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Imam Jah hints new constitution would face strong resistance if…

Dec 18, 2019, 2:27 PM | Article By: Momodou Jawo

Imam Sheikh Ousman Jah, a member of the Supreme Islamic Council (SIC) has unequivocally made it clear that the council will resist the new constitution if the Constitutional Review Commission (CRC) includes the much talked about secularism in the country’s new constitution.

“The SIC has made its stance clear even before the CRC releases it first draft. Again, we are today making our position clear in the letter that we will be read regarding our position on the much talked about secularism in the constitution,” he said, while responding to questions from journalists during a press conference on Tuesday.

Quizzed whether the council would boycott the referendum on the constitution, Imam Jah refused to comment, saying “let’s wait for that time.”   He added: “If the CRC unfortunately include the word secularism in the constitution of the Republic of The Gambia, the SIC will continue to resist the constitution until the word secular is removed from the constitution,” he concluded.

Reading the message on behalf of the council, Sheik Hama Jaiteh, a member of the council states: “The SIC will not be silent on the issues. We will continue our efforts on a peaceful means and resist it and make sure that secularism is removed from the constitution.”

“When we submitted our rejection of secularism in 2018, we stated clearly that the status quo should remain (non-secular state).”

Sheik Jaiteh said: “We have good intention of protecting norms and values of all religions in the Gambia. The draft law provides sufficient provisions that protect all faiths. Section 8 caters for the enforcement of the constitution and section 33 provides for the enforcement of Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms.”

“We believe that section 47 which talks about freedom of conscience, section 67 which talks about protection from discrimination and section 151(2) which precludes the National Assembly from declaring any religion as the state religion in addition to the earlier mentioned sections are enough safeguards catering for all possible concerns,” he noted.

Jaiteh added that secularising the country is a high threat to our religious freedom and practices as we have seen in France and some parts of the world.

According to him, the GSIC believes that the inclusion of the word secular is a serious threat to the religious harmony and respect that the country has been known for. “It is ironic that some section of the society is trying vehemently to borrow beautiful garments to dress secularism elegantly in the eyes of the Gambian people. Our people deserve to be told the truth,” he emphasised

“We have enough examples to show dangers and threats of secularism to religious freedom. France, which is the father of modern secularism and the main proponent of the doctrine in modern times, banned the wearing of religious symbols in certain public places in 2003 in the name of protecting secular values. France was truly reflecting secular norms and values in passing that law.”

Jaiteh further stated that section 52 of the Draft Law states (1) that men and women of full age and capacity have the right to marry and found a family and section (2) Marriage shall be based on the free and full consent of the intended parties.

“Our observation and concern is that this section is very vague and broad to the extent that it could be interpreted to include homosexuality. So, we recommend that the CRC add the following to section 52 “subjected to Personal Laws of marriage whether it is Religious or Customary Law.”