In her presidential bid launch Friday, rights defender Dr. Isatou Touray pushed against attempts by President Yahya Jammeh to unilaterality turn the country into an Islamic nation.
Jammeh’s Islamic republic bid is supported by religious leaders who were fiercely opposition the independent presidential candidate’s three-decade fight against harmful traditional practices including female genital mutilation.
President Yahya Jammeh has used religion to play politics, now with the backing of controversial televangelist Dr. Zakir Naik, who claims to be an expert in comparative religion.
Naik angered Gambians, especially Christians after he stated in a Friday sermon at the State House that “Muslims are more Christian than Christians.”
Dr. Isatou Touray said Jammeh’s dangerous political maneuver will cause deep division within the country. She has undertaken to uphold the secular values upon which the country was founded.
“I reject the call to turn Gambia into an Islamic State intended to bring division and set us against each other. I will uphold and reinforce the secular republican status of the constitution, where every Gambian will be free to practice his or her religion in accordance with their faith” she said to a cheering crowd.
Unlike other nations, Muslims and Christians in The Gambia have lived harmoniously with no tensions. It is an exemplary country for religious co-existence and tolerance, even celebrating each other’s festivals.
In July, President Jammeh’s administration imposed a ban on drumming with the police entering some churches and stopping their prayer sessions, which often involves music. The police said drumming was banned in observance of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and denied stopping Christians from holding their festivities.
The Gambia’s police chief said the ordinance applied to only Muslims.
A recent incident involving a Christian cemetery at the entrance of the capital Banjul has caused an uproar, as the government attempts to shut it down.
President Jammeh is seeking a fifth term and his party the APRC is deeply divided with the emergence of the GDC, whose leader and other party supporters were a part of his.
Jammeh, who wear a white gown and holds the Holy Koran has been given the title Sheikh and Nasirudeen by the Supreme Islamic Council. The council, a powerful religious body has continuously defended President Jammeh’s atrocities using the Koran to justify his actions including the unlawful execution of nine inmates in 2012.
One of the leaders of the council, Imam Abdoulie Fatty opposed the idea of a woman leading the country.