Rebuttal – Secularism Debate Heightens Tension

Firstly, I would want the writer to define religious extremist?  This kind of unwarranted Islamophobia and derogatory characterization should be beneath your enlightenment but am not surprised.  It is indeed very disheartening that a person of such caliber would resort to such demeaning mischaracterization of our Muslim scholars and adherents whose only crime is to defend their religion and way of life.  How on earth can a Muslim criticize or worst loathe the proliferation of Islamic schools in the country as well as the veil and other modes of Islamic dress?  Honestly if you have problems with these then you should really re-evaluate your faith and thank God enemies of Islam like you are no where close to the decision-making apparatus of our country.  You are certainly fighting a lost battle because Allah has promise in Surah Saff (61:8) – “They want to extinguish the light of Allah with their mouths, but Allah will protect His light, although the disbelievers dislike it”.  I have always argued that confused so called intellectuals like this man are the greatest misfortune of this country.  May Allah help us.

Your shallow argument is clearly skewed towards your deviant secularist belief, so I wonder why you are hiding behind the sympathizer card.  The simplistic definition of secularism you mentioned in your piece conspicuously shows your bias and misinterpretation as it is disproportionate to your understanding of secularism.  To you and your fellow hypocrites, it means purging our society and public affairs with anything relating to Islam including symbols and places of worship.  If adhering to the tenets of our religion and defending it against all forms of incursion is what you call extremism, then be our guest.

In your own words “it is indeed quite dishonest for these extremists to deliberately misinterpret secularism as anti-religion when it simply means state neutrality with regards to religion, creating a level playing field within which all faiths can co-exist peacefully and harmoniously”.  To start with, your choice of words (extremists) for folks with genuine concern and fear over the relegation of religion from public space is not only unfair but highly offensive.  As to your oversimplified definition, it does not even support your ideal secular set up where you believe Islamic schools and veils should not be on the rise.  If this is not anti-religion but more specifically Islam, then you either suffering from amnesia or delusional.  Since you claim to be advocating for the rights of Christians: The National Council of Churches describes secularism as “a way of understanding and living that is indifferent to religion – in fact, not even concern enough to pay it any attention, much less oppose it”.  Pope Francis said “Today, in Europe, it is more important than ever to emphasize the spiritual and religious dimension of human life. In a society increasingly marked by secularism and threatened by atheism, we run the risk of living as if God did not exist”.   Therefore, it is without a doubt that this fight is purely against Islam and its spread but unfortunately for you, Allah has promised to protect and preserve His deen, so good luck with your hate because it will only eat you up.

Whatever impropriety that some of our brethren may have committed as a result of their association with the former President is regrettable but to err is human and to forgive is divine.  The country at large has learnt from the past, but we will not allow anyone to hold that stick over their heads just to silence them.  It is within our right to demand that our religious values remain sacrosanct and you should know better.  Claiming to be advocating for the rights of the Christians is disingenuous as we have lived together in peace for many years without any prejudice.   Article 151 (2b) unequivocally provides that the National Assembly “Shall not pass a bill to establish any religion as a state religion”.  If this is not enough for zealot secularist like you then it goes without saying that your battle is squarely to diminish the significance of Islam in our public life.  For the record, your fight is with Allah, His Messenger and the believers and no one throughout the annals of history has ever won that battle.

Finally, it baffles me that you all have the same talking points including referring to Senegal as an example.  For God sake, Gambia is not Senegal and what obtains there is not automatically fit for our society.  We are a sovereign nation and people and we are not bound by any other countries social values or systems.  Our country has never been a secular democracy and the term has never legally been part of any our constitutions, yet we have co-existed peacefully for decades.  We have never had the cause to make secularism as a fundamental principle in our constitution because the rights of all have always been guaranteed and I challenge any of you to produce a single evidence of prejudice against any minority group.  Let’s let sleeping dogs lie and stop fanning the sentiments of division and hypocrisy.  We pray that people like you never get anywhere near the decision-making machinery of this country ever.  If Allah intends good for you, He will guide you otherwise He will deal with you accordingly.

 Written By Bakary Sanneh

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