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Friday, January 15, 2021

Letters: Secularization and religious fundamentalism: A threat to our security and peaceful coexistence

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Dear editor,

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The fiercest debate today regarding our draft constitution is the exclusion or the inclusion of the word secular in our constitution. This is causing dissension and crafting an atmosphere of animosity, a separation of people into ‘us and them. It is ripping apart the moral fibric of our Gambian society and creating intolerance between religious communities.

At the very outset, one is faced with the question: what is the contention all about? A lot of conferences and gatherings have been marshaled by both Muslim and Christian communities all geared towards conversing about secularism. Some groups have gone to the extent of inventing their own delineation about secularism and they have succeeded in distorting the actual meaning of secular/secularism among their followers.

This is total deceitfulness and injustice which can only perpetrate a ridiculous absurdity in our society. It is extremely daunting and scandalous to see some of the most respected figures in our communities being controlled by sentiments rather than reason. The principal role of our religious leaders is to promote our peaceful co-existence and tolerance as well as providing a counter-narrative to violent and all forms of extremism but this is contrary to what we are witnessing today.

Some of our clerics are busy in whipping up popular sentiments against individuals / group of people and misinforming others to instigate separation amongst people only to gain their selfish motives.

Religious peace cannot be achieved without cultivating such open-minded, altruistic and humane understanding attitudes towards the people of other faiths.

As people of this beloved nation, we should shun being separated by selfish clerics and their evil designs.
Together we should aim to build up the existing relations in order to improve mutual understanding and further the positive work in building bridges between our different faiths.

In the face of the negative and destructive tensions in other parts of the world, we should all call to positive and constructive action that will aim to mend our relationship. It is sad that today many of us stand apart from each other due to the feeling of anger and anxiety, which in some parts of the world translates to violence.

Today, the entrenchment of religious fundamentalism in our society has brought with it a clash of ill-informed misunderstanding, deep-seated typecasting and prejudice which have stemmed in distancing of communities. We urgently need to address this situation. We should firmly stand together against all forms of religious extremism and we must strive towards whirling ignorance into knowledge, bigotry into understanding and hate into love and sensitivity for others.

Some adversary groups advocating for the exclusion of the word secular in our constitution because in their view it goes against their religious teachings. They claim that as Muslims form the majority with over 95% of the Gambian population, therefore the constitution should only be a reflection of what they deem fit to be incorporated in it. This will go against the principle of equity and justice.

The state most at all-time treat its citizens equally in the relevant respect, that entails that every person or group is treated with equal concern and respect. The authorities must recognize that minorities are always in a vulnerable situation in comparison to other groups. This is as a consequence of their status and they should be protected from all forms of discrimination, persecution, hostility or violence. This will serve to accommodate the most vulnerable groups and to bring all members of society to a minimum level of equality in the exercise of their human and fundamental rights. This is essential to stability, security and peace of our beloved nation; hence it will bring all members of society to a balanced enjoyment of their human rights.

The bodies responsible should not allow themselves to be misled or be put under pressure by any group or individual; rather, they should remain focused on the task at hand and should execute their functions based on the foundation of true justice and fairness in its truest and widest meaning. They should avoid at every stage to exceed the bond of justice and violating the rights of others. True justice should always transcend consideration of race, religion, color, creed and political affiliation. Together we can rout out all forms of extremism and continue relishing our peaceful co-existence that our country is known for but without responsible leadership and organized efforts our quest will be fruitless.

Yahya Ceesay

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