It has been numerous times explained that the non-inclusion of ‘secularism’ in the draft constitution is in order. Secularism has neither been a remote part of any past Gambian constitution, nor a distinct feature of any current Gambian Constitution. Therefore, the CRC cannot remove something which was never part of the Constitution.
The attempt to interpolate the word secular in the 1997 Constitution was unconstitutional since it did not follow a referendum process to amend that section which is an entrenched clause. This irregularity was challenged and the country’s Supreme Court threw out the word secular from the Gambia’s 1997 Constitution.
Albeit all the current noise about to be or not to be secular, and by virtue of the cordial relation which we share, The Gambia shall continue to remain a peaceful and tolerant nation. Let the Christian community be assured that our culture and common history we share as Gambians is the key to our harmonization. Our respective religions (Islam and Christianity) has common roots in The Abrahamic tradition. Thus, we have much more in common than our differences. Any law that threatens to suppress Islam, will eventually spillover to The Christian faith.
The effects of secularism by its very design is deliberately structured to suppress all religions. Secularism has multiple definitions and interpretations. However, the most common definition and interpretation we are witnessing is that secularism represents the very opposite of religion. Therefore, Secularism should not be seen in the light of current misguided debates which are pitching Islam against Christianity and vice versa. The real issue here is the many versus the few, the observant versus the unobservant, and the religious versus the irreligious.
Those who are passionate about inserting the word secular in our constitution are perhaps the irreligious, ill-informed, and Islamophobic elements in our society. Unfortunately, many of the irreligious and ill-informed ascribe themselves to the Muslim community. The observant Christian who we believe constitute the majority of their community should not accept any monopoly from opportunists who are keen to alter the status quo of mutual respect and peaceful coexistence for selfish gains. We all should cautiously distant ourselves from personalities who are vehemently going out of their way to cause unnecessary fear and anxiety amongst Gambians. We should all support our respective Abrahamic faiths and good Gambian cultures to completely repudiate these false persuasions.
One word, secularism, which takes a position completely opposite to our religions, simply does not make sense in our Gambian cultural and pro-religious context. Secularism will therefore not the pestilence which separates and disunites us. Our culture and religion has long since taught us to be merciful and to peacefully coexist with one another as well as every other in our society.
If this constitution is to reflect the true ethos of Gambians, then it should not be written based philosophies, beliefs, and practices of alien societies that are non-homogenous to us. It is important we remind each other that the ordinary Gambian is well cultured, good mannered and religious minded. Those fine Gambians entrusted to draft a Gambian constitution should imprint the inherent non-secular nature and realities of Gambians in final draft of our Constitutional document without fear or favor. Any alien doctrine smuggled into a final draft constitution shall be completely and holistically rejected by Muslims, and rationalizing Christians, to the extent of its abnormality and anomaly. Either we live for something true and pure (and for our case – religion), or we die for nothing.
We, are, Concerned Citizens.
Dr. Alieu Gibba
Senior Lecturer – Business & Agricultural Economics
Department of Economics & Management Sciences
University of The Gambia (UTG)