Shia Presence in Gambia:

Monday, June 23, 2008

Baba Leigh Replies to Abdoulie Fatty

In our front page story of Wednesday, June 18th  2008, Imam Abdoulie Fatty was quoted to have called on Gambians to be on their guard against possible advances of Shia adherents and apostles to lure them into embracing what he considered the heretic Shia doctrine. The remark has elicited a response from the Kanifing East Imam, Baba Leigh.

Below we reproduce the unedited version of Imam Leigh’s statement:

Islam preaches unity, which is its source of its strength and as far as the average Gambian Muslim is concerned that is their basic understanding regardless of culture and other associated beliefs. It is no exaggeration that there is a deep rooted history spanning close to two centuries binding Gambians and Lebanese regardless of what religious beliefs they follow. Therefore, they have never been seen as ‘threats’ to our peace, stability and unity both as a nation and faith. By extension, the presence of Iraqis or Iranians is very insignificant in terms of numbers. Some of those seen as Lebanese could no longer be regarded thus for the simple fact that some of them have had generations old ties with this country.

As religious leaders, it should be our major preoccupation to bring about strong ties of love and unity among people regardless of so-called religious differences. As an advocate of peace, and also knowing fully well that it is only in peace that we can have our congregation intact, we should not therefore, allow the intolerance besetting Islam in the outside world to creep into our religious tolerant Gambia. It is important for any outspoken religious leader to know his/her limitations and by extension understand the laws and constitution that govern The Gambia. No Imam for that matter is expected to promote discord among members of the ummah. It is important to note and appreciate the volume of contribution that the Lebanese community resident here are making towards the development of this country in the form of investment in business thus creating employment opportunities for our citizens and a lot of cash flow. Lebanese Muslims also contribute in no small measure during the Holy Month of Ramadan in the form of Ramadan gifts and ‘zakatul fitr’ as prescribed in the Holy Book towards the poor and needy. However, there arc those who judge such offers as attempts by the Lebanese in corrupting our people while when other Muslims provide such gifts within the same context they are celebrated, is this not biased and prejudiced judgement’?

I am making a singular appeal to all Gambians particularly the leaders of the Islamic faith to preach the true values of Islam as prescribed in the Holy Quran and Sunnah of the Holy Prophet Muhamed Sallahu Alahi Wasalam. I wish to make this submission as an honest and peace loving Muslim and of course a true son of the soil for peace, tolerance and unity. Whilst I am not out to hold brief for any interest group, I wish to state clearly that I am advocate of peace and religious tolerance who is not being bank rolled by any sect or group. Herein, I want ourselves to be more concerned with activities taking place right under our noses which are in contravention to basic Islamic teachings that such conferences should aimed to address. The so-called Shia Muslims have been here for a long time now and their presence has yet to be a threat to our peaceful co-existence, so please hands of that subject. If it is true that Saudi Arabia is the home of Islam and the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques of Medina and Mecca and yet they are accommodating all the so-called different sects in their midst, who are we not to attempt to do the same?

To conclude, I wish on my own behalf and on behalf of the rest of the Ummah in The Gambia, to apologise to our Lebanese, Iranian and Iraqi brothers and sisters for whom the

Sunday conference had caused any discomfort. It is good to draw the curtain on this subject reassuring all that they should always continue to see The Gambia as their home which is tolerant, accommodating and peaceful insallah to all Muslims and non-Muslims alike.

Source: Picture: Imam Baba Leigh