columnBy Ousman Njie
Foroyaa wishes to tell the Gambian people that declaring Friday a non working day has nothing to do with promoting Islamic values. It is just another arbitrary decision that has been taken by the executive without any proper consultation. Now the apologists of the executive will take it up and try to justify the decision as a promotion of the Islamic faith.
Since the role of Foroyaa is to combat all mystification and misinformation we are duty bound to tell the Gambian people that the decision to extend the working day by two hours from Monday to Thursday in order to have Friday free should have been done after a proper evaluation of its impact on productivity and on families and communities. Since the state authorities and their apologists are relying on the religious justification for the decision we have no other choice but to challenge their misconception from the same angle.
First and foremost, genuine Islamic Scholars would tell you that unlike Judaism Islam has no Sabbath. Hence there is no day in Islam that one calls a non working Islamic day. There are only feasts which could fall on any day.
Secondly, Friday to Muslims should not be equated to Sunday in Christianity. In Islam the five daily prayers is what embodies a pillar of faith and that is an everyday affair. No single day is set aside for the five daily prayers. Hence to give a Muslim a whole day on Friday to attend only one Congregational prayer which he used to attend anyway by closing at 12.30 and have the whole weekend free while keeping him in office for both the 2pm and 5pm prayers for four days away from his or her children and Community where he used to perform 5pm Congregation prayer, and still claim that you are making him or her to perform his religious obligations better is an experiment with bad logic and faulty reasoning. Let the Government tell us another reason for its decision on the working days other than a religious justification.
The Gambian people should bear in mind that the religious tolerance that is in the Gambia did not arise from governments. Even the first head of state was at one time a Christian and converted only after being elected by a largely Muslim electorate. Banjul has had both Mayors and Councillors of Muslim and Christian origin.
Foroyaa advocates for a state that has its hands off religion and religious leaders, a state whose leaders would not use religion as a tool for maintaining or coming to office but would instead respect and uphold a secular constitution which makes freedom to belong to a religion and perform religious rites a fundamental right of all citizens that is protected by law and should be enforced by the courts regardless of whether the judge is of Christian origin or not.
The greatest tragedy in modern times as we have seen in Mali is looters of state treasuries reinventing themselves as leaders of armies in the name of Islam and take pride in cutting the hands of people without the ability to pay for a day's meal in the name of fighting theft and implementing Shariah. Kings and Presidents who accumulate the sovereign wealth of a people as their own have no moral authority to cut the hands of people who steal chicken to have a day's meal. Their duty is to liberate such a person from poverty.
Foroyaa calls on the executive to free Baba Leigh and leave religious affairs to be handled by the religious scholars who should constructively debate issues to convince each other on the basis of the profundity of their knowledge and the density of their argument. This is the way forward in the relation between the state and religion.