#Article (Archive)

Let there be freedom of Conscience

Jul 3, 2014, 9:33 AM

As usual, Muslims in the Senegambia region did not start fasting on the same day. Many started on Sunday, and some on Monday. This has been the trend all these past years.

Yet it is obvious that those who started fasting on Sunday were right. It was obvious to those who did their sighting of the moon on Sunday evening, that the phase of the crescent moon was plainly too visible to be said to have first appeared on that Sunday.

Thus, everyone must be left to the dictates of his or her conscience.

In fact, we must insist on freedom of religion, of thought and conscience – all guaranteed by our constitution!

This means it would be wrong to insist that we all do things at the same time.

With all the Muslim religious sects or caliphates and their talibes in our sub region, it would lead to conflicts, of the type now seen in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, if we say all must conform.

What can happen is to use or rely on moral persuasion.

There must not be any compulsion. As we all know, Islam abhors compulsion.

Moreover, as the Senegalese Islamic scholar, Alhaji Moustapha Gueye, always declares whenever he is preaching (in Wollof): Yalla reka ham – meaning only Allah knows [who is right or what is correct]. Again, it also means – everyone is preaching, saying this and that, but only God knows the truth!

So let there be no compulsion – unless we want to provoke religious conflicts – the sort prevalent in pre-colonial Senegambia, when jihadists embarked on wars to convert the indigenes to Islam.

As for the businesspeople, people have been complaining that the price of basic foods have soared, making life difficult for everybody in a country where only a few can claim to be comfortable.

However, on this issue too, it is important to remind ourselves that we have a free market system, and businesspeople involved in the import and wholesale business, and those in retail are free to sell at whatever price, especially the imported foodstuff.

Let the market forces have free rein, and let consumers have a choice and the chance to decide whether or not to purchase a particular commodity.

Indeed, in a free market, the consumers must also be able to decide whether or not to boycott businesses or goods and services they feel are unreasonably priced, or which are of questionable quality.

In any case, it is well known that “raising prices reduces purchases”; and, so let us put the ball in the court of the businesspeople and petty traders.

Let us allow them to choose, either to be fair to the consumer, and be rewarded by Allah, that is, if they are God-fearing; or allow greed (one of the seven deadly sins) to motivate them, as they engage in profit-seeking and filling their bellies with fire.

“Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits”.

Thomas Jefferson