May 13, 2009, 6:43 AM
“Let me make it very clear [that] here in this country, we go by Suratul Kafiruna. We leave judgment to the Almighty Allah”, President Yahya Jammeh declared at State House in Banjul.
The occasion was the traditional meeting with Muslim elders after the Eid al Fitr congregational prayer on Monday.
President Jammeh’ s audience included members of the government, members of the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council (GSIC), members of the Committee of Banjul Muslim Elders and the Imam Ratib of Banjul, as well as other imams and Muslim elders in the Greater Banjul area.
The event was broadcast on national radio and television.
He spoke in reaction to comments made at the meeting by various speakers, among them the president of the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council, Alhaji Muhammdu Lamin Touray.
Imam Touray told the meeting that unlike in past years when the matter was affected by controversy, this year the moon was sighted in The Gambia in several places (to mark the beginning as well as the end of Ramadan), and that except for a few imams who chose not to do so, the vast majority of imams and Muslims performed the Eid prayer on Monday.
This happened to be the days when Muslims in Saudi Arabia also started and ended fasting during this year’s Ramadan, Imam Touray added.
Jammeh said at Monday’s meeting: “I would not allow people to divide this land, because it is also in the Quran that we should not allow anybody to divide Islam or Muslims.
“Those who say they would not pray as they are waiting for ndigal; they would not be allowed to pray here; let them go where their serigne is and pray there; tomorrow (Tueday) nobody will be allowed to pray here. I am the ruler in this country”.
He went on to give instructions to the Local Government minister, who was asked to instruct governors, chiefs and alkalos to dismiss the imams who failed to pray on Monday from their mosques, “or I will close down the mosque”.
The minister of the Interior was also instructed at the meeting to make sure nobody performed the Eid congregational prayer on Tuesday.
Representatives of the GSIC and Police High Command later came on national television to clarify the issue to the nation.
It was announced that Muslims resident in the Lower River, North Bank, Central River and Upper River regions of the country are allowed to attend and perform the Eid al Fitr congregational prayer on Tuesday morning in these provincial areas.
They will be allowed to do so, because it was likely that due to local communication difficulties, they did not hear the radio and television announcement put out by the GSIC for Muslims in The Gambia to pray on Monday 28 July.
However, Muslims in Banjul, the Kanifing Municipality and West Coast Region must not congregate to perform the Eid prayer on Tuesday, as they were aware of the announcement by the GSIC that Monday was the day for the Eid prayer in The Gambia.
It was further stated that henceforth, all Muslims resident in the country must perform the Eid prayers – the Eid al Fitr and Eid ul Adha – on the same day in each year, as the GSIC will specify in a public announcement, for such congregational prayer to be held in the country.
Police commissioner Ceesay in charge of Kanifing Division on behalf of the Police High Command announced that the police will be out to carry out the instruction for Muslims not to pray on Tuesday morning in the specified areas of the country, and asked for public cooperation.
President Jammeh, during the meeting in Banjul with the country’s Muslim elders, went on as follows:
“W are followers of what the Quran and the sunnah of the Prophet prescribe. If you are a true Muslim, there is no edict to wait for, beyond that from Saudi Arabia.
“Those who wait for other ndigal could as well go to pray there, but nobody will pray tomorrow in Gambia”, and that whoever goes against this order will face the consequences.
He added that nobody will be allowed to use politics to divide Muslims or create divisions in Islam. “Creating partners to Allah is unIslamic and will not take root here; as it is not the Islamic religion; the ndigal is not for this country; in this country, we are practising pure Islam; whether one likes it or not”.
Jammeh said Islam is not compatible with anarchy; and sowing division will also not be tolerated.
“If you do not accept the GSIC, that is your problem. However, Maccah (Saudi Arabia) prayed today (Monday), and we have no model to follow other than Maccah…
He added that those who live in The Gambia must follow the pure Islam or leave the country, as there will be “no compromise” on this policy.
Meanwhile, our reporters were out to monitor the situation, and there were no reports of a congregational prayer in the areas where such prayer was proscribed.