Editorial: Sheikh Umar Futi Shrine and Gunjur’s cultural heritage
Sheikh Umar Tal was born in the upper valley of the Sénégal River, in the land of the Tukulor people. But his legacy and exploits reverberate far beyond the territorial confines of his empire.
One of the places he is believed to have visited is the renown Gunjur mosque, which attracts thousands of pilgrims annually.
The place, under the leadership and persistent branding of Imam Baba Leigh had become so popular former president Jammeh had to intervene to wrest control of it. Pilgrims made journeys from all parts of the world including Europe, Asia and United States.
Gunjur stands to reap immense socio-economic benefits from the heritage, but the development of the site has been scuppered by opposition from Saudi-trained preachers who take a dim view of the place.
Instead of developing the place and promoting the annual pilgrimage, the place has been allowed to deteriorate and turned into a Quranic recitation center where children are kept under unsafe conditions and exposed to the elements. It would be recalled one of the children being sheltered at the holy shrine plunged to his death in a clear case of negligence.
Other places around the world like Saudi Arabia and Touba in Senegal have built multi-billion dollar economies on pilgrimage with immense socio-economic benefits. It’s extremely unfair to allow Saudi-trained extremists to deny the people of their cultural heritage.