Friday, May 12, 2017

Gambia: Authorities Urged To Safeguard Religious Freedoms


"A group of Tallinding Markazi youths did not want the deceased to be buried in the graveyard and they were backed by the Tallinding Police.”

Times of Ahmad | News Watch | UK Desk
Source/Credit: Jollof News
By JollofNews | May 11, 2017

Gambia’s Ahmaddiya Muslim Jama’at have called on the regime of President Adama Barrow to monitor and avert Muslim extremism for the peace, security and stability of the Gambia.

Alhaji Ebrahima Mbowe, deputy Amir III of the Jama’at said extremism has destroyed the fabrics of some countries and Gambian authorities must take strong measures to safeguard peace and religious freedoms in the country.

The Jama’at is is coming under increased persecution by the country’s predominant Sunni Muslim sect who have rejected them as non-Muslims and have tried in recent times to ban them from burying their followers in Muslim cemeteries.

Last Saturday, a standoff erupted in Tallinding village, Kanifing Municipal Council (KMC) between Sunni Muslims and Ahmadis over the burial of  a 70-year-old member of the Ahmaddiya Muslim Jama’at, Kebba Sanneh of Tallinding Sicap, at the town’s cemetery. The standoff was resolved following an intervention by the police.

Commenting on the incident, deputy Amir Mbowe said: “This was simply a situation where Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at had bereavement and wanted to bury their loved one in a community Muslim graveyard in a place where the deceased lived, worked and paid taxes for over three decades. However, a group of Tallinding Markazi youths did not want the deceased to be buried in the graveyard and they were backed by the Tallinding Police.”

He added: “Brother Kebba Sanneh of Tallinding Sicap, a very sincere Ahmadi Muslim, passed away in the early hours of Saturday 4th May 2017 and was scheduled to be buried at 2pm the same day.  At around 10am on the same day a group of young men were dispatched by the Jama’at to go to the graveyard to dig the grave.  The young men went to the Kabila Alkalo to get the key and they did and after digging returned the key to the same person.

“Around mid-day of the same day, the Jama’at received a telephone call from a watchman at the residence of the deceased to say that there is a problem for he was told by the Imam of the area that burial cannot be done in that graveyard because the deceased Kebba was an Ahmadi.

“The Amir dispatched a team of six Jama’at elders to go to the area to investigate what was going on.  The team started at the Kabila Imam’s residence where they met the Imam, Alhaji Bakary Ceesay, and asked what the issue was surrounding the burial of Brother Kebba Sanneh.  The Imam said he got word that Brother Kebba should not be buried in the graveyard but does not know much so he directed the team to the Village Alkalo, Ebou Badjie.

“The team then went to the Village Alkalo and made the same enquiry but he was found to be sick.  He referred the team to the ‘Kabila’ Alkalo, Ebrima Badjie. Upon arrival at the Kabila Alkalo’s place, he was very receptive.  When the team narrated what they have been through the Kabila Alkalo responded that a group of young men came to him and said that they needed a paper from him to say that this corpse should not be buried in the cemetery.  He told them that he did not have authority to do so, let them go to his boss, the Village Alkalo.  If he, the Alkalo, writes, appends his signature and affixes the stamp, then he will carry out the orders.  According to the Kabila Alkalo they left and never returned.  He told the team that the cemetery key was with him and whenever they are ready for the burial let them come for the key and he will give them.  The team then left but also made it clear to the Kabila Alkalo that burial will take place as scheduled.

“When the team left the Kabila Alkalo’s place they decided to go to the police to seek protection from any eventuality.  When the team reached the station, there were about three ‘Markazi young Muslims’ who were at the station for the same purpose giving their own version of the story.  The team narrated what they were there for and the female Sargent who was there immediately responded that the burial will have to wait [and] let them consult their superiors for instructions.  The team asked what instructions? There is a corpse to be buried the time is near. In the meantime the female sergeant called one of her bosses who in turn called one of the members of the team to tell us to wait for instructions from above.  The officer who called the team member was O.C. Superintendent Samba Jawo who instructed that burial should not take place until he gives orders.

” In the meantime there was commotion in the station each one wanted to talk at the same time and be heard.  The team decided to leave  and give report to the Amir and then proceed with the burial rites.  At that point the police officers there expressed the wish to go to the cemetery to keep peace but lamented that they had no transport.  One of the team members used his vehicle to transport them to the cemetery.

“At 2pm, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at left the Ahmadiyya Muslim Hospital at Tallinding with the body for burial.  Upon arrival at the gate of the cemetery, there were the police men and a woman at the gate together with few of the “Markazi” young men.

“The Police had already collected the key from the Kabila Alkalo and refused to open the gate.    After the Janaza the Jama’at headed to the gate to go in but were stopped by the police who were at the locked gate telling us to be patient and wait for instructions.  That wait took well over an hour with both the corpse and sympathizers under the hot burning sun.  As the wait got longer tempers grew hotter and patience almost ran out.

“At every point the Amir was just admonishing the Jama’at to be calm and exercise patience.  This same Tallinding Police Station was behind the first burial issue between the Jama’at and the younger brother of Alkalo of Tallinding in August 2015.  They have repeated it again.  Is the Tallinding Police doing the same thing to other religious sects’ dead bodies?

“The team member that O.C. Jawo spoke to called the Police Commissioner of Administration and explained the situation to him.  Commissioner Admin then dispatched Officer King Colley of the Police Intervention Unit (PIU) to come to the scene and correct the situation.

“Upon King Colley’s arrival and seeing the situation, he asked for the key, open the door and allowed the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jama’at to carry on with the burial rites in peace.  Had the Tallinding Police not collaborated with those Markazi youths but opened the gate just when the corpse arrived, the situation would not have reached the level it did. The Tallinding Police created the commotion and we are holding them responsible for it.

“At this point in time we are not welling into who is a Muslim or who is not.  We have dealt with that in October/November 2014, January 2015 and September of 2015.  We are not seeking any stamp of approval from any individual or group to confirm that we are Muslims.  It is our fundamental human rights as Muslims to bury our dead bodies in Muslim cemeteries.  It is the duty of the police to protect our fundamental rights instead of endangering them, and should be neutral and impartial when intervening in situations like this.

“The authorities must watch and avert extremism in this country covertly or overtly for the peace security and stability of the country because extremism has destroyed the fabrics of some countries.  This is why the Holy founder of Islam, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) asked his followers to take moderate path in their actions. We pray to Allah Almighty to enable the entire country to cherish and enjoy existing peace and to safeguard the fundamental rights of every citizen so that we live in harmony.”


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