students and youth organisations in The Gambia have proposed to the
Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) to ensure featuring a clause in the new
constitution that would maintain the country’s non-Secularity, saying the
country should remain a sovereign state.
Contained in a position paper by the Assembly of Gambia Muslim Youth (AGAMY) and nine working groups of different national Muslim organisations in December, they stated that secularization of the country will sharply go against the belief of Muslims who constitute 96% of the population.
According to the paper, secularity in the constitution will inadvertently limit and restrict Muslims from expression of religious and cultural identities, freedoms, belief systems and practices. “Gambia shall continue to be a religious tolerance society, with respect for human rights, good and moral values, cultural, religious and ethnic differences,” the paper states.
“Foreign-private sector companies in this country such as schools, banks, hotels, and restaurants are not allowing Muslim women to put on headscarves and proper Islamic attire at work while Muslim men are not allowed to wear beards.”
The Muslim youth also stated that they are aware of the ongoing campaign to disregard constitutional recognition of the existence of the Islamic Court (Qadi) on the new constitution.
Gambia’s current constitution recognises the Qadi Court which has jurisdiction over family matters of marriage, divorce, and inheritance. “Even with this minimal recognition, there are certain forces campaigning day and night, in the open and in secret, to disenfranchise, undermine, and render the Qadi court system powerless.”
They asked for the extension of jurisdiction of the Qadi and development of its hierarchical system, saying if The Gambia is truly democratic and respects fundamental human rights of people, then the Qadi court will be liberated to hear and determine cases, be it civil or criminal according to Sharia.
Child marriage VS child dating
On the issue of marriage, the Muslim groups said they expect the new law to define the term as “a legal union only between a man and a woman of legal age and with the full consent of both marrying parties.”
According to their stance, it is equally wrong to allow engagement in extramarital sexual activities, observing that it is not logical for the system to accommodate activities such as child dating and teenage pregnancy while it bans child marriage.