By Buba Sowe
The word secular means not religious or spiritual (of Christian Clergy) not belonging to or living in a Monastic or any other order (Page 819, Oxford Dictionary of Current English).
Thus, secularism is against religion and spiritual beliefs and therefore not in line with both Christianity and Islam. Just recently, the Catholic Pope in Rome, Pope Benedict condemned and denounced secularism and the evils of secularism in the world on TV and people, including Muslims have the video and audio.
So why do The Gambia Christian Council leaders want The Gambia to become a secular (or a non-religious) state when almost all Gambians are religious people comprising Muslims and Christians?
Religion ‘should’ not be politicised and Gambia should not be a secular state. Our forefathers have already laid the solid foundation for peaceful and sustainable inter-religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence between Muslims and Christians and it is our responsibility as a society to maintain and sustain this noble legacy passed on to us by our fore-fathers in order to maintain and sustain the already peaceful co-existence and inter-religious tolerance, mutual respect and cooperation between Muslims and Christians in the Gambia.
There were no politically-motivated religious debates during the PPP era and before and our Imams, scholars, pastors and bishops were not preaching religious sentiments to the people simply because religion was not politicised and never part of our Constitution. That had immensely reinforced, promoted and enhanced a sustainable and peaceful co-existence, cooperation, mutual love and respect, inter-marriages and inter-religious tolerance between Muslims and Christians in the Gambia.
The primary role of our religious leaders and scholars as well as politicians and government should be to maintain and sustain the already existing peaceful co-existence and inter-religious tolerance, mutual respect and cooperation between Muslims and Christians in the Gambia. Thus, in my humble opinion, the leadership and executives of the Gambia Supreme Islamic Council and the Gambia Christian Council should have come together to prevent the inclusion of secularism into our draft Constitution. The inclusion of Secularism into our draft Constitution is tantamount to the politicisation of religion in the Gambia which will consequently ‘sow the seeds’ of inter-religious intolerance and enmity between Muslims and Christians for the first time in our history.
Both Islam and Christianity have their Constitutions which are the Quran and authentic ahadith and the Bible respectively so in my opinion, our religious leaders and scholars’ roles and responsibilities should be limited to conveying the noble and sacred messages of Jesus and Muhammad (Peace be upon them—Amen). In my opinion Muhammed and Jesus are one and inseparable so the responsibility of our religious leaders and scholars should only be limited to conveying the sacred messages from the Quran, the authentic ahadith and Bible to the people but not using our religious councils to defend minority or majority interest. Religion is not about minority or majority interest but it is about every body’s interest irrespective of whether you belong to the minority tribe, minority religion, majority religion, majority tribe, majority race or minority race.
Muslims and Christians in the Gambia are related, inter-marrying and have peacefully co-existed in the same neighbourhoods without any discrimination, enmity and inter-religious intolerance. There are Muslims and Christians in almost every Gambian tribe. For example, there are Fula, Mandinka, Jola, Manjago etc, Christians and Muslims in the Gambia. The Gambia is one of the countries in the world and within our sub-region where Muslims and Christians have mutual love and respect for each other, cooperation, peaceful co-existence, inter-marriages and inter-religious tolerance since the introduction of Christianity in the Gambia by Missionaries in the 18th Century. Since then secularism has never been advocated by any of our religious leaders except the current Gambia Christian Council. Why? Because Yahya Jammeh threatened the minority Christian community when he declared the Gambia as an Islamic state in 2016 just before the presidential election as a political and campaign strategy just to divide Gambians politically along religious lines. So in my opinion, this is one of the reasons why the Gambia Christian Council wants the Gambia to become a secular state even though secularism is not in line with the Bible and Christian beliefs.
Religion, culture and land are the most sensitive issues on earth therefore our religious leaders, scholars, politicians, the Government and the whole Gambian society should know how to handle, tackle and resolve religious issues. If we start to politicise religion, we will mix up the whole Gambian society along religious lines which had never been here since time immemorial. Similarly, if we continue to politicise culture along tribal lines we will mix up the whole society. In this politically volatile globalised world, one of the primary roles and responsibilities of our religious, political and cultural leaders should be how to sustain our noble inter-religious, inter-cultural and inter-tribal tolerance and peaceful co-existence which we inherited from our forefathers, including imams, bishops, pastors, religious scholars and politicians like Sir Dawda Jawara, Reverend J.C Faye, Pierre Njie, Garba Jahumpa, Bishop Clery and all the Christian bishops and pastors of his era and before and Imam Ratib Abdoulie Jobe, Hatab Bojang and all the imams and Muslim scholars of their era and before. Please let us try our best to emulate the good works of these people with regard to the maintenance and sustainability of peaceful co-existence and inter-religious tolerance between Muslims and Christians.
Senegal, our immediate neighbours should serve as an example to us because there is no politicisation of religion and consequently there are no politically-motivated inter-religious debates between Christians and Muslims. Like the Gambia, Muslims form the majority of the population in Senegal but there is inter-religious tolerance, cooperation, mutual love and respect between Muslims and Christians in both Senegal and the Gambia. Why can’t we maintain and sustain the same religious status quo that has been in the Gambia and Senegal before and after independence?
If we incorporate unreligious and political issues such as secularism into our national constitution, it will create a lot of problems in the Gambia, especially in the future and this will negatively affect our younger generations both Muslims and Christians more than our elderly generation and they will blame us for all the problems that are likely to affect them when we sow the seeds of inter-religious intolerance and sentiments in our country.
Secularism of the Gambia will consequently introduce, promote and enhance homosexuality such as lesbians and gays and when that happens it will affect both Muslims and Christians equally because it is our sons and daughters and grand children who will become lesbians and gays and according to both the Quran and the Bible we will be accountable for our deeds, especially the legacies we passed to our younger generations. Please I am humbly appealing to our religious, cultural and political leaders not to make religion a political tool. Thus, in my opinion our Constitution should not have any secularism.
Our Constitution should remain as it is with regard to religion and we should not incorporate secularism into it. Our Constitution should be silent about religion and entirely leave religion with the religious leaders and religious institutions such as the Supreme Islamic Council, the Christian Council, Mosque committees and Church Committees and Congregations. Otherwise we will soon begin to have lesbians, gays, Boko Haram, inter-religious sentiments and inter-religious intolerance between Muslims and Christians in The Gambia.
Secularism will also give prostitutes the right to establish commercial brothels and pay tax to Government just like in Europe, Canada and North America. When that happens it will not be welcomed by both Muslims and Christians and it will destroy the noble and sacred religious and cultural fabrics of our society. Gambia is entirely a religious society so secularism should not be advocated and encouraged by both Muslims and Christians.
To be continued