Yet, in spite of the overwhelming Muslim majority in the country, the constitution which is the supreme law of the land, in its preamble, pointed out that The Gambia is a secular republic. The significance of this constitutional guarantee is that it draws a line between what should be rendered onto the Mosque or Church on one part and what should be rendered onto the state on the other part. This tends to prevent instances when people would use religion for political gains, while protecting the rights of minority religions. Besides, the constitution goes further to provide an ironclad guarantee, in the form of an entrenched clause, to the right to freedom of religion, meaning all are free to practice the religion of their choice.
Accordingly, the country has over the years built an enviable reputation on religious tolerance. The level of cooperation among people of different faiths, from religious leaders to ordinary citizens, is quite exemplary. There exists intermarriages between members of different faiths, thereby strengthening the tolerance and harmonious coexistence. Our religious tolerance and the results it has brought about are something outsiders, more especially foreign diplomats, are quick to notice and extol. This is not a new phenomenon. The foundation was built by our forefathers and today’s generation of religious leaders, especially church and mosque leaders must be commended for giving a healthy elasticity to this trait.
Unfortunately, there remains some grey areas. The acrimony that often emerges between the main Muslim body and the Ahmadiyaa Muslim sect has reared its ugly head, once again. This is regrettable. The details are well captured in the pages of the newspapers and are covered by other media of mass communication, so no need to belabour on them here.
However, the point worth noting is that Gambians should nurture religious tolerance. While religion indeed permeates every aspect of our daily lives, we should strive to see each other first and foremost as Gambians. If Muslims and Christians in The Gambia can intermarry, cooperate and live in peaceful coexistence, Muslims from different sects should be ashamed of bigotry.
The religious tolerance contributes immensely to the peace and stability that the country enjoys. It thus behoves all and sundry to cherish and safe guard it. It is only when we appreciate our diversity and work towards achieving a common goal that the country will be able to march towards achieving the sustainable development that the country aspires to. Therefore, each should be allowed to practice his or her faith without hindrance as long as he or she did not step onto anyone’s toes. We should all embrace and promote live-and-let-others-leave philosophy, as espoused in Suratul Khafiroun. On that note, we would like to conclude, as in the words of the preacher, wa Allahu a’Alam. (Allah knows best).]]>