EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: Concerned Citizens on Tuesday submitted a Muslim position paper to the Constitutional Review Commission demanding for the exclusion of secularism in the country’s new constitution, clear and precise definition of marriage and marginalization among others.
The Movement define secularism as the idea of not being religious, saying the secularity of a state through its constitution is the idea of separating religion from the affairs of government or the state.
“The Gambia is a country founded upon religious, cultural and moral values. Its people are religious. Without the word secular in any past Gambian constitution, there has and shall always be peaceful co-existence of all people in The Gambia. Also, since secularism is understood to mean the removal of Mosques from public places, then secularism truly does not define us as Muslims, the 96%,” the group said in the paper.
Since the release of the draft constitution in November, argument arise in the country, mainly between the Muslim majority and the Christians over the declaration of the country as a secular or non-secular state.
In December, Gambia Christian organisations governing body –Gambia Christian Council- released a 20-point position paper that it observed as omission of secular and related matters in the draft constitution, saying as a minority group, Christians have experienced series of unfair treatment from the former regime and now they are demanding that CRC honour its mandate as enshrined in Section 6 sub-section 2 of its Act.
A week after, the Supreme Islamic Council also released its position paper protesting against the inclusion of ‘secular’ in the constitution, strongly reaffirming its position that The Gambia had never been and should never be a Secular State. It said the country should remain a Non-Secular State.
The Concerned Citizens in their position paper also request for the CRC to strongly consider further expanding the jurisdiction of the Shari’ah court to include Islamic wills, and not in any slight way contemplate removing the Shari’ah court of reducing its jurisdiction as suggested by others. “To those outside the pale of Islam, we say, leave our Shari’ah alone. Muslims can speak adequately for themselves.”
On the issue of marriage, the Movement recommends for the CRC to clearly define marriage, saying homosexuality and such related unnatural offences are criminalized in Gambia’s criminal code, and the 2019 draft criminal offences bill reflects the same position.
“Muslims in The Gambia completely reject the LGBTQ community since such practices are not compatible with Muslim beliefs, practices, culture and norms.”
The apolitical Movement in their position paper also recommend for the Commission to clearly define who the marginalised groups are or completely remove the general and ambiguous statement from the draft constitution in order to avoid future complications and problems.
Story written by Juldeh Njie