By Muhammad Bah
During the third legislative session of the National Assembly in Banjul on Tuesday, 12th August 2014, two members from the minority called for non-political interference in religious matters.
Hon. Muhammad Magassy, the National Assembly Member for Basse constituency, said religion should not be politicized in the country. He said religious practice is guided by the holy books namely the Quran for Muslims and the Bible for Christians.
He said the session was to review and adopt the 1st Africa Legislative session and referred the members to pages 9-10 of the report from the 1st Africa Legislative summit recently held in Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria. He said the summit clearly states the non-politicization of Religion in state domestic affairs.
“It was discussed that Religion should not be politicized,” said Hon. Magassy.
The Basse NAM said there is no compulsion in religion, adding “You cannot force or terrorize those that feel not to obey. This is unacceptable.”
Hon. Magassey told deputies that the non-politicization of Religion should be strictly domesticated in The Gambia. He said the state should not interfere in religious differences.
Hon. Netty Baldeh, Member for Tumana Constituency, disagreed with the position of the minority parliamentarians calling for the non-interference of the State in religious matters. He defended state interference in religion, citing the chaos in Iraq as the result of religious disharmony.
He said whenever religious group failed to harmonize their faith, the government has the right to intervene. “Government must have a say in disharmonious Religious practice,” said Hon. Baldeh.
The Tumana NAM said the right to religious belief is in the Constitution, but that such a right should not be allowed to cause disharmony and that it must be controlled.
In their interventions on the motion, Hon. Abdoulie K. Jawla, Member for Sandu Constituency, said the issue of good governance and democracy as discussed in the Abuja summit is important. He said the harmonization between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary is crucial for democracy and good governance. He said the steps taken during the summit are bold as they highlight the realities that are hindering the progress of the continent. “Africa must focus on democracy and good governance,” said the Sandu NAM.
Hon. Demba B.T, Sambou, Member for Nuimina West Constituency, said the entire problems in Africa need a strong legislative support in order for them to be addressed. He noted that the vision of the summit is to build democratic governance and to inculcate human rights into it as well.