In an ideal democracy, the nation is supposed to move forward together, leaving no one behind. The greatness of a society, it is said, can be measured by studying the way it treats its minorities. If even one person holds a divergent view, the rest of society have no – should not have any – right or power to compel him/her to see things their way; nor should s/he.
In the Gambia of recent years, we have seen the rights of individuals and minority groups stifled and trampled upon. These have been treated wrongly and almost everyone (with a very few exceptions) kept quiet in silent docility or tacit agreement. We – as a people – said we had had enough of it; that it was time that we stood up and put a stop to it. We all agreed that we had to come together to build a better and a more equitable society.
We all struggled together – everyone did something – and we went to the polls to change our government with a view to reclaiming our rights and dignity. Now that we have a new democratic government, it is expected that the rights of everyone – including religious minorities – will be respected. Everyone in this country has rights and those rights are inalienable. They cannot – should not – be trampled upon by anyone.
The Gambia is a secular state. The Constitution gives everyone equal rights to belong to any party, association, religion and gathering. No one should control what the other believes in, or what god he worships; or not. This is not a Shariah State. So each individual has the right to either belong to a religion or not. If someone chooses to profess a certain faith, no one should try to compel him/her to leave it.
State institutions have the legal and moral obligation to treat everyone equally. There shouldn’t be any decisions from State institutions based on emotions or any form of nepotism. In fact, the State should not interfere in anything that touches on someone’s religious beliefs.
It is the duty of the government to protect the rights of all its citizens regardless of religious, political or any other affiliations. The peace and stability of the country depend on the protection of the rights of every individual.