The president of the Republic has disclosed that The Gambia has offered to host the 2019 Summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), during its just concluded 12th Summit held in Cairo, Egypt.
His Excellency Sheikh Professor Alhaji Dr Yahya Jammeh made the disclosure Friday morning at the Banjul International Airport upon arrival from the 57-member OIC Cairo summit. He said The Gambia was supposed to host the event since 2003 but it was shifted to a different country due to certain reasons.
His words: "It was supposed to be Gambia from Doha but what happened was that you all know that the former prime minister of Malaysia was a true friend of Africa. He has always stood by African liberation and he requested that he be given the chance to host it because he was going to retire after that summit. His wish then, was to host the OIC summit before leaving office and he is somebody who stood for us [Africa] so he cannot request something as simple as that and we say no. That was going to be a big embarrassment for him.
"It was supposed to be The Gambia from Malaysia but due to an outrageous campaign by a country I decided to let them host it but I made it very clear this time around that after Turkey The Gambia is going to host it which was put in the communiqué that the 2019 summit be held in The Gambia and at least we have six years to prepare; that is the most important thing, because as a small country we cannot prepare for the OIC in three years. We have six years to prepare just the same way we took eight years to prepare for the AU Summit. We want to make sure that whatever we host is the best."
President Jammeh at this juncture used the opportunity to thank Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other countries that supported The Gambia's bid to host the 2019 OIC Summit. "I also want to thank the Gambian people for their prayers because without their prayers there is no way we are going to have it," he added.
Key message at the Cairo Summit
Central in the Gambian leader's message at the Cairo Summit was the need for the OIC to engage the non-Muslim world and educate them on what Islam is all about as opposed to how it is perceived nowadays. "I thank the Almighty Allah for this year's summit being one of the most successful. And I also thank God that now Muslims know what the non-Muslims' agenda is," said President Jammeh, while assuring of solutions to resolve these problems within a short period of time.
"That is our wish but you know problems like these conflict situations were a lot of people have died even if you put an end to the actual violence there are lots of grievances. The wounds are so deep and it takes years to heel them, but what is more important is that if we all go back to the teachings of the Holy Quran, the Prophet Muhammad (SAW), I think all these conflicts would not have started in the first place because Allah enjoins all Muslims to choose the part of dialogue and not violence and the part of forgiveness and patience, instead of confrontation and hatred," he remarked.
He continued: "My message to them was very clear, because when you look at all the problems in the world today, it is Muslims killing Muslims. This is very sad and the only supreme authority that can intervene legally is the OIC. You will be surprised to know that at the OIC level we don't have a Security Council so if you have a problem we take it to the UN Security Council where most of the members are not even Muslims and they cannot judge based on a religion they don't even know. We wish that these problems are solved immediately, but as I said look at Syria from a modern city, a modern country to a stone-age country.
Look at all these countries where there is turmoil, their economies have been destroyed and made thousands of people jobless and obviously if you think that after changes the guy who comes in has a magic wand to solve all the problems within six months, you are making a great mistake and that is why my message was very clear. If we decide to solve problems by violence we should expect to be refugees or to go hungry or to lose jobs. But I think this would be a turning point for the OIC."
Stigmatisation of Islam
Asked whether the heads of state of the OIC discussed the stigmatisation and stereotyping that Islam continues to face in spite of its sanctity, President Jammeh opined that the OIC should involve the non-Muslim world with a view to educating them about Islam, so that they would understand that Islam has nothing to do with violence or suicide bombings. He stressed that jihad is not fought in that way, and that the OIC should explain to the non-Muslim world what Islam is all about. He said they should also be taught what Muslims believe in as opposed to what these criminals are doing to hijack Islam.
"If Gambians could remember I was the first to raise that issue in 1998 in Pakistan. The first thing Allah told the Prophet (SAW) was to be educated so that He can understand his creator but he never said that women shouldn't be educated. Some of these people or groups are created to give Islam a bad name because it is the fastest growing religion in the West and they didn't want it.
"I made it very clear long since that the OIC should engage the non-Muslim world to tell them that Islam has nothing to do with what these criminals are doing. I proposed a resolution to condemn terrorism in all its forms but then people were jittery about it because of the power of another country. Still some of us don't believe in God and still call ourselves Muslims. You cannot worship two Gods. There is only one Allah and you either worship Him or you worship the devil. You cannot worship a human being and worship Allah and this is the unfortunate thing about the Islamic Ummah.
Today, we are being labeled by people who do not even know what Islam is all about. There is nothing like moderate or any other form of Islam. It is only one religion and the most democratic religion in the whole world. There is nowhere in the Quran that says you should go and kill people. So the problem with Islam today is the fact that criminals have hijacked the religion and hide behind it to kill people. When you read the history of jihad, you would not see that at no point did the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) destroy any church.
At no point the jihadists say let's go and destroy the pyramids because it is a sign of infidels, so you see these criminals in Mali, I have talked about them before. They started destroying the shrines saying it is forbidden. What do they do as Muslims? They set fire on the oldest manuscripts of the Quran and they call themselves Muslims. What type of Muslims are they? Unfortunately today, you get more money when you call yourself a Muslim and engage in heinous crimes.
When you look at those people that have been killed because of terrorism, 98% of them are Muslims. How can a Muslim strap an explosive device on himself, go to a Mosque on a Friday and blow himself up calling Allah's name? What type of Muslim is that? Jihads never ask for suicide bombing. So Islam has been hijacked by its enemies to give it a bad name but we will really overcome it," he concluded.
The OIC Cairo Summit
About 27 heads of Islamic states and 29 representatives participated in the Cairo Summit. It is the first OIC summit hosted by Egypt since the establishment of the organisation in 1969. The Gambian leader was accompanied to the summit by a high-ranking delegation comprising the minister of Presidential Affairs who is also the secretary general and head of the Civil Service, Dr. Njogou Bah; the minister of Foreign Affairs, International Cooperation and Gambians Abroad, Susan Waffa-Ogoo; the minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Abdou Kolley; and Kebba Touray, the minister of Trade, Regional Integration and Employment.
Priority topics during the summit included human rights in Islamic countries, economy and trade as well as the conflicts in Syria and Mali, Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories, among others.