By Patience Loum, Banjul, The Gambia – Wednesday, December 18, 2019.
Christians and Muslims in the West African country of The Gambia have stayed completely divided in opinion over a religious aspect in the country’s draft constitution.
The Supreme Islamic Council of The Gambia (SIC) has shared its take on recent reports of Christians in The Gambia vouching for the inclusion of secularism in the recently drafted constitution.
The council had a meeting with the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC), Thursday December 12, 2019, in Bwiam, Foni Kansala District, where it expressed its concerns.
The SIC delegation told CRC members it doesn’t see the need for the inclusion of secularism in the newly drafted constitution strongly advocated for by top Christian authorities. SIC argued it’s against Islamic laws.
“We heard that Christians are campaigning for the CRC to capture the word ‘Secular’ in the preamble of the new Constitution which is against Islam,” it said.
Ebrahim Hassan Cham an Islamic Delegate from Sinchu Alagie, said the recent outcry of Christians regarding the secularism issues will have a negative effect on Islam.
He further explained how one of the National Assembly Members, who’s also a Muslim, made horrible comments on issues regarding the demolishment of mosques in public places and another’s comment saying that Sharia Courts should not be established in The Gambia.
“All the religions in this country cannot be treated equally because Muslims form the majority. We are 97% of the population of the country and we cannot be compared to believers of other faiths.”, he said.
“If secularism is captured in the new Constitution, we will write a petition to the CRC and if they do not consider the petition, we will campaign for Muslims not to vote during the referendum,” he said.
He went on to say that even in the 1997 Constitution ‘Secularism’ was not captured; that Christians who are advocating for the inclusion of ‘Secularism’ will not know their fate with the inclusion of ‘Secularism’ in the Constitution.”
Alhaiba Hydara, an Imam from Yundum said the notion behind the meeting is to shed light on the recent religious issue and also to illuminate the Muslim community on the issue and not to accept some of the provisions of the newly drafted constitution.
“What other believers advocate for is not in line with the practice of Islam. Muslims are the majority in the country and that should be put into consideration,” he said.
The Supreme Islamic Council (SIC) was established in 1992 and consists of over 50 Islamic Scholars who are all volunteers. There is also a Supervisory Board made up of Imams from various communities in The Gambia as well as leaders of various institutions, business people, lecturers, and opinion formers.
Gambia Christian Council had called on the Constitutional Review Commission to look into the newly drafted constitution. The Bishop of Banjul, Gabriel Mendy stated in a statement, Wednesday, December 11, 2019, at the Christian Council head office in Kanifing, MDI Road that The Gambia cannot be deemed a Sovereign State.
The Bishop advocated for the inclusion of the term ‘Secular’ in the draft constitution. Speaking on behalf of the Christian Community, the Bishop explained the ordeals Christians experience in the hands of the former government.
These threats he said include; the encroachment on Christian cemeteries, wearing of veils in Christian-run schools, declaring The Gambia an Islamic State, disparaging remarks about Christianity from the former President Yaya Jammeh, the invitation of the Islamic scholar Dr. Zakir Naik, who publicly made critical remarks about Christianity and so many more.