By Omar Bah
A defiant Imam Baba Leigh has said he will not resign as a member of the National Human Rights Commission.
Many Gambians took to social media and called on the imam to resign from the rights body after this paper broke a story last week of the commission recommending to the government to protect the rights of LGBT persons in its 2019 annual report. They said protecting LGBT rights starkly contradicts Islamic teachings, of which the imam is a leading propagator.
But commenting on the controversy for the first time, the Kanifing Estate Mosque imam said those calling for his resignation are “jealous” of his popularity and influence as an imam and an award-winning human rights defender.
“I declined to comment because the issue at hand came from people who are merely seeking relevance in society. It is well known that Imam Baba Leigh is a household name. This is why many relevant seekers attack people like me to get attention. I am because of my name and religion,” he told journalists at a press conference yesterday.
He said he would“not waste” his time responding to people who don’t deserve his response.“The Gambia is small. We know those who struggle for popularity and they think they can use me to earn themselves popularity. Have you asked The Gambia as a conservative and predominantly religious country to withdraw its membership from the AU and Ecowas just because the AU and Ecowas are signatories to certain conventions that are not compatible with our beliefs? No,” he charged.
He said those who are asking for his resignation have forgotten that he has been a human rights activist for the best part of his life. “I was a founding member of Gamcotrap and since then I have been speaking for women, the powerless and voiceless. I was there fighting for those who were arrested illegally and tortured. I was doing that until I was forced into exile. No one called for Baba Leigh to resign at the time because there was nothing lucrative. Today I am asked to resign because I am an imam and at the same time a commissioner. What jealousy, selfishness and ignorance!” he said.
“We must not lose sight that every organisation needs somebody who preaches the word of God. I am working very hard every day and night to make sure that Gambians enjoy their human rights. We should also remember that human rights is beyond gay rights and even God said every human being should be given the right he or she deserves,” he said.