Sunday, February 12, 2012

Beyond the Moon

If Allah had condemned Adama and Awa to earth for eating the forbidden fruit in Heaven, are Gambians punishing their Islamic religious leaders for crossing the forbidding border line? KISSYKISSYMANSA quizzes?

When Abdoulie Fatty, imam of State House mosque reacted to a newspaper story on Iran’s threatening of The Gambia over alleged Gambia-bound controversial arms shipment from UN-sanctioned Iran, one wonders whether he got a new cabinet assignment. Or better still appointed press secretary.
On numerous occasions, when this learned imam makes certain political statements in favour of Gambian president Yahya Jammeh, the fear that he would replace the chief propagandist of ruling-APRC is indeed justifiable.
Imam Abdoulie Fatty, one of The  Gambia’s most revered religious leaders was once popular among Muslims in The  Gambia and beyond for his uncorrupted stance on Islam.
But like many religious leaders in today’s Gambia, he seems to be carried away by islamically questionable patronages of certain individuals. He focuses more on glorifying them than what Allah and His messenger ordain be glorified.     
One of imam Fatty’s recent bombshells came when took a big risk by vowing, in Allah’s name, that our retired military lieutenant cum head of state, who got married only after assuming the high office, never had a girl-friend.
Of course, under the circumstances, it could be seen as way-too-risky for anyone to come-out public to debunk the venerable imam on this particular issue. Nonetheless this could be suicidal for a religious leader. How could he go that far?
But forget for now imam Abdoulie Fatty. The reality is that every stratum of Gambian society looks up to one man in the person of President Yahya Jammeh for their survival. And The Gambia is apparently transformed from an ‘aid country’ to a ‘beggar country.’ Everyone is reduced to civilize beggar.
Musicians – local and international - have ignored the burning social issues in the country – grinding poverty, rising prices of commodities and undue restrictions on fundamental rights and freedoms. They build their songs around the person of the president.
Writers write poems, novels among other literary works, praising and glorifying him even when some of them do not buy in the content of their own works.
Some medical doctors have left their field of study to settle for something different even when patients are dying of diseases they could treat.
Lawyers have turned to him for mercy even when they had denied any wrongdoing.
Patients and their families have turned to him looking for sponsorship for overseas medical treatment even when it does not cost a fortune to provide those medical equipment and facilities in our hospitals.
Footballers turned to him for support even though they are yet to convince the fans that they worth supporting.
Poor subsistence farmers offer assistance in his highly mechanised farms even when grasses outgrow the crops in their own farms.
Soldiers display unreserved loyalty even when alleged attempted military coups are commonplace.
Of course in a country where this ‘survival in the system’ even if you do not support the system and its projects has become a way of life, religious leaders are apparently not left behind in the grand scheme of deception and betrayal of public trust.
In fact, in today’s Gambia, the temptation of religious leaders becoming obsessed with political power and influence and by extension to show support for a particular politician or political office against even innocent critiques is quite distinguished.
In 2010, when the Supreme Islamic Council joined the president’s nationwide tour team, its president, Momodou Lamin Touray, perhaps aware of the apparent disapproval, was quick to defend his council’s integrity.
According to him, the Council had planned to embark on a nationwide tour to meet with Islamic religious elders on pertinent issues pertaining to the religion. But, then they were informed about the president’s constitutionally required annual dialogue with the people and decided to do it together to save cost.
But now that he and his executive members deliberately attend meetings that are political in every respect, make biased political statements; one would wonder what would this time be the excuse.
However, as musicians have their albums unsold for ignoring social issues, writers have their books unread, the religious leaders, too, have lost their following for abandoning God for Man.
This does not say that the theory of separation of the mosque or the church and State does mean the separation of the mosque or the church from the broader society, of which the mosque, the church and state are integral parts. How they relate to each other within that context is the real issue.
In fact, religious leaders should cooperate with the state in the promotion of the common good, but they should refrain from donating money, travel or other material support for political purposes and neither should they receive similar gestures for political purposes.
Unfortunately, what seem to exist in The Gambia is that our religious leaders risk undercutting those values thereby diminishing their moral voice since they failed to transcend partisanship and align themselves with one side of the political divide.
They have blurred the lines between what should be rendered unto politics and what to render unto God. No less than self-aggrandising religious leaders, they pompously meddle in the political realm as a boastful powerbroker thereby diminishing their moral authority and integrity.
Perhaps this explains why the Supreme Islamic Council is confronted with a daunting task of unifying the country’s Muslim community under one umbrella especially during Muslim feasts.
For instance, the council had declared that the country will follow the Mecca calendar to observe Tobaski on Sunday Nov.6, but a greater number of Gambians observed the feast on Monday.
While adherence to a different, but equally authentic Islamic teachings is a ground for many Muslims communities’ failure to observe the feast on supreme Islamic council declared dates, there is also no denying that the controversy is beyond the sighting of the moon. It is not just about the moon, but a crisis of credibility and integrity the council is faced with.


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