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City of Banjul
Friday, February 26, 2021

My open letter to Imam Abdoulie Fatty of State House

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In the news article, you are reported to have characterised the members of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at in The Gambia as “non-Muslims”, asserting that they should be banned from propagating their faith in the territorial confines of the country. As a concerned citizen and a former teacher at one of the Ahmadiyya schools in the country, I feel obliged to enlighten you. I will also show you how your comments are unwarranted and out of touch. 

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First of all, if as you suggest Ahmadis should be banned because of they are non-Muslims despite their claim to be Muslims, what about our Christian brothers and sisters? The Gambia population and housing census indicates that the country is not 100 percent Muslim and so commonsense demand that if you ban a group for being non-Muslim then all other non-Muslim groups are effectively banned. Well except if we have biased and narrow minded people at the helm of affairs. 

Secondly, you have placed the Ahmadis outside the pale of Islam, I just wonder where have you amassed the authority to do so. Please note that your reference of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and Omar Ibn Khatab (ra) is not applicable in this sense because like you noted the Holy Prophet never called Omar a non-Muslim but said that his faith is incomplete. And make no mistake, the difference between incomplete and a “non-starter” maybe tiny to you but highly essential in this case. But let me assume (just for the sake of assumption) that your reference of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and Omar Ibn Khatab is applicable here, are you claiming that you have earned the status of determining who is and who is not a Muslim in place of the Holy Prophet (pbuh)? Oh! I understand as a scholar, you are a representative of the Holy Prophet (saw) but remember there are limits in that representation. These limits include the fact that you cannot marry more than four wives at the same time even though the Holy Prophet (pbuh) did and that you cannot determine who is and who is not a Muslim. So what does the representation and leadership require of you?

Leadership and indeed responsible leadership demands that our leaders show some amount of due diligence in dealing with issues over sentiments. It does not behoove a religious leader, especially a representative of the “Prince of Peace” to sow seeds of discord and hatred among the followers of even, say, different religions. Suffice it to say that a Muslim leader cannot preach hatred against his fellow countrymen, even if they fail to believe in anything. Imam Abdoulie Fatty, after reading what you have said about Islam, it hurts me to call you “imam”. So let me be clear, I am using the title just for the purpose of identification rather than association and please no disrespect meant. But instead of being guilty of the same thing I am condemning you for, let me cut the chase and go to the facts. Here you will find how legally, socially, politically and above all Islamically you got it all wrong.

Legally, “The Gambia is a sovereign secular republic”. This is in chapter one, section one and subsection one of the constitution of the Republic of The Gambia 1997. So let’s just say that you have not read the constitution cover to cover because it is not in Arabic but this is in the very first chapter. Even if it is by chance, you should have seen it, so no excuse. And if you dig deeper, you will find out that the constitution and other laws and policies generally protect religious freedom. The constitution even further provides Gambians “freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice”. But again if you have checked the State House website, you will find that His Excellency has always preached about religious tolerance in The Gambia so please do not contradict and ruin President Jammeh’s efforts on this very important mattter. 

Socially, we do not just have a strong but also an enviable social cohesion unheard of anywhere else in the world. Sadly though, the implications of your statements will undermine just that. The Gambia is one of, if not the most peaceful country on planet earth – The Smiling Coast! Why on earth then trade that peace for religious bigotry? If you ban Ahmadis from propagating Islam in The Gambia today you will succeed in one thing and only one thing, that is sowing the seeds of social discord. And as a peace activist, I will definitely suggest that you should be charged with incitement of violence against the Ahmadis. Your comments constitute an absolute threat to peace and stability in the country. Furthermore, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at through all its institutions employs more non-Ahmadis than Ahmadis thanks to their believe in nondiscrimination of any kind, including but not limited to creed, gender, national origin, race, etc. Do you know how many people your plan will make go without jobs? How many responsible people? Okay look at it this way, at least 90 percent of all children enrolled in Ahmadi schools are non-Ahmadis. But is it also not funny when Dr Zakir Naik said that people should not go to Ahmadiyya or Christian schools? No it is absolutely not funny becuase Dr Zakir Naik has attended more than one Christian school. Oh! I get it, he did not know that it was wrong at the time? By the way the Ahmadiyya and Christian schools are among the best schools in the country. In fact some would say that they have the best schools in the country. I will not disagree with that but let’s move on.

Politically, you are entitled to your opinions and I am glad that you believe that President Jammeh has built enough schools and hospitals which will adequately serve people without the Ahmadis. I cannot speak for the Ahmadis but I do know that the Ahmadis are not competing with His Excellency but they are simply complementing government’s efforts in service delivery. But since we hold no political offices, I am of the opinion that you and I cannot make sweeping political declarations like this. It makes us sound like a political clown. My little knowledge of politics tells me that in party politics, numbers matter. And in genuine national development genuine partners do matter as well. So in both cases, the Ahmadis are important constituents. Whether or not you are doing this to score some political points from His Excellency, Sheikh Professor Alhaji Doctor Yahya AJJ Jammeh, I do not know. But please note that there is no country on planet earth that can be singlehandedly developed by one individual. And I am sure His Excellency the President knows this very well and that is why he is always trying to woo investors and genuine partners into the Smiling Coast. Unfortunately though your religious “gerrymandering” tactic in this context is not ideal at all. In the game of politics it is always a win or a loss. And since this is not just a loss but a big loss for you, I pray that you are not shown the red card. Unless you apologise for your ranting, you constitute a political liability for His Excellency.

In conclusion, Islam literally means peace and submission to the will of Allah the Almighty. This is enough reason for all men of understanding to keep to a personal struggle for salvation from Allah the Almighty in peace and harmony. Notwithstanding, the holy Qur’an, which is the most reliable point of reference for all Muslims is full of exhortation for peace. The Holy Qur’an tells us that we should make peace even if it is an inclination from our enemies and then put our trust in Allah. We read in chapter eight, (Surah Al-Anfal): “And if they incline towards peace, incline thou also towards it, and put thy trust in Allah. Surely, it is He Who is All-Hearing, All-Knowing.” 

So in the name of peace and harmony, security and stability of our dear motherland I implore you to shun your hatred for the Ahmadis. The Gambia is bigger than all of us and we cannot afford to place our personal interests in religious bigotry above superior national interest in peace and stability. If anything, the Ahmadis and I mean all the Ahmadis that I know are law-abiding and very peaceful.  May we live and leave behind a better and more peaceful Gambia! Ameen! 


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