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You are free to worship but… Jammeh tells Muslim leaders

Aug 21, 2012, 11:08 AM | Article By: Lamin B. Darboe

President Yahya Jammeh on Sunday held the traditional annual meeting with Muslims leaders from across the country, during which he stated emphatically that people in the country are free to worship as long as their worship does not entail spreading hatred and disrespect to society.

The meeting, held every year immediately after the Eid-ul Fitr prayer to mark the end of Ramadan, brought together Muslims elders in Banjul and from across the country, heads of religious sects, and cabinet members at State House.

Speaking on the occasion, President Jammeh said one can do his preaching and can worship anywhere he or she wants, but acts of intimidation will not be tolerated, stressing that anyone found wanting in the country will be dealt with.

“I also want to warn ‘Markas’. Nobody appointed you to be religious police in this country and if you don’t cut your tails short, I will cut it to your waist,” he warned, adding that they (the Markas) should mind their business, and leave women alone.

“Embarrassing people’s wives in public is not your business and, as from now, stay in your locations. I don’t want to see any Markas moving from one place to another,” he said, adding further that the Markas cannot teach Gambians anything that they don’t know in Islam.

Noting that the idea of going round creating mayhem and hatred is unacceptable, Jammeh tasked the police and other security forces to put a stop to it.

“They (the Markas) can worship anywhere they want, but religion of hatred cannot be imposed on people in this country because what they are doing is not Islamic and is unacceptable,” he stated.

Commenting further on the increasing rate of crime in the country, especially murder, Jammeh said the laws of the land will be applied to the letter.

According to Jammeh, instead of Gambians heeding his advice on the increasing number of crimes, things have gone too far and he would make sure that he puts a stop to it.

“If you don’t want your relative to be killed, tell your relative not to kill somebody’s relative illegally; in fact, nobody have the right to take somebody’s life. So, I don’t want any letters or delegation to come and appeal to me. Enough is enough!

“The killing is on the increase up to the point where foreigners will come and kill foreigners in this country,” he stated.

This, he said, is not going to happen again, stressing that anybody who kills will see what is going to happen.

“I will set an example to all those who have been condemned, because as a Muslim, you cannot be swearing to the Holy Quran saying that you uphold the constitution of the country and then deviate from that. I am here to make sure that the rule of law prevails in this country, and I will do it to the letter,” Jammeh added.

Also speaking at the meeting was Fatou Lamin Faye, minister of Basic and Secondary Education, who called on Gambians to nurture the peace and stability in the country.

Dr Ebrima Malick Samba, chairman of the Committee of Banjul Muslim Elders, called for President Jammeh’s prayers for the nation because, as he put it, the Gambian leader has done so much for the country since coming to power in 1994.

Alhagie Baba F. Trawally, Amir of the Ahmadiyaa Muslim Jamaa’t in The Gambia, said Gambians are grateful to the Almighty Allah, adding that as Muslims they will always pray to the Almighty Allah to give President Jammeh the strength to develop this country.

“You can only develop this country if we come together and support each other, and we should follow the leadership for what they are doing in the country so that we can get what we are yearning for,” Amir Trawally stated.

He also urged the religious leaders, especially the imams, in the country to preach during their Friday sermons what the Almighty Allah said, rather than base their sermons on castigating people.

Muhammed Lamin Touray, President of the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council (GSIC), said as the main Islamic body in the country, his council is not working in isolation.

“We always consult or engage our regional committees across the country on matters pertaining to the sighting of the moon, and even in this Holy month of Ramadan, we consulted the newly setup Islamic organization whose headquarters is in Mali on the sighting of the month,” Touray stated.

Other speakers included Alhagie Kawsu Jammeh, Alhagie Momodou Manneh, Ousainou Jallow, Muhammed Sukufara, and Imam Rabia of the Lebanese Community in The Gambia.