Thursday, October 9, 2014

Why should Gambian taxpayers pay Dr. Zakir Naik's $ 1.5 million speaking fee?

Dr. Zakir Naik
As speaking fees go, the purported $ 1.5 million plus expenses that the Gambian taxpayers have been committed to paying the controversial Indian Muslim cleric whose views on terrorism have resulted in him being banned in the United Kingdom.

The Indian Muslim cleric visit to The Gambia is part of an elaborate celebrations to mark the twentieth year of military take-over of a legitimately and democratically elected government.

We are less particular about Dr. Naik's views on terror that by definition every Muslim is, or should be, a terrorist.  He later tried to clarify a view that brought an avalanche of criticism from around the world.

Jammeh thrives on controversy which he uses to divert attention from the real political and economic problems his regime has brought upon Gambians.  Therefore paying humongous speaking fees to controversial religious personalities like Dr. Naik is worth the distraction of a failed regime.

Yaya Jammeh is the biggest threat to the secular state because of his inaccurate and public description of The Gambia as a Muslim country.  We have noticed that Dr. Naik has also taken to this notion by expressing his delight that " The Gambia is a Muslim country."

The doctrine of the separation of Church, in our case, the Mosque and The State is enshrined in the 1997 Constitution.  It is the same doctrine that has guided the country since Independence.  Religious tolerance and religious coexistence is what makes The Gambia special and distinct from many countries, and by inviting controversial religious clerics like Dr. Naik, that harmony is threatened.

It is therefore wrong and inappropriate to use taxpayer money to finance what is essentially an evangelical crusade by a cleric.  The State should not have been involved in the financing and promotion of Dr. Naik's religious tour or  ANY religion for that matter that's better left to private religious groups.

Besides, spending what our sources say is $ 1.5 million for a handful of lectures is grossly inappropriate and an imprudent expenditure of public funds for a country where a third or 600,000 of 1.8 million Gambians go hungry at night because they cannot afford three square meals daily.  And of these 200,000 are children who are severely malnourished.  There are more appropriate uses for the $ 1.5 million in one of the poorest countries on earth.