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The Gambia
Tuesday, 07 June 2011 00:00
Religious Freedom Ranking:
3.5 out of 5 stars: Needs Improvement




While The Gambia enjoys social stability, its attitude toward civil liberties, primarily freedom of the press, has received substantial criticism. Despite this, the government and society are fairly tolerant toward various religious groups.

The Gambia has a population of about 1.6 million people comprised of Mandinka (42 percent), Fula (18 percent), Wolof (16 percent), Jola (ten percent), Serahuli (nine percent), other Africans (four percent), and non-Africans (one percent). The religious community is 90 percent Sunni Muslim, nine percent Christian and one percent indigenous animist beliefs. Among the Christians, the majority are Roman Catholic. Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Seventh-day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and various evangelical denominations are also present. There are also small numbers of Baha’is and Hindus. Adherents of all faiths are free to worship without government restriction.

The new Constitution, adopted in 1996, provides specifically for freedom of religion. It also established limited-jurisdiction Islamic Qadi courts in such places as the Chief Justice determines. These courts apply traditional Islamic law to cases in their jurisdiction: marriage, divorce, and inheritance. In 2007 the government made an appeals panel for decisions that the Islamic courts make. A Supreme Islamic Council advises the government on religious issues and receives substantial state funding. Both public and private schools provide Biblical and Qur'anic studies. However this instruction is not mandatory for students. The following religious dates are observed as national holidays: Maulid al-Nabi (the Birth of the Prophet Muhammad), Good Friday, Easter Monday, Assumption Day, Koriteh (Eid al-Fitr), Tobaski (Eid al-Adha), Yaomul Ashura (the Islamic New Year), and Christmas.

Christians and Muslims enjoy relative peace in their relations with each other. Interfaith marriages between the two religions are fairly common. Government proceedings often begin with two prayers, one Muslim and one Christian, and they officially celebrate both Muslim and Christian holidays. The government does not require religious groups to register with the state and religious instruction is permitted on both public and private schools. Studies in both Christianity and Islam are common but are not mandatory.


2010 U.S. State Department International Religious Freedom Report on The Gambia

The Gambia - New World Encyclopedia

The Gambia Country Profile- BBC News

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 February 2012 17:47