opinionBy Ousman Njie
It is important for the Gambian people to understand that there is a difference between the majority in a country belonging to a religion and that religion being recognised as a state religion. If the Gambia was an Islamic state, a state based on the Islamic Religion, then a person like Minister Susan Waffa Ogou would not be a Minister of Foreign Affairs. Minister Solomon Owens would not be Minister of Agriculture; Minister Francis Mboge would not be Minister of Works.
In an Islamic state only the Shariah would apply and those who administer the state would have to be Muslims with grounding in the Shariah or Islamic jurisprudence.
The Gambia does not have such a state foundation. The Gambia has been a secular state under the colonial monarchy of yesterday and is now supposed to be a Secular Republic. Unlike the state based on religion where only the believer in the state religion could govern, in a secular state any citizen irrespective of religion could govern. This is why Leopold Senghore could be the President of Senegal, even though there are more influential Muslim Communities or Brotherhoods in Senegal than in the Gambia. Unlike the Atheist state which suppresses religious believe, the secular state protects freedom of belief and worship.
The Gambia is a Sovereign Secular Republic. This is entrenched under section 100 of the Constitution which is categorical in stating that The National Assembly shall not pass a bill to establish any religion as a state religion.
It goes without saying that each religion is protected under the Constitution. Section 25 subsection 1 (c) states that every person shall have the right to freedom to practice any religion and to manifest such practice.
That is the advantage of the secular state. It makes each to have a sense of belonging irrespective of ethno linguistic origin, gender, religion or philosophical orientation.
Foroyaa would like to advise the Government to maintain this spirit of secularism as the corner stone for peace and security in modern day Africa. The politicisation of religion only breeds religious extremism that even threatens the very existence of even those who consider themselves to be perfectly religious. This is the predicament of many Muslim leaders in Mali who held big demonstrations against legal reforms which promoted gender equality. There is no doubt that the secular Republic creates the equal vote for all. Hence there is sovereign equality in determining representation. This enable each to advocate for ones wellbeing which when recognised and respected would give the person or group a sense of belonging to and ownership of the state. If powerful forces monopolise power and use it to alienate the rest disunity would weaken the very fabric of the state and any single force that is organised enough would be able to take over and impose its will because of the disunity of the rest. This is how the extremist took over Northern Mali.
Ghadaffi also collapsed because of the politcisation of religion and an attempt to use it to consolidate a quasi Monarchical rule rather than a secular Republic with periodic elections and succession of political office. He built mosques everywhere and even gave his son the following name Saif al Islam Ghadaffi. The extremists however gauged his practice and accused him of being an imposter. The monarchists in the Middle East also considered his populist theories as a threat to their monarchies. It is no surprise that the extremists were at the forefront of his elimination and are still unable to establish the type of state religion they consider to be the pure one.
In a secular Republic each will be free to pursue one's own brand of pure faith without being intolerant to anyone. Since there a should be no compulsion in religion the secular state is the best environment for promoting divergent beliefs, views and visions of life.