Opinion: Simmering religious tension in Gambia
By Basidia M Drammeh:
On the heels of a bitter leadership contest between the current leadership of the Supreme Islamic Council and its main challenger, Rawadhatul Majales, religious tension is steadily mounting in the Gambia, amid deafening silence on the part of the Government.
At the heart of contention is an argument by Rawdhatul Majales that the SIC has already served out its mandate almost a year ago and should, therefore, organize a fresh election to elect into office a new executive. According to the Group, it has reached out to the SIC to call its attention to this issue but their call fell on deaf ears. During a recent tour, the Rawdha, which mainly draws its members from traditional learning centers (Majales), decided to select Sheriff Nano Hydara as the de facto President of the Supreme Islamic Council. The Group’s spokesperson has described the decision as unanimous and spontaneous. On the other hand, the SIC, which considers the Rawdha as an illegal entity that has never been registered under it as an umbrella organization for all Islamic structures operating in the country, frowned at the decision. In a rare press release, the SIC described the move as unilateral and a violation of the SIC Constitution. Amid this standoff, the fanatic supporters of each side are trading insults and issuing threats on social media platforms, particularly WhatsApp which has become a tool to undermine and castigate the leadership of each group. The heated exchanges have triggered fears that the country is on a path towards religious strife, particularly between those who continue to follow in the footsteps of our forefathers in terms of the way the Islamic religion is taught and practised and Arabists who have largely received their education in the Arab world and are critical of certain orthodox practices of Islam. In other words, they challenge certain time-honoured norms and beliefs, such as Gamo, for instance. As tension mounts between the two rivals, the Government remains mute over the issue. It’s high time that the Presidential advisor for religious affairs and the minister for religious affairs Dembo Bojang and Musa Drammeh respectively urgently engage all the stakeholders and invite both parties to a negotiating table to iron out any differences that might exist to avert a looming religious crisis in our country. On the other hand, rational people on both sides should intervene to douse the flames of disunity before our small country is engulfed in a full-blown religious crisis. The longer the tussle lingers on unresolved, the more likely that the country would descend into the abyss of a monumental catastrophe.
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