The Standard: What is your take on the raging debate on the pros and cons of FGM?
FGM is part of our religion. When it comes to FGM, Islam found us practising it. Prophet Muhammad found the people of Medina practising it and Allah commanded him to follow the path of Prophet Ibrahim of which FGM is one that he advised. Prophet Muhammad also advised people how to do it in a good way hence it became part of our religious practice.
Anti-FGM campaigners argue that it affects women’s health with bleeding, infection, pain during intercourse and birth complications?
The late Dr Jack Faal (a leading gynaecologist), may Allah grant him mercy, said that all the negative things being said about FGM were rubbish. That it leads to bleeding is without scientific basis and evidence. He said that the blood that comes in the process is just a trickle. It is just like when a finger is wounded, the blood trickles but does not lead to profuse bleeding. He said there is no cutting of muscle involved nor bones. What is done is just to cut a small bit of skin; so small and it heals fast. The allegations of anti-FGM campaigners that it causes bleeding that can lead to death has been rebutted by Dr Jack Faal. The doctor’s opinion aside, let them bring one gnansi-mba (female circumciser) to point out the mother and father of a girl who has been circumcised and bled to death. Let them produce a gnansi-mba who can point out a woman whom she circumcised and later died in labour as a result. In fact, Dr Jack Faal said those who did not undergo the procedure suffer more during labour than those who underwent it.
I have lived in Bakoteh for many years and I have never heard of anyone who died as a result of FGM. All the campaigners are saying is repetition of what other people told them. For us, we are here for the articulation of the truth. Let them bring something which can convince us because we know the pictures and the things they say do not emanate from them but from outsiders far away from The Gambia. FGM does not exist in The Gambia. What we have here is female circumcision. If you know what FGM means, you know that we do not practice that here. We do not mutilate our children. The crux of the matter is they should not portray us as practitioners of a thing that we do not practice. Given we do not have FGM here, why are they campaigning against it? If they are campaigning against FGM, let them go to places that practise it but not to us because we do not practise it here. What we have here is circumcision and that is our religion. We do not mutilate our people.
What are the disadvantages of not observing circumcision?
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said we should practise circumcision but with moderation so that we leave a smile on her (girl or woman’s) face and therein lies reward for the husband. If a woman doesn’t undergo the practice, in the majority of circumstances, she has greater sexual appetite than the husband and this can lead her to have contempt for the man if he falls short in satisfying her appetite. Or it can put on the husband a duty so onerous it could result in hardship for him. But if they are circumcised, balance can be achieved; the husband will not incur hardship and so too the wife. It also contributes to cleanliness .Circumcision makes you cleaner. But this does not mean if a woman has not undergone the practice her prayers, fasting or pilgrimage will not be accepted. They will be accepted as long as they keep clean. It is easier for a circumcised woman to keep clean than an uncircumcised one.
There has been an increasing clamour for greater women participation in politics with some even predicting a woman president for The Gambia in the future. What is the view of Islam on women manning such leadership positions?
Well, you know that our laws are written in English. There is always he or she in every section which makes very clear the assumption of equality. There is no law that says a woman cannot be president. But when it comes to religion, we have to revert back to what Prophet Muhammad said to us. He said that those who put all their affairs in the hands of a woman shall not prosper. This is a saying of Pprophet Muhammad in a hadith. When we look around us, there are some Western countries who have been foremost in championing the cause of women but most of them do not have women as presidents. Women go close to such positions but [ascendancy] is foiled. They know why they do that; there are certain positions that a woman can never hold; even in the future. You did not ask them why? Those are the powerful countries campaigning for this. You should investigate why they are reluctant to practise what they preach. This is what we believe as enjoined on us by the prophet. Allah has never sent a female prophet. All the prophets of Allah were men even though he assigned important positions to women. There is no chapter in the Qur’an specially on men but there is one for women called Suratul Nisa’ and there is another surah called Suratul Talaq. The mother of the president is a president; and the same goes for the wife of the president – she is a president too. Women have been ministers and heads of ministries working together with men. When it comes to women, as the prophet said, they have limitations in their minds and in the practice of religion. The religious limitation is due to the fact that they see blood and miss prayers in that period. As for their mental limitation, Allah decrees that in quorum of witnesses, two women are needed as opposed to one man. Women have more sympathy than a situation might warrant. A woman can beat her child and then sit down and cry. A woman can ask for divorce and when the man agrees, she will then sit down and cry. A woman could be severely beaten by her husband and when they go before the law, she will say, “no this is the first time”. Women are created by God and prepared for raising families because that requires sympathy, patience and perseverance. The process of giving birth and feeding babies is not easy hence it requires someone with those qualities. Allah has not put those qualities in men in equal measure. If He had created women the way He created men, our children would have been lost.
How about the fact that we have highly educated women sufficiently capable of heading such positions with the same degree of efficiency as men if not greater?
We are not equal. Such qualities are very rare in women. There are some who are physically stronger than most men. Despite that, even in the Western world, I have never heard of a women’s team sent to represent a country at a male world cup to compete against men. This has not happened in athletics, boxing and karate. When it comes to technical jobs, some women are better than men but better still, most scientists and doctors are men. When it comes to weapons manufacturing and even writing, men dominate and lead the way.
These have been hard times for homosexuals in Africa. Don’t you think they have rights like heterosexuals to live the way they want?
Our president has made it clear that he has animals but male animals and male animals do not copulate. Just day before yesterday, the Kenyan parliament equates homosexuality to an act of terrorism. Uganda has also instituted a stiff penalty for it which you know. There are over thirty African countries which are refusing to legalise it. It is against the laws of nature: nature of human beings. It is a very disgusting practice. It is a very filthy practice. When you talk about terrorism, it denotes harm to human beings in large numbers. What if a person comes up with a system that would ensure people do not reproduce? They are big terrorists! If a human being comes up with a practice that can cause esoteric diseases then that person is a big terrorist. In that case nobody will reproduce and existing people will be damaged. We are heading to the destruction of our lives. We should all stand behind our governments and support them to uproot this evil practice.
But some are born gay. Shouldn’t you accept that reality consistent with the Islamic notion of predestination and divine will?
Allah did not create them like that. Did you ever see somebody eating with their feet? It is the hand that goes into the mouth with food and the right hand is preferred. When it comes to Allah’s creation and knowledge of Him, it is like a huge ocean in which it is not safe to plunge. Many great intellectuals entered into it and never emerged; perishing therein. When you talk about destiny it is twofold: He wrote some and decreed them to happen; and wrote some declaring that they will happen. The first one is compulsory. That is predestination and Allah will not hold you accountable for that. And the second one He knows that they will happen but it is left to the free will of the person. This is what Allah knows will happen but does nothing to stop it happening. Allah would not want to stop the transgressor because that would be infringement of man’s sovereign right to do what he will. And this relates to commission of sin because Allah gives man the mind to think and know it is not right and whether they want to be unbelievers.
I don’t understand. Contradictions still abound. If Allah knew they will end up like that and created them, doesn’t that absolve them of blame?
No… I seek refuge from Allah hearing that… Allah has no faults neither does He make mistakes. Never! He does that to test human beings. A teacher puts certain questions in an exam which he knows all the pupils won’t answer correctly .But he wants to distinguish between those who study and those who do not. Then he will know from the answers who study and who do not. Then would you say he is unfair to anyone?
Don’t you think the law should be changed because even in the revelation of Qur’an, certain verses were abrogated?
This (homosexuality) was happening before the Qur’an was revealed. In the Qur’an, Allah speaks about the people of Lut who took to men for pleasure rather than women. The world is like a film played and rewound. Do not see a phenomenon and say it is new. The Qur’an came for the last generation (akhir jaman). When their prophet talked to them for ages without success Allah destroyed them. The land on which they inhabited was cut off under them and lifted up to the high heavens till the angels could hear the barking of their dogs then they were destroyed. That is where the Dead Sea was created with a hail of brimstone on them in the modern Jordan. This practice destroys the world. If it is happening everywhere and people do not act to stop it there is high risk of incurring Allah’s anger. When the people of Lut persisted in their homosexual attitudes, Allah destroyed everything in that land including animals and trees; creating a sea that benefits nobody.
What punishment does shariah specify against such offences?
When it comes to shariah the ulema are not unanimous on the mode of punishment. Some assign the same punishment as on adultery. If they are married, death, and if unmarried lashing. And Prophet Muhammad said the one doing it should be killed and the one to whom he is doing it should be killed.
Isn’t death too harsh a punishment for what two consenting adults do in the secrecy of their home?
The toubab westerners are killing people for things less bad than this. They drop bombs that kill a hundred people. In pursuit of terrorists they bomb houses and destroy property just to kill one person.
Which brings me to the next question, there’s a proliferation of violence and suicide bombings perpetrated by Muslims around the world casting Islam as a religion of violence. What are your views on this?
What is terrorism? The West does not want us to sit down round a table and define what constitutes terrorism. Somebody wakes up and says, ‘Imam Fatty is a terrorist’ because they have another agenda. If you want to cure a disease, you must first and foremost know the cause. That is why when you go to a hospital they always ask you to come back for them to do more tests so that they know the cause of the ailment. This is essential in the quest for a cure. Terrorism cannot be eradicated because those fighting it are the very terrorists. If you go back to religion, terrorism means inciting fear and the same definition holds in Western language; to leave victims fearing death at any moment. If there is a genuine reason Islam accepts it. Allah urges believers to build their defences and do what they can from breeding horses to strike fear in the hearts of their enemies and enemies of Allah and those who try to infiltrate them in betrayal of the righteous cause. If you have a neighbouring country with war planes and weapons, you will be anxious about your security. They are terrorising you because maybe because they do not like your attitude. If you live with a person who hurts you and your family and your religion, then you must make them fear you. In that case you must prepare and put in place means that will make him fear you otherwise he will get contemptuous with your vulnerability and move to cause you harm. This will prevent war and therefore loss of lives and property hence the need for preventive action.
How about the likes of Osama bin Ladin who masterminded the killing of innocent people?
That is not terrorism. That is called destruction on earth (fasadu fil ardi).That is the destruction of lives and properties for no just cause. Islam does not condone strapping yourself with a bomb and killing a lot of people in the process. What Islam says is that when somebody wages a war against you, fight back till you kill him or he kills you but not to kill yourself. Islam does not condone killing people in their places of worship even if they are non-Muslims. Islam says if you are fighting and you find your enemies praying, leave them. Islam does not condone killing innocent women and children with bombs in a market or in a hospital of public resort. But today individuals and governments are doing it. Islam does not give power to anybody or government to destroy people’s property in the name of it. It is forbidden. If that is what is called terrorism, it is forbidden. Allah says in the Qur’an that those who prowl the earth wreaking havoc should be killed, crucified or have their limbs cut alternately or banished from the land.
Your parting words, Imam?
The advice I will give to myself and the people of this country, the inhabitants of this world and its leaders is that conflict does not result in good for anybody. We need peace to do our duties and worship Allah. We should speak for peace, walk for peace and work for it so that we all benefit. Let us douse the fires of conflict. The world is tired now of conflicts. It is enough and enough is enough. Waging conflict should not be our topic of discussion, intent, object of our actions or something to brag about. Nobody emerges a winner in conflict. We should make it our mission to douse conflicts either between two people, two countries or two individuals. This extends to compounds, societies and the world. It is through this we can have Allah’s blessing and entrench love for one another.
With Sainey Darboe]]>