because they think he means bringing a new Islam different from their practice, and this trend of thought has not and will not earn him any votes nor prestige. Others thought he means to transform his government into an Islamic government since the only women affected by his Head tie Circular are the Civil Servants. The man has indeed trapped himself and so far he has no power to do what he pronounced but must do something to pretend to do what he has pronounced or declared. The ball is in his court and nothing can stop the train of change from moving on.