OPINION: Fault Lines – Building A Secular State

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Disclaimer – Religion has never been an issue of major contention or divide among the people of The Gambia and any politician, past or present, who tries to tell you otherwise has ulterior motives; a mere fabrication.

From the early years of existence, well before independence, the population sprang from little-less tight pockets of remote existence into fully-fledge villages, towns and city communitarian dwellings drawn in nationhood.

The country is made up of Muslims and Christians, and an atheist, from the last count, seizing on a peaceful outlook on life built on solid foundations within boundary limits.

A Gambian, or that of a Senegambia child, originates from an interconnected family tree deeply immersed in faith and its guiding principles. The people have come to identify and respect each other’s religious beliefs, places of worship and the various occasions to celebrate.

In an effort to rebuild and cement of a more inclusive, responsible and tolerant society, the onus falls on the country’s leadership, politicians & religious leaders alike, in the manner which power is exercised. Words do matter, and those in positions of power should resort to responsible language where access to the media or electioneering tactics are concerned.

But ultimately, responsibility lies with you, the individual, not to engage in unlawful acts in the name of religion, ethnicity, or political party. Democratic politics is occasioned with certain constraints of law in terms of civility towards each other. As such, actions have real consequences – so live and let live!  

And as institutions mandated to serve their gatherings, the Supreme Islamic Council & the Gambia Christian Council respectively ought to separate their selves from central politics. Please, let us return to constitutional order & those democratic traditions and norms with clearly defined lines we all cherish. The scrutiny mechanisms & procurement authority should be tightened up and screwed as a curb on bent officials.

But so is the checks and balances element in bureaucratic governance. That requires sincere leadership & coordination among government agencies working in-sync, and an uninterrupted electricity supply too - necessary for ordinary families & businesses, national security purposes and the smooth flow of an entire economic belt.

The beauty of democracy is that we may disagree on vision for the country, or the philosophical approach to get there – but those differences & debate should be occasioned in a mature and civilised manner without resorting to ‘nasties’ or ‘crazies’ or online abuse certain people seem to take for sports. Every Gambian, black or white, independent or otherwise have equal stakes in the ‘National Cake’.

Although some people have taken a larger bite out of it over the years, and to this day also, each Gambian is entitled to an equal portion. According to the celebrated Kenyan professor, PLO Lumumba - Morally bankrupt African politicians would invoke the tribal card, or religion because they have failed the population and have nothing left to offer.

Instead of debating actual programs and policies, they resort to ethnicity in seeking votes. It is incumbent upon Gambia’s politicians to rise above the fray and to serve as living examples of the constitution. Given the scandalous contracts being thrown at foreign firms and ill-advised loans contracted without consulting parliament, I am still to be convinced if the Barrow-government is pursuing the national interest.

The Quran also teaches that ‘’…there is no compulsion in religion, hence, the path of truth is clearly separated from faslsehood. During his time in Medina, we learnt of the letters and emissaries Prophet Muhammad sent to the various rulers and dignitaries of that era including the Persian king, rulers of Egypt, the ruler of Rome, and others inviting them to Islam. The offer of peace shines through in his dealings with the ‘Jews’ and other non-Muslim Arab tribes of the time. It is sometimes worth reminding that Jesus is a beloved prophet of God, as Muhammad, and other messengers before.

But despite scripture interpretational difference and of religion, Gambia’s Muslims and Christians understand and respect each other’s belief sets. As a people, there are no exclusion zones by design or otherwise based on ethnicity or religious test, but rather sober understanding in everyday living. Given an uncertain world & distortion of religion for selfish ends, Gambians should reflect on this & to uphold PEACE with upmost sincerity.

Islam teaches us to be charitable, and that human life is sacred and to be treated as such. As with ethnicity, religion should NEVER be used as a tool to marginalise the ‘other’. We encourage young Gambians to nurture the camaraderie and goodwill towards all, and for generations. Regardless of ethnicity or religious sets, our similarities and wanton for peace outweigh violence. Peace, tolerance and piety was the calling; sadly, hidden interest, lies and deceit has led to ‘false claims’ & ‘new-inventions’ in religion.

But we have also lost track of such qualities for a nation stripped off its essence, beauty and dignity, ravaged by drugs and prostitution HELL. The situation for the youths is nothing short of traumatic and therefore, unacceptable state of affairs the new government must seek to reverse.

In other news - there appears to be coded whispers from certain activists looking to formulate homosexuality in the country. This is a non-starter because homosexuality is not an issue in the Gambia, and a slippery slope as that. public opinion cites that he should never be allowed to promote it, nor the practice of it.

A vile & detestable act condemned by Islam & Christian scriptures respectively; for a flawed seed deeply corrupted. In my view, there are limits to human rights, and one our European and American allies must learn to discern and to give credence to Senegambia-traditional-values given a chaotic world.

#Peace #Diplomacy #Jawara #Barrow

Author: Gibril Saine