President and Founder of Islamic Research Foundation (IRF), Dr Zakir Naik

It is my pleasure and honour to write to you Dr Zakir Naik as a Muslim brother and of course an Islamic scholar who teaches and inspires millions of Muslims and non-Muslims alike all around the world. I’m a Gambian who watch and listen to your various lectures many times. I have privately written to you through email and a posted letter, but I received no reply or response from you or any of your representative. I even called your headquarters in India and have been promised a reply but to no avail. As a result, I decided to write an open letter to you.

Last year (2015) I learned with joy that you are to visit the Gambia and give a series of your invaluable lectures to my fellow Gambians. However, at the time I did not know who and how you were being invited to the Gambia, but when I learned that it was president Yahya Jammeh who invited you, I had mixed feelings.

This was because, I have the belief that you may never heard of the Gambia prior to the invitation and as a result, whatever the authorities are doing in the Gambia, you might not have had a prior knowledge of it. Also because, even if you go to the Gambia, nobody in the country will inform you of the sufferings of the people in the country for fear of reprisals.

Due to these reasons, Dr Naik, I feared that your good and valuable reputation may be stained for going to a country, where a large number of whose women are widowed; youths are exiled; Imams are tortured, jailed and exiled; students are killed; journalists are killed, jailed and exiled; independent news outlets are forced to close or burnt down; large parts of the country’s resources are kept, shared and owned by the president and his immediate family.

Meanwhile, after following you for a long period of time now, I have no doubt in my mind, you will speak truth to any authority in the face of this earth, only if you know they are doing something wrong and in the case of Gambia, it is my believe you may not have known then.

Recently, I have listened to one of your latest videos where you mentioned some of your conversations with President Jammeh regarding changing Gambia to an Islamic State and which subsequently led President Jammeh to unilaterally declare the Gambia as an Islamic State.

Also on your second trip to the Gambia in July 2016, you said “I have visited several Islamic countries, met several heads of States, Kings, Sheicks, but I will like to confess to you that there are very few who have the passion, the courage, and the (‘Taqwa’ [being conscious & cognizant of Allah, of truth, “piety, fear of God”]) in Allah (SWT) like the President of the Gambia.”

However, first of all, what Yahya Jammeh told you about Muslim population going up 5 percent because of Gambians listening to you has no element of truth in it. Gambia consist of 90 percent Muslims, 10 percent of which are Ahmadiyyas, 8 percent Christians and 2 percent indigenous religions (i.e. Pagans).

We co-existed ever since and never had any sectarian or religious problems before. However, during this year Ramadan (2016), Yahya Jammeh had issued a blanket ban on all types of drumming countrywide; as a result, Christians are included in the ban and it’s well established that Christians use drums during church services. Due to Jammeh’s pronouncement, a group of Christians were arrested in their churches for using drums while performing church services.

Dr Naik, you may not have known President Yahya Jammeh, however, I think it’s imperative for me to tell you some of the things Jammeh did in his 22 years in power which may alarm you about him and perhaps change your description of him being a man of (Taqwa).

  1. President Yahya Jammeh on April 2000, was the man who ordered the shooting of student protesters, which resulted in the deaths of 14 innocent students, including a Red Cross Volunteer who were protesting to show their grievances to the authorities for the killing and raped of two of their colleagues  respectively by security forces of the Gambia.
  2. President Yahya Jammeh was the man who in 2007, declared that he can cure HIV/AIDS, Diabetes, Hypertension etc and when he was challenged by the World Health Organisation (WHO) to prove his claims, he immediately ordered the WHO representative to leave the country. I believe, you as a trained medical doctor and a responsible citizen of the world would challenge any claim of such magnitude before endorsing such claims.
  3. President Yahya Jammeh was the man who ordered the killing of a prominent journalist Dayda Hydara in 2004, whose only crime is to write a daily article highlighting the current issues in the country.
  4. President Yahya Jammeh was the man in 2006, who oversaw the killings of 5 former security officers Daba Marenah and Co who were accused of planning to overthrow his government without any trial.
  5. President Yahya Jammeh was the man who in 2012, ordered the summary execution of 9 prisoners in the Gambia, some of whom had mental issues even before they committed their crimes, yet their families are yet to be given the dead bodies for burials.
  6. President Yahya Jammeh was the man who in 2012 ordered the arrest, detention and torture of one of the most respected Imams in the country, Imam Baba Leigh, whose crime was to condemn his unlawful killings of the 9 prisoners earlier; and in 2013 another well-respected and learned Imam, Bakausu Fofana was also arrested, nearly tortured to death and when he was released he had to go on exiled in Senegal, until 2015 when the Imam returned back, the Imam’s only crime was to speak the truth to the authorities.
  7. President Yahya Jammeh was the man who in 2013 unilaterally removed the Gambia from the Commonwealth of Nations without any considerations of the laws of the land.
  8. President Yahya Jammeh was the man who in mid-April 2016 ordered the arrest and torture in custody of opposition members, including men and women, which resulted in the death of one opposition member Ebrima Solo Sandeng; their crime was to protest and demand electoral reforms in the Gambia. Due to these arrests and torture, the main opposition leader also took to the streets and demand the release of their members “Dead or Alive” and they too got arrested, tortured and later charged and sentenced to 3 years imprisonment.
  9. President Yahya Jammeh was the man in late May till early June 2016, went round the country to spread hate and divisive messages against the biggest tribe in the country, the Mandinkas and declared to kill them like ants; and these rhetorics are only recipes for war and genocide.
  10. President Yahya Jammeh was the man who since coming to power through a military coup in 1994, annually organised a weeklong unisex event called “Putampaf”, which includes drumming, dancing and wrestling where no man owns your wife during the period of these events. Should any man wants to bar your wife from attending such events, he issued a threat of death or imprisonment against such man.

My learned Dr Naik, these are few of many atrocities Yahya Jammeh committed against his subjects and majority of whom are Muslims. Now, going through these aforementioned points should be a cause for alarm for anyone who cares about Gambia and its people, and this is without me mentioning Yahya Jammeh’s worshiping of idols.

This letter is apolitical, it is a humanitarian one because my people need someone like you, who has the influenced and the statue to speak to the authorities at these trying moments my country is going through. You happened to be the one Allah has chosen for me to turn to and seek your help to intervene and avoid catastrophe happening in the Gambia.

I therefore urged you as a Muslim brother, Sheik and a person of truth, to talk to President Yahya Jammeh to kindly release all political prisoners, especially the UDP party leader Lawyer Ousainou Darboe and his party members who have been illegally jailed in the Gambia. I have no doubt, your effort in this matter will make a big difference and as a matter of fact, I once again ask your assistance as a Muslim.

I pray to Allah to give you long life, good health and prosperity in your immense effort to educate and enlighten the Ummah of Muhammad RasulAllah (Peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), Ameen.

Thank you for taking your time out of your busy schedule to read this lengthy but necessary letter. We as a country, await your response to this important matter of ours.


Ansumana Ceesay