The power to uphold minorities’ spiritual freedoms in predominantly-Muslim international locations seems to be a fragile matter. Though in Gambia — which maintains a secular structure — it is somewhat extra difficult.
For hundreds of years, Muslims and Christians have lived facet by facet in lots of African international locations, equivalent to Guinea and Gambia — each Muslim-majority international locations.
DW’s Omar Wally confirmed that there have been intermarriages and joint celebration of non secular feasts in Gambia.
Nonetheless, because the Muslim holy month of Ramadan unfolds, reviews point out that Christian minorities in these two West African nations are complaining of accelerating marginalization.
Discriminatory Ramadan guidelines?
Previous to the Ramadan this 12 months, the Gambian authorities handed a controversial invoice that minimize the daytime working hours of feminine civil servants through the holy month.
The choice was made to permit the ladies to return dwelling and put together meals for his or her households to interrupt their quick within the evenings.
The transfer got here simply two weeks after the top of the Christian pageant of Lent, which has left some Christians in Gambia questioning why they weren’t afforded an analogous gesture.
Nenneh Freda Gomez, a Christian, stated the federal government’s considering was unreasonable.
“Why subject such a memo in Ramadan after we simply concluded our Lenten season practically two weeks in the past and such a directive was not issued,” stated Gomez.
“Christians had been fasting — you’ve got lot of Christian feminine in civil service within the authorities. In case you ask me that’s actually illogical.”
Not each Christian shares Gomez’s view, nevertheless.
Lawyer Melvin Robertson Roberts — who can also be a training Christian — challenged the comparability between Ramadan and Lent, and advocates for various therapies for the 2 feasts.
“The dynamics and regime of the Christian Lent is radically totally different from Muslim holy month of Ramadan. I do not assume the 2 are the identical and needs to be handled as such,” the authorized skilled advised DW.
Whereas maybe it seems straightforward to make the excellence in Gambia the place there are official insurance policies in place, the identical doesn’t seem like the case in Guinea.
In Conakry, the nation’s capital, considerations have been raised over the expectation of a conservative costume code.
Whereas many ladies select to cowl themselves from head to toe as they observe Ramadan, non-Muslims who proceed to decorate as they usually would, have been reported to undergo public humiliation and discrimination.
“While you put on skirt or trousers throughout Ramadan you are handled like a name lady by the general public,” stated Josephine Kamano, a non-Muslim.
“You might be humiliated and even denied entry to some locations. Everybody has his or her faith. I’m not a Muslim, so it isn’t compulsory for me to decorate like a Muslim. It’s their fasting, not mine.”
In Guinea the place about 85% of the inhabitants identifies as Muslim, the conservative costume code is just not official regulation, however most individuals respect it throughout Ramadan as a matter of conference.
“I’m a Muslim girl, so I would like to decorate correctly and canopy my head to my toes. As a result of the month of Ramadan is a holy month, and we should respect it,” 22-year-old Hawa Cisse advised DW.
“For God to forgive our sins, all different ladies and girl should do the identical, whether or not you’re a Muslim or not,” stated 22-year-old Hawa Cisse.”
This strategy is shared by many Guineans who nonetheless maintain conservative attitudes round girls’s costume codes and even consider girls usually tend to expertise sexual harassment if they’re dressed indecently in keeping with the Quran.
However Dr Bakari Arabi, a London-based Islamic scholar stated the observe is incorrect.
“That observe has no place in Islam, it contradicts the tenets of the Quran,” Bakari advised DW.
“Islam is towards mistreatment of any human being, Islam has commanded Muslims to be respectful abstain from discrimination and, to uphold the dignity of Allah. Non-Muslims should not required to abide by the principles which are meant for Muslims.”
The modifications in Guinea should not restricted to feminine costume codes, as different areas of social life are additionally impacted. Bars, nightclubs and eating places are closed to the general public throughout the nation, affecting individuals, equivalent to civil servants.
“As you possibly can see there may be nothing right here to eat. It is precisely the identical all over the place on the town since 8 a.m. I’ve been on the lookout for meals,” stated Joseph Kamono.
“We’re not Muslims, in order that they needn’t deprive us of our proper to meals due to the month of Ramadan.”
The recommendation given to all Guineans — to keep away from consuming or consuming in public through the day till Could 12 — doesn’t pose an issue for Muslims, however, in keeping with Bakari, it’s a supply of unfathomed inconvenience for a lot of non-Muslims.
“If a Christian lives in any Muslim-majority nation, Muslims shouldn’t pressure them to observe their faith … Allah says Islam is just not a compulsion faith, you possibly can’t compel anybody to enter into your faith, should you somebody into the faith beneath duress, it isn’t even acceptable by Allah,” Bakari stated.
Minority rights inside Islamic States
For Muslims, in each Gambia and Guinea, the month of Ramadan is without doubt one of the holiest instances of the 12 months. It’s thought of a time of reflection, self-improvement, and heightened devotion to Allah.
For Gambia — which maintains a secular structure — the scenario is a bit more difficult.
Former President Yahya Jammeh in 2015 issued an govt order requiring all feminine authorities staff to cowl their hair throughout workplace hours.
That very same 12 months, he declared Gambia an Islamic Republic, though this determination was later reversed by his successor, President Adama Barrow.
Regardless of not being an official Islamic Republic, the present Gambian authorities continues to be discriminating towards Christians within the nation, in keeping with US-based rights activist Pa Samba Jow.
“I personally discover the memo utterly pointless, completely patronizing and unwittingly discriminator,” Pa Samba Jow stated..
This place is cautiously supported by Dr. Bakari Arabi who asserted: “It is a coverage made by a sovereign authorities, however speaking from Islamic perspective, that’s not proper.”
To him, “Quran has made it clear that Muslims needs to be good and sort to everybody and deal with pretty those that are non-Muslims so long as they deal with you additionally pretty.”
Whereas the Gambian authorities’s determination has brought on a stir within the nation and past, conservative Muslims have extolled lawmakers for the lowered working hours.
Some have argued that the memo is just not discriminatory because it referred to feminine civil servants with no point out of faith, which means that Christian staff can even be allowed to go dwelling early.
Karim Kamara and Omar Wale contributed to this text