Ex-Gambian president influenced by Naik, commission told

The Gambian Truth Commission was told that Yahya Jammeh (left) ‘became a disciple’ of Dr Zakir Naik.

PETALING JAYA: A member of a Christian community has told The Gambian Truth Commission that their former president Yahya Jammeh was influenced by Indian Islamic preacher Dr Zakir Naik on Islamic fundamentalism.

Philip Saine, who was testifying yesterday before the commission set up to investigate the Yahya era from 1994 to 2017, said Jammeh invited Naik to Gambia in 2014, “which was the beginning of the series of harassment meted out to Christians” in the country.

He said Naik claimed he understood the bible, which he quoted from “more than the Pope”.

“What was the purpose of Zakir Naik’s visit? What was his theme of preaching to the Gambian community here? Was it to come here and attack Christianity? It seems so,” he was quoted on foroyaa.gm. as saying.

Saine, who authored a book titled “Challenges of Gambian Churches During Yahya Jammeh’s Era”, said that in 2015, Jammeh declared Gambia an Islamic state, which shocked the people as the country had been a secular country.

He said soon after the declaration, Islamic elders, including the Supreme Islamic Council and the Banjul Muslim Elders, made a solidarity visit to the president to congratulate his move and to show their support.

“In fact, I would say Yahya became a disciple of Zakir Naik,” he was quoted as saying.

Saine said that before that, the Christians and Muslims had lived side by side harmoniously and “shared everything”.

“We shared the same schools, classes. We played football together. We shared the same bed together,” he said.

However, he said the social interaction was diminishing, with remarks like “I wouldn’t go with this person because he or she is non-Muslim”.