By Tabora Bojang
The lands and religious affairs Minister has told The Standard that government is pursuing an inclusive dialogue with rival Muslim leaders locked up in a dispute over the leadership of the Supreme Islamic Council.
The row between the Council and Rawdatul Majaalis, who accused the leadership of the SIC of “illegally entrenching” themselves in power, has recently worsened with the latter forming their own body with an executive led by Sheriff Muhammed Nano Hydara.
The SIC leadership of Muhammad Lamin Touray called this an “arbitrary violation of the constitution” saying an unregistered organisation has no right to call itself a Supreme Islamic Council.
Dembo Bojang, the religious adviser to President Barrow, when contacted by The Standard last month to state Government’s stance on the matter, said a date will soon be fixed in a bid to bring the two parties to the table.
However when asked to shine light on the level of dialogue, land and religious affairs minister Musa Drammeh said: “I cannot give any further details, all I can tell you is that dialogue is ongoing and we cannot say much as at now.”
The president of the Supreme Islamic Council Muhammad Lamin Touray said he can neither confirm nor deny any ongoing dialogue brokered by the government between the Council and the Rawdatul Majaalis.
He said as far as the SIC is concerned, there is no leadership controversy between them and Rawdatul Majaalis that should warrant a round table discussion because “any organisation that is not constitutionally recognised by the laws of the Council cannot claim any leadership roles in the executive.”
Touray gave the following comparison: “Would it not be surprising for anyone to claim that the leadership of the APRC or UDP would challenge each other in a leadership row over each other’s party?”
The Standard contacted the public relations officer for the Rawdatul Majaalis on the supposed ongoing dialogue between them and the SIC. Abubacarr Jabbi said the minister only told them that he would convene a discussion for the two sides, adding that he understands that a mediator has been appointed to coordinate a dialogue between them.
“The Supreme Islamic Council represents all the Muslims in this country; it is not here to be dominated by one group or ideology. Registered or not, as far as you are a Muslim living in the Gambia, you are under the SIC. This is what was happening under the former government”, he said.
“When they had a problem with Imam Ba Kawsu Fofana, he was not a registered member at the time but they sanctioned him from preaching and even stopped him from leading in his own mosque. So the claim that Rawda is not a registered organisation does not hold water,” Jabbi added.