In a heated moment it is tempting for anyone to open their mouth and burst out in whatever they have in mind. This is human, but not always wise. To avoid trouble, and sometimes very serious consequences of one’s actions, we should do our best to follow this advice from our beloved Prophet Muhammad (pbuh):
”Whomsoever believes in the One True God and the Last Day, then let him speak good, or stay silent”.
Islamic teachings about forgiveness are found in verses in the Qur’an, which strongly encourage Muslims to forgive wrongdoing.
The term used to forgive people who have done wrong is ‘to pardon’, just as Allah will forgive people on the Day of Judgement for things which they have done.
Muslims believe no person is perfect, and everyone is capable of wrongdoing and deserves forgiveness. All this is great, but sometimes people are guilty of actions that can lead to much worse consequences than they anticipated, so therefore – as a warning for both themselves and others – they need to be punished.
All of us know that there have been a lot of heated emotions lately, in The Gambia, and some have had larger problems controling their emotions than others. Social media is a great tool for sharing information and to keep an eye on things that happen in one’s country. WhatsApp groups have been created for all our political parties, and these can be good when we want to catch up with the campaigning. What is shared on WhatsApp is encrypted, which means that no-one outside the group can hack into its content and read it. Good or bad, judge yourself, but one’s dirty secrets are not completely safe. The messages and audios can be shared within other WhatsApp groups, or even outside WhatsApp. That’s a pity for someone who wasn’t aware of that, and that is what has happened to a man from Jarra Bureng who is now under arrest for attempt of terrorism.
This is the problem with social media; suddenly you find yourself with your pants down when you have posted something without thinking of the longterm consequences. As soon as your posts are on the internet, they stay there forever. This is not an insight everyone has, and for some this insight comes too late, when the damage is done. This UDP supporter, Mr Lamin Darboe, allowed his fury to take over the better of him, and now his whole family is suffering from this one bad decision. Mr Darboe has asked President Barrow for forgiveness, and seems to be very remorseful, so I wonder which will be the next step in this process. I really feel sorry for Mr Lamin Darboe’s family, but what about Mr Darboe himself?
Lamin Darboe had released a WhatsApp audio calling for Rwanda-type genocide in The Gambia. He was inciting Gambians to go out and burn the country to ashes. He has since been arrested and charged with terrorism among other serious charges.
According to some family members, they have been struggling with Mr Darboe’s ”attitudinal problems”, but they know how to handle him. Obviously Lamin Darboe somehow slipped through the protective net of the family and has now ended up in a situation where he will suffer the consequences of his actions. If President Barrow would pardon Mr Darboe for his actions; what would the signals be for other hotheads? This is a serious question all of us have to ask ourselves and others, because Lamin Darboe is not the only one sharing this kind of messages, he was just the one who was ”unlucky” to get caught.
As a teacher, I often have this discussion with my pupils; don’t write or share anything that you will suffer for. Think before you print anything because freedom of speech doesn’t mean that you can say everything you want. You have the right to think whatever you want, but as soon as you print something that can damage someone else you are doing something wrong and will bear the consequences for it, sooner or later. It is sad that Lamin Darboe’s family have lost their breadwinner, but his words were a match that could have lit a huge fire. This cannot and must not be taken easily.
What we need, in The Gambia, is spreading knowledge about how to use the internet in a responsible way. The usage of internet and social media has spread like wildfire. The older generations are not familiar with the massive spread of information online, and they are definitely not aware of the risks. Internet can be a blessing, but using it wrongly can cause problems, not only for oneself but for many others. Know that all secrets are not innocent gossip, they are meant to harm others. A group on, for example, Facebook or WhatsApp, often have a moderator who is keeping the group in check. This moderator can tell group members to delete their messages/audios and even exclude members from the group, but not all groups follow these rules. All depends on the sense of responsibility in the group, and its agenda. If the group is meant to be harmfull, then it is not easy to control.
Facebook has some internal control organs, and they get warning signals when certain words, that are considered as harmfull, turn up. WhatsApp is encrypted, which is making it more dangerous in a way. The outcome of the presidential election is still questioned by many, and especially by members of the UDP. It doesn’t seem as the last word is said in the debate, and the whole country is now waiting for the court verdict. What is happening in the meantime and what will happen when the court has made its decision? Will there be more people who ask for burning down The Gambia if they are not satisfied with the result? Can we allow freedom of speech to be so free that people will not care about the effects of their words? The Gambia is meant to be a democracy, not a demo-crazy.
Ousainu Darboe, the leader of the UDP, must strongly condemn any kind of violence or violent speech. He made a mistake from the beginning when he stated that they will do anything to challenge the result of the election. He should have understood that his words could be misinterpreted and be considered as a signal for discontent that easily could lead to violence and violent speech. Ousainu Darboe must speak to the Gambian people and tell that he is looking very seriously on the case with Lamin Darboe. Perhaps both Darboes could learn from the words of our prophet:
”Let him speak good or stay silent.”