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City of Banjul
Saturday, November 28, 2020

My take on The Standard’s news captioned “Police brokers Tallinding cemetery standoff”

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In the Standard issue of 8 May 2017, a statement by the police was published. Unfortunately, the statement by the police leaves much to be desired.

The police should know that words matter and let them ensure that they use the right words in their statements. This is a sentence in the police statement: “Police in the Kanifing Municipality intervened and resolved a situation, which was heading to be a serious confrontation between the Muslims and Ahmadis of Tallinding on Saturday.” I unapologetically say here that this statement by the police is very disappointing. This statement by the police has deliberately put the Ahmadi Muslims outside the fold of Islam. The police of Kanifing Municipality know very well that this is the second of this kind of incident in Tallinding within a two year period and that the main cause of the problem is that those obstructing the burial believe Ahmadis are not Muslims. Therefore, what does the police think it is doing by deliberately referring to Ahmadis as non-Muslims? The police is in effect supporting the position of the people of Tallinding and further inflaming the problem. Ahmadis consider themselves Muslims and the police must always refer to them as such if they make their statements. The police should not discriminate. If this statement was an error, then they must apologise to the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at through the media that they have used to send the message. If the statement was deliberate, then they have failed in being nondiscriminatory and impartial.

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The other issue is that the incident is considered a misunderstanding. This contradicts the facts. How was it a misunderstanding? Two different episodes of an issue in the same community in two years! You termed that a misunderstanding? You have got it all wrong or you deliberately twisted it! This is what happened and you know it very well: a handful of people around Tallinding Sicap tried to obstruct the burial rites of a deceased resident of Tallinding. The police were informed and they came there before the arrival of the burial team. When the burial team arrived, the police did not open the gate of the cemetery until after almost two hours of waiting. This delay increased the tension as more obstructers gathered.

To further clarify that this was not a misunderstanding, I refer you to the previous incident in September 2015. The words of the President of the Supreme Islamic Council were that the council was appealing to the entire Muslim Ummah to strictly monitor their cemeteries in order to know who will be buried in these cemeteries and that if they, the ‘custodians’ of faith, receive reports that Ahmadis have buried their dead at any Muslim cemetery and the people are not happy about it, the Ahmadis will be asked to exhume it and bury it elsewhere. It is therefore absolutely wrong and dangerous to consider the incident a misunderstanding. The police should not mince words. The police should present the facts as they are.

It was not necessarily the intervention of the police that relatively resolved the issue; it was the sense of maturity and respect for the rule of law displayed by the Ahmadiyya Muslm Jama’at. The members of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at will never put the law into their own hands because they consider obedience to the law a religious duty. Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that considering the incident a misunderstanding is a misrepresentation of the facts.

Another issue that needs clarification is the role of the Supreme Islamic Council in the whole issue. What makes them stakeholders? Were the obstructers under the command and instruction of the Supreme Islamic Council? If no, then why are they considered ‘stakeholders in the conflict’? If yes, then they must be taken to task for instigating a potential national strife. If they are considered ‘stakeholders in the conflict because they are considered as the body responsible for Islamic religious affairs in the country as they ascribed to themselves in their press release of 23 January 2015, then some other questions also have to be answered. Who has given them that mandate? Are they a branch of the state/government constitutionally mandated to take up such a responsibility? If no and also if they are not the force behind the obstruction, then I believe they should not have any role in the further dialogue. Let us please try to distinguish the State and its apparatuses from religious groups and/or organisations.

I have always said this and I will repeat it once again, no individual or group of individuals owns a cemetery. It is a communal property and a deceased resident of a community has the right to be buried in the cemetery of the community or any other cemetery in the country.

Let those parading themselves as custodians of the faith be told their limitations by the Police, the Ministry of Interior and by extension, the entire Government. The authorities should take to task whoever is trying to create disorder and unrest. That is the only solution to the problem. What is there to dialogue when what should be done is clearly known? The statement by the police is in fact more dangerous than the obstruction of the burial by people who took the law into their own hands. The Police must not turn a blind eye to the facts. The police had better not even given any statement on the issue than giving a statement that could be more inflammatory.

May Allah Almighty continue protecting The Gambia. Aameen

By Tahir Ahmad Touray

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