By Yankuba Jallow
The leader of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamat in the Gambia, Baba F. Trawally has on Wednesday told the TRRC they were persecuted in this country.
Baba F. Trawally, the Amir of the Ahmadiyya Muslims said he was born in Salikenni, Central Badibou in the North Bank Region on 29th December in 1956.
He said he has worked under the Surveys Department under the Ministry of Local Government and Lands. He said he got his bachelor’s degree in 1986 and in the year 1989, he acquired his master’s degree.
He said he was appointed a Commissioner at the Gambia Revenue Authority in 2007 and was dismissed in 2009 from his position at the GRA when he came from his study tour in Tanzania. He said he was detained at the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). He said while under detention, he was served his letter of dismissal from his duty and this was served to him in the cell. He explained that he was detained from the 20th May to 9th June 2009. He said he was reinstated on the 17thSeptember 2009 and on the following day, his reinstatement was rescinded.
Mr. Trawally testified that in 2009, he continued to work as the Amir of the Ahamadiyaaa Jamat and was in charge of preaching humanitarian activities and educational issues. He said the Amir is the Chairman of the Board of Directors of all schools and Hospitals belonging to the Jamaat.
He said when the government of President Adama Barrow came into being, he went to the PMO and on the 7th August 2017, he was reinstated but without salary. He was only given retirement benefits.
He said from this time, he became the Amir of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamat and focused on their activities. He said they are engaged in several activities including providing humanitarian assistance, building schools and hospitals among others.
He said the Jamat was founded in The Gambia in 1959 by a missionary from Nigeria and in 1960, a missionary came from Ghana. He said in 1961, an Amir came from Pakistan and became the Amir of the Gambia. He denied the suggestion that Sir Alagie Farimang Singhateh was the one who brought the Ahmadiyya Muslim in Jamat in the Gambia.
“Officially the Jamat started in 1961,” he said.
The Jamat under the 1st Republic
He said the Jamat was treated very well, adding that Sir Dawda K. Jawara, the ex-President of the Gambia stated in a meeting of the head of states held in Pakistan that the Ahmadis in the Gambia are Muslims. He added that that the purpose of the meeting was to declare the Ahmadis as non-Muslims.
“All the heads of state signed the declaration except for Sir Dawda,” the witness said.
The Jamat Under the 2nd Republic
He said in June 1997, Abdoulie Fatty, the Imam of State House said the Ahmadis are not Muslims and that they should be taken to the McCarthy Square to be killed because they are not Muslims.
“Imam Fatty said the members of Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamat are not Muslims. His statement was inaccurate. The Prophet said any person who calls himself a Muslim is a Muslim. Imam Fatty cannot know more than the holy prophet who a Muslim is unless he wants to fabricate,” the witness said.
The witness said: “ No person or government can declare any person or organisation non-Muslim. This is a personal matter.”
He said on the 23rd June 1997, they (the Ahmadis) wrote to ex-President Yahya Jammeh indicating their worries about the continuous attack on the Ahmadis by Imam Fatty calling Gambians to kill them if they refused to renounce their faith.
The witness said he received a letter dated the 10th July 1997 from the government indicating that the Gambia is a secular state and that the sermons of Imam Fatty were personal and his sermons do not represent the position of the State. He said it was indicated in the letter that the sermons were not opinions of the State House Imam and it did not represent the view of the President or the Government. He said they had a meeting with Minister of Interior, Momodou Bojang, who said negative things about their sect.
“The sermon given by Imam Fatty has influence on the way the Government perceive our sect,” the witness said.
He said the sermons of Imam Fatty affected their sect and the entire population, adding that their hospital was closed because the doctors and teachers went back to Pakistan. He said the sermons and the reaction of the government affected their NGO services. He said they called a press conference indicating the temporal closure of the hospital.
“The Minister of Interior wrote and stated teachers and doctors can come to the school but the missionaries cannot come. We did not agree with the government because the missionaries have to come. The government later agreed and the missionaries, doctors and teachers were allowed to come back,” the witness said.
He said their programmes at both the national radio and television were stopped. He added their programmes at the private radio stations were all stopped because they were told to go and seek clearance (permit) from the Supreme Islamic Council
He said the Supreme Islamic Council was founded in 1992 and this means the Jamat was here before the establishment of the Council.
“We are not members of the Supreme Islamic Council and we were not contacted at the time the Council was established,” the witness said.
He said they were not allowed to use the private media houses to preach their religion. He told the Commission this was the time they began the publication of their monthly magazine and meeting the people directly and telling them their faith.
Mr. Trawally informed the Commission that the Supreme Islamic Council (SIC) has no authority to stop any programs of the Ahamadiyya in any media organization; adding that they are not members of the SIC as he stressed that they cannot be members. He said in other countries like Ghana and Nigeria, they have inter-religious councils where they have an Ahmadee as their secretary.
He said on the 10th August 1997, they wrote to ex-President Yahya Jammeh with the heading ‘Threatening to persecute the Ahmadiyya Muslim Jamat’ wherein they indicated their worries and sought audience from the President. He told the Commission that ex-President Yahya Jammeh did not grant them audience to discuss the situation.
He denied the allegation by people that they used to give people twenty-five dalasis if they pray in their mosques, adding that the only thing they do is to support the propagation of Islam.
He said the Jamaat formed a delegation which met Imam Fatty and they had discussion about their faith. He said despite the meeting, Fatty continued to attack them until the day ex-President Jammeh chased him from the State House. He said when Imam Fatty was replaced at the State House, they became free from the verbal assaults but the struggle continued because there were several attempts to demolish mosques belonging to the Ahmadees.
He said their Mosque in Makama Siray was demolished by the Alkalo of the community together with Muhammed Kamateh and others, and the matter was reported to the Police and those found wanting were ordered to rebuild the mosque and they were fined D400 each.
He said they were stopped from continuing with the construction of the Yero Baol Mosque by the alkalo, but in 2001 the Chief allowed them to do so. On the mistreatment of the Jamaat, he said a land from Mori Kunda community was confiscated and they were not allowed to build a Mosque there.
He said the SIC and ex-Governor of URR, Nganyi Touray ordered them to demolish their corrugated mosque at Sarreh Ngai within 24 hours. He added that Yahya Jallow ordered the authorities to demolish the Mosque erected in his compound, but he refused and he was charged and arraigned before the court but was subsequently discharged.
However, the said Mosque was subsequently demolished and the matter was taken to court and they won the case.
He said Dr. Zakir Naik came to the Gambia and preached that the Ahmadiyya Muslims are not Muslims and urged Gambians to take their children out of Christian and Ahmadi schools. He said Dr. Naik in fact attended a Christian school called St. Peters in India;
He said the Jammat was against the pronouncement of ex-President Yahya Jammeh declaring the Gambia as an Islamic State.
At this juncture, the response of the Jamaat published in the Standard Newspaper was tendered and admitted as exhibits.
Further Testifying before the Commission, Mr. Trawally said many Scholars are using the verse that the holy Prophet is‘Kaatim Nabi” against the Ahmadis.
“There should be equity and justice in terms of performing the Religion,” he said, while alleging that Imam Fatty is still using radio stations to attack their Sect.
Mr. Trawally told the Commission that one of their members Mansiray Dibba passed away and was buried in Tallinding, but the Jamaat was later called by the Police who asked them whether they obtained permission from the Supreme Islamic Council and Sheriff Bajane told them that they needed permission from SIC before they do that.
He said they responded that the Supreme Islamic Council had no mandate to tell the Ahmadis to request for permission. On the 6th September, 2017, another member passed away by the name Kebba Sanneh and they wanted to bury him, but were called by the Police at Tallinding again where they found the leaders of the Supreme Council, Modou Lamin Touray and Sheriff Bajane.
According to him, all the religious problems in this country were caused by SIC. He urged people in power to apply equality before the law. He said before the formation of SIC in 1992, there was no problem of citing the moon. He said the holy Prophet S.A. W said the best among Mankind is righteous.
On a property they bought in Farato, he said they found that some people were occupying the land and they brought legal action against the occupants and judgment was delivered in their favour, but the judgement could not be executed.
Mr. Trawally testified that the said land is mainly occupied by Soldiers and at some point, they were even threatened; adding members of their Jamaat are peaceful people and have more than 50,000 followers in this country.