Religious matters are always sensitive

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Gambia is a secular state, making it very possible for distinct religions to practice freely and this is what makes us as model in terms of religious tolerance.

Our Scripture teaches us that there is no compulsion in religion.

The former State House imam, Abdoulie Fatty, who is in defense of the Supreme Islamic Council’s petition against issuance of TV licence to the Ahmadiyya in The Gambia said he is willing to take Imam Baba Leigh on debate over the issue.

He accused Imam Leigh for always militating against the Supreme Islamic Council, saying he speaks against anything that is denied by the countries Islamic leaders.

“Imam Baba Leigh is the one who supported family planning and female genital mutilation in the country when all the religious leaders condemned them,” Imam Fatty said.

It is not new to see or hear scholars exchange views especially when they disagree on issues. That is what the scholarship is all about. Imam Malick once said that apart from Allah and His Messenger, whosoever says anything, take some and leave some.

But one of the reasons that make The Gambia a Smiling Coast of Africa is our religious tolerance. The fact that religious tolerance is sensitive and complex issue, dealing with it requires not just a knowledge, but broad and fundamental to avoid stirring the minds of those who know little or nothing around the subject.

Because it’s a sensitive issue, it is not a thing to downplay as religious intolerance has sent and still sending many states and nations into unending disputes and civil unrest.

Zainab Al-Suwaij, co-founder of the American Islamic Congress once said: “We have to respect others and we have to understand and not discriminate on the basis of faith. ... When people do not talk and communicate, everything around them becomes dehumanized. ... When you mix politics and religion, you get the worst of everything.”

Christianity and Islam are two religions that that are well known in the world and in most countries like ours, they are living peacefully. But also, the reality is that the peoples of these two religions are the same people here who share the same values and culture. This is what makes us different as a society.

History teachers us some of the wars that have been fought in the name of religion – from Germany Peasants’ War to the Lebanese Civil War and from the Nigerian Civil War to the Sudanese First and Second Wars.

The Sudanese First Was is also referred to as the Anyanya I, because of the rebels who participated in the war. It was fought on the Sudan borders in between the military of Sudan and the Anyanya guerrilla forces. It’s a rough estimate that about 10,000 soldiers participated from both sides, and that it lasted for more than 16 years, starting from 1955 and ending at 1972. It was only fought because of ethnic and religious difference between Muslims and Christians. The worst thing about the First Sudanese Civil War is that, by the time it was over, there were already more than half a million deaths of soldiers and civilians.

“Religion is meant to teach us true spiritual human character. It is meant for self-transformation. It is meant to transform anxiety into peace, arrogance into humility, envy into compassion, to awaken the pure soul in man and his love for the Source, which is God.”

Radhanath Swami