30 June 2011


Islamic preacher held incommunicado for four days, released without charge

Incident details

Assault, Detention, Release

Alhaji Ismaila Manjang, Academic

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(MFWA/IFEX) - Alhaji Ismaila Manjang, an imam and a prominent Islamic scholar, was arrested on the night of June 18, 2011 and held incommunicado by the much-feared National Intelligence Agency (NIA). He was released on June 22 without charge.

Manjang, a scholar of great repute with over four decades of experience in religious and charity works, was roughed up and detained in a mosquito infested cell. He was accused of preaching lies and insulting people.

Media Foundation for West Africa's (MFWA) sources reported that the imam was subjected to a lengthy interrogation on a wide range of issues, including his recent admonishment to some of his students at a graduating ceremony to "shun idol worshipping", which he said was becoming prevalent in Gambian society.

Manjang was picked-up by plainclothes operatives of the NIA at his home in Gunjur Kombo South District, in the Western Region of The Gambia. Although he has not been charged with any offence, he has been reporting regularly to the NIA office since his release.

Gambian citizens, including religious leaders, have not been at peace since President Yahya Jammeh came into power in 1994. President Jammeh, who is also the minister for religious affairs, has never hidden his hatred for independent religious leaders in the country. Most religious leaders must sing the praises of the regime in order to survive, according to MFWA sources.

On October 13, 2010, a politically motivated ban on another popular Muslim cleric, Bakawsu Fofanah, was lifted after he was issued with a stern warning by President Jammeh. The ban was imposed by the pro-Jammeh Supreme Islamic Council (SIC), a coalition of Muslim associations in The Gambia. The President warned Fofanah to refrain from his manner of religious propagation, which according to Jammeh was characterized by "incitement" and "agitation to cause confusion among Muslims" in The Gambia.

On May 22, 2009, Baba Leigh, Imam of Kanifing and outspoken critic of President Jammeh's administration, was warned by the president to stop criticizing the government or risk arrest.

"As the Minister for Religious Affairs, I won't accept scholars misleading people," Jammeh told his party supporters.


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