There seems to be a renewal of the argument about Female Genital Mutilation/Cutting (FGM/C) in the Gambia. Recently, it was reported in the media that three women in the Central River Region of the Gambia were prosecuted and fined fifteen thousand dalasi each for circumcising eight young girls who were said to be as young as four months.
This was hailed by many people in the country especially those who are active in the fight to end the practice which is said to be a traditional one rather than a religious one. In fact, according to those on this side of the argument, it is a harmful practice which affects the victims for the rest of their lives.
However, over the weekend it was reported that the former Imam of the State House Mosque, Mr Abdoulie Fatty led a delegation to CRR, the home of those women who were fined, to pay the fine on their behalf. While there, he spoke to the villagers and said that it is the people who are bent on fighting Islam who are campaigning against FGM.
He was reported to have said that he will continue to pray against the person who reported the women, the magistrate and all those involved in the case until he dies. He reportedly said that he will continue to campaign for the practice of FGM for as long as he lives.
In a response published on The Standard Newspaper yesterday, Dr Isatou Touray, the former Vice President of the Republic of The Gambia called for the arrest of Mr Abdoulie Fatty for his comments, which she said were inciting volence against those who advocate against FGM.
It looks like the perennial arguments and push and pull between the activists against FGM on one hand and some Islamic religious scholars on the other, is on its way back to the public discourse. This was something so widespread that hardly a day passed without one side attacking the other. Many people will say that like this is about democracy and freedom of speech and opinion.
If the argument is that everyone has a right to your opinion and can say what one thinks, then each side should exercise decorum in presenting their views. If either one says something that goes against the law, or something that can result in a breach of the peace, then the courts may have to step in and decide the matter.