The UDP leader has used his Christmas message to condemn President Yahya Jammeh’s declaration of the country as an Islamic state.
A few weeks ago, President Jammeh during a political rally in Brufut village, Kombo South, West Coast Region, as part of his annual Dialogue with the People’s Tour, declared the country an Islamic state.
“Gambia’s destiny is in the hands of the Almighty Allah,” Mr Jammeh said.
“As from today, Gambia is an Islamic state. We will be an Islamic state that will respect the rights of the citizens.”
He said there would be no restrictions on dress and that other religions would be respected.
But Ousainou Darboe, leader of the United Democratic Party (UDP), accused the president of disturbing the peace of the country and trying to distract Gambians from the real problems that they face daily such as the “skyrocketing prices of basic commodities, collapsing economy, inadequate health service, poor education standard, mass exodus of youths to Europe by the back-way, threats to the independence of the judiciary and dismissal of public servants on executive directives”.
“The reason for the President’s anti-religious pluralism declaration is ostensibly to fight so-called imperialism but this is no justification for disturbing the peace and harmony built up in our country for centuries,” Mr Darboe said.
“The secular status of the Gambia is not only spelt out in our constitution but ensconced deeply in our way of life long before we became a nation. It has always been live and let others live. Pray to your God and let others pray to their god. Christmas has never been an affair for Christians only but of all, just as Tobaski [Eid] has never been an affair for Muslims only.”
The UDP boss said Muslims and Christians in the Gambia live together in the same household, attend the same schools, marry into families of different faiths and take part in each others feasts and festivities.
He added: “It is this special relationship that makes the Gambia a unique society whose citizens do not only believe in the values of peace, tolerance, justice and good neighbourliness but practice what they believe in.
“We have always been an example of inter religious harmony worthy of emulation. The Gambia’s religious pluralism is in eclipse and its future uncertain. It is a matter of regret that the President of the Gambia who took the oath to protect and defend the constitution of the Gambia and other laws will declare Gambia as an Islamic state at a time when Christians of the various denominations in the Gambia are preparing to celebrate Christmas. The ill-considered declaration, influenced by ulterior motives could be seen coming several years ago when the President stated that Sharia will be made applicable to very Gambian.”
While calling on Muslims in the country to pray for the wellbeing of the Gambia, Mr Darboe urged them to go out and celebrate the event with their traditional makalos, kankurangs, kumpos, gessehs and huntings in solidarity with their Christian brothers and sisters as has been done many generations before them.