By Sailou Bah
As an event that takes place annually after the Eid el Fitr or Koriteh prayers marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan from the colonial period to date, the Muslim elders of Banjul on Monday, 28 July 2014, paid a courtesy call on the president of the republic at state house.
The event has traditionally been used as an occasion for the Banjul Committee of Elders to meet with the executive and discuss issues concerning the Muslim community, in particular, and the society, in general.
In his introductory remarks, Alhaji Alieu Mboge, Secretary General of the Banjul Committee of Elders, said their committee which was established since 1905 is the leading body that supervises and coordinates the smooth running of the main three mosques in Banjul, namely the King Fahad Mosque at Box Bar road, the half die Mosque and the Independence drive mosque.
He said the Committee also collaborates with the Supreme Islamic Council and the office of the President.
He also announced the changes of the names of the Half Die and Independence Drive mosques to the Abubacarr Sadikh and Omar bun Khatab mosques respectively.
Mboge condemned the Boko Haram in Nigeria for abducting and selling young girls for selfish purposes and said they have consulted with the Bishop of Banjul to extend their support and solidarity to their counterparts in Nigeria.
He thanked the president for giving them D400, 000 (Four hundred thousand dalasi) as a Koriteh gift.
For his part, Alhagie Cherno Alieu Mass Kah, the Imam Ratib of Banjul, thanked God for the day as well as the president.
He decried the attempts being made by young people to go to Europe through the “Back way.” He blamed the parents for allowing and giving their children money to undertake these journeys. He said people should not be in a haste to get rich overnight as Allah has already decided what they should get in life. He urged the imams and religious preachers to use their sermons and preaching to denounce the “Back way” phenomenon.
Imam Kah also said people in the diaspora should stop tarnishing the image of the country and instead think about how to develop it.
He said people should embrace the president’s go back to the land initiative.
Alhagie Momodou Lamin Touray, president of the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council, reiterated the comments made by the previous speakers and said Muslims should be positive towards each other. He said peace is what enables them to come there to discuss as there are other countries that are presently at war and people are suffering and dying.
He called for unity and for people to follow the instructions of their leaders.
Touray said the SIC has never taken a decision on its own without consulting with partners in Africa, Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries regarding the sighting of the moon. He said the Council is open to any genuine critics and it also encourages ideas from other Muslims.
The SIC president explained their policy of registering Islamic preachers who use the media.
Alh. Junaidi Jallow, Vice Chairman of the Banjul Committee of Elders, said they always liaise with the SIC in all their activities. He prayed for peace to reign in the country.
Ebrima Jagana, a teacher at the Imam Malick Institute also spoke and hailed the president.
On the side of the executive, Dr Abubacar Senghore, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, thanked the president and congratulated the Muslim elders and the muslim Ummah for yet another Eid el Fitr.
Dr. Senghore condemned those officials who are given responsibilities but failed to deliver. He denounced them for giving priority to personal issue rather than national interest.
He said he is urging all and sundry to participate in developing the country rather than tarnishing its image.
Ms. Fatou Lamin Faye, the Minister of Basic and Secondary Education, for her part, also lamented the ‘back way’ to Europe journeys being undertaken by young people in search of greener pastures and blamed parents for condoning and supporting them.
Mr. Balla Garba Jahumpa, Minister of Transport, Works and Infrastructure andNational Assembly Matters, also took the floor and thanked the president for his work.
For her part, Madam Isatou Nje Saidy, the vice president, also called on Gambians in the diaspora to take ownership of the country rather than engage in tarnishing its image.
In his response to the comments made by the various speakers, Yahya Jammeh, the President of the Republic, cited the ongoing violence in some Muslim countries and blamed the Western governments of being behind it. He condemned the Muslim extremists groups like Boko Haram for killing innocent people.
He talked about tolerance in Islam and said no one should force the other to your beliefs as there is no compulsion in religion.
“We are Gambians and we should try to devote ourselves to our norms and values as Africans but not as Western people because we will never be like them,” he said.
He said parents should inculcate good moral values in their children.
The president threatened to deal with anyone who decides to pray on the next day. He said since Saudi Arabia was observing the Koriteh feast on that day, everybody in the country should do the same.