HOW TO AVOID DOUBLE STANDARDS PRAYING ON DIFFERENT DAYS, THE STATE AND Dr Naik

During the Eid ul Fitr prayers, the executive established double standards by issuing an order for those in Western Region, Kanifing Municipality and Banjul to pray on the same day, while those in order regions could pray on another day. Hence two different days were observed for the Muslim feast.

On the other hand, governors were reported to have issued notice for all regions to pray on the same day during the Eid ul Adha prayers. This was not adhered to. The people prayed on different days.

The state brought a guest in the person of Dr Naik to deliberate on religious matters. The question on praying on different days was put to him. He did explain the two different types of sighting of the moon which he acknowledges has led to Muslims praying on different days even in India. He advised that to avoid controversy Muslims could adhere to the advice of a Muslim leader to pray on the same day. What he was not asked is whether any leader should utilise arrest, detention and trial in a secular court for non adherence to the dictate of the leader of a secular state who has sworn to govern by a constitution which calls for the protection and upholding of freedom of religious belief and practice.

In our view, the state needs to rethink its decision to threaten to arrest people who pray on days not stipulated by its executive. It is not in line with the principle of equity and justice to punish one person for conduct which others are left to be free to exercise. This would constitute a miscarriage of justice.

Needless to say, where miscarriage of justice is possible, the Attorney General is empowered to approve intervention of the Director of Public Prosecution, under Section 85 of the Constitution, to terminate or discontinue criminal proceedings before judgment is delivered.

It would therefore be advisable to discontinue all cases induced by the recent controversies and use dialogue to promote harmony.