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Monday, October 2, 2023

Prof Lamin Sanneh and the ‘enigmatic’ truth


I have read with keen interest your paper’s interview with the Gambian pre-eminent professor L.O. Sanneh of the Yale Divinity School on much-debated issues surrounding the links between contemporary Islam and terrorism (The Standard, Vol. 04, Issue 093 of Monday, May 11th, 2014). Professor Sanneh not only makes a strong case about the real Qur’anic teachings of ‘peace’ in authentic Islam, but went ahead to demonstrate how, in a historic context, ‘rightly-guided’ Muslim scholars have presided over highly-pacified Muslim communities down the centuries not just in the Middle East and North Africa, but even right out here in West Africa!

These saints-cum-rulers most often preached and lived by peaceful co-existence with their non-Muslim neighbouring communities or States. But why would I then employ the term ‘enigmatic’ to describe the substance of this wonderful piece on such a highly-acclaimed scholar in your highly-rated newspaper? It has to do with the personality of this intellectual giant himself! Born and, no doubt, raised as a Muslim as indeed the ‘Lamin’ in his name is a version of ‘Al-Amin’, The Trustworthy, which was a praise-name of Prophet Muhammed (SAW), he has now chosen to become a Catholic, after apparently flip-flopping from the Methodist faith!

I make no apologies to those who would want to ‘hang’ me on the altar of Western morality that one’s choice of faith is no other person’s business, but rather, I am invoking the values of the two systems of morality that define me, namely, the African social value of ‘collectivism’ or the extended family system, and Islamic morality. 

Professor Sanneh is known to have been a close childhood friend and classmate of a biological uncle of mine, hence he is my ‘uncle’ as well by African standards whom I wish the very same spiritual ‘blessings’ as my ‘true’ uncle! As for the more important Islamic viewpoint, the religion is truly jealous in guarding the the faith of its adherents, and exhorts all followers to be ‘callers’ to the truth of Allah with “wisdom and gentle manners” (the very opposite of the violence of the extremists!). 

So for someone whose immense erudition in Islamic history and culture as Professor

Sanneh not to remain in Islamic fold, seriously baffles me – hence the enigma that he is, with all due respects to him!

Had LO Sanneh been a Muslim scholar operating in the West, he could have been a more powerful voice of reason, moderation and truth to help educate not just the western public but equally, the modern vulnerable Muslims, particularly youth based in the West, that they can identify with as a model of their own faith!

Salmina E Jobe

Salagi, Kombo North


Reaching out to President Jammeh


Dear President,


As we just ushered in the 20th anniversary since you came into power, I thank you and the First Lady Madam Zineb Jammeh for giving me this opportunity to share with you my sincere approach towards a peaceful Gambia, and to extend a hand of mutual understanding with respect as to the way forward in the best interest of our nation. I also thank you and your administration for the tremendous developments and gains in infrastructure, education, agriculture, and other sectors that have taken place since you came into power. 

Mr President, since I left The Gambia in July of 2000, I have been anticipating to see for myself the changes that have taken place but only through videos, and friends or families that visit my beloved country. Mr. President with all the stories I have heard both positive and negative from Gambians, I sincerely ask you to grant me my wish to come in peace and see for myself to determine the whole truth of what is going on, and how I can help as a youth and a born citizen of The Gambia.

Mr President, I am not a stranger to you and have been a fierce critic to you and your administration since the announcement of the executions in 2012. I am not a supporter of the APRC, nor am I a member of any political party, or organisation. It would be unfair to believe everything I hear but also just to say that I have seen your reactions. Like any other person or administration, when there are tensions, not every decision that gets made would please all. I know that no one is perfect and there are setbacks everywhere, but my main concern is to fix or help resolve any issues that can derail the devevelopment of the country. 

Those who oppose you need to give credit where it is due, but also show great leadership if they want the people to rally behind them. Mr President, you have given hope to those that had none in terms of education, and job opportunities that was not in a million years in reach to them due to the system that was in place. We are all witnesses to that and your coming into power was warmly embraced. While there was peace and institutions in place, you came and wasted no time to build and eradicate what was broken. The corruption that was a disease seemed like it was going away but as of today, it still seems inescapable. But I strongly believe that more could be done to deal with our current situations and it would be a disservice to the nation if we just blamed you for all the problems and not try to fix them collectively. Whether true or false, I want to help and transform the country to be back on track with your leadership until you decide to retire with dignity and honour.

Mr President, we have a moral obligation to see how we should tackle our problems and to do something about it and refrain from the same blame game. Please allow me to come and see firsthand for myself and stay there for a month to see where your government has made tremendous developments and where is lacking to get the whole picture. I would then owe it to the people of The Gambia to come back to the US to finish my education and sensitise the Gambians living in the diaspora as to what is real and not. I would also share with you proposals depending on the outcome of that visit to improve on what we need. Perhaps it would be best to show the whole world or Gambians for that matter, that you are willing to engage anyone that means well and you listen to its people. I can then show the people that His Excellency is working on the right direction and you would be much more popular and influential than ever before. I sincerely ask for your forgiveness as I have forgiven you. I hope and pray that you will honour my wish and sit with me to enlighten me and the rest of the world as to what is going on and how we can make significant changes to the national interest of our beloved country. We should all wish The Gambia well and never engage in anything that will hamper progress or destabilise the region. 

I hope and pray for your wellbeing and safety. The Gambia is too small and we are all one big family. I want nothing in return but a peaceful Gambia with reforms that will benefit us all. In Shaa Allah, good will always prevail over evil, so may God clean our hearts with sincerity and good. Thank you for all you do and continue to do as the leader of the nation. May you engage us and push us to be better and do what is right for The Gambia. I hope and pray that this letter will find you in good spirits to accept my request and launch a new era of brotherhood. May God continue to bless you, your family, and the Gambian people. May we all yearn for peace and work together towards the common good as we pledge allegiance to The GAMBIA ever true.

Momodou Njai

USA ([email protected])


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