The Special Advisor to President Adama Barrow on Religious and Traditional Affairs, Dembo Bojang said the government will not meddle in religious matters after sectarian tensions nearly turned violent.
Barrow’s government got called out for staying mute over the escalating tensions that saw Sunni Muslim youths in the township of Tallinding denying burial rights to the Ahmadis.
“From now on, all the religious affairs would be run by the competent authorities and not government interfering,” the Daily Observer quoted Mr. Bojang.
Bojang has, however, called for unity: “We are in New Gambia and we must always remain as united.”
Gambia is a majority Sunni Muslim country and the Ahmadis have reported being subjected to harassment and abuse. The government often shied away from publicly discussing sensitive issues, although the constitution guarantees religious freedom.
Former President Yahya Jammeh had supported the persecution of the Ahmadis. He backed calls by the Supreme Islamic Council, a powerful group of Sunni clerics to have them expelled and banned.
Although Mr. Jammeh did not carry out his threat, he had publicly stated that any other sect of Islam, aside from the Sunni sect is not Islam and only there to cause division.
“Such will not be accepted here. There are just causing division. There is only one true form of Islam. Anything else, is false and we will not accept it in The Gambia,” Jammeh said.
Bojang’s comments were made during the presentation of Holy Qur’ans donated to the Gambia during President Barrow’s visit to Saudi Arabia to the leaders of the Supreme Islamic Council.
The Supreme Islamic Council had backed Jammeh throughout his rule and used religion to legitimize Jammeh’s oppression of citizens, including the unlawful killing of nine inmates in 2012.
Extremist preaching by clerics targeting minority religious groups and sects has been ongoing in The Gambia for decades and never been addressed.
The government is also yet to address the targeting of youths in the country by terrorist groups after it emerged that a member of a small Islamic movement has joined the Islamic State group in Libya, where many of its youths have been traveling to.