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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Letters: TRRC warned against attacks on witnesses

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Dear editor,
It goes without saying that the stone attack on the residence of Imam Baba Leigh in late January, is a criminal act which cannot be tolerated in any civilised community. The Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission at which Baba Leigh was a witness the previous week, was not silent over the incident as the commission’s lead council condemned the barbaric act in no uncertain terms.

Lead Council Essa Faal has identified the double criminal nature of the home attack. He emphasised that it is an outright crime under the laws of The Gambia to assail residences, whether this is undertaken by individuals or groups. Secondly, such assaults are criminal according to the act that set up the TRRC. Mr Faal posited that any person or persons caught in this wrongful act shall face the full force of the law. Taking cognisance of these, all should be alerted especially residents of Kanifing East Estate where the incident took place, that the perpetrators of the crime should be revealed on notice and brought to justice to avoid future recurrence of this or similar crimes.

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That said it is essential that we look at the other side of the coin. Needless to say, some curious minds would ask why the stone throwing at Baba Leigh’s residence. What would invariably attract attention is that perhaps this is the first of its kind occurring in the Kanifing Estate, and even more importantly, the attack was at the residence of the community’s imam. It is understood that the incident occurred just a few days after the imam testified at the TRRC, and that was in fact what prompted the commission to intervene.

Many would therefore see Imam Leigh’s remarks at the TRRC as attributive to his home attack. In his show of support to Gamcotrap’s efforts to do away with female circumcision, Imam Leigh retorted that those who support or undergo female circumcision for purposes of decency and cleanliness, are no more decent or clean than those who avoid it. Most if not all members of his Fula ethnic group, would regard these remarks as obscene and insulting, as the imam himself had indicated in his speech that his ethnic group support and undergo female circumcision. One could understand the weight of Imam Leigh’s insult, taking into account that besides one or two ethnic groups, the generality of the Gambian populace support and undergo female circumcision.

Quite apparently all throughout his discussion with the TRRC, the imam did not quote any verse from the Qur’an, or a hadith statement to support his attitude towards female circumcision. This is why many are of the view that Mr Leigh as an imam should have given a more matured and better explanation to convince the population against female circumcision. Some are of the view that Baba Leigh owes an apology to Gambians for his seemingly repulsive statement.

That apart, Baba Leigh is famous or notorious for his blunt statements. Many who pray behind him at the Kanifing Mosque could attest to this. In Friday sermons, cultured I mams discuss about the deen and current affairs touching the livelihoods.But Imam Leigh on the other hand frequently turns the mosque ‘mimbarr’ in to a political pulpit, invariably repugnant to those who pray behind him. Just some few weeks back when group protests were taking place, the blunt Imam said in one of his sermons in Wolof that we must be wary of politicians and that,“Adama Barrow Jarut-ko, Darboe Jarut-ko, OJ Jallow Jarut-ko”.

The fact that he was addressing a religious gathering which expects sermons on religion, such deliberations are intolerable and offensive. Hence Imam Leigh should be advised to watch his words in delivering sermons. In the mosque people are interested in Islamic education and this is what should be emphasised to Imam Leigh to function as an efficient imam. Unwelcome remarks as,“This country belongs to all; no ethnic group owns this country!”,are commonplace in the imam’s Friday sermons. When every Gambian knows that the country consists of different ethnic groups, co-existing harmoniously, where is the need for an imam to frequently retort that no ethnic group owns this country at a praying ground. Many would regard the Kanifing imam’s sermons as a show of ill-will, ill intentions and instigating hatred amongst ethnic groups.

Therefore, even where we have all condemn the offensive nature of the stone throwing at his residence, Baba Leigh should be advised to exercise discretion in his deliberations both in the mosque and outside. Mature and non-repulsive remarks from the imam would no doubt contribute toward avoiding future stone attacks and recurrence of similar offensive incidences.

Abubacarr Ceesay Drammeh

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