By Momodou Jarju
Philip Saine, a member of the Christian Community has told the Truth Commission (TRRC) that former Gambia President Yahya Jammeh was influenced by Dr. Zakir Naik, an Indian Islamic preacher, on Islamic fundamentalism which resulted to attacks against the Christian community in The Gambia.
Born in the same year with ex-president Jammeh (born 18 October 1965), Dr. Naik is also the founder of Peace TV.
Testifying on Monday, February 3, 2020, Mr. Saine said in 2014, Yahya Jammeh invited an Islamic scholar who is renowned for debates and for attacks on the Christian community, discrediting Christian values, and beliefs. Saine said Dr. Naik’s invitation into The Gambia was the beginning of all the series of harassment meted out to Christians in the country, including the driving of a vehicle inside a procession among others. He added that it was then some people started to get the nerves to attack them.
He explained: “Zakir came into The Gambia, made his preaching here and claimed to be knowledgeable in Bible knowledge and claimed that he even understood the bible and he quoted more than the Pope. These were not called for. What was the purpose of Zakir Naik visit? What was his theme of preaching Gambian community here? Was it to come here and attack Christianity? It seems so. And until he had an incident with a bold Christian who put a stop to it and said Zakir, please you’re going too far. Zakir you claiming to be knowledgeable in Bible, but you do not understand the Bible at all. You have wrong concepts, you misinterpret the Bible and she tried to correct him and asked him questions in a public gathering, Zakir couldn’t stop at that. At the end, he said because you are a woman, I don’t talk to a woman and that was how the lady was ushered out and while that was going on, President Yahya Jammeh was able to send a vehicle and an escort to take this girl home. Rescue her from people who threatened her in the hotel. Yahya Jammeh was watching.”
Born in 1951, Mr. Saine authored a book titled “Challenges of Gambian Churches During Yahya Jammeh’s Era.” His book was admitted as exhibit 116A and it addressed most of the challenges Christians grappled with under the mentioned period.
In his book, Saine indicated that Dr. Naik was in fact banned from entering Canada and UK due to his preaching, propagating violence within communities, disruption within societies, and creating intolerance among communities. He added that it was the same reason he was exiled from his country, India. According to him, Dr. Naik should not have been invited into the country.
He said a year after Dr. Naik came to the country, in 2015, Jammeh declared The Gambia an Islamic State, adding that the declaration brought shock among people because before the declaration, the country was a secular state. He said ex-president Jammeh promised to remove the constitution and bring in Shariah law. Saine said Jammeh refused to meet with Christian leaders who wanted to meet him to seek clarification about his declaration of The Gambia being an Islamic Republic.
“It’s not negotiable,” he said ex-president Jammeh emphasized.
He read his book quoting ex-president Jammeh saying idol worshiping would not be allowed in the country soon after the declaration was made. Saine said the problem about the declaration was that what used to be would now cease to be- which was a secular state. He said Jammeh thus exercised dictatorial power.
Speaking further, Saine said it was argued that the declaration was unconstitutional and the Christian community was aware that they had little powers in the court, judiciary, military, in terms of proportional population and in all areas. He said soon after the declaration, Islamic elders, including the Supreme Islamic Council and the Banjul Muslim Elders made a solidarity visit to the president to congratulate his move.
He said the move was an endorsement of an unconstitutional act. However, he said not all Gambians including Muslims were in agreement with the pronouncement; prominent of them included Halifa Sallah, OJ Jallow and Dr. Isatou Touray. He said even though it might be seen to be affecting a minority, it was a majority that was affected because Gambians are interrelated, both Muslims and non-Muslims were one.
“In fact I would say Yahya became a disciple of Zakir Naik,” he said.
The author said the Christians did not take the matter to court but instead relied on community cohesion among their Muslim brothers and sisters and also involved in prayers. He said the assurance from ex-president that religious tolerance will continue to exist was far from the truth to him. Nonetheless, Saine said the tangible efforts of Jammeh’s declaration unified the Christians and they joined together to fight Jammeh.
In retrospect, Saine said in 1988, he was working in Saudi Arabia- in the environmental and occupational health sectors. He worked there for about 21 years before he returned home. He said he came home in 2008 and the Diocese of Banjul hired him as a project manager for a year and he retired. He said growing in Banjul in a predominantly Muslim society; he said he never felt belonging to a minority group, saying everybody lived side by side harmoniously amid Muslims and non-Muslims.
“We shared everything. We shared the same schools, classes. We played football together. We shared the same bed together,” he said.
He said at that time, the ratios never affected him and there was never distinction between one another. He said even during Christmas they would prepare their feast and the Muslims would celebrate with them.
“It is a shame today we mention people by faith,” he said.
He said during Easter, Christians prepared porridge called “Naan buru” and shared it with neighbours, most of them Muslims. He said similarly when the Muslims have their feast called Tobaski, the Christians also celebrate it.
“The relationship between Muslims and Christians was too tight,” he said.
He said the social interaction was diminishing, saying remarks like ‘I wouldn’t go with this person because he or she is non-Muslim’ started emerging when the narrative started changing. He said it was during the last period of the second republic when the narrative started to change. Continue https://foroyaa.gm/trrc-witness-recount-challenges-christians-endured-under-jammeh/