Mr. President, the peace and the mercy and the blessings of God be upon you.
Mr. President, I am writing this letter to you, and through you the entire Government of the Gambia, because of my love for my country, a love that is part of my faith and therefore an obligation on me. I am writing this letter because I do not want the beloved body of my country mutilated and fragmented because of sentimentalization of religion. I am writing this letter because I do not want to see the growth, development and maturity of inhumane organizations like ISIS and Boko Haram in my beloved country. I am writing this letter because I do not want to see the death of innocent people especially women and children because their religious views differ from their tormentors. I am writing this letter because I do not want to see bloodbath in the country I call home because of unreasonableness.
Please Mr. President, just take a portion of your time to read this humble letter from a humble citizen of the country.
Mr. President, people around the globe have used religion, particularly Islam, wrongly for their vested interests and cause unimaginable horror in many countries of the world. These kind of people are being bred and groomed in our very homeland. It is time for the Government to act before it is too late. Today I saw with my naked eyes not only Boko Haram but I also saw Al-Qaeda and ISIS in Tallinding. I saw the way they act and the way they spoke. Yes, I saw them and I must warn you so that you can take action before it is too late.
Mr. President, the recipe for writing this letter is an incident that happened on Saturday 6, May 2017 at Tallinding Kunjang. A resident of Tallinding Kunjang by the name Kebba Sanneh, belonging to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat passed away in Tallinding Sicap. Some young men decided that the deceased would not be buried in the graveyard because according to them he was a non-Muslim by virtue of being Ahmadi. The police came and stood at the gate of the cemetery with the key and did not open the gate because they “were waiting for an order from the top”. Some other statements by some of the policemen were definitely improper. Keeping it short, almost after two hours standstill, the police opened the gates and the burial was done. The militants were standing outside insulting and ready to start a fight. They promised that whenever the police leave, they will exhume the body and see what will come out of it.
Mr. President, remember that this kind of incident also occurred in September 2015 when late Masireh Dibba was buried in a Tallinding cemetery and some residents attempted to exhume the body because he was an Ahmadi. Something is building up. A bomb is about to detonate. This situation could be said to have started after a press release by the Supreme Islamic Council was read over the state broadcaster on 23rd January 2015, where there was an indication that the Council was making plans for such demands. These demands and attempts to stop the burial or exhume the dead bodies by the people of Tallinding, shows that beyond the façade is a conspiracy that may destroy the peace of the country. The happenings of September 2015 about the burial issue speaks volumes; it was not just the people of Tallinding, it is beyond that.
Mr President, I am not writing this letter to defend the Islam or the non-Islam of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaaat. I am not writing on behalf of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamaat. I am writing this letter as a private citizen of this country who is jealous of the peace of this country. I think as a peace loving Gambian, I have to share this little piece on radicalism/Mullahism/militancy among Muslims with my countrymen because if it (Mullahism) takes root in any country, that country is doomed, which I believe no peace- loving Gambian wants.
Mr. President, Mullahism is borne out of one’s belief that one’s opinion is supreme and every other opinion must be suppressed. It gives birth to intolerance, hatred, enmity and eventually leading to war and strife. One interesting thing about Mullahism is that it is either supported by governments or it supports governments. Where they are supported by governments, institutionalised brutality and ostracism is waged against anyone who does not conform to their beliefs or opinions about Islam. Countries like Iraq, Yemen and Pakistan are typical examples.
Mr. President, the press release which I mentioned earlier and which I believe cannot be ruled out in the cemetery issue, made mention of Pakistan as an example. This means they are making Pakistan a model and they want the Gambia to be like Pakistan. Mr. President, let me give a synopsis of the Pakistan case which unfortunately is now being bred in the Gambia.
Mr. President, this is the narrative about Pakistan: In February 1974, the second Islamic Summit Conference was held in Lahore, Pakistan. Heads of Muslim countries, including The Gambia I believe, attended the conference. Two months later, in April 1974, a meeting of the Rabita al Aalam al Islami was convened in Makkah, in which, among other things, it was decided that Ahmadis be marginalized in each and every Muslim country of the world. It was some months later in the same year that Ahmadiyyat was declared a non-Muslim minority in Pakistan.
Mr. President, after 1974, the Clergy (the Mullah) grew stronger by the day. In the case of Pakistan, the Government and the religious scholars exploited each other (the Government used the Mullahs to gain financial support from certain governments while the Mullah used it as an opportunity to infiltrate the Government and attain political leadership). The move was purely political. Several militant religious organisations started to wage Jihad against the very state that had empowered them. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who used these extremist scholars for political expediency paid the price. They turned against him when they became too powerful and could do anything. He was deposed by his hand-picked General, Gen. Ziaul Haq in 1977 and later hanged in 1979 by the same General. This is how ungrateful the Mullahs are. They made sure the Prime Minister who was influential in the declaration of Ahmadiyyat as a non-Muslim minority was hanged because they had now become very powerful.
Close to 100, 000 civilians and around 10,000 soldiers of the Pakistan Army have been killed by the militant mullahs (clergy) in the past years. Does these militants want the same for the Gambia? Well, this is what happened after the 1974 declaration which the press release proudly made reference to, a press release which is serving as a blueprint for the graveyard issue. Let it be clear to every Gambian that it is not only Ahmadi Muslims who are being killed in Pakistan but anyone who does not succumb to the Mullah’s thinking is killed. Let this be a food for thought for every peace-loving and patriotic Gambian.
Mr. President, I believe this is exactly what these individuals, and whoever is supporting them behind the scenes, are trying to do in the Gambia. Since this graveyard issue started in 2015, some people have become so happy as could be observed from online comments, although some also vehemently oppose it. Stopping a dead body from internment at a designated cemetery!! Exhumation of a dead body!! Let us put religion aside. Is that moral? Whose moral ideals will even think of such except an enemy of society? Do these individuals have the right to decide who is buried where? Every human being has the right to a respectful last office depending on his/her belief or preference. How such last office is carried out and where the particular individual is buried is not to be imposed on the individual or group of individuals. Where the religious beliefs or preferences of a group of individuals is internment/burial, it is the duty of the local Council to provide such a place for them. We know that all Muslims in the Gambia are buried in the graveyards in their communities. Anyone who calls himself a Muslim has the right to be buried in any Muslim cemetery in this country especially in his local community. The issue of his Islam or non-Islam is for God to decide because only He knows the secrets of the hearts and souls. No individual or group of individuals has any right whatsoever to decide who is buried where. Such a demand by any individual or group of individuals is highly irresponsible, immoral and shameless.
Mr. President, the Mullah in the Gambia has gained so much power in the past two decades. Yes, like Pakistan, they have gained a lot of power. Their ultimate objective anywhere is the seizing of political power. Never rule them out in any Muslim religious conflict anywhere. This is the same stage they are setting for the Gambia. These type of individuals are more of political tools in the hands of some powers rather than a doctrinal force. They always try to gain political power by first of all provoking sentiments (of governments and communities) against section(s) of the country, then infiltrating governments and making governments bow down to them. Indeed we saw some glimpse of this when Eid days were imposed on people and an individual was even taken to court for not observing Eid on a particular day. Do you think the declaration of the Gambia as an Islamic Republic was just a coincidence? No, it was not. It was a long struggle by the government and the Mullah looking for their own interests; the government trying to gain financial support from some countries and the Mullah trying to control the government. They found a common ground and they joined hands. Where such strategies fail, these individuals resort to violence and terror like it is happening in Iraq and Syria. Let me not forget the Boko Haram in Nigeria. Mullahism thrives on emotions, sentiments, falsehood and hypocrisy.
Mr. President, you and by extension your government should address this issue at the right time. It is getting out of control. Does it appear minor and insignificant? Do you think the online sentiments are not worth considering? Well, mountains are made of small rocks and IS fighters are recruited online. More Mullahs are graduating from institutions that radicalize them. These type of scenarios will always be created without a firm stand by the government. I definitely see trouble looming over the Gambia if the Mullahs are left unchecked. Take action now before it is too late. Religion is an individual matter between man and God. Our Constitution guarantees freedom of association with any religion. No individual or group of individuals must be allowed to violate that inalienable right. If individuals or groups of individuals are allowed to come up with such destructive ideas without the government strictly stopping them, then the country will inevitably in a very near future see itself embroiled in disorder. Do you think this issue of burial is a religious matter? No Sir, it is not. It is political and it will surely unfold itself. ISIS, Al-Qaeda, and Boko Haram base their case on religion but there is no doubt that they are definitely political movements.
It is the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at today because it is seen as the vulnerable group and an easy target with whom the campaign to control political leadership should start. Other Muslim groups will eventually follow as targets and then the non-Muslims. I am scared, not for Ahmadiyyat, but for the entire country. Ahmadiyyat has survived bigger storms than this in many countries and it will surely survive any storm in this country. I am scared of what will happen to my beloved Gambia if no action is taken now because I always see on the news what happens in the Mullah infested countries like Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
Believe me, Mr. President, one of the greatest challenges of your Government will be Mullahism. You have to face it, run away from it or endorse it. The choice is yours and it has to be made now. I expect you as the President of a sovereign secular republic to say no to Mullahism in no uncertain terms. Or else we shall be like Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Mali, Nigeria, etc.
Stand up now before it is too late.
Long live the Gambia. Long live the peace and stability and harmony of the Gambia.
By Tahir Ahmad Touray