An African, a Gambian and a Christian

I have searched for ways of writing directly to the President of The Gambia and be sure that he will read my message but to no Matthew Mendyavail. Using this medium is the most certain way that I know my message will be heard.

I would first take this opportunity to acknowledge the efforts of the President of the Republic of the Gambia on the developments the Gambia has realised in the areas of education, healthcare, transportation and communication. The President’s contributions have been critical to the improvements in the Gambia over the past decades. For this, I am thankful for all the efforts and sacrifices of the President of The Gambia.

However, the decision to declare The Gambia an Islamic state took me and hundreds of thousands of Gambians by surprise. How can we wake up one morning and feel like we have been carved out of our country? Why should we feel like we don’t belong? Why should we feel like second-class citizens in our home?

The Gambia was founded on the fundamental principles of secularism and democracy. Together, The Gambia achieved its independence, not Christian independence or Muslim independence. It was a journey that we as a people took, therefore all Gambians have the right to claim the Gambia as their own irrespective of creed or ethnicity. We are all created equally by God and we are also equal under the laws of The Gambia.

The Gambia does have to be an Islamic state just because Muslims are the majority. There are so many countries in Africa that have a Muslim majority yet they are not Islamic states. Senegal has a Muslim majority, so does Guinea Conakry (85%), Mali (90%), Somalia (100%), Algeria (over 99%), Tunisia (99%), Egypt (80%) and so many other countries. The First Lady of the Republic of The Gambia is from Morocco, with over 99% of its population Muslim yet it is not an Islamic state. Having a majority should not validate claiming ownership of a whole.

From my point of view, one can ask, what are the implications of such decisions? Will this eventually invite extremism in our country? Will people tend to take the law in their own hands? Our country’s economy is primarily reliant of tourism, will this affect the industry (jobs etc.)? Considering the circumstances and if it is going to be business as usual then why an Islamic state? Or was this the ultimate plan since the institution of a 4 day work week? What should we expect next?

It is important that we consider the future of our children and our children’s children. We as Gambians have a duty to leave a better Gambia for our people and declaring The Gambia an Islamic state can cause divide amongst Her People and also affect uncountable families with both Christians and Muslims.

I am not worried about today’s Gambia but tomorrow’s. Can anyone guarantee that 10 years, 50 years or 100 years from now, no other Leader will ever say to the Gambian people that since Gambia is an Islamic state, it will be governed according to Sharia law?

I believe this is not what is best for the future of the Gambia and this decision should be revisited. Every single Gambian has a say in a decision of this magnitude not just a few. I am a Gambian and I have and will continue to contribute to the development of our Country and therefore have earned the right to be heard in this issue.

Matthew Mendy

Professional Football player, Vice Captain/Captain of the Gambia National Team (2007-09)