Reacting to developments that arose out of yet another Eid-ul-Fitr this year, Hamat said the issue of people praying on the same day should not be politicised or taken to the level of government: “I want to seriously question the approach that the SIC is taking in determining the Koriteh feast. That is not the right way.”
Mr Bah said compelling worshippers is not the solution to the disputes regarding Islamic feast days. “I think there is a need for a dialogue on the issue, and people need to be educated. Most people used to pray with Mecca but they (the Saudis) are not perfect. In 2003, the imam of Mecca called the imam of Abuja saying that Mecca was wrong and Abuja was right in observing that year’s Koriteh. That is why it is not right for anybody to claim that Mecca is always right. That is your choice, you have right to it but you should not impose it on the people,” Mr Bah argued.
He went on: “If I am president, I will not let any individual, group or organisation, to use me to further their agenda and set me against my own people. I won’t do it. Section 25 (1) b and c of the 1997 Constitution clearly talks about freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, right to worship the religion and the God that you believe in. So for anybody, particularly the chief executive of the country to issue a statement requesting people to pray on a day that they don’t agree to, is wrong. It’s against the Constitution of The Gambia. Therefore, the NRP felt that was a serious error of judgment.”
The former Upper Saloum parliamentarian said if one wants to unify the observance of such feasts on the same day, it will result in problems because Islam has different sects. “We need to be careful with our centuries-old peaceful co-existence and not allow a few ‘foreign-educated scholars’ to destroy it just because they studied in Saudi, Pakistan or somewhere else.”
According to him, there is this Islamic fundamentalism that is growing in the region in recent years. “It started small and they did not believe in the religion the way our great grandfathers believe and practised. They came with different tendencies, different ideologies and different interpretations of the Qur’an. We have no problem with them believing what they believe. If they want to believe in wearing a beard or short trousers and pray the way they want – it’s their right to do that as long as they don’t infringe the law. But you don’t have to impose your ideology on people by taking advantage of your position as an authority in the country. That is wrong.
“If they had taken the right approach, we would not have all this problem. Some people [in the country] even claimed that they saw the moon on Sunday. I have seen someone who received a call from Mali and said they saw the moon. But because these people have gone on television even before the moon was sighted, announcing to people that Monday will be Koriteh, people like that lost interest in sharing the news with the public or the authorities. I remember that [in this country] people were given chance until 9pm to sight the moon before a position is adopted on prayer day. People will call with numbers and witnesses….,” he lamented.]]>