The Gambia is a secular state. Secularism is not a synonym to atheism. Secularism makes the state neutral in terms of religion, belief and philosophy. It transforms the state into a protector of people’s religion, belief or philosophy so that no one would make derogatory remarks aimed at antagonising or stigmatising them.
This is clearly stipulated under Section 25 of the Constitution.
“Every person shall have the right to…………..
(b) Freedom of thought, conscience and belief, which shall include academic freedom;
(c) Freedom to practise any religion and to manifest such practice;………..”
Hence each person’s right to freedom to practice any religion should be respected by the state and its agents and by the people at large. Hence the state and the media which is empowered to hold the government accountable to the provisions of the constitution should not aid and abet any one bent on violating the freedom of others.
This is also stipulated under Section 17 of the constitution which asserts that
“The fundamental human rights and freedoms enshrined in this Chapter shall be respected and upheld by all organs of the Executive and its agencies, the Legislature and, where applicable to them, by all natural and legal persons in The Gambia, and shall be enforceable by the Courts in accordance with this Constitution.”
If Gambia does not want to be like Pakistan in terms of sectarian and religious feuds and antagonisms which often lead to crimes against humanity, each should promote one’s brand of religion and leave others to practise their own,
This is what is stipulated in the following provision of the constitution: “Every person in the Gambia, whatever his or her race, colour, gender, Language, religion, political or other opinion, National or social origin, property, birth or other status, shall be entitled to the fundamental human rights and freedoms of the individual contained in this chapter, but subject to respect for the rights and freedoms of others and for the public interest.”
Let us keep the Gambia a bastion of religious tolerance. It has served us well.