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City of Banjul
Thursday, October 1, 2020

Democracy, rights and the freedom of speech

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My article ‘Disciplinary Actions Against Dirty Dancing Students’ published in The Standard last week sparked a healthy communication channel and debate as to what should and what should not be in our society. I received calls from well-meaning people with further contributions and suggestions for which I am very grateful. I am definitely not a writer. However, your publication has positively emboldened me to in this second piece discuss an important topical issue which has perhaps been widely misconstrued, especially among us the youth.

There are many international conventions, protocols and declarations on human rights, democracy and freedom of speech, so much so that I shall herewith avoid quoting any. Children’s rights! Women’s rights. And now men’s rights which is manifest in places like South Korea, which is a deliberate backlash against “increasing and annoying” forms of feminism, gender and women’s rights in that part of the world.

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Does your democracy, rights and freedom allow you to sound expressions and opinions which could be interpreted as insults? Is it acceptable for a child to insult his/her mother or father upon the pretext of child’s rights? Should a wife insult a husband (or vice versa) upon the excuse of women’s rights or men’s rights? Should one political group and its supporters, or a media house make defamatory statements against another on the basis of freedom of expression? Let us then be reminded that as a nation and people of religion, good culture and morals, we are exhorted to speak and write only that which is good or forever maintain a peaceful silence.

As people with sound intellect and good mannerisms, we should strive to act upon and speak the truth and be honest. In Islam, a Muslim is forbidden to speak too much about that which is of no benefit and serves no purpose. The Muslim is not allowed to speak or write on the basis of speculation or dwell on that which he/she have no knowledge of. Allah, may He be glorified and exalted, instructed His believing slaves to be with the truthful: “O you who believe! Fear Allah, and be with those who are true (in words and deeds)” [at-Tawbah 9:119].

All we hear today in “New Gambia” is the right to this and the right to that. Democracy and rights to say whatever I want on social media and to demonstrate and express my discontentment wherever I want without consequences. My dear good friends, please be kindly reminded that with certain rights come huge responsibilities. We should all carefully weigh our speech and actions before embarking upon them. Where your rights begin, perhaps that is where mine stops. What may have been intended to be peaceful demonstrations, may very well just turn out to become violent uprisings. Have we not learnt so many valuable lessons, especially from an Arab SPRING which has turned out to become a very long, violent and bitter WINTER!

How many times have unscrupulous people profited from demonstrations to wreak havoc by looting, stealing and vandalising lives and properties. So yes, my friend, you are on point when you say what you say and mean it. National peace and security should not suffer for the uncalculated rights of a bitter few. Yet again, with rights come very important responsibilities. Not all situations are addressed and remedied by strikes and demonstrations. To us the youths, let us be patient and work collectively together towards achieving goodness in all aspects. I think it was the Englishman who said, “Rome was NOT built in a day”. If we can accept this as a truism, then let us similarly and patiently coax the process of growth, peace, progress and development in what is now referred to as “New Gambia”.

Mohammed Hassan Loum
[email protected]

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