President Yahya Jammeh
President Yahya Jammeh

(JollofNews)– President Yahya Jammeh of the Gambia has used the state opening of the country’s National Assembly to renew his pledge to introduce Sharia law in the Muslim dominated West African nation.

Sharia is an Islamic canonical law based on the teachings of the Quran and the traditions of Prophet Muhammad (Hadith and Sunna) which prescribes both religious and secular duties and sometimes retributive penalties for lawbreaking.

It has generally been supplemented by legislation adapted to the conditions of the day, though the manner in which it should be applied in modern states is a subject of dispute between Muslim traditionalists and reformists.

And although the Gambia is a secular state, Mr Jammeh said the country is now an Islamic state and his government will soon send a draft legislation for the implementation of  sharia law in the country to parliament for consideration.
“The Gambia is an Islamic republic, and a piece of legislation will soon be tabled before the National Assembly to begin the process of implementation,”the president told lawmakers yesterday.

“The declaration does not however mean that other religions will be suppressed as there is no compulsion in religion as enshrined in the Holy Quran. For us Muslims however, we will be governed by the law divined by sharia  based on the Quran.”

Mr Jammeh first declared the Gambia an Islamic state last year ‘based on the fact that a majority of Gambians are Muslims and the need to uphold the country’s Islamic identity and faith in an environment of true Islam where the rights of all citizens would be safeguarded and respected.’

Civil right groups and opposition leaders have condemned the president’s declaration, accusing him of  violating the country’s constitution, 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.

But Mr Jammeh, 50, who has ruled the West African nation since 1994 with a trademark mix of witchcraft, oppression and anti-colonial rhetoric, dismissed the accusation as fear mongering. He said the introduction of the strict Islamic law would not affect Christians and other minority religions.

“We will not tell Christians not to go to church as it is not our business, but we expect all Gambians to respect our religion as Islam and we worship only God,”  he said.

“We will not ban other religions, as Islam is tolerant and religion is private. I would not interfere as I have my own file to think of in heaven.

“The Islamic State of the Gambia would be a  place where people (Muslims) worship Allah as the only God and that the Christians and other religious adherents are also free to practice their religions as they deem fit.”