By Mafugi Ceesay
Essa Faal, the lead counsel at the TRRC has said his intense questioning of Muslim cleric Abdoulie Fatty should not be misconstrued as criticising any religion, but to establish religious violations under the Jammeh regime.
The former State House Mosque imam testified at the commission on Monday with Faal grilling him on what he deemed the excesses of The Gambia Supreme Islamic Council, of which the imam was an influential member.
Despite underlining his personal Muslim credential, Mr Faal has been slammed for what some labelled his overtly liberal and anti-Islamic sentiments and for calling the renowned Muslim cleric and televangelist Dr Zakir Naik as an extremist who exports religious intolerance around the world.
Faal said Dr Naik is a fundamentalist who came here and polluted the minds of Gambians, saying the scholar causes discord.
Responding to his critics, Mr Faal said religious rights were violated during the regime of Jammeh.
He said his robust questioning of witnesses was meant to establish the religious violations by Jammeh and those who enabled him to engage in such acts and should not be seen as a challenge to Islam.
He said the probe was not to establish the validity of religious or moral authority of any individual and not an examination of Islam or sharia.
TRRC chairman Dr Lamin Sise, said the purpose of the commission is to investigate and make available an impartial record of violations of rights, promote healing and reconciliation, respond to the needs of the victims, address impunity and give recommendations to prevent reoccurrence of the perpetrations.
Meanwhile, the president of the Supreme Islamic Council, Muhamadou Lamin Touray, yesterday told the TRRC that President Jammeh did not arrest the now deceased sheriff caliph Muhideen Hydara for observing eid-ul fitr prayers on a day not sanctioned by the government.
This was the publicly stated reason for Caliph Hydara’s arrest and subsequent arraignment. But Imam Touray said he and the members of the late caliph’s clan knew the real ulterior reasons for the arrest.
“Muhideen was not arrested for refusing to observe eid the same day with the rest of the citizenry. There is more to his arrest and detention and trial. If refusing to observe eid on the same day caused his arrest and detention, then why were the others who refused to pray the day before like him not also arrested and taken to court?” he queried metaphorically.
Imam Touray said “the reasons advanced by the state were different from the actual reason of his arrest and detention and trial”.
However, he did not reveal the purported reason for the caliph’s arrest and the lead council curiously wasn’t keen on knowing the reason leaving most of the TRRC listeners and viewers piqued.
The imam however admitted no one had the legal mandate to lock up anyone for refusing to observe eid on a different day.
He also strenuously defended the council’s stance on the Ahmadis and said they should not be considered as Muslims and that they segregate themselves from other Muslims.