The Gambia’s President Yahya Jammeh has warned other Islamic sects that their form of practice of the religion will not be allowed in the West African nation.
Jammeh once threatened to deal with a sect called Marakass promising to “cut-short” their tails and to “wipe them out” of the country.
Jammeh who claims to be a Sunni Muslim is supported by powerful religious elites from the country’s Supreme Islamic Council, who are the principal backers of his Islamic state proclamation and justifying his use of force against opponents.
“Let me tell you, we will only allow true Islam in this country and there is only one Qur’an. All these other ones will not be accepted. They are here to cause division and we will deal with them,” Mr. Jammeh said his Eid-ul-Adha message to the nation.
President Jammeh this summer declared the country an Islamic Republic with controversial televangelist Dr. Zakir Naik taking credit for the widely opposed proclamation. Naik claims he is spiritual advisor to The Gambian leader and had advised him to make the declaration.
Other Muslims in The Gambia belonging to sects like the Ahmadiyya have been branded by the Supreme Islamic Council as infidels and non-believers who “want to misrepresent Islam and cause division.”
After Imam Abdoulie Fatty called for the expulsion of Ahmadi Muslims from the country and for a ban on the propagation of Ahmadiyya teachings in the Gambia, President Jammeh allowed clerics from the Supreme Islamic Council last year to go on national television to declare Ahmadis as non-Muslims.
Fatty was the Imam of the mosque at The Gambia’s presidential palace, who had once called for the Ahmadis to be taken to the main square in Banjul to be slaughtered.
In the Serrekunda neighborhood of Tallinding, the Supreme Islamic Council supported a ban that stopped Ahmadis from burying their dead at Muslim cemeteries and demanded the excavation of an Ahmadi body from a local cemetery. Ahmadis refuse to exhume the dead body forcing the council to rescinded its support and called for calm to avoid violence.
The country’s first Gambian governor under colonial rule, Sir Farimang Singhateh was a member of the Ahmadiyya Jamat.
Other religious groups are also being persecuted in the world’s newest Islamic nation. Most clerics who support Jammeh studied the Wahabi form of Islam before returning to The Gambia. One such cleric, Baba Ceesay called for the execution of opposition leaders for defying The Gambian leader.
Though the constitution guarantees religious freedom, Gambian authorities have arrested and prosecuted religious leaders and those who pray special Muslim feast on days other than those sanctioned by the state.
People of different sects and religions have lived harmoniously in The Gambia but this peaceful co-existence has come under threat.
According to the US State Department Religious Freedom report, the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education ordered the Brikama Methodist Upper Basic and Senior Secondary School and Longman Memorial Lower Basic School to cease operations because of their failure to include Islamic teachings in the curriculum for their majority-Muslim student body. The schools were allowed to reopen when they agreed to allow Islamic instruction.
The rights of Christians are being trampled upon, according to right campaigners with the banning of drumming during Ramadan and an attempt to close down their cemetery at the entrance of the capital, Banjul.